Name: Marie Jagger-Taylor
Occupation: Cultural arts manager for the Decatur Park District
City of residency: Macon
What's the best thing about what you do?
My most favorite thing is interacting with all the different people here at the park district and being able to bring art programs to the community of Decatur.
How do you and your staff decide what shows, concerts and other activities to offer throughout the year?
I wish I could take credit for it, but it mostly goes to (former park district recreation director) Jerry Menz. A lot of the programs he started in the 1980s, like B.O.S.S. (Best of Summer Stock) and the Greater Decatur Chorale, are continuing today.
When it comes to adding programs, we've really tried to evaluate and see if there's a need in the community that's not being met. We continue to evaluate that each year. We started Yoga in the Park a couple of years ago, which has become big in Decatur. We also offer Movies in the Park, and we're always looking for partnerships. I guess we're just trying to keep seeing what we can do to keep providing things for the community.
If funding were no object, what's something that you've always wanted to accomplish with the cultural arts program?
I would love to renovate our buildings. We have two studios, but I would like to be able to have more things happening at once. That's kind of a dream you have — a place that kids can come to after school and offer more resources to and to have more studies to offer all different kinds of classes. I think there's room for growth here.
Why is education and participation in the arts important?
Teaching the arts not only allows students to find their own identities, but it also teaches them to be compassionate, open, to act independently and to think outside the box. Having the arts makes you a stronger person. It allows you to learn about other people, to hopefully learn about empathy and how to be comfortable in your own skin.
Decatur is an incredible community, and I can't believe all the art opportunities that are offered to people here. That says to me that people desire access to being involved in the arts.
Who are some of your biggest artistic influences?
My parents and grandparents, who are family members that shared their interests in art. There's (Colorado-based vocal and dance instructor) Roberta Arwood, (jazz dancers) Luigi, Ronnie DeMarco and Chuck Kelly. I had some wonderful mentors like Dan LaMorte and Dale Calandra. And also, Bernadette Peters. I loved watching her perform.