EDMOND — Her smile shined as bright as the carrot-cake orange paint on the walls of her Edmond Fine Arts Institute office as executive director Mitzi Hancuff talked about retiring after 25 years.
“It is going to be a tough day,” she said. “This has been my life for 25 years.”
Hancuff, who was hired part-time in 1988, remembers when it all started with one room in the First United Methodist Church and a “little tiny sink” in a restroom for water for all the art projects. The nonprofit institute later moved to a strip mall at Edmond Road and Kelly Avenue.
The institute's budget was $18,000. That included Hancuff's $10,000 salary. The annual budget has grown to more than $500,000 to provide visual and performing arts education for children and adults.
The number of students has increased from 97 the first year to 2,800 last year. Through all of its programs, the institute reaches about 14,000 people a year, she said.
“We have touched so many lives,” Hancuff said. “It is almost a dream.”
Hancuff raised more than $1.3 million for the institute's new building at 27 E Edwards that was constructed in 2006. Jim and Mary White, whose daughter, Peggy, took classes at the institute, donated the land for the building.
“Once they gave the land, we started raising the money,” she said. “The donations were from $250,000, to $20 a friend gave me in the grocery store.”
Hancuff smiled even bigger as she talked about the building she helped design.
“Just look around,” Hancuff said. “There are appropriate classrooms and all the beautiful artwork. It is a dream I never thought would happen.”
Her accomplishments are many. One she is particularly proud of came in 2009 when then Gov. Brad Henry presented her the Governor's Arts in Education Award.
“That's a humbling thing.” Hancuff said.
Hancuff is excited about retirement. She said it is time.
She wants to spend more time with Carl, her husband of 47 years, and her four grandchildren.