Congratulations to our awards recipients!

Hootie and the Blowfish with Gov.Haley Hootie and the Blowfish members Mark Bryan, Darius Rucker, Jim “Soni” Sonefeld and Dean Felber with Governor Nikky Haley Congratulations to recipients of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts and the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards, who were recognized May 11 during South Carolina Arts Awards Day. Family members, friends, and colleagues of award recipients joined the arts community and the general public for a day and an evening of celebration. Lt. Governor Henry McMaster and S.C. Arts Commission Chairman Henry Horowitz presented the awards during a State House ceremony. After official photographs with Governor Nikki Haley, recipients were honored at a luncheon sponsored by USC's McKissick Museum. The evening began with additional accolades during a concert featuring bluegrass and gospel music (honoring Folk Heritage Award recipient Harold Clayton) and a poetry reading by Verner Award recipient Nikky Finney.  The festivities were capped by an art sale and gala dance party presented by the South Carolina Arts Foundation. Many thanks to everyone who participated! Image above: Front row, left to right: Verner Award recipients Mayor Knox White, City of Greenville; Janice Jennings, Joye in Aiken; artist Mary Edna Fraser; Betty J. Plumb; Gov. Nikki Haley; Karen Brosius, Columbia Museum of Art; Dotsy Clayton, representing Folk Heritage Award recipient Harold Clayton (posthumous award); Susu Johnson, the Phifer-Johnson Foundation/The Johnson Collection. Second row, left to right: Poet Nikky Finney; Dr. Sandra Field, Joye in Aiken; Claude Walker, Columbia Museum of Art; Folk Heritage Award recipient Bill Harris; Ed Zeigler, City of Greenville, George Johnson, the Phifer-Johnson Foundation/The Johnson Collection.


City of Mauldin seeking cultural arts program coordinator

Mauldin Cultural CenterThe City of Mauldin is seeking a cultural arts program coordinator for the Community Development Department. College degree or equivalent in related field preferred, but experience or a combination of education and experience may be substituted. Applications are available at or upstairs at Mauldin City Hall, 5 East Butler Road. Position is responsible for implementing community program events through the Mauldin Cultural Center. Work includes festival planning, cultural center programming, coordinating amphitheater events and the Mauldin downtown farmers market, plus other events planned by the department. Candidate should have a flexible schedule, strong work ethic and be prepared to work weekends. The starting salary range will be $42,000-$63,000. Contact Van Broad,, with any questions. Position is open until filled. Application and resume may be mailed, emailed, or dropped off at 5 E. Butler Rd (Mauldin City Hall). The City of Mauldin is an equal opportunity employer. Via: City of Mauldin


Conductors Institute of South Carolina targeted to aspiring and experienced conductors

Application deadline extended to May 20 The Conductors Institute of South Carolina, in its 31st year, is on the must-do list for both aspiring and experienced conductors. Students of the summer institute come to the University of South Carolina from around the U.S. and abroad to receive instruction from eminent conductors and composers with vast experience in the commercial, academic and professional worlds of music. The annual institute, directed by Dr. Donald Portnoy, takes place from June 5 through 18, 2016, at the Koger Center for the Arts on the University of South Carolina campus. Participants can opt for the 10-day Discovery Program, designed for conductors with limited conducting experience who want to improve their conducting skills, or the 15-day Institute for Fellows and Associates, designed for conductors with moderate to advanced conducting skills. Participants have an exceptional opportunity to work directly with composers whose works have been commissioned and performed by many of the major American and European orchestras and international ensembles. Among this summer’s distinguished guest faculty are Maurice Peress, former assistant conductor to the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein; and Paul Vermel, the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Koussevitsky Memorial Award for the outstanding conductor at Tanglewood. Also on the faculty are esteemed conductors and composers including Victoria Bond (composer/conductor), Samuel Jones (composer), Avner Dorman (composer), Peter Jaffe (conductor) Diane Wittry (conductor) and Neil Casey (conductor). Students of the institute have individual daily podium time conducting professional musicians and focus on enhancing skills to achieve a greater command of their orchestral forces. Veteran conductors share their knowledge of the competitive field of conducting and offer constructive feedback. An evening lecture series delivers sessions in score study and other topics necessary in today’s job market. Find complete details and registration information online. Observe conductor training The community can get a first-hand view of the skills and complexities of effective conducting. Monday through Saturday during the Institute, the public is invited to observe conductor training from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 – 4:30 p.m. in the Koger Center for the Arts. Via: University of South Carolina School of Music


