Community Builders: Midlands man honored for five decades of dedication to performing arts

Community Builders: Midlands man honored for five decades of dedication to performing arts

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - If all the world's a stage, then our latest Community Builder in partnership with Mungo Homes would steal the show.

Since 1897, the dreams of dancers, singers, musicians and actors have taken flight through the Columbia Music Festival Association. For the last five decades, John Whitehead has led the way in making that possible.

"I think you find that the arts community will grow with the passion of those involved," said Leonard Carroll, a board member for CMFA, who nominated Whitehead. "John is one of those passionate people that enjoys the arts and really wants to see the performing arts community grow."

Whitehead's been watching it grow since he started volunteering at CMFA in the 1960s while he was stationed at Fort Jackson. He took a part-time job with the organization in 1967 and became the executive director in the early 70s.

"Early in the 1970s, more and more people wanted to become involved in the arts, and more and more people wanted to reach out and develop new arts audiences," said Whitehead.

CMFA is an arts incubator for more than 26 community organizations now to help the arts continue to thrive.

"We're here as a community resource," said Whitehead. "CMFA is funded through City of Columbia through the Hospitality Tax and Richland County. We get small donations, but we're here for the arts community. We don't compete with them, we work them."

Those that benefit from working with CMFA say Whitehead's leadership and love for the arts has changed lives.

"He builds character," said Julie Hicks, the president of the board for Ann Brodie's Carolina Ballet. "He builds young people into not only dancers, but into professionals that stay in the Columbia area. He is a gift to Columbia."

Whitehead was nominated by a member of the CMFA board for his leadership, volunteerism and dedication to the Midlands community. WIS, Mungo Homes and a crowd of more than forty people surprised Whitehead, who has stood up for countless others, with a standing ovation of his own.

"I'm floored. I had no idea," said Whitehead.

As a Community Builder, John will receive a $1,000 donation to CMFA through the Michael J. Mungo Foundation.

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