Nominate your local arts hero for a Verner Award!

Recognize South Carolina innovators, supporters and advocates of the arts with a nomination for the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts — the state’s highest arts award! The nomination process is simple — just email, mail or hand deliver a letter of nomination by Nov. 1. Verner Award StatueThe nomination letter should describe the nominee’s exemplary contributions to the arts in South Carolina and address any characteristics included in the category descriptions (see below). It should include specific examples and relevant data wherever possible. The letter should be structured to answer the following questions:

  • What makes the nominee superior or extraordinary?
  • How has the nominee demonstrated leadership in the arts?
  • What exceptional achievements or contributions has the nominee made, and what has been their impact on the community, state or beyond?
  • What other information about the nominee is important to know as they are considered for the state’s highest award in the arts?
Note: a nomination letter is different from a support letter. Letters of support are not required as part of the nomination process. Nominations are accepted in these categories:
  • ARTS IN EDUCATION – open to S.C. individuals and institutions whose primary function is arts education. May include arts educators (teachers, consultants, principals, administrators), schools, school districts, college/university arts departments, etc.
  • ORGANIZATION – open to S.C. organizations that contribute to the advancement and/or support of the arts. May include arts discipline organizations, arts councils, arts advocacy groups, guilds, arts departments of organizations, educational institutions, etc.
  • GOVERNMENT – open to S.C. agencies and institutions generally described as units of state, county or municipal governments that have served their communities in outstanding ways through the arts, OR elected or appointed officials who, in their official capacities, have demonstrated notable support for the arts through leadership and public policy.
  • BUSINESS/FOUNDATION – open to SC individuals, or companies and foundations whose participation, support, and/or contributions have benefited the maintenance and growth of the arts.
  • INDIVIDUAL – open to S.C. individuals who have demonstrated exceptional achievement and statewide impact through their leadership, support, and advancement of the arts. May include arts professionals such as managers, administrators; or arts supporters such as patrons, promoters, donors, etc.
  • INDIVIDUAL ARTIST – open to S.C. artists of exceptional talent and creativity, in any discipline, whose contribution to the arts has helped guide and influence directions, trends and aesthetic practices across the state or to national or international levels
Find complete nomination guidelines online. Image: Gov. Nikki Haley with 2016 Verner Award recipients Hootie and the Blowfish

SC poet Nikky Finney earns place in history at new DC museum

Free workshop in Conway – Connecting Resources for a Connected Community

scacschaclogosThe South Carolina Arts Commission is teaming up with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission to offer a free workshop in Conway: Connecting Resources for a Connected Community, Friday, October 7, from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Conway Library , 801 Main Street. The workshop is open to anyone, but the content will be specific to the Conway area.

Join us to learn about resources offered by these state agencies and the kinds of services available to help make your community more livable using the arts, culture, equal opportunity and access. The workshop will also offer a forum to discuss how these resources, which include community relations workshops, anti-discrimination services, grant funding and cultural planning, are open to all community members.

The workshop is free, but you must register online to reserve your seat.


Americans for the Arts staff member visits SC for Cultural Districts Network convening

A big thank you to Ruby Harper, director of Local Arts Services for Americans for the Arts, who recently visited the South Carolina Arts Commission to participate in the first convening of the S.C. Cultural Districts Network. Here's her blog post about her experience.

