Go-getter: it’s the word Marika Cackett uses to describe herself. It better be true: this Fondrenite is diving in, head first, as The Mississippi Museum of Art’s new Director of Events and Food and Beverage. Cackett was hired late last Wednesday and, already, she’s been in charge of three events.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Cackett moved to Mississippi five years ago after being on the road with The Home Depot, planning events on a 150-city tour. But, she says, it was a hard life. “All the LaQuintas look the same after a while,” she explained of living out of motels across the country. “You can’t have a house, a dog — a life.”
After a decision to become firmly rooted in one place or another, she considered returning to California or Colorado, where she had once called home. She also considered moving to her mother’s adopted hometown of Jackson. “When I visited here years ago, mom would drive by the King Edward (Hilton Garden Inn) downtown,” Cackett said. “To come here and see downtown in the process of being reborn, I thought, was a cool place to be. I wanted to be a part of its blossoming.”
For three years, Cackett was development and public relations manager for the local chapter of the Salvation Army. That also allowed her to work with the United States Marine Corps and Toys For Tots. “It’s the one thing I do every year,” she said, explaining her love for the Marines. “They’re not trying to solve all world’s problems; they’re just trying to give kids a Christmas.”
More recently, Cackett was public relations manager and then director of marketing and PR at the Jackson’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. “That took my fire for the city to the next level,” she said, “seeing what Jackson could become.” Cackett said being a part of 50th anniversary of the Woolworth sit-in and the Medgar Evers assassination and the Freedom Riders was amazing. “I love seeing where we were and where we’re going.”
After such incredible experiences, witnessing Jackson first-hand, Cackett said she felt a longing for her first love. Simply put, she missed planning events. As of last Wednesday, at 5:30 p.m., she took on her new role and has already overseen a corporate function, a documentary screening and a wedding. That makes for twelve and fourteen hour days, which for Cackett, is no problem. She explained, “I go 100 miles-per-hour because I’m passionate.”
Cackett sees so much potential for the Museum of Art and their art garden, a lush urban oasis in the middle of what she called a ‘concrete world.’ “My goal may be lofty, but I want this to be the premier events space in the Southeast — and there’s no reason why it can’t be,” she proclaimed. “Where else can you have a wedding under a Monet?”
Staffing will play a key role in achieving the status Cackett hopes for. “I want to build a strong events team, managing them so that they reach their best potential,” she said. “We will be efficient as stewards of this place. I want to make sure we take the museum to a new height, to be something special.”
Having the right people will make Cackett’s job easier. “I enjoy watching a well-oiled machine move,” she said. “I want to get to that point and I feel I’m coming in at a great time.” She says an additional event manager will be hired to help her oversee the multitude of functions that go on here seven days a week.
That gives Cackett some off time to pursue her latest passion: running. A pacer for Fleet Feet’s Mississippi Blues Marathon training program, Cackett says her shoes and the road are her therapy. “I get some of my best ideas when I run,” she explained. It’s also training ground for her latest personal challenge, a 50k race in Nashville in November.
A dog lover with three of her own, Cackett fosters for Animal Rescue Fund of Mississippi and serves on the OurFondren board. She called Fondren “all part of the bigger picture,” and said she hopes her neighborhood can continue to integrate with surrounding areas, including downtown where she works every day.
Never one to back down from the things outside her comfort zone, Cackett feels professionally tasked these days with bringing Jackson together. “I want yoga on the green,” she said. “Let’s get more dog events here. Let’s reach out to other areas. This space, this museum, is here for everyone. It’s something really special.”