Mission, History & Values

Mission, History & Values

About

Vision

COCA envisions a vibrant and thriving creative community that enhances quality of life and economic vitality.

Mission

COCA’s mission is to serve and support the community by promoting and advocating for arts and culture in Florida’s capital region.

History

The Council on Culture & Arts (COCA) is officially designated as the local arts agency for Tallahassee and Leon County by the city, county, and state, and marks more than 35 years of service to the community. COCA is the agency charged with taking the lead in implementation of the Capital Area Cultural Plan, and has excellent existing relationships with the City, County, and local and surrounding arts and business communities. COCA’s professional staff has extensive experience in all aspects of arts administration. 

Serving a diverse and expanding community, COCA’s constituency in the immediate area includes more than 300 cultural organizations and businesses, more than 3,500 individual practicing artists, City, County, and State governments, a growing community of nearly 284,000 Leon County residents, and an additional 517,000 residents of surrounding counties within a 100 mile radius. 

COCA was created by a County resolution in 1985 and its role cemented by an interlocal agreement that makes it the designated arts agency for both Tallahassee and Leon County. Prior to a re-structuring in 1993, the organization had a budget of $35,000 and one part-time employee, its primary task being to publish a newsletter. COCA currently has a budget of over $1 million, and employs a full-time staff of five. 

After the re-structuring, COCA (then known as the Cultural Resources Commission) began contracting to provide services to local government, managing cultural granting programs and an art in public places program in two public galleries. COCA’s programs have grown steadily and include these contracted programs as well as many others. COCA’s constituency has also grown to include its surrounding sixteen rural counties, all of which are considered underserved and have few cultural resources of their own. 

In 2003, COCA assisted the City, County, and a citizen’s steering committee in creating a community-wide Cultural Plan, and was charged with overseeing the implementation of that plan. In 2012, The City of Tallahassee appointed community volunteers to review the 2003 community Cultural Plan. Two COCA board members served on that committee and after 18 months of stake holder interviews, focus groups, and public meetings, the review committee presented recommended actions. The Capital Area Cultural Plan was accepted by the City and County Commissions in 2014 and COCA has again, been charged with implementing it. The plan identifies community needs, defines goals, and recommends actions that will strengthen the cultural community while enhancing our region’s quality of life and economic development. A Cultural Plan Advisory committee is prioritizing the initiatives within the Cultural Plan, based on available resources. 

Since 1985, COCA has had only two leaders and recently a national search was launched for its third. A senior COCA staff member assumed the temporary role of Interim Executive Director and oversaw the operations and management of the organization during both transitional periods. We are eager to welcome our newest Executive Director, Kathleen Spehar, who will continue to support the growth and development of the arts and cultural community in our area.

Del Suggs, 2021
Lucia Fishburne, 2019-2020
Spencer Ingram, 2017-2018
Rosanne Wood, 2016
Anne Mackenzie, 2015
Kay Stephenson, 2013 – 2014
John Lawrence, 2012
Anne Mackenzie, 2008 – 2011
Mike Sheridan, 2004 – 2007Ron Davis, 2003
Sharon Press, 2001 – 2002
Glenda Hamby, 1999 – 2000
Dr. Beverly Barber, 1998
F.C. “Nick” Nixon , 1997
Elise Judelle, 1995 – 1996

Values

  • We value collaboration and we provide opportunities for residents and visitors to connect with the creative community.
  • We value integrity and we engage in transparent and honest practices, striving for excellence in our stewardship over resources.
  • We value inclusivity within our cultural community and promote the acceptance of diverse individuals, ideas and artistic expressions.

Statement on Cultural Equity

The Council on Culture & Arts (COCA) believes that all Tallahassee and Leon County residents should be able to participate in a creative life; and that the arts drive a vibrant and equitable community.

Cultural Equity embodies the values, beliefs, policies and practices that ensure that all Tallahassee and Leon County residents can fulfill their rights of cultural expression and belonging, participation, learning, and livelihood.

This includes specific commitment to people who have been historically underrepresented in mainstream arts funding, discourse, leadership and resource allocation; including, but not limited to, people of color, people of all ages, differently abled people, LGBTQ people, women, and the socio-economically disadvantaged.

COCA affirms that:

• The ability to express, celebrate and champion cultural tradition and heritage is elemental to honest civic discourse and the well-being of our community.


• Artists and cultural creators have a unique role in challenging inequity and imagining new and more just realities.


• The health of the future cultural community in Tallahassee and Leon County is contingent on inclusionary practices that move towards cultural plurality.

• Inequity is pervasive and historic. Disparities and discrimination are daily occurrences that are rooted in long-standing majority privilege and power inside and outside of the cultural arts.

• Equity moves past inclusion and representation; accepting that power has created uneven starting points for some communities and individuals. Simple diverse representation does not dismantle the unequal nature of voice, resource allocation and visibility that exist in the arts and cultural ecosystem.

As a leader in the local arts community, COCA is committed to:

• Facilitating on-going, organizational and community-wide conversations about race, class, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age and income status as these issues relate to our arts community.


• Continually examine our grant and public art practices and policies to ensure that more under-invested and under-represented communities can compete equitably for exhibitions, grants and other financial opportunities. 

• Feature artists and organizations in our community that facilitate equity and those who are equity champions.

 

Visit our Advocacy Resources to learn more and get involved

COCA stands with Black Lives Matter, protesters, artists of color and allies who are speaking out to change inequitable and racist systems.

WE WILL:

→ Facilitate on-going, organizational and community-wide conversations about race, class, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and income status as these issues relate to our arts community.

→ Continue to examine our grant and public art practices and policies to ensure under-invested and under-represented communities can compete equitably for exhibitions, grants and other financial opportunities.

→ Feature artists and organizations in our community that facilitate equity and those who are equity champions.

WE BELIEVE:

→ The ability to express, celebrate and champion cultural tradition and heritage is elemental to honest civic discourse and the well-being of our community.

→ Artists and cultural creators have a unique role in challenging inequity and imagining new and more just realities.

→ The health of our future cultural community in Tallahassee and Leon County is contingent on inclusionary practices that move towards cultural plurality.

→ Inequity is pervasive and historic. Disparities and discrimination are daily occurrences that are rooted in long-standing majority privilege and power inside and outside of the cultural arts.

Equity moves past inclusion and representation; accepting that power has created uneven starting points for some communities and individuals. Simple diverse representation does not dismantle the unequal nature of voice, resource allocation and visibility that exist in the arts and cultural ecosystem.

The arts hold transformative power. They offer an instrument to amplify under-represented voices and open a dialog for meaningful change. We are listening. We see the outpouring of grief and pain. We hold ourselves accountable to be better and do more. This is a start, but there is more work to do to make sure we continue to learn and improve.