rubyharperheadshotI’m starting to think that every moment in my life that I write about begins with, “I was terrified when they asked me to ”—but, I guess that is what makes life so interesting and what brings learning and new adventures and explorations into the world. This time was a quick trip to Columbia, S.C., at the request of the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) to present to their network of Cultural Districts at a day-long convening hosted at EdVenture. To give some background: SCAC established their Cultural Districts designation program in 2014 through legislation ratified by the South Carolina General Assembly and signed by Governor Nikki Haley. The goals of the program were specified in the legislation:
  • Attract artists, creative entrepreneurs and cultural enterprises to communities
  • Encourage economic development
  • Foster local cultural development
  • Provide a focal point for celebrating and strengthening local cultural identity
In the first year and a half, they processed six applications from cultural districts around the state—Rock Hill, Lancaster, Spartanburg, Congaree Vista, Beaufort, and Bluffton. According to Rusty Sox, Senior Manager with the Arts Commission, it was stronger participation than they had anticipated. One of the benefits of being a designated Cultural District is access to a support network and resources. The day-long convening I attended is part of that support plan. The group began with sharing what they wanted to learn about during their time together, whether through potential programs and leveraging assets or learning what’s working for the cultural districts individually and as a group. To prep for the meeting, I read the applications to get an understanding of how the districts saw themselves and what they were focusing on to benefit their community. ruby-harper-columbia-cultural-district-meeting-2 Convening in EdVenture's meeting room My part in the process was to share information about Americans for the Arts and highlight tools and resources related to Cultural Districts and arts and culture administration. It was clear they felt I had much to share, and I thankfully did, but in the end, I learned as much from the groups that presented as I am hoping they learned from me and the others in the room. Five of the six cultural districts shared highlights from their year and the genesis of their creation. Some came from a long-standing love of arts and culture; some came from thoughtful growth and planning. Two potential districts shared their challenges as they move into the application process. My favorite line from the convening was “Our district has been built like a string of pearls,” and the stand-out learning moment was finding out that Ursula is shortened to “Uschi” in German. I shared information about the National Cultural Districts Exchange (NCDE). Its creation and resource area—as well as all the great tools we have throughout the site—can benefit them in developing and promoting their district as well as casemaking for community and advocacy support. We talked about social media tactics and cross promotion—for example, who is the cultural tourist and how can you engage them? We also talked about where we are hoping the NCDE will go next and how they can be a part of that evolution. ruby-harper-columbia-sc-eddie I met "Eddie," a prominent feature at EdVenture. Columbia is a dynamic city! As the capital of the state, I had the luxury of being near enough to the statehouse to walk a portion of the grounds. My hosts took me on a driving tour around The Vista and I got a sense of how the college (University of South Carolina, the mighty fighting Gamecocks) plays into the structure of the city. I got to see the newly built minor league baseball stadium with the adjacent abandoned insane asylum, and learned how the city is renovating and repurposing the buildings (watch for a new restaurant opening in the former morgue!). We ended the tour at a much loved local bar called Art Bar, where I had the pleasure of meeting Clark, an artist who is known for his civic and community work in developing the Vista district—and also for being affected by the gentrification that is driving artists out of their spaces as the neighborhood develops and gains popularity. I had some wonderful dining moments and learned about the historical ties to the development of the district that the restaurants played in its development. By the end of the day, I was struck by the desire of each district to develop relationships with the others—one district looked at the program as a “sister city” and had ideas of how to work together to promote each other’s cultural assets and build knowledge about the state across the state. I’ll be curious to see how their story plays out in the coming months and years. Programs like this have such potential to improve, strengthen, and grow local economy and bridge arts and culture experiences statewide.

Gibbes Museum boosting arts education for Title 1 students

The Gibbes Museum of Art received a $15,000 Arts Education Project grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission to help fund the Arts Access program, which provides free admission to Title 1 schools. gibbesartsaccessFrom WCSC Charleston:

The Gibbes Museum of Art is working to boost arts education in Title 1 schools with a special “Arts Access” program for students. "A lot of them have never been to a museum before so it's important for them to see this space, this community museum that's for them,” Rebecca Sailor, educational curator of the Gibbes Museum of the Arts, said. The Arts Access program allows students in Title 1 schools, which receive extra funding for a high number of kids from low-income families, the opportunity to tour the museum for free. Students also participate in hands-on activities. "My favorite part is learning stuff but at the same time having activities to do,” Hursey Elementary 5th grader Sha,ronn said. "I just love to watch their faces and their expressions and the comments they make quietly to their selves,” Heather Teems, an art teacher, said. The Arts Access program also covers the costs of transportation to the museum. "We wouldn't be able to afford it. The school wouldn't be able to afford the bus, to be able to come that many times.  I don't think these children would come on their own if they hadn’t had a chance to come here,” Teems said. Museum staff coordinate the tours and programming to support teachers in-classroom curriculum. “We work very closely with the teachers to make sure we’re coordinating with their curriculum,” Sailor said. “That’s very important. We’re not doing our thing; we’re doing their thing.” The program is currently funded through the S.C. Arts Commission and Wells Fargo. The town of Kiawah also supports the program for Johns Island students.  Schools from Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester Title 1 schools are eligible for the program. For more information on educational opportunities at the Gibbes, visit here

