Columbia jazz great Skipp Pearson dies

From The State Article by Dwaun Sellers

photo by Andrew Haworth Columbia musician Skipp “Pops” Pearson, a jazz institution in South Carolina, died after a years-long cancer battle. He was 80. Pearson, whose music career spanned more than 50 years, died Monday from organ failure due to complications caused by the advanced stages of bone cancer. He was surrounded by family and friends, according to a post from his foundation. His musical journey began on the drums, but fearing getting “kicked out of my mama’s house,” he switched to the sax. Louis Jordan and Earl Bostick were early influences, Pearson said in an interview years ago, but Pearson said he vividly remembered the first time he heard Charlie Parker. He and childhood friend John Williams had a competition over who could find the hippest records. “He called me and said, ‘I bet you ain’t heard this cat,’” Pearson says, eyes crinkling behind his glasses. It was Parker. “I thought that was the greatest thing I ever heard.” Pearson took private, 50-cent saxophone lessons as a sixth grader. He was leading The Rhythm Artists, a five-piece orchestra, at 15. Enlisting in the Air Force at 19 didn’t cramp Pearson’s style because he played everywhere he served. From Parker to Coltrane, Columbia native Lucky Thompson to Don Byas, Pearson listened to and learned from the greats. He played with some, too – among them Otis Redding, Wynton Marsalis, Paul McCarthy, Miles Davis and Sam Cooke. “Skipp is a legend. There’s no one more of a real deal than Skipp,” Mark Rapp, a Columbia jazz musician and friend of Pearson’s, said previously. “His tone, his phrasing, his ideas, his whole life embodies the truest essence of jazz music.” In addition to education programs and other activities to help young musicians, he received many honors from the state he called home. He was named the Ambassador of Jazz Music by the South Carolina Senate and House and was awarded the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor. He also was inducted into the South Carolina State University Jazz Hall of Fame in 1998. The community rallied around Pearson in recent years as he battled bone cancer, holding fundraisers like the Skipp Pearson Jazz Bash and Love Fest to help fund initiatives for the jazz great. Former staff writer Otis Taylor contributed.

Avoiding the life of the starving artist

From USC School of Music Article by John Brunelli

SAVVY Arts Venture Challenge teaches entrepreneurship to the arts community Savvy Musicians SAVVY teams create exhibits showcasing their business ventures. Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most celebrated postimpressionist painters of the 19th century. But at the time of his death, he was penniless and obscure — the epitome of a starving artist. "You don't get any brownie points for being an amazing artist, who is so poor that you can't afford to create your art or share your gifts," says David Cutler, director of music entrepreneurship at the University of South Carolina. For the past five summers, Cutler has led a School of Music workshop designed to help a diverse group of artists maximize income, prove their worth and adapt to a world that is changing at an exponential rate. This experiential workshop called the SAVVY Arts Venture Challenge explores how a variety of business lessons are applicable to all art disciplines. This year's class is the most diverse yet — including musicians, visual artists, dancers, actors and even two mimes. Each of the 72 participants begins the week by giving a one-minute elevator pitch for an innovative arts-based business. The entire class votes on favorites and ultimately selects nine ideas to develop throughout the week. They divide into teams each with a CEO, a CFO, a marketing director and other key positions designed to create a successful business model. "There aren't a lot of tidy, secure, full-time jobs available for artists, even those with the most talent," Cutler says. "Most of us have to create our lives. SAVVY helps participants develop a variety of relevant skills for their own unique career path." Throughout the week, teams are required to solve eight "challenges." The finance challenge asks groups to create a startup budget, explain their business' cash flow and build a financial statement. A digital branding challenge requires the creation of a website consistent with the brand's personality while meeting the needs of customers. A research challenge gets them into the community to conduct surveys, interview experts and test core assumptions. "Entrepreneurship, for me, isn't just about career training. It's a way of life," Cutler says. "It's about creative problem-solving and innovation, as well as value creation, financial literacy, business-model design, taking chances and bold unapologetic leadership." At the end of the week, the teams pitch their businesses again — this time to a panel of judges and local government, arts and business leaders during the SAVVY Reveal at the Copenhaver Band Hall. People watching a livestream of the program from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. June 9 also can vote for their favorites. The week begins with the SAVVY Chamber Showcase, where four finalist ensembles featuring artistic excellence and innovative event design compete for a $10,000 grant prize/School of Music residency and management options. All finalists receive full tuition scholarships to attend the 2017 SAVVY Arts Venture Challenge. This year's finalists are: Real Vocal String Quartet from Berkeley, California, a multi-genre string quartet where all members also sing. Projecto Acromusical, based in Dekalb, Illnois, is a world music sextet that reimagines the Afro-Brazilian berimbau, a single-string percussion instrument, through a repertoire of concert chamber music. BIK Ensemble from Montreal, Canada, is a theatrical trio whose musicians dance around the stage, use cutlery as percussion and incorporate a host of other surprises. The final ensemble, The Living Earth Show from San Francisco, is an electro-acoustic group that generates a huge variety of sounds and sights from just a guitarist and a percussionist. The four ensembles compete at 7:30 p.m. Monday (June 5) in the newly opened auditorium at the Richland County Main Library. The concert is free and open to the public. In addition to becoming business savvy, Cutler hopes the participants, who are from nine countries and 25 states, will gain an appreciation for the resources and potential of a vibrant city like Columbia. Local organizations, businesses and community members are involved with SAVVY in a variety of capacities, as partners, dinner hosts, guest presenters and "entrepre-tainers." "SAVVY is literally the best event of its kind in the world," Cutler says. "This parallels a lesson we emphasize. For those with the courage and audacity to lead in relevant ways, the benefits can be tremendous."

