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Gladys Wyant retiring after 37 years of leading The Arts Council
Gladys Wyant
Gladys Wyant

The Arts Council will soon bid farewell to Gladys Wyant, known by many as Gainesville’s “First Lady of the Arts.”

After leading the local nonprofit for over 37 years, the executive director announced Wednesday, March 3, her plans for retiring in the summer. The Arts Council has already launched a search committee chaired by Ron Quinn, board member of the nonprofit, to find a replacement. Wyant intends to serve as a consultant to The Arts Council to help with the new executive director’s transition. 

“Gladys has been with our organization for so long and wears so many hats — from fundraising, arts programming and event planning to facility construction — that it will be very difficult to replace her,” Quinn said in a press release. “She will be leaving big shoes to fill as Gainesville’s First Lady of the Arts.”

During Wyant’s nearly four decades of leadership, The Arts Council has blossomed from a tiny office into a regional organization. The nonprofit now has $8 million in assets and various performing arts venues and meeting sites, including the Arts Council Smithgall Arts Center on Spring Street.

Wyant was also instrumental in the construction of the organization’s new stage and pavilion structure in downtown Gainesville, which seats nearly 300 guests and can accomodate 3,000 more people on its front lawn. 

The executive director said she owes much of her success within the organization to the support of Times co-founder Lessie Smithgall, who was the first president of The Arts Council, Jane Eve Wilheit, Bob Bowden and many other art mentors, advocates and board members. 

“I have tried to live by the rule that you can accomplish so much more as long as it doesn’t matter who gets the credit,” Wyant stated. “I’ve also refused to listen to those who say, ‘this will never happen’ or ‘you can’t do this’ — and instead worked under the radar to empower others to achieve great things for the arts across our region.”

Upcoming story

Look soon for a more in-depth article on Gladys Wyant's legacy in the local arts community. Those interested in speaking with reporter Kelsey Podo for that story can reach out to her at

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