Lost and found: The twisted tale of Hobcaw Barony’s stolen art

From The Charleston Post and Courier Article by Adam Parker, photos by Robert Norris

Turkey Hen Photo Credit Robert Norris Turkey Hen, an Audubon print recovered by the Belle W. Baruch Foundation. It had been stolen in 2003. The famous horse paintings by Alfred Munnings went galloping off in the middle of the night in late July 2003, along with several important folio prints by John James Audubon and works by artist Louis Aston Knight. It was an horrific loss, and the Belle W. Baruch Foundation quickly initiated an investigation into the crime at its Hobcaw Barony. It was thought at the time that the stolen artwork was worth in excess of $2 million. Foundation attorney Tom Tisdale quickly registered the inventory with the National Stolen Art File, an FBI database. Until now. On April 27, the foundation’s executive director, George Chastain received a phone call from Ivy Auctions in Laurens. John Allen Ivy was on the line. “I think we have your paintings,” Ivy said. The auction house had received the art from “a hoarder” in Columbia who had recently died. Chastain, naturally, was skeptical. “Over the years we had received a number of tips, none had ever panned out,” he said. This time, though, was different. The Munnings paintings, seven Audubon prints and an engraving by James Watson called “North County Mail” all had been consigned to the auction house by an estate. “When they came in, I recognized they were good paintings,” Ivy said. Standard procedure is to have such artworks authenticated, and to make sure they’re not stolen. When Ivy’s colleague Frazer Pajak arrived to take photographs for the auction house’s catalogue, he recognized the three Munnings paintings right away. Pajak knew of the missing art pieces and was familiar with the house in which they once hung. “He was extremely excited about it,” Ivy recalled. They went online and quickly discovered they were in possession of the stolen Audubons, too. Ivy called Chastain. Then he called the FBI. Arrangements were made for Chastain to meet Ivy that Friday, accompanied by FBI agent Matt Jacobson and Tisdale, the foundation’s attorney.

Cover of darkness

Hobcaw Barony, owned by the Belle W. Baruch Foundation, is a 17,000-acre wildlife preserve near Georgetown that once was a vacation home to financier Bernard M. Baruch. His daughter Belle left the property in trust for use by South Carolina universities. The University of South Carolina operates a marine lab on the plantation; Clemson University operates a forest lab. On July 30, 2003, foundation employee Samuel McIntosh, who lived in the Bellefield House on the property, was forced to move out. After 11 years as curator overseeing the Bellefield House and Hobcaw House, McIntosh had been dismissed from his job. “He was clearly not happy with this situation,” wrote investigator Tom Digsby in an incident report. “The night of the theft was the last night that he would be living in the house.” His friend Roger Streeter was helping him move. Streeter had spent most of the day shuttling McIntosh’s possessions to a home in Kingstree. The two men spent the night in the Bellefield House, but McIntosh had forgotten the key, so Streeter entered the building through a window then let in his friend, according to the incident report. Several people had been going in and out that day and the next morning. The house showed no signs of forced entry. The artwork, some of which hung on the walls, some of which was stored in a closet, was discovered missing around 9 a.m. July 31. Streeter told authorities he was awakened during the night by the sound of four-wheelers or dirt bikes outside, but thought nothing of it and went back to sleep. McIntosh told investigators he had adjusted the air conditioning at about 3 a.m. and one of the stolen works was still hanging on the wall, 3 inches from the thermostat. In the morning, movers were in and out of the house, raising the possibility that the artwork was inadvertently packed and relocated. McIntosh agreed to take a polygraph test, but then balked, saying he needed to consult his attorney, according to the incident report. Streeter, too, agreed to a polygraph test but reneged, saying he had been threatened by someone who insisted Streeter keep his mouth shut. The investigation continued in fits and starts. On Aug. 20, authorities arrived at McIntosh’s Kingstree home to serve a complaint and search the property. They knocked at the door repeatedly but occupants inside did not respond. Sheriff’s deputies donned raid vests and forced entry. Hobcaw employees identified and recovered the stolen print “Sporting Life” by John Leache, whose estimated value was about $12,000. Other items thought to belong to the foundation also were reclaimed. On Sept. 4, McIntosh was charged with four counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent, one count of receiving stolen goods and one count of filing a false police report, according to Georgetown County records. Later that month he was sentenced to three years probation after pleading no contest. But the Munnings portrait and two studies and the Audubon prints eluded them. Streeter died last month. McIntosh lives in the Midlands.