Grants for US-based Latino artists, ensembles & organizations

Launched in 2005 by the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures with major support from the Ford Foundation, the NALAC Fund for the Arts provides a variety of grants to assist US-based Latino artists and arts organizations in the development, creation, presentation and sustainability of artistic excellence, as well as the opportunity to participate in activities that contribute to professional and organizational growth. The NFA is a national grant program open to US-based Latino working artists, ensembles and Latino arts organizations that demonstrate artistic excellence in pursuit of social justice through the arts. To date, the NFA has awarded over one million dollars to a diverse range of artists and organizations representing every discipline and region of the country. Applying to the NFA is a benefit of NALAC Membership. Application deadline is October 13, 2016. Review complete details and find out how to apply.

The geographic divide in American creativity

From The Washington Post Article by Christopher Ingraham

Urbanist Richard Florida popularized the term "creative class," describing the millions of workers in fields such as the arts, sciences and technology whose work largely involves coming up with new ideas and innovating on old ones. The creative class has, for better or worse, primarily been associated with big American cities along the coasts: out of Richard Florida's top 20 creative-class cities in 2015, only one — Dublin, Ohio — was located in a non-coastal state. But new data recently released by the National Endowment for the Arts suggests that there's an awful lot of creativity happening far inland from America's coastal tech and arts hubs. Among other things, the NEA worked with the Census to poll residents of all 50 states on their participation in the arts, particularly whether they performed or created works of art in 2014. Those data reveal a somewhat surprising pattern: America's Great Creative Divide isn't between the coasts and the center, but rather between North and South. Take a look. Nationwide, 45 percent of American adults said they personally performed or created artwork in 2014. "Art," in this case, was defined by a wide variety of activities. Rather than recite all of them, I'll just leave the definition, from the NEA's report, here: As you can see from the map, the study found a surprisingly wide range of arts participation between states. At one end of the spectrum, folks in places such as West Virginia, Oklahoma and Florida seemed to have little interest in doing art — participation levels there hovered around 30 percent. By contrast, people in states such as Colorado, Vermont, Montana and Oregon were roughly twice as likely to personally create or perform artwork. You can see that the states are heavily sorted by geography, with the dividing line at parallel 36°30' (by chance, the line that delineated the boundary between new slave and free states in the Missouri Compromise). In no state to the south of that line do a majority of people say they personally create or perform art. Conversely, in only three states above that line — Kentucky, Delaware and West Virginia — do fewer than 40 percent of residents create or perform art.
What's driving these differences? A separate analysis by the NEA has some answers. Education is a big part of it. The percent of state residents with a bachelor's degree or higher is positively correlated with creating artwork: in other words, more education, more art. This relationship is even stronger in some of the other categories the NEA looked at, such as attendance at art exhibits or performing arts events. Conversely, poverty rates are a strong negative driver of arts participation. If you're working three minimum wage jobs, you're probably not going to have a lot of time to indulge in crochet or creative writing. Of course, education and poverty are big drivers of each other, too. States with more money can spend more on better education, which leads to higher wages, which leads to more education, in an ongoing virtuous cycle. Unfortunately, the reverse holds true as well. Rates of participation in the arts are a powerful and under-appreciated proxy for human well-being. "Self-actualization," including creative activities, are all the way at the top of Maslow's famous hierarchy of needs. If you're able to spend the time and resources necessary to, say, practice with the local theater group or join the local community band, it's highly likely that you've got all the basics like food, shelter and safety taken care of. The NEA numbers suggest that a lot of folks in Southern states are falling behind their Northern counterparts on some of those measures. This mirrors what researchers see in other domains too, such as child well-being. Geography, again, is destiny. Statistically speaking, a kid born in a state such as Florida is likely to have a harder time reaching the pinnacle of Maslow's pyramid than one born in, say, Minnesota.

