With the seductive rallying cry "no more planning," the new leader of the Metro Atlanta Arts and Culture Coaltion, Flora Maria Garcia promises to be more about the doing as she leads this arts advocacy group into its fourth year. The former president of the Arts Council of Fort Worth, Texas, Garcia has also had a hand in shaping Houston's thriving arts scene.
Your family fled Cuba in 1960 leaving everything behind. How has that beginning in America defined who you are today? We emigrated when I was 7 to Miami and got thrown into school there, and learned English on the fly. I think it had a huge impact on me. It teaches you that you can do anything if you have the will and the interest.
Tell me a bit about your background and how you became involved in the arts. I started out as a visual artist. My degree is in visual arts, in photography and painting. I did a double major in modern languages and art. I studied at St. Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana, a sister school of Notre Dame.
So I started out as an artist and didn't really have the passion to make art, and I then did an internship at the University of Massachusetts in arts administration ... that was my big "ah-ha" moment when I realized that I loved working with artists and arts organizations, but I'm really good at administrating, telling people what to do.
I think to be in arts administration you have to have a real passion for the arts; at least to be a good administrator. Because you have to really understand and be sensitive to artists and arts organizations' needs.
I'm kind of a weird hybrid of arts and business. Because after working in arts administration for about 10 years I realized that I was working with a lot of business people and I didn't have the language or skill base to be able to communicate well with them in what we needed to see happen to help the arts. And so I went back to school and got a graduate degree: a double major in arts administration and business, and having that MBA [from Southern Methodist University] really helped me have the knowledge and skill base to be able to communicate with the business community about what needs to happen.
From that I was then offered a job with the Houston Arts Council, started as an administrative assistant and worked myself up to deputy director and then went over to run the Missouri Arts Council.
There is often a lot of talk about supporting the arts in Atlanta but not always subsequent financial support. Make your pitch for why art and culture are important and why business leaders should support them. In every community that I've worked in we've always done an economic impact study of the arts in a community. And that's what really will grab the business community and elected officials' attention. In Fort Worth our economic impact showed that nonprofit arts organizations contributed, I think it was $273 million dollars a year to the economy. And when we were asking for an additional $1 million from the city, we said, "Look, for a $1 million investment you get back $273 million back. That's pretty good. That's better than just about any industry you subsidize." On top of that the arts are good for attracting visitors to our community. In Fort Worth our convention and visitors bureau promoted the city as "a town for cowboys and culture." And it was a huge draw for visitors.
From an economic standpoint, from a quality-of-life standpoint, from an education standpoint, all of these studies have been done about kids who study the arts do better in their test scores and in school.
What made you want this job at MAACC? I thought it was a really interesting opportunity. I did some research about what was going on here. And I pulled up on the Web, the [Arts & Culture] Task Force report to Mayor Franklin. The fact that a citizens' task force recommended that the city of Atlanta contribute $10 million a year to arts funding is huge and caught my attention. And then I started reading about the mayor and was very impressed with her and the fact that she used to be the head of the Office of Cultural Affairs. That was huge: a mayor who gets the arts.
I thought there's a real opportunity here. People want to make something happen in the Atlanta region and they just need the guidance and expertise that I can provide. There were a lot of people who said, "We need you, we need what you know." I wanted to come and make a difference here.
Little harsh, in'it?
Oh that's right...I DID say enjoy yourself.
Go to hell Kombo!
When will you be accepting applicants for the 2014 competition?
"In response to Oydave's comment, "Look at the two pieces. Is the second a rip-off…
Tons of Atlanta artists use colorful geometric shapes. But to copy the exact colors, the…