“Belle on Souriant,” a large 39x36-inch portrait of Belle Baruch on her beloved horse, along with the related studies in oil, were recovered late last month, thanks to the call Chastain received from John Ivy. The auctioneer said the family that consigned the art to him was immensely helpful and clearly ignorant of the dramatic backstory. Chastain said the three Munnings paintings appear to be in good condition, though he has arranged for a restorer and appraiser to examine them. Together they could be worth around $2 million. Some of the Audubon prints did not fare so well, he said. “They suffered while they were in hiding.” A conservator soon will be working on them. The prints collectively could be worth $400,000. Six paintings by Knight — four watercolor and two oil representations of Hobcaw Barony — remain at large. Rhett DeHart, U.S. attorney in Charleston, has been working the case since 2005, until it fizzled out. Though a big arrest was never made, the investigation nevertheless proved successful, he said. “It scared them into inaction, which ultimately let the paintings (come back),” DeHart said. “Not too many criminal investigations (into stolen art) end well, and this one did.” Image above: “Belle on Souriant,” by Alfred Munnings


How two Upstate actresses are doing their PART as arts entrepreneurs

From The Greenville News Article by Paul Hyde, photo by Heidi Heilbrunn

Kimilee and Candice Bryant will tell you they were born in a trunk. Not really. In theatrical parlance, it means the two grew up in a family of actors. Their parents met and courted while doing shows at Greenville Little Theatre, and their mother owned a dance studio. A grandfather performed with Joanne Woodward in Greenville. Kimilee and Candice, following in their family’s footsteps, have acted professionally themselves. Kimilee spent 10 years on Broadway in “The Phantom of the Opera.” Candice recently appeared in the CBS television series “Unforgettable.” Theater pulses in their blood. Now, the two are taking on their most challenging role ever: co-directors of a new Upstate theater company, PART (Performing Arts Renaissance Theatre). PART made its debut with Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Into the Woods” this past weekend at the University of South Carolina-Upstate’s Performing Arts Center. The Tony Award-winning musical intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm stories, following characters from “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rapunzel” and “Cinderella” as they strive for “happily ever after” and learn that life is no fairy tale. But some dreams do come true. For the Bryant siblings, the creation of PART qualifies as one. “This was something we wanted to do for a very long time,” Kimilee Bryant said. The Greenville-based Bryants shared creative duties: Co-directing “Into the Woods” and acting in the show as well.