SC Community Loan Fund call for art

sccommunityloanfundSouth Carolina Community Loan Fund invites artists of all ages and skill levels to donate original, postcard-sized artwork for the 2016 Thought Leader Speaker Series being held November 15 at the Charleston Music Hall. The event, featuring a conversation with former Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley, will explore the relationship between the arts and community development as an effective strategy for revitalizing and building strong communities. All entries will be exhibited at the reception directly following the Thought Leader Speaker Series and will be available for sale for $125 per piece. Funds raised will support South Carolina Community Loan Fund’s work to transform and revitalize communities throughout the state. All submissions must be 4 x 6 inch, postcard-sized work. Pre-cut mat board will be sent to participating artists the week of October 1. Art should be produced on the provided mat board, with the exception of photography, which may be dry mounted to the board. Each artist is asked to donate two to four limited-edition pieces. Read the complete guidelines and find out how to participate. Via: South Carolina Community Loan Fund

#BecauseOfArtsEd — Celebrate National Arts in Education Week!

Do you have a story about how arts education has made a difference in your life? Celebrate National Arts in Education Week by sharing your story on social media with the hashtag #BecauseOfArtsEd. Be sure to tag the South Carolina Arts Commission on Facebook ( and/or Twitter ( National Arts in Education Week is a national celebration recognizing the transformative power of the arts in education. Designated by Congress in 2010, the celebration is designated to bring attention to this cause and to support equitable access to the arts for all students. National Arts in Education Week takes place annually during the week beginning with the second Sunday of September. This year it falls on September 11 – 17, 2016. The arts are an essential part of a complete education, no matter if it happens in the home, school, or community. Students of all ages—from kindergarten to college to creative aging programs—benefit from artistic learning, innovative thinking, and creativity. Celebrating National Arts in Education Week is a way to recognize this impact and share the message with friends, family, and communities. Find out more about National Arts in Education week.

From Hurricane Katrina to the Great Recession: Out of adversity comes art

Natalie Brown received a South Carolina Arts Commission Artists' Ventures Initiative grant in 2011. From Article by Ana Campbell, photos by Scott Bilby

