Just by walking into Margie Reese’s office, you can tell that she is a creative person. In one corner of her office, guitars are hung from the ceiling to the floor. All types of art grace the walls, from tapestries to sculptures, and of course, a portion of the Don’t Fence Me In project is installed on one wall. This project brought adults and children from all over the city to paint fence posts which were then displayed for everyone to see. That is one of things that Margie does—she spreads the arts to all corners of the city.
Margie is the Executive Director of the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture. The WFAAC works with the city to disperse money put aside to enrich the arts in Wichita Falls. She welcomes and encourages all arts organizations, teachers, artists or anyone else that wants to enhance the arts in Wichita Falls to come visit. The alliance exists to be a service to the arts and art organizations in Wichita Falls, according to their website. The alliance is behind art camps for children, informational classes for artists and many more things.
Margie is all about the arts, in fact, she is an artist herself “on the theater side of things.” She was a costume designer. However; when she became a young mother, she found that she “had a hard time balancing being at home with the baby and really digging into the theater.”
Even though she had “a couple of theater degrees and had taught theatre at a college the schedule of a theater person became too complicated. I knew that I wanted to stay in the arts, but I needed to work in an area that would help me feel like I was bringing the arts to more people and including more people in arts activities,” she explained. Margie had good reason to want to spread the arts especially to children that have no access to it. Margie wanted to take part in the arts when she was young. She wanted to dance, but segregation wouldn’t allow her to participate in the way she wanted too; or the way her that her mother knew she wanted to because she couldn’t change society.
“I have made it my life’s work to make sure that children everywhere I live can have access to the arts. I have done that in Dallas in Los Angeles and in small villages in West Africa, and I believe that is part of my journey to Wichita Falls is that kids get to play. They get to pretend. They get to paint and dance and sing. That’s my life’s work—that is what gets me up in the morning! Our kids getting to express themselves,” she said passionately.
“I am not a flamboyant or glamorous person, but for me that is why I am on this earth. I had a chance to see what the arts could do in my life. I had a chance to see beauty by creative thinkers all over the world. I want the children to push themselves and celebrate who they are, and I think that is what the arts do for kids. I want them to make movies about that, paint pictures about that and draw on the sidewalk with chalk knowing that they are being an artist when they are doing those things. To this, I devote my life,” she said.
The things that the alliance has achieved since its conception almost 3 years, Margie credits to her board of directors. “When I arrived, the alliance had a small board, and they had people that believe in the arts already; and those same people are my guiding stars. They support me, and they encourage me,” she said with a smile.
“I think one of the most important achievements has been galvanizing the artists in the city, so that they can understand that without their talent and without their energy, there can be no alliance,” Margie stressed. She has helped artists to feel valued and work together. She has helped organizations to collaborate and is very proud of that. “I feel proud that we have a cultural system in Wichita Falls now. When you see new murals popping up, when you see the After Hours Art Walks getting bigger and bigger, and when you see more and more kids in summer programs, it just makes you feel good,” she said with a smile.
“I am glad I am leaving a legacy, and I’m not done by any means. You know you want to believe that you are leaving a positive legacy from all the paths that you have taken in life, and for this particular one, I believe that the best is yet to come. I want people to know that I am serious about the arts. It is my 110 percent focus, and I am serious because arts build communities. It can make one community distinct from another one, and the arts help people to get to know each other,” Margie said.
“When we did the fence project, it brought people from all over the city together, and they were all doing the same thing differently. The fence project was a community conversation, and I am so proud we did that project. I think it told a story that there is only one Wichita Falls. The fence was there to say that with hard work we can get to know each other, and we can build a new future for our community. What I want people to know about the alliance is that the alliance is an organization that belongs to everybody,” Margie explained.
“Everyone can create something, and everyone has idea; and the alliance is the place that encourages people to bring their ideas to life. I want artists to know that they can come here and participate and take classes on how to sell their art. I want school children to know the name of the alliance as an advocate for them. Teachers can come to the alliance and get help teaching science and math and language arts. And I want the business community to know that we are a credible and accountable and resourceful. We want the alliance to be that place for creativity. And it could be as simple as using our website to see what is happening at the Kemp Center or see what the Wichita Falls Art Association is doing,” she said.
“If I had to give any last words, it would be Support the Arts,” Margie insisted, “Buy a ticket and go to the theater. Go to a gallery and buy a piece of art that speaks to you. Go see the ballet or go to a museum. Get up, go see, go do, go participate in them in whatever form you are interested in—Go!”
– Cindy Thomas