Find a role for PART

Starting a theater company, of course, is no easy ambition. Though PART’s first production takes place at Spartanburg’s USC-Upstate, plans call for the company to perform at various other venues in Greenville. Greenville, of course, already is home to several thriving theater companies that produce their own work, including the Warehouse Theatre, Centre Stage, GLOW Lyric Theatre, Greenville Little Theatre and S.C. Children’s Theatre. And, of course, there’s the big presenter on the block, the Peace Center, which hosts national Broadway touring companies. How will PART fit in? The theater company’s specialty will be versatility, offering plays and musicals but also some opera, said Kimilee Bryant, who is also a former Miss South Carolina. “In my 25-year career, I’ve never come across a company that does all three genres,” she said. Long-term plans include designating or even building a permanent venue in Greenville for PART performances. Shows will feature both local and professional talent. Luckily for the Bryants, a strain of entrepreneurship runs alongside devotion to theater in the family. Their mother, of course, not only founded but led a dance studio for more than 50 years. A grandmother ran a daycare and a grandfather owned an air conditioning business. “We come from a entrepreneurial background,” Kimilee Bryant said. Candice Bryant took the reins of her mother’s dance studio for a few years and is now putting those skills to use in marketing PART and in other administrative duties. She also created PART’s website. Kimilee Bryant also is no stranger to small business. In 2008, while starring in Broadway’s “Phantom of the Opera,” she created her own company, Rubylee Productions, to produce concerts by Broadway singers. In a sense, though, Bryant has always been an entrepreneur. Actors are contract workers, selling a product – their talent – and dealing with an array of concerns such as marketing, health insurance and professional development. “As an actor, you are your own business and your own CEO,” Bryant said. Nevertheless, starting a theater company involves considerable on-the-job training, she said. “I’m trying to adopt the attitude of ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff,’” Bryant said, with a laugh. “It’s a tremendous challenge.” One definite factor in PART’s favor: Greenville loves theater. “There’s certainly enthusiasm for theater and plenty of talent,” Bryant said. Greenville’s large pool of actors is one reason Bryant wanted PART to showcase plays, musicals and opera. “We have so many people who have crossover talent,” she said.

Taking flight

The Bryants hope to announce future shows for this fall and next year, but first, as with all nonprofits, fundraising will be a big necessity over the next few months after “Into the Woods.” Before coming back to Greenville last year, Kimilee Bryant spent 25 years working as an actress in New York City. Her best-known role was Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera.” She was associated with “Phantom” for 10 years, beginning on Broadway in 1994 and later performing in the show in Switzerland, Toronto and on tour in North America. She’s the only actress ever to have played all three major female roles in the musical on Broadway. Kimilee Bryant, who graduated from the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities and attended Converse College, was named Miss South Carolina in 1989. She competed in the Miss America pageant where she won two talent scholarships to help with her graduate studies at the Manhattan School of Music. She received her Master’s of Music degree at the school. She returned to Greenville a little more than a year ago after the birth of her son, Aiden, now 2 years old. “I have family here and I want my son to be around family,” Bryant said. “My mother is just over the moon about Aidan. He’s her first grandchild.” Bryant is now an adjunct professor, teaching voice and other courses at Anderson University’s South Carolina School for the Arts. She’s also a guest lecturer at Converse College, having recently taught the opera workshop there. In addition, she has a thriving private voice studio and holds theater camps in the summer. Her younger sibling, Candice, just earned her theater degree at USC-Upstate. Kimilee Bryant finds herself busier than she’s ever been. “Eight shows a week on Broadway was so much easier,” Bryant said, with a laugh.


