The Last Word

Following My Heart to Find My Voice by Marcia Hull

if I knew my childhood introduction into tap and ballet lessons would lead me into a career in the cultural arts industry, I would be the first to say, “No way!”

At the tender age of 13, my parents exposed me to the world of art through unforgettable theatrical performances on Broadway in New York City. I saw many amazing performances, from the saucy Carol Channing in “Hello Dolly” and a spunky Debbie Reynolds in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” to the lovely Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall and mesmerizing New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center.

At the impressionable age of 22, I was employed in the public affairs department of Getty Oil Company in downtown Los Angeles. I was an assistant to Christina Crawford, daughter of Joan Crawford and author of “Mommy Dearest,” and worked with the curators of the Getty Museum in Malibu. My position provided me with opportunities to use the Getty box seats in the dugout section behind home plate of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the company’s tickets to the Hollywood Bowl, where I was entertained by legendary performing artists like Bob Hope, Tony Bennett and the Hollywood Bowl Pops Orchestra. My boyfriend at the time, George, opened my eyes to the visual arts by taking me on dates to the Los Angeles Museum of Art, La Brea Tar Pits, Huntington Library Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. I was immediately drawn to the romantic era of French Impressionism and the paintings of Cezanne, Degas, Gauguin, Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh.

 TOP: Artist sensation George Rodrigue showed students at Edwins Elementary School (Marcia Hull's alma mater) and four other Okaloosa County schools how to paint his iconic Blue Dog character; Below: At a Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation gala fundraiser in George Rodrigue's honor, Hull displays one of the art pieces created by local students inspired by the Cajun artist's classroom visits. Photos courtesy Jacques Rodrigue(George Rodrigue and group) Kay Phelan Photography (Marcia Hull)

In 1980, I returned home to the Emerald Coast to marry my childhood crush, Dale, and we are now celebrating 30 years of marriage. After a career in real estate and banking, I found my calling and ministry with Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation. Not having children of my own has allowed me to be a passionate advocate for the children in our community to be able to experience a life rich in the arts.

My career in the cultural arts arena has provided me many opportunities and rewards. I have been inspired by several female colleagues and visionaries — my mother top among them — each working to instill in me strong ethics, determination and perseverance to find my voice.

My most rewarding career experience came recently with the international Blue Dog artist from New Orleans, La., during a joint partnership with the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts. Through a three-day artist residency outreach program, more than 4,500 Okaloosa County students were motivated by a live painting demonstration and lecture by George and Wendy Rodrigue. Students from Northwest Florida do not have the same opportunities enjoyed by those who live in a metropolitan community and who experience the rich cultural presentations that touched my heart and soul as a child. It’s sad that in today’s school curriculum “field trips” are no longer a part of a child’s cultural experience.

The overwhelming response from the teachers, parents and students who witnessed this awe-inspiring presentation has been an experience of a lifetime. Few people can say they observed a living master artist working his craft, from the first brush stroke on a blank canvas to the finished design. But because the arts thrive on the Emerald Coast, some of us can.

Onward to the next endeavor on this cultural journey … art is in my heart and soul!