The art of literacy: New park hopes to promotes education through expression

The South Carolina Arts Commission launched The Art of Community: Rural SC in May 2016 to help advance rural development through the arts, culture and creative placemaking. From the Jasper County Sun Article and photos by Liz Bloom

Jasper County ranked 45th in the state in education in 2014, with 49 percent of third-graders testing below state standards in reading. The county’s high school dropout rate of 6.8 percent from 2013-14 ranked 46th. When Jasper County Parks and Recreation Director Johnny Davis saw those stats from 2016 Kids Count South Carolina data, he felt compelled to try to raise awareness in a positive message. On Saturday, thanks to a Promise Zone grant, he – and members of the community – built a new art park for kids in downtown Ridgeland. “We were given a grant by the South Carolina Arts Commission. It was given to each county in the Promise Zone and part of the idea was that we were to try to determine an issue … to address and pick a project that would bring awareness and address that issue. We chose education, and in particular literacy, to address in our county,” said Davis. “We could use the money in the private or public sector, but they wanted us not to create something new, but go with what had been working already in the area. We chose the Morris Center downtown because it was centrally located and had some good momentum with its opening and drawing in lots of folks from the outside. We decided to do an art park. It’s in the back of the center in an area that’s not being utilized, and we thought it would be the perfect place.” Davis and his small Jasper County Arts Council embraced a simple theme – art of literacy. The idea is that literacy along with visual arts provide students invaluable ways to express themselves through words, pictures, paintings. At the grand reveal on Saturday, kids and adults cycled in and out of the green lot next to the Morris Center on Jacob Smart Boulevard in Ridgeland to paint stepping stones, help build the giant scrabble board, and create paintings and drawings to display. Davis wanted the community to be proud of something and claim ownership. The green space is just a small park, but Davis has a bigger vision to add murals to walls and even make the area a place to host outdoor movies for families. He wants the area to evolve into a regular epicenter of community and fellowship. He doesn’t see a big need for playgrounds, or fancy installations, just an area where people can feel safe and express themselves. From there he hopes to spread the pressing issue of literacy. “The best thing to do is bring awareness that there’s an issue. We do have an issue in Jasper County with illiteracy and drop-outs. With education being our focus …, we want to help provide places to go after school for kids, for them to not only express themselves through homework, but through art,” he said. “Let them be creative and grow in that way, give them a chance to work their brains and learn to express themselves in a creative way, and we’ve got to give them opportunities to do that. We’ve got to provide places for them to go and do that. “This project is not meant to solve the county’s issue, but just to bring awareness to it. Hopefully this jump-starts something bigger and better and we can start doing these things around all of the county.” The art park project intends to highlight the poor literacy rates, but also promote local art. For the murals Davis wants to paint, he’s hoping to hold a contest at RHHS for students to come up with designs and get an entire group to paint two or more of them on a building by the Morris Center. He wants kids to come to the park to paint, draw, and perform – the Scrabble board is also a stage for kids, speakers, and artists, to utilize. “There’s a bigger mission, bigger vision with this project,” said Davis. “This is kind of the jump-start.” There’s more to highlight in Jasper’s schools besides test scores, and Davis hopes to do just that.