Anderson Arts Center and City of Anderson win $75,000 NEA grant for art in park

From The Anderson Independent Mail Article by Kirk Brown

Church Street Heritage ProjectThe National Endowment of the Arts has awarded a $75,000 grant for artwork at the Church Street Heritage Project, which is under construction in downtown Anderson. The grant awarded to the city of Anderson and Anderson Arts Center will help pay for commissioning and installing up to eight pieces of public art, as well as interactive music and oral history recordings. City officials are spending $460,000 on the initial phase of the Church Street Heritage Project. The first round of work on the "pocket park" behind the Mellow Mushroom on Main Street is slated for completion in June. The project is the culmination of a decade-long effort to commemorate the black business district that thrived on Church Street from around 1900 to 1980. "At its heart, the Church Street Heritage Project celebrates what is unique about Anderson. Church Street was a model of economic vitality in the 20th century that would be enviable to any modern city today," Mayor Terence Roberts said in a statement issued by the city. "We are thankful to the NEA for its validation of this project in the form of significant funding and we are proud to have as our partner the Anderson Arts Center." Councilwoman Beatrice Thompson, a longtime advocate for the Church Street Heritage Project, also was pleased to learn of the grant. "It is wonderful to see the effort to honor the cultural and historical significance of Church Street come to fruition. I have a great deal of personal satisfaction and pride as I watch a new generation of leaders work so diligently to see that the past is honored in this meaningful and relevant way," she said in the city's statement. "It will bring the Church Street story full circle as it spurs economic growth and opportunity anew." The city previously received a $60,000 grant from Duke Energy to place ornate story boxes in the park that will explain the area's history. The grant announced Monday also will help pay for the story boxes, as well as sculptures. The money for the Church Street Heritage project is among 64 grants totaling $4.3 million that the National Endowment of the Arts is awarding through its Our Town Program. The endowment received 240 applications related to the program this year. The park in Anderson is the only project in South Carolina that received funding this year, according to the endowment's website. "For six years, Our Town has made a difference for people and the places where they live, work, and play," said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. "Projects such as the one led by the city of Anderson help residents engage the arts to spark vitality in their communities."


Find arts experiences, wearable art and more at the South Carolina Arts Gala!

Tickets are $75 and available at the door This year's South Carolina Arts Gala, taking place May 11 at 7:15 p.m. at 701 Whaley in Columbia, will feature a bluegrass and gospel concert, the Lee Central High School drumline and a dance party by the Root Doctors. In between the music, an art sale will feature unique works by South Carolina artists and arts experiences showcasing cultural and culinary arts. One of the arts experiences available for purchase takes place May 14 during Artisphere, Greenville's signature cultural event. A Goat, a Waterfall & Artisphere - Yeah THAT Greenville will accommodate 24 guests for an art-filled day trip that ends with dinner and wine pairings at The Lazy Goat restaurant. Another arts experience is a popular encore from last year's sale - Desi Delights at the Taj Palace will feature Indian cuisine, a henna artist, a dhoul drummer and spirits. In addition to glass, pottery, paintings, and sculpture, the sale includes wearable art by Beth Melton, a fiber artist from Rock Hill, and jewelry in a range of styles by four artists. Returning favorite Cindy Saad of Columbia will be joined by Jane Pope of Spartanburg, Danny and Sherry Hansen of Batesburg-Leesville, and Jo Ann Graham of St. Helena Island. Pope's work has been featured in numerous national publications, including Vogue and Southern Living, and the Hansens design and craft pieces for the History Channel's popular drama, Vikings. Graham’s jewelry has been featured regionally in galleries and festivals in Charleston, St. Helena, Savannah and Atlanta. Prior to the gala, a concert will honor recipients of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts and the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards and feature a poetry reading by Verner Award recipient Nikky Finney. The concert takes place at 6:15 p.m. in the Granby Room at 701 Whaley. (Note venue change -- the concert was previously scheduled for Southside Baptist Church.) The South Carolina Arts Gala is presented by the South Carolina Arts Foundation. Gala proceeds benefit schools and communities around the state through the South Carolina Arts Commission’s arts education and arts development programs. Last year, the S.C. Arts Foundation contributed more than $55,000 to programs such as artist fellowships, arts education and artist training. Tickets are $75 and available at the door! Find out more here.  


Folk Heritage Award highlights: Bill Harris and Harold Clayton

Bill Harris, Chief of the Catawba Nation, is committed to keeping alive the Catawba pottery tradition through his work and through educating others. The late Harold Clayton shared his love for bluegrass and gospel with his family and his community and inspired others to learn to play music. Read about this year's recipients of the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award below, and find out more about all of the activities taking place as part of the South Carolina Arts Awards on May 11.

