Polk Arts Alliance (PAA), the designated Arts Agency for Polk County since 2004, announces the Jan. 31 retirement of long time Executive Director, Meri Mass.
In her role as Executive Director, Meri provided 12 years of outstanding service to both PAA and Polk’s cultural arts community. Some major accomplishments under her leadership include:
- Successful advocacy that led to the establishment of a county-wide grant/sponsorship program with funding from a portion of the tourist development tax. The competitive grant program has generated over $5.5 million for Polk’s arts agencies since its inception in 2012. Grant funds are used to establish Polk as a “destination for the arts” and grow tourism.
- Increased participation in the State of Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs as well as Americans for the Arts in Washington, D.C. – which led to Polk County’s listing as a cultural arts district on the Americans for the Arts national creative industry map and a national grant-funded effort that calculated the economic impact of the arts in Polk. The results demonstrated that the arts generate well over $46 million annually for Polk’s economy.
- Established the Polk Artists’ Hall of Fame and partnered with the Polk History Center to establish a permanent home for recipient recognition and an exhibit about the historic and current contribution the Arts in Polk.
- Enhanced design, publication and distribution of Art-i-facts magazine – the County’s premier arts publication.
- Restructured to facilitate consistent and improved advocacy at the county, state and federal levels.
Built strong relationships with local and state elected officials to cultivate champions for the arts.
Established beneficial partnering relationships with Polk’s municipalities, Polk County and Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing.
- Developed/delivered multiple “SmART business” forums, drawing nationally recognized speakers to help advance the arts in Polk. The forums showcased the value of incorporating creativity into the workplace and focused on arts in education as a talent pipeline.
- Provided ongoing support and advocacy to help ensure that the cultural arts community could survive the devastating effects of the COVID pandemic and are positioned to thrive in a post-pandemic world.
Meri served as the cultural diplomat for both PAA and countywide arts and culture organizations, working tirelessly through advocacy, collaboration, economic development, education and marketing to cultivate an environment in Polk County for the arts to flourish.
Polk Arts Alliance and Polk’s cultural arts community recognizes, with gratitude and great respect, Meri’s outstanding efforts as she embarks on her retirement journey.