Polk Arts Alliance executive director Meri Mass retired on January 31, 2022, closing out a 12-year tenure as the organization’s leader. Meri was a fervent advocate for the arts and played an instrumental role in the establishment of a county-wide grant 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.
Meri’s efforts with the State of Florida Division of Arts and Culture and Americans for the Arts 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.
In further strengthening local advocacy, Meri developed “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.
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.