MKAF | History
Mattie May Kelly 1912 – 1992
Mattie May Kelly 1912 – 1992

Established in 1995, the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable arts organization, was founded on the cultural, educational and spiritual beliefs of Destin matriarch Mattie Kelly. A native Floridian, Mattie studied at Rollins College before earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Florida State University. Her commitment to learning led her to additional studies at Columbia University’s AB College of Arts and Science, Harvard Summer School, and Okaloosa-Walton Junior College (now Northwest Florida State College).

Outdoor ConcertsIn 1935, she and her husband, Coleman Lee Kelly, moved to Destin with their five children. As one of the town’s founding families, they purchased acres of pristine forest along Choctawhatchee Bay and what is now Destin Harbor. Though they began as turpentine farmers, Mattie and Coleman soon established themselves as prominent local business owners and philanthropists, and are widely credited with pioneering Destin’s tourism and fishing industries.

Mattie Kelly was a lifelong patron of the arts, supporting arts organizations through her participation and financial gifts. She shared her own artistic expression by writing a book of poems, playing piano and organ, and composing music regularly. Today, MKAF remains firmly committed to Mattie Kelly’s vision of making the cultural arts available to all in Northwest Florida.

MKAF Turns 18 - Timeline of Milestones

The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation was formed as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable arts organization; founded on the cultural, educational and spiritual beliefs of the late Destin Matriarch, Mattie Kelly.

Turpentine Wine: In celebration of the Destin spirit, a musical play in two acts depicted Destin in the 1930s, when turpentine "farming" took place on the Kelly Plantation site. Then, Destin was a thriving commercial fishing village with an abundance of unused lands, inviting the development of new industry. The most successful and enduring of those was turpentine "farming," and the leading operation was based on the site of the Kelly Plantation, owned by Coleman and Mattie Kelly. For over 40 years, workmen cultivated the forest, tapped trees, distilled the sap and shipped millions of barrels of the South’s finest turpentine.

The first Destin Festival of the Arts was held on the undeveloped land of Kelly Plantation, and Concerts in the Park was held at the Kelly Plantation Outdoor Theatre. All Kinds of Art was founded by MKAF board members Laura Howard, Beverly McNeil, Carol Luedecke, Jodee Hart and Barbara Forrester.

MKAF continued Concerts in the Park and Destin Festival of the Arts. Maggie & All That Jazz, a tribute to Maggie McNeil was held at Kelly Plantation.

World Wine Tour, a black-tie fundraiser was introduced (1997-2003) and Sounds of the Season began a tradition continuing today, with its first performance at the Destin Community Center.

MKAF received a Coca-Cola grant to conduct a three-year touring program with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival presenting The Taming of the Shrew. Executive Director Marcia Hull was hired in December.

1999 -MKAF inherited a 52-acre tract of land from the Kellys to pursue Mattie's dream of a cultural arts facility in Destin. MKAF offices relocated from the Destin Chamber to the Kelly Homestead on Indian Trail. MKAF was named exclusive charity recipient of the Sandestin Wine Festival. MKAF presented Alabama Shakespeare Festival As You Like It at Okaloosa-Walton Community College.

MKAF and Okaloosa County School District formed partnership to collaborate on the Okaloosa County School District K-12 Art Show, featuring a 3,000-piece public art exhibit. Picnic Supper Club was introduced at Concerts in the Park. MKAF presented Alabama Shakespeare Festival Fair and Tender Ladies and All Kinds of Art presented The Piatigorsky Foundation from New York City, the Hampstead Players of New Hampshire, the Birmingham’s Children Theater and children’s author David Greenberg. MKAF participated in Seaside’s Via Colori, an Italian street painting festival.

MKAF's Concerts in the Park was voted by Emerald Coast Magazine as the Best Place To Be Seen. Artbeat, a young professional group for the advancement of the arts, was established. Hosted the Alabama Art Exhibit with international artist Nall Hollis at the Mattie Kelly Estate. MKAF and All Kinds of Art were recognized as Cox Communication's 2001 Champion for the Arts by the Arts Council of Northwest Florida. MKAF presented the David & David concert (2001-2003) featuring David Seering & David Ott with “Broadway & Big Band.” Sandestin Wine Festival’s Alfresco Winemaker’s Walkabout & Auction & Beringer Wine Cup benefited MKAF. MKAF established the Carol Luedecke Scholarship at Northwest Florida State College.

Two unrestricted waterfront parcels located adjacent to the Kelly Homestead on Indian Trail were donated to MKAF and later sold to establish the building fund for the future Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village. The Okaloosa County School Superintendent & School Board honored MKAF for "strengthening the arts in classrooms to help become the best school system in Florida and a model for America." All Kinds of Art hosted international master author, storyteller and musician Odds Bodkin for over 5,000 students. Mattie Kelly was inducted into the Okaloosa County Women’s Hall of Fame as the first recipient and namesake of the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Award.

