Another Door Opens

Back when Terry Marks graduated from the University of Cincinnati, women were only encouraged to become nurses or teachers. Marks chose the latter … and it was the last time she did anything simply because she was “supposed to.”

Now the CEO of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, Marks has enjoyed a diverse and fulfilling career punctuated by abrupt changes in both industry and location. “When I sort through my experiences,” she says, “I myself am surprised that it is such a varied group. It’s been extraordinary.”

Her first career move was born of necessity: With a glut of teachers on the market, Marks was let go from her teaching job in Ohio. She moved back home to New York City, where her mother suggested the insurance industry. This path led her to the largest minority- and women-owned firm on Wall Street, where she worked for 15 years, honing her business acumen — and her confidence.

“I’ll tell you one of the keys for me,” Marks says. “Wall Street was very male-dominated, and I thought, ‘What’s the difference between me and those guys?’ It’s a belief system: I. Am. Enough. Once you understand that, all of those limits get swept away.”

Soon, Marks was given an opportunity to test her theory. Two of her friends had dreamed up an idea for a children’s magazine about environmental stewardship and climate change. They approached her about being the publisher. “I said, ‘Okay, that sounds great’,” Marks laughs. “I had no idea what that meant!”

For two years, Marks found out what it meant. She traveled all over the country and enlisted major corporations to help get the magazine into schools. “That experience taught me that I could pretty much do anything.”

Her next “anything” was a move to the other side of the country. “LA is a great place to reinvent yourself,” she says. Capitalizing on her passion for mission-driven work, Marks launched a consulting practice for nonprofit organizations and taught at the Center for Nonprofit Management.

Sometimes, life tells us what we need to do next, as it did for Marks. Her mother was ailing, so she and her spouse moved back to New York to care for her. After 17 years in sunny Los Angeles, the weather just about did her in.

“It was freezing,” Marks says. “So I came down to Florida.” St. Pete’s vibrant arts community proved irresistible, and she jumped at the chance to take the wheel of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance. “I can bring everything that I’ve accumulated throughout my career to this position,” she says.

In just two years, Marks has spearheaded numerous successful programs, including nine videos featuring St. Pete museums, a marketing campaign with Kahwa Coffee Roasters, and the Murals in Mind initiative, which combines visual and performing arts under the umbrella of mental health.

Of her many career pivots, Marks says: “When you’re open to possibility and you have a positive intention, things come to you — projects, opportunities, jobs. I have been really, really fortunate. My mother was very risk-averse. She worked at the same firm for decades. I just decided that I was not going to make my choices out of a fear of failing.”

“I used to teach about the 4 R’s: Risk, Rejection, Resiliency, Result. How many people have tried and failed, then set that goal aside? You have to get through the rejection to get to the result.”

I'm planning a career in architecture. It is something that I’m driven to because of my love of art. I've always known I was going to do something artistic or creative, so I researched and decided that architecture is perfect for me, especially because it is the perfect mix between creativity, beauty, and functionality.”

Fabiana Martinez Fall 2023 • Freshman
Valencia College • Orlando

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