Artist believes disabilities shouldn’t hold one back from creating

From the Aiken Standard Article by Stephanie Turner

Throughout his career, artist and art educator Carter Boucher has worked with various ages with various skill levels and abilities. One demographic that he teaches comprises children, teenagers and adults with disabilities. Since his first class with this demographic, he's taught people in wheelchairs, with autism, with Alzheimer's Disease, without limbs and prone to panic attacks, to name just a handful. Boucher started this specific endeavor in the 1980s. Through certain programs, he would visit schools and noticed that students with special needs were often not invited to program's classes. "I started going to the principals and just saying, 'We ought to include those kids,'" Boucher said. "It was sort of a surprise to them that I wanted to do that. ... I feel like populations like that particularly benefit from doing things. A lot of times they get left out." Based in Anderson County, Boucher has taught students throughout South Carolina and will teach a set of classes in Aiken this summer. When he knows about his class's students, Boucher will prepare so he is best able to accommodate each person's needs. Some of his classes have consisted of students with different disabilities, and he said he tries to tune into what each student needs while the class is in session. "The more you know about who's coming and whatever their situation is then the better you can work with," he said. The art teacher has tools such as scissors for people with hand problems. He has contacted schools to see if the student needs any special equipment and if he can then borrow it. If Boucher sees a condition listed on the roster with which he hasn't encountered or has any questions, he will contact a physician for more information or reach out to someone who has worked with the student to see if there is anything which Boucher needs to be aware. One example of how he has adjusted his approach can be seen in a class of autistic children. "Sometimes, I would slow down the process," he said. "For instance, if we were doing silkscreen pencil stencils, I would let them tear or cut or whatever they want to do to make an image, and it would often draw them out. I got a lot of comments from the teachers who worked with autistic kids how much it seemed to draw them out and get them doing things." He's had a student tell him that his class was the first time they felt like they were really part of a class. "What surprises a lot of people who watch me work with the kids is how much they do on their own," Boucher said. "Whatever it is we do with them and however they accomplish it, ... they feel like they own this artwork. It wasn't something we did. It was something they did." Boucher is an Arts Access SC master artist who creates fine art or illustrations with different mediums and methods such as oil, gouache, etching, wood engraving, silk screen and airbrushing. He will be the instructor of the Aiken Center for the Arts' new creative day camp, I Spy Art & Music Camp. The camp is for ages 5 to 13 with cognitive and physical disabilities such as traumatic brain injury and cerebral palsy. It will run from June 12-16 from 10 a.m. to noon or from 1 to 3 p.m. at the arts center, 122 Laurens St. S.W. The camps are free, but enrollment is limited. "(Art) builds confidence. It lowers anxiety and activates parts of the brain that help with almost every subject," Boucher said. He will have some helpers present and is planning for the students to make paper mache masks, work with screenprinting and make music with simple tonal musical instruments that anyone can use. If the young artist has any specific triggers or needs, it is recommended the parent or guardian include that information. Applications are only accepted online. For more information on the camp or Boucher, visit www.aikencenterforthearts.org or www.boucherart.com or call 803-641-9094.

Winthrop University names new dean for the College of Visual and Performing Arts

Winthrop University has hired Jeff Bellantoni, former vice president for academic affairs at Ringling College of Art and Design, as the new dean for the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Winthrop officials said Bellantoni possesses a successful record of leadership, development and administration of design, art, and liberal arts programs at multiple institutions. He will join the Winthrop University community on July 1. Debra Boyd, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, noted that Bellantoni’s strategic leadership and administrative experience, his focus on creating supportive environments for students and faculty, and his successful entrepreneurial endeavors made him the right candidate for the deanship. “He impressed the campus and community members with his passion for and dedication to the arts as critical to the human experience, and I am certain that he will apply that passion, dedication, and skill to the arts at Winthrop,” she said. With a career spanning more than 25 years as an arts educator, designer, and author, Bellantoni most recently served as vice president for academic affairs at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. As the chief academic officer of the college, he held responsibility for all the academic affairs of the institution including academic departments and programs, as well as collaborative enterprises, communications and marketing, and continuing studies and lifelong learning. He led several key initiatives, including developing degree programs in creative writing and visual studies, helping secure a $3 million donation for a new Visual Arts Center, overseeing successful accreditation visits and creating a student innovation fund. Bellantoni said it is an honor to be the next dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “I look forward to working closely with its accomplished and dedicated faculty, shaping the next generation of creative leaders and promoting the arts as critical to our cultural and economic prosperity,” he said. “Winthrop’s reputation for providing an educational experience that blends liberal arts, professional programs, and civic engagement attracted me to this opportunity. I look forward to collaborating both across the university and regionally to establish new and exciting cross-disciplinary initiatives.” From 2008-14, Bellantoni was chair of the nationally ranked Graduate Communications Design Department at Pratt Institute in New York, where he established the MFA program, Pratt Press, and the Graduate Design Guild. He has held faculty and administrative positions at the University of Connecticut, New York-based Mercy College, VCU School of the Arts, and the Wanganui School of Design in New Zealand. He earned an MFA in visual communications from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BFA from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Bellantoni is co-author and designer of several internationally published titles on Typography and Media – including the best-selling titles Type in Motion and Moving Type, Designing for Time and Space – and he has written on graphic design for How magazine and various other design publications. His design work has been recognized by Print magazine, the AIGA (50 Books/50 Covers), and Connecticut Art Director’s Club; and he presented at conferences, events and educational institutions around the world. He will be moving to the area with his wife, the ceramist Kim Westad. The College of Visual and Performing Arts is the academic home to more than 650 undergraduate students majoring in 12 areas and more than 50 graduate students in its six master’s programs and one post-baccalaureate certificate program. The college has a total of 105 faculty members, of whom 52 are full time and 53 are part-time lecturers who are practicing professionals from the surrounding metropolitan area. Winthrop’s programs of dance, fine arts, interior design, music and theatre are nationally accredited. In addition, Winthrop’s arts education programs (art, music, theatre and dance) are accredited through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