MKAF engaged the architectural services of DAG Architects to create a plan for the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village. The Destin Festival of the Arts relocated from Kelly Plantation to Henderson Beach State Park. MKAF presented the World Wine Tour, A Taste of France & Italy at Sandestin. The Tom Rappazini Scholarship Fund was established to pursue educational programs for youth development.

The MKAF Board of Directors unanimously approved the master site plan for the Cultural Arts Village, to be completed in three phases. All Kinds of Art was named a beneficiary of Destin Commons' Coins for a Cause program. All Kinds of Art presented the Orlando Opera and Eckerd Theatre of Sarasota. MKAF presented Alfresco Winemaker’s Walkabout & Auction for the first Sandestin Wine Festival’s live wine auction. MKAF presented Timeless Treasures, an art and antique appraisal fair. The Maggie McNeil Scholarship Fund was established at Northwest Florida College.

Local dignitaries and project partners joined the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Board of Directors to officially celebrate the ground breaking ceremony on August 9 for the development of the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village. A triple wide modular space generously donated by St. Joe Company and WaterColor was relocated to the site to serve as the temporary administrative offices for the Foundation’s daily operations. A 10-year celebration fundraiser, Puttin' On the Ritz, was held at the Hilton Sandestin. The All Kinds of Art program was recognized by the Florida Department of Education with the Florida Commissioner of Education Award of Distinction. All Kinds of Art hosted Hands on with Zig, educator for K-12 schools and Warner Brothers’ author of World Beat Fun; award-winning children’s author Adrian Fogelin; Pensacola Opera; Eckerd Theater; and Seaside Repertory Theater. Mrs. Patricia McIlroy, Destin’s First Lady, donated a 1931 Chevrolet Cabriolet to benefit the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village, raising $25,000. MKAF and international pottery artist Gail Pittman held a joint fundraiser for arts education. MKAF presented a Fourth of July Patriotic Pops Concert with Conductor David Ott of the Philharmonic Orchestra at Seaside.

MKAF major fundraiser, Festival of Trees, was held at Sandestin's Linkside Center.

MKAF relocated from the Kelly Homestead to administrative offices and event lawn on the 52-acre site of the Cultural Arts Village. In May 2007, Concerts in the Park moved to the property. The Tringas Fort & Playground was dedicated in memory of James Travis Tringas.

Clark and Blake Breenan of The Royal B Restaurant hosted a Mardi Gras Celebration to benefit MKAF. All Kinds of Art hosted a 10-week summer art activity program called Art on the Harbor at HarborWalk Village; Missoula Children’s Theatre (2008-2012), a one-week summer theater camp, and funded a week-long camp, Hands on with Zig, at Youth Village for underprivileged children. MKAF hosted Gingerbread with Santa at the Beverly McNeil Gallery. Golden Dragon Acrobats performed to a sold out audience at Mattie Kelly Arts Center. A Labor Day Weekend Concert was presented at Grand Boulevard as an Autumn Tides event.

The Arts Guild hosted entrepreneur and author, Patricia “Sister Schubert” Barnes, founder of Sister Schubert's Homemade Rolls, for a signing of her cookbook, Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters. All Kinds of Art led a pilot program with Destin Middle School for a fifth grade French & Fine Art Connection program featuring guest artists each month.

MKAF hosted the Destin Charity Wine Auction Patron Dinner at Studio B in Alys Beach. MKAF presented the Labor Day Weekend Concert at Grand Boulevard and Artist Preview Tour of Homes in conjunction with the Destin Festival of the Arts.

MKAF formed an alliance with George Rodrigue, internationally-renowned Louisiana artist/creator of the Blue Dog series, and founder of George Rodrigue Foundation for the Arts (New Orleans) for youth development outreach programs inspiring over 5,000 students in five schools. He's first Race for the Arts took place at the Cultural Arts Village. MKAF presented The Return, a Beatles Tribute on Labor Day Weekend and Beaujolais Nouveau Goes Graffiti at Grand Boulevard.

MKAF was awarded a $1 million grant by the Dugas Family Foundation to complete Phase I of the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village. MKAF was selected as a grant semi-finalist in the Art & Culture category for Impact 100 of Northwest Florida. The Spring Arts Guild hosted National Press Club and Author’s Guild member, Martha LaGuardia-Kotite, a reservist and graduate of the Coast Guard Academy, to read and discuss excerpts from her books, So Others May Live (with a foreword by Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge), My Name is Old Glory: A Celebration of the Star-Spangled Banner, and Changing The Rules of Engagement. The Fall Art Guild hosted archivist, blogger and art enthusiast Wendy Wolfe Rodrigue of the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts, and a student outreach visit to over 1,500 students.

MKAF celebrates its 18th anniversary, undergoes rebranding, and launches Phase I construction of the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village. The summer Concerts in the Village expands to 10-weeks and Festival of the Arts relocates to the Cultural Arts Village. MKAF and George Rodrigue Foundation for the Arts partner again for A Tribute to George Rodrigue. All Kinds of Art forms alliance with Emerald Coast Theatre Company.

Stay tuned for more...