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Opinion: Questions and answers/An update from Madera County Arts Council

As of Dec. 13, 2019, after serving as executive director since 2016, Rochelle Noblett is no longer employed with Madera County Arts Council.

Are the Madera County Arts Council and Circle Gallery still open?

Yes. Our regular business hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

Who is there now?

Jim Kocher is our interim executive director who joins our current administrative assistant Cassie Reyes and arts education program manager, David Opfergelt as members of the Madera County Arts Council team.

Who is Jim Kocher?

Jim Kocher comes to us from Merced, where he was a board member and then director of communications at Playhouse Merced community theater for seven seasons. A graduate of California Lutheran University, Jim also has business management experience with Dignity Health, May Department Stores and The Walt Disney Company.

I am an artist with some of my works in the building. Is my work safe?

Yes. Madera County Arts Council is open. The gallery itself is open during our regular business hours Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All of the works are safe and sound. The stewardship and safety of your art is important to us.

I don’t want my art being in the gallery right now, can I come by and pick it up?

Of course! Please coordinate your visit when Cassandra, David and Jim are here, and we will be happy to process your outgoing artwork. Call us at 661-7005.

May I attend your next board meeting?

Our next board meeting is Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 6 p.m. at Madera County Arts Council, 424 N. Gateway Drive, Madera. All of our board meetings are open to the general public.

I’m also reading about “The Secara Trust.” Can you explain more about that?

We sure can. Here is some detailed information:


In March 2013, at the Madera County Arts Council’s 30th anniversary party, a check was presented from the Elaine Secara Trust to the Madera County Arts Council for $2.5 million. The purpose of that money, according to the trust is: “constructing, maintaining, and improving a cultural arts center to be constructed in Madera County.”

To assure the wishes of Mrs. Secara were fulfilled, the executor of her trust, Dianna Marsh, subsequently became a member of the MCAC Board of Directors. Mrs. Marsh is now completing her 9th and final year on the Board.

Investing the funds

The MCAC Board appointed and maintains an Investment Oversight Committee comprised of Board members and community members. The committee is composed of 3 members from MCAC Board of Directors and two representatives from the community who are not active members of the MCAC Board of Directors.

Purpose of the investment oversight committee is to monitor performance and recommend investment policies and strategies for investment to maximize return with emphasis on maintenance of principal.

The original investment amount (principal) remains intact to date. The investment reports are available for review at MCAC. The public is invited to attend the biannual investment committee or a Board meeting to provide input.

The Board of the MCAC has sole authority over the use of the funds. The policy says that “the initial investment, and all retained/or reinvested earnings on that investment shall only be used for the purpose of satisfying the intent of the Elaine Secara Trust.”

Use of funds to date

In 2014, The MCAC Board approved using some of the returns on the initial investments to grow the MCAC in preparation for an expanded cultural arts center to be constructed/developed in the future. The maximum amount which can be used for this purpose is documented in the Investment Policy Statements of the individual investment vehicles. The Board annually reviews status of the investment funds and either approves or disapproves continued allocation of monies from earnings to the MCAC. To date (January 2020) the Board has allocated $325,000.00 from earnings to be used in support of MCAC growth.

In 2019 The MCAC established an Endowment fund with the help of a $25,000 seed grant from the Whitney Foundation which was matched by community members. The plan is to continue adding donations to the endowment and build the fund value to the point where it can contribute to MCAC general operations annually while still maintaining its integrity into perpetuity.

Madera County Arts Authority

This authority was formed in May 2018 by a Joint Powers Agreement among the City of Madera, the County of Madera and Madera Unified School District. It is their job to steer the whole downtown revitalization project with the intent of making the cultural arts center the centerpiece.

The MCAA has a 5-member Board: 1 from each agency elected body, 1 from the Madera County Arts Council, and one at large community member chosen by the three agency members.

The MCAA brought in community stakeholders in Oct. 2018 to develop a vision for reimagining downtown with the cultural arts center as its centerpiece. The completed “Vision Statement/Plan” is available for viewing at the MCAC offices, and the MCAA.

Now MCAA is working on the whole downtown Madera revitalization plan (DOMA) as laid out through the community stakeholders’ sessions. This includes Yosemite Avenue area, County Historic park, and a future Cultural Arts Center. MCAA is also working on a funding plan to finance all the projects.

The City, County and school district are committing $29,000 each for the operational start up budget for the Authority to begin operations and hire a consultant to help assure proper planning. The MCAC Board authorized using $25,000 from the return on the Secara investment to support the work of hiring the consultant to assist the Board in moving the project forward.

All plans, sketches and a complete timeline of activity to build the Downtown Madera (DOMA) are available for public view in the MCAC office, City of Madera, County Supervisors’ office or the MUSD Superintendent’s Office.

The Downtown Theater

In 2016-17 the County, City, and School District funded an architect to develop a master plan for downtown and main street revitalization that would also include the community’s desires to develop a cultural arts center. Over a year-long process that included several community stakeholder meetings, a master plan that included a theater/event center at Yosemite and G streets was developed. The plan includes both replacing the old county government building with a new theater/event center and retrofitting the Old Madera Library as part of the cultural arts center complex.

The new MUSD high school will include a 250-seat theater to serve some of the MUSD school level needs. This space is similar to what Liberty High and Yosemite High as well as many other high schools have. It will neither be, nor replace the community event center, gallery, arts education center, theater complex the stakeholder group envisioned the cultural and performing arts center to be. The high school theater space is not designed to function as a county cultural arts center.

Madera County Arts Council Board meets the 3rd Wednesday of the month at the Circle Gallery 424 N. Gateway Drive, Madera

Madera County Arts Council Board Members:

• Marcheta Williams, president

• Chris Miller, vice president

• Erica Campa, Secretary

• Julia O’Kane, immediate past president

• Steve Copland

• Ruben Garcia

• Dianna Marsh

• Carol Moses

• Dianne Rich

• Bert Roper

• Yolanda Williams

The Madera County Arts Authority meets the 4th Monday of the month at the Madera County Board of Supervisors Chamber, 200 West 4th Street, Madera. This meeting is televised through Madera County services.

Madera County Arts Authority Board members:

Julia O’Kane — chair, Madera County Arts Council

Cecelia Foley Gallegos — vice chair, Madera City Council

Robert Poythress — secretary-treasurer, Madera County Supervisor

Ray Seibert — Madera Unified School District Board

Charles Wieland — Madera at large

If you have other questions, contact the Madera County Arts Council at 661-7005.

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