Bill Harris, Catawba Pottery

Bill HarrisLong before becoming Chief of the Catawba Nation, Bill Harris felt drawn to traditional Catawba pottery. His grandmother, Georgia Harris, was a master potter who was instrumental in carrying on the long-standing Catawba pottery tradition. A recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Georgia Harris passed her knowledge of the pottery process down to her grandson.  He was 18 when he started to learn the art form, and she taught him every step of the process – from digging the clay to firing the pot.

Harris digs the clay for his pots today in the same riverbanks he learned as a teenager. Since the 1970s, Harris has actively cultivated his knowledge by learning aspects of the art from other Catawba potters. During the past 15 years, Harris has focused more of his efforts on making pottery. He serves on the Piedmont Craftsman Art Guild, and his work has been featured in exhibitions throughout the region.

Harris is also passionate about sharing his knowledge with others and encouraging the long-term viability of the pottery tradition. He teaches classes for both adults and children at the Catawba Cultural Preservation Project, takes small groups to dig clay, and teaches members of his family at home.

The Catawba Cultural Preservation Project has named him a Master Potter, an honor only given to those who have been recognized by their peers as outstanding practitioners of the tradition. As Chief of the Catawba Nation, Harris has the opportunity to speak to schools and community groups about the tribe. He uses these opportunities to impart the importance of the pottery tradition and other aspects of Catawba culture.

Harold Clayton, Advocacy, Bluegrass and Gospel Music (posthumous)

Harold ClaytonHarold Clayton was a native of the Warrior Creek community near Gray Court, South Carolina. His father, Alvin, was a multi-instrumentalist who instilled in Harold a passion for a variety of instruments and music traditions. Clayton played the upright bass and guitar, but his true passion was in providing a venue for music to be presented, taught, and appreciated.

He first began providing space for local musicians to play in 2003. Every Saturday night, folks knew they could gather for a good time of picking, singing, and fellowship. In 2006, Clayton had the opportunity to move into a different space and, along with the help of friends, he completely remodeled and opened the Owings Music Hall. In order to help pay for the expense of the renovation, Clayton and his friends put on community fish fries. Friends helped with the electrical, carpentry, and plumbing work. The completion of the music hall was truly a community-based project.

Now musicians from across the region show up every Friday and Saturday night to play for crowds of young and old. Musicians offer music lessons on a regular basis, even lending instruments to students, as needed. Many of these young musicians come back to play at the music hall. In 2009, Clayton built an addition on the building to accommodate the growing crowds and the many musicians who played outside.

Clayton made a conscious effort to share his love of music with his family – both his son and grandson learned from him and are accomplished musicians today. Clayton also enjoyed working with the surrounding community as well. He could often be found singing at local retirement homes and was a regular participant at local festivals like Pioneer Day in Gray Court.

Clayton passed away in April 2015, but his family and the music community continue to carry on his legacy.