Often it is the case that from bad comes good. For Natalie Brown, it took a few slipped discs, a natural disaster, the untimely death of a loved one and the Great Recession to find her calling: the Phantom Circus, the performance group she founded that will debut at the Oriental Theater this month. Natalie Brown, photo by Scott Bilby Natalie Brown, photo by Scott Bilby Brown starts her story after college, when a genetic disease left the lifelong ballerina with a nearly broken back. With rehab in mind, she found a less grueling creative outlet in tribal-style belly dancing. She was practicing and performing with a group in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, forcing Brown and her then-partner out of Louisiana. They found a home in Columbia, South Carolina, where Brown's family was living. Nobody was doing tribal-style belly dancing in South Carolina at the time, so Brown decided to open a dance company that specialized in it. "If I can make art, then I'm okay," she says. Brown found the one "alt watering hole" in the sleepy Southern town and became friendly with the owners – so friendly that they let Brown and her belly-dancing troupe perform in the bar's parking lot once a month. The belly-dancing performances were just that until Brown decided to expand. She started looking into underground circuses, which were becoming more mainstream, particularly after several toured and found fame with the band Panic! at the Disco. Brown found a single mom living in the suburbs with a talent for hula-hooping and a fire performer who, as Brown tells it, "wouldn't burn the place down," and started Alternacirque in 2007. Just as the circus was picking up steam, Brown got word that her father had terminal cancer. He died shortly thereafter. "Once again, something bad happened, so I turned to art," she says. A year later, in 2008, the economy tanked. But for once, bad luck was on Brown's side. "No one had money to do anything at all," she explains. "Word got out that there was this free show in the parking lot." Before Brown knew it, the audience at her bar shows had grown from fifty people to 500. The show continued to grow and change – mostly through Kickstarter campaigns and self-taught performance pieces – until the performers decided to part ways in 2013. Brown used her newfound downtime to improve her performance art. She moved to Boulder to train with a renowned belly-dancing professor at the University of Colorado and eventually enrolled in Frequent Flyers, an aerial-dance studio in Boulder. As much as Brown loves performing and the arts, she also loves the business behind it, which she learned a lot about in South Carolina. A succession of conservative governors had slashed arts funding, so the state's arts commission told performers not to rely on anyone but themselves, Brown says: "They kept telling artists in South Carolina, 'Look, the salary is not coming; nobody's going to rescue you. You need to be self-sufficient, self-sustaining, learn the business and be entrepreneurs and artists.'" Once Brown finished at Frequent Flyers, where she also got professional business training in about nine months, she started thinking about running her own circus again. While she was formulating a business plan, she started interning at a company that taught her how to book corporate events. She married her passions and started the Phantom Circus, which until recently specialized in aerial bartending. "Imagine your guests walking into a ballroom greeted with the sight of aerialists hanging from a chandelier pouring champagne," explains the Phantom Circus's website. "A stilt-walker wanders by and pours a signature cocktail. A contortionist performs on a table and hands out wine glasses." Brown will premiere the strictly performance side of Phantom Circus on September 15 at the Oriental Theater. "We're doing this as variety-show style," she says. The all-ages show will feature belly dancing, acrobatics, hula-hooping and fire and aerial performers. Brown's romantic partner, Steve Millin, will serve as the ringmaster. Denver is hardly known for its underground-circus scene, Brown notes. "But I think there is a desire in the community for us to make our mark and to help each other and get better and build something really, really unique," she concludes.

State Art Collection travels to Anderson

The Anderson Arts Center will exhibit 24 works from State Art Collection: Contemporary Conversations Part I and II  Sept. 9 through Nov. 11, 2016.  The exhibition opens Friday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m., during State of the Art: The Art and Soul of South Carolina, an event that also features a preview of works in the 2016 Anderson Arts Auction. Gallery hours are 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Elizabeth Keller, Discerning of Spirits Elizabeth Keller, Discerning of Spirits Curated by Eleanor Heartney, author and contributing editor to Art in America and Artpress, Contemporary Conversations is composed of 118 works by 95 contemporary South Carolina artists. The exhibition is designed to suggest both the quality and diversity of the state’s cultural heritage and includes everything from hard-edge geometric abstraction to surrealist-tinged dreamscapes. Works are inspired by social issues, memory, local and national history, imagination, art of the past and aesthetic theory. Together they reflect the many voices and diverse concerns of South Carolina artists. The art in Contemporary Conversations is drawn from the State Art Collection, a comprehensive public collection of works by contemporary South Carolina artists. Established in 1967 as one of the first programs of the South Carolina Arts Commission, the State Art Collection is composed of 493 works in a variety of media and styles produced by 287 artists. Organizations and businesses interested in hosting an exhibition or displaying works from the State Art Collection should contact Harriett Green at (803) 734-8696. In addition toContemporary Conversations, two other traveling exhibitions are available: The African American Voice and Points of Departure: Vessel Forms from the State Art Collection. Images: State Art Collection: Contemporary Conversations About the State Art Collection The State Art Collection is considered the most comprehensive public collection of works by contemporary South Carolina artists. Established in 1967 as one of the first programs of the South Carolina Arts Commission, the State Art Collection has grown to include 493 works in a variety of media and styles by 287 South Carolina contemporary artists. Small exhibitions featuring work from the collection are organized on a regular basis for rural and isolated areas inside and outside of the state. Works from the State Art Collection are available for loan to art museums, state agencies, and public and private organizations for the purpose of public exhibition or public display. The collection is supported in part by the South Carolina Arts Foundation and First Citizens.