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DIRECTOR RESIGNS FROM ARTS GROUP

Maria Emilia leaves the St. Petersburg-based Florida Craftsmen to take a social services job.

Florida Craftsmen director Maria Emilia has resigned to take a social services job after leading the statewide arts organization since January 2006.

Emilia announced her resignation Saturday. The group has a membership of about 1,000 artists, fine craftsmen and community supporters. It's also a prominent retail presence at 501 Central Ave. in downtown St. Petersburg that sells its members' work and hosts special exhibitions. Emilia said its annual budget is about $700,000.

When she took the job, Emilia, 63, was a well-known area artist, with work in the permanent collections of several national museums, including the Smithsonian Institution. She has taught art at the University of South Florida and the Ringling School of Art and Design.

But, she says, "I have a history in social services. That was my first degree and my first jobs were in grants writing. I've always used art as a vehicle for the community to give back to itself. I'll have more opportunity to do that."

She did not specify the agency for which will be working because of pending contractual issues.

Mary Anna Murphy, president of Florida Craftsmen's board of directors, said, "We value and appreciate her service to the organization highly," but could not comment on plans for a replacement.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at (727) 893-8293.

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