Bill Parmelee: In Business for the Arts

Bill Parmelee is the chief financial officer of Oxbow Carbon LLC and an established supporter of arts and culture here in Palm Beach County.

Bill has served on the Cultural Council’s board of directors since 2012 and, as of October 2019, leads them as board chair. We wanted to check in with Bill and discuss his past as a financial professional, why he supports the Cultural Council and what’s next for the organization.

What’s your professional background and history?

Bill Parmelee (BP): I began my career in Raleigh, NC with the public accounting firm then known as Ernst & Whinney, now Ernst & Young. I was then recruited by one of my clients, a joint venture between Fuqua Industries and Eastman Kodak, which was eventually wholly-owned by Kodak, in Durham, NC. From there, I moved to National Gypsum Company in Charlotte, NC, and then here to Palm Beach County with Oxbow Carbon. I have been fortunate in that while I have been an auditor or financial executive with all of these companies, they all permitted me to pursue my passion for the arts and cultures, starting with Theatre In The Park in Raleigh. I then worked with other organizations including Charlotte Repertory Theatre, the Arts and Sciences Council (ASC) in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County and now, the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County.

You and your wife Luann are both avid supporters of the arts in our community. Why do you think it’s important to keep the arts alive and booming here in Palm Beach County?

BP: Luann has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and I played classical guitar in college, so it’s personal for us but it’s also about the vibrancy of the community. The arts, sciences and history entertain, of course, but they also educate and inform us. And I used the plural “cultures” (above) purposefully, because to us it is about fostering cross-cultural understanding. We certainly have a wide diversity of cultures in Palm Beach County, which makes it a more interesting community to live and work in.

Why do you personally support the Cultural Council in its mission to grow the arts community here?

BP: The Council’s mission statement is “Champion. Engage. Grow. Fulfilling the need for arts and cultural experiences in Palm Beach County.” All activities of the Council fit into one or more of these themes:

  • Advocacy efforts are critical at a time when public support for the creative side of arts, sciences and history are being cut. This sector represents a significant economic engine in the county and should be supported in the same way as other business sectors here.
  • Providing and facilitating educational opportunities not otherwise available to our students improves their engagement with learning overall, including their problem-solving skills. 
  • Supporting arts, sciences and historical organizations through capacity-building programs ensures access, diversity and equity across the sector. 
  • Supporting artists gives voice to what they observe in our community and makes us think. Different art forms and cultural experiences speak to different people in different ways. 

Overall, the Council champions what makes living in Palm Beach County so special.

Your term as board chair of the Cultural Council’s board of directors begins this month. Any grand plans for your first year?

BP: First and foremost, the board celebrates the tremendous work Dave Lawrence and the team at the Cultural Council do in supporting its mission to champion, engage and grow the arts in Palm Beach County. Resources are critical for the Council and the sector to grow, and our job as board members is to engage the community and provide those resources. A number of people I talk to in our community have some understanding of what the Council does, particularly as it relates to promoting tourism. But, many do not have an understanding of the full scope of the work of the Council and the quality of work done in other areas. This will be addressed in the Council’s branding work that will be rolled out soon, but it is an area I intend to focus on as well.

Anything else you’d like to tell our members, partners and cultural community?

BP: In addition to everything I have talked about, the Council also has offerings such as the upcoming season of Culture & Cocktails, and local artist work in the galleries of the Robert M. Montgomery, Jr. Building in Lake Worth Beach. These are well worth your time, and I look forward to seeing you there.