Catawba Indians and ‘Pocahontas’ star announce film production partnership

Article by Tracy Kimball

Catawba Indian Nation film agreement Irene Bedard and Bill Harris Native American actress Irene Bedard is known for lending her voice to her craft. As an advocate and one of the most recognizable Native American actresses, Bedard lent her voice as ‘Pocahontas’ in the animated Disney films, and now hopes to lend her voice and influence to the York County-based Catawba Indian Nation. On Thursday, Bedard met with Catawba leaders to discuss a business partnership between her company, Sleeping Lady Films Waking Giants Productions, and the tribe’s production company, Red Heritage Media. The two companies hope to collaborate on television and film projects with Native American themes, as well as documentaries and short stories, said Bert Hesse of Studio South, a media production company that is partnering with the Catawbas. “It’s a great opportunity for not only the Catawba Nation, but for all of our storytelling capabilities, collectively – and then on top of that for the surrounding community as well, because it is going to bring a lot of revenue into the area,” Bedard told the Catawba leaders. The Catawbas purchased Red Heritage Media earlier this year and hope to build a $350 million movie studio project on 124 acres of tribal land in eastern York County with Studio South. The plans include multiple sound stages, a “five-star” hotel, a new Catawba Cultural Center, a school for film and music, retail and offices. “We are excited to hear of the future works of the Catawba studios and all the individuals involved,” Bedard said. “We are out here to endorse (the project) and to let people know that something like this in this area has the potential to create hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in revenue for this state and surrounding communities.” The Alaskan actress told Catawba leaders that Native Americans need to “take charge of our voice” and tell the “many amazing stories, inspiring stories and stories of resilience.” Bedard said for the most part Native Americans in films have been invisible. “I have realized just how we’ve had this great stage to be able to tell some incredible stories and go into this little fire, this little television, or this big screen and see something through the eyes of somebody else,” she said. “It’s amazing and it’s powerful.” Catawba Indian Chief Bill Harris and Bedard shared stories of non-Native Americans expressing interest in Indian cultures, but who are uneducated. “I do believe people around the world will want to come and learn more about the Catawbas,” Bedard said. “People around the world, they love us (Native Americans).” At the meeting Thursday, Harris spoke warmly with the actress once included among People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People. For Harris, Bedard’s influence is not about her fame or beauty, but as a spokesperson for Native American issues. “I think what’s far more important than the fact that Irene is an actress is Irene’s voice,” Harris said. “It’s what she brings to the world when she speaks about native country.”


Verner Award highlights: Nikky Finney and Hootie and the Blowfish

Poet Nikky Finney and Hootie and the Blowfish are ambassadors for South Carolina, using their success and celebrity status to draw attention to the benefits of the arts. Read more about these recipients of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts below, and find out more about all of the activities taking place as part of the South Carolina Arts Awards on May 11. Nikky Finney

newNikky1 Nikky Finney was born in South Carolina, within listening distance of the sea. A child of activists, she came of age during the Civil Rights and Black Arts Movements. At Talladega College, nurtured by Hale Woodruff's Amistad murals, Finney began to understand the powerful synergy between art and history. Finney has authored four books of poetry: On Wings Made of Gauze (1985); Rice (1995); The World Is Round (2003); and Head Off & Split (2011), which received the National Book Award for poetry in 2011. Finney’s electrifying acceptance speech prompted the ceremony's emcee, actor John Lithgow, to proclaim, "That's the best acceptance for anything I've ever heard in my life." Head Off & Split was also selected as the 2015-2016 First Year Book by University of Maryland, College Park, providing an opportunity for students and faculty to delve into complex topics using a common text. Finney writes extensively for journals, magazines and other publications. Her new work includes The Battle of and for the Black Face Boy, commissioned in 2013 by the University of Maryland and published in the fall 2015 issue of Oxford American, the first feature-length poem to be published in the literary magazine. Finney’s other awards and honors include a PEN American Open Book Award for Rice in 1997, the Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council in 1999, induction into the Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent in 2002, and the Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Booksellers Association for The World is Round in 2004, In 2013, Finney returned to South Carolina as The John H. Bennett, Jr. Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Letters and Literature at the University of South Carolina after teaching creative writing at the University of Kentucky for 21 years. Watch the video of Finney's National Book Award acceptance speech.
Hootie and the Blowfish
HootieandTheBlowfish250Hootie and the Blowfish members Darius Rucker, Mark Bryan, Dean Felber and Jim “Soni” Sonefeld met when they were freshmen at the University of South Carolina. The band sold over 25 million records worldwide after their debut album Cracked Rear View hit the airwaves in 1994. At the end of the year, Cracked Rear View and the band won two Grammys, an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist, a Billboard Music Award for Album of the Year, a People's Choice Award for Album of the Year and a People's Choice Award for Best Selling Artist, a feat they duplicated in 1996. Cracked Rear View remains the 12th best-selling album in music business history. The band grew up in an environment where education and music were important. Knowing how fortunate they were, they have a strong desire to improve education in their home state, funding programs that help provide a well-rounded and meaningful education based in practical studies and the arts. The band established the Hootie and the Blowfish Foundation in 2000 through the Central Carolina Community Foundation. The majority of funding comes from the annual Hootie and the Blowfish Monday after the Masters Golf Tournament. The event, created to support education and music programs nationwide, has raised over $2 million to date for multiple causes. Support ranges from building community learning centers to outfitting school marching bands to simply providing educators with the tools they need to nurture children's talents and help them succeed. In 2001, the band was involved in VH1’s Save the Music Foundation’s South Carolina kickoff, performing with students at the Statehouse to draw attention to improving the quality of music education in public schools. In addition to Monday After the Masters, the foundation also puts on various events throughout the year, including Hootie's Homegrown Roundup, a back to school program held in August each year to benefit the children of Charleston County School District. More than 12,000 students have benefited from the Roundup since the program’s inception in 2007. Although band members have had successful solo careers, they still consider themselves a band, performing together to benefit the causes they believe in. They willingly use their celebrity status as successful artists to draw attention to and benefit South Carolina. Their leadership in providing support and funding for education, particularly music education, has had a significant impact on the state and beyond.


