Outgoing executive director of the Beach Art Center, Jo Ann Marianne, stands next to a self-portrait of George King, the founder of the institution.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – It was just one year ago that Jo Ann Marianne arrived from New Jersey to become the executive director of the Beach Art Center. At the time Lynda Hamlett, the president of the board of directors, heralded Marianne’s arrival as an appointment that would give the institution great potential for growth.
Now Marianne, 49, is leaving. She is joining her husband Eddie who has already moved to the Miami area for a new job. It was a tough decision.
“The hardest part is leaving the Art Center,” she said. “My husband knew what a special place it is and how much progress we were making and how much I loved the place.”
The progress Marianne referred to was the job of making the Art Center more visible in the community. It was her main priority she said.
“The big thing, the goal, was really to expand the profile of the Art Center in the Pinellas community and I focused on that,” she said. “It was the number one goal. This little hidden gem has been here for 35 years and so many people said they didn’t know we were here. One of my backgrounds was in marketing so that helped the cause.”
Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Hamlett said Marianne’s work was as hoped.
“It is amazing to know that we’ve come so far,” she said. “It is sad to lose Jo Ann so soon. We’re losing a very important part of what we have begun in this past year.”
For Marianne part of raising the profile of the center has been to attract exhibits that will draw people to their galleries. She recalls a special exhibit back in September.
“Back then we had a special tribute to George King, the founder of the Beach Art Center,” she said. “The life of George King through his art; it was a retrospect of him and how he started this. We used both our galleries to display his work, both pre and post stroke. His family was present and the highlight was that members of the center from as far back as 35 years ago showed up along with current members. It was a proud moment for the Art Center.”
The other highlight of Marianne’s year as executive director is an exhibit that is going on right now, and once again it is taking up both large galleries in the center.
The exhibit is entitled Art Teachers Art Show and it is an exhibition of the work of Pinellas County art teachers who Marianne said are artists themselves.
“I was talking to a middle school teacher recently and asked her where the art teachers hang their work; she told me in school gyms and libraries for the most part,” she said. “It became my mission to celebrate them and we’ve dedicated both galleries to them. We’re proud to be supporting them; it is really something.”
That show is running through Aug. 1 and is free.
Running an art center wasn’t something that Marianne had ever planned on when she began her career. In fact she worked in corporate America for years until one day she decided her talents could better be used in the nonprofit world and that is what she did in New Jersey before moving to Florida. The move to Florida was also a move necessitated by her husband’s career and now another one, this time to the Miami area.
“He unexpectedly got a new job opportunity,” said Marianne. “It was something we couldn’t pass up.”
For the time being Marianne and her husband will maintain a long distance relationship while she finishes up at the Art Center. She hopes to be able to help with the transition of her replacement.
Hamlett said the job of finding that replacement has already begun.
“Once Jo Ann announced her resignation we posted the job online and we’ve been receiving resumes,” she said. “We have started doing interviews and hopefully we’ll find a candidate soon and with as little disruption as possible. Jo Ann has offered to stay and help with the transition.”
Marianne said she is flexible in terms of leaving but hopes it can all be wrapped up by the end of the summer; there is that long-distance relationship to consider after all.
She said her future is very much tied into her past and what she has accomplished at the Beach Art Center. She hopes that will propel her towards another job in the art world.
“I’m leaving this place in very good shape,” she said. “Right now, besides being a housewife and moving our house I’m not sure what my future holds. My hope is that moving to Miami, which is a cultural environment, will open up a position in a nonprofit or in the art field.
With her stepson about to graduate from college in London, England, Marianne would seem to have a bright future. One might say the next chapter of her life is a new adventure. She said she welcomes it.
“I’m not afraid of adventure,” she said. “This is the best job I’ve ever had primarily because of the people and the art of course. But I’m not scared of the future. I’m happy for my family and I feel confident that I’ve laid a path, I’m not afraid.”