Spoleto to live-stream and rebroadcast “Porgy and Bess”

From The Post and Courier Article by Adam Parker

Porgy and Bess cast Soprano Alyson Cambridge, baritone Lester Lynch and stage director David Herskovits listen as festival and city officials announce Spoleto Festival USA’s production of “Porgy and Bess” will be live-streamed and rebroadcast. ADAM PARKER/STAFF Tickets for every performance of Spoleto Festival USA’s production of “Porgy and Bess” sold out within about two weeks, leaving many to hope for a miracle. Would the festival schedule additional performances? Were there blocks of reserved seats that might become available? And there was something else, a gnawing issue that many arts organizations must cope with (or choose to avoid): What about all the people who want to see the show but can’t afford the ticket price in the first place? Spoleto Festival, in cooperation with the Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs and Piccolo Spoleto Festival, came up with a solution. It will live-stream the performance of “Porgy and Bess” on a Jumbotron screen in Marion Square at 7:30 p.m. May 30, then rebroadcast the opera at 7:30 p.m. the next night in the practice field of West Ashley High School. The Marion Square simulcast and West Ashley rebroadcast are made possible in part by the sponsorship of Wells Fargo and are open to the public and free. Festival officials are optimistic about the weather but will devise a contingency plan should the forecast include rain. Mayor John Tecklenburg emphasized the importance of “Porgy and Bess” to Charleston, noting that George Gershwin spent the summer of 1934 in the area soaking in Lowcountry culture. Tecklenburg remembered attending the 1970 production of the folk opera at the old Gaillard Municipal Auditorium. It was the first time “Porgy” had been performed in the city that inspired its story and characters. The show was finally presented here, 35 years after its New York premiere, because the Gershwins had prohibited the presentation of the opera in segregated theaters. “Last year, when I ran for mayor, I said that one of our goals should be to improve our citizens’ quality of life by making the arts more accessible to more residents in more areas of our city,” Tecklenburg said in a statement. “Today, thanks to the Spoleto Festival USA and its sponsors, that vision is now starting to become a reality.” The folk opera by George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward currently is in rehearsals at the Gaillard Center. It stars soprano Alyson Cambridge and baritone Lester Lynch. The new production is directed by David Herskovits. “‘Porgy and Bess’ has become part of this city’s history in ways we want to embrace and celebrate,” Herskovits said. “This is a ‘Porgy and Bess’ for you, for the people of Charleston, for all the people of Charleston.” Spoleto Festival General Director Nigel Redden said the opera “evocatively represents the people of the Lowcountry” and it only made sense to make it accessible to local residents. Though she has been in several other productions of “Porgy,” Cambridge is singing the role of Bess for the first time, she said. “No pressure, right?” she joked, adding that members of the cast were familiar with one another and happy to have this chance to perform in the opera. “It’s been a through-line in my operatic career,” she said. Lynch said it is impossible to ignore the rich history of Charleston, in which the opera is steeped. “To be in the place it was created, it’s an amazing feeling, and an honor really,” he said.