SC Arts Alliance to host Creative Pillars forums

“What are some of the pillars needed in a community for a creative professional to have a high quality of life?” That’s the question the South Carolina Arts Alliance is asking as it hosts Creative Pillars forums this summer in Greenville and Charleston. Forum dates and locations:

An additional forum is being planned in the Pee Dee area. All forums are free to attend and will run from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Beer and wine will be available for purchase. Advance registration is requested and is available on the Arts Alliance’s website, www.scartsalliance.net. The forums, which are open to any creative professional or those with an interest in a creative field, will include group activities meant to identify key amenities that help attract and retain creative professionals and targeted discussions to dive deeper into specific topics. The Arts Alliance is interested in hearing from every kind of creative professional, from the freelance graphic designer to the touring musician to the nonprofit fundraising professional. “We wanted to create a way to gather insight into areas other than pure arts and culture and how they play a role in the quality of life for a creative professional," said GP McLeer, SCAA’s executive director. "We know that a high value on arts and culture is important, but what about access to healthcare, public safety, recreation, or even trash pick up - where do these kinds of issues lie in the hierarchy for the creative professional? Whether you’re an architect, designer, actor, musician, nonprofit arts manager, or even a board member, this is an important discussion to have as people look for ways to effectively make a difference in their community." Creative Pillars is also serving as a pilot for a new statewide leadership development program, CreativeSC, being planned by the South Carolina Arts Alliance in partnership with the South Carolina Arts Commission, the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the University of South Carolina, and Together SC, with additional partners expected to join in the coming months. The comprehensive program will include networking, workshops/forums, and a selective leadership program. The Arts Alliance is targeting an early fall 2017 launch of CreativeSC. The series is supported by a grant by the South Carolina Arts Commission, which receives funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. About the South Carolina Arts Alliance The South Carolina Arts Alliance is the only statewide nonprofit dedicated to advancing the arts for all South Carolinians through advocacy, leadership development, and public awareness. The SCAA is housed at the Younts Center for Performing Arts in Fountain Inn, SC.

Nickelodeon Theatre hires new director

From The Free Times Article by Jordan Lawrence

Alison Kozberg Alison Kozberg The Nickelodeon Theatre, Main Street’s nonprofit arthouse cinema, has a new leader. Alison Kozberg — who most recently worked as program manager of the moving image for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, shaping all aspects of the contemporary art museum’s film programming — will serve as the theater’s director. In December, Andy Smith and Seth Gadsden — then the Nick’s executive director and managing director, respectively — moved into new positions. Smith became CEO of the Columbia Film Society, which oversees both the Nick and its annual Indie Grits festival, a far-reaching media celebration that touches on visual art, video games and more in addition to film. Gadsden became the director of the newly formed Indie Grits Labs, an effort to extend both the Nick’s educational programs and the art projects and residencies offered by the festival. With its two main leaders turning their attention to matters other than the theater’s day-to-day operation, the hunt began for a new director. The search committee — three members of the Nick’s board of directors and three staffers — selected Kozberg. Before her work at the Walker Art Center, she held positions in Los Angeles — at the Getty Research Institute and the University of Southern California — and in Massachusetts — at the Brattle Film Foundation/Brattle Theater. “With Alison’s experience in film programming and in a range of really top, world-class arts organizations, bringing that experience to the Nick is going to make the customer experience better, it’s going to make the programming better,” Smith posits. “It’s a way for us to grow on both sides of the organization simultaneously.” “She was a film programmer at an art museum,” Gadsden offers. “And we do art around a film theater. So it seemed like a very fortuitous marriage that way.” For Kozberg, who was excited by the idea of taking over programming for a cinema as opposed to a museum, the Nick was a good fit. “I really felt that the institution’s values and missions very much lined up with my own,” she says. “ interested in the way the cinema functions for the public. deeply committed to civic engagement, to community involvement and to creating opportunities for media makers at all stages of their careers to be creatively engaged, to hold space, to speak for themselves about the creative process. also really committed to creating opportunities for community members to engage, both in creating conversations and to really find space for them as presenters. And that was something I was really, really passionate about.” “It was exciting to me that Columbia is the capital,” Kozberg adds. “A lot of my research and my work before has really focused on the relationship between arts institutions and civic engagement in local politics, so being right on Main Street by the capital at this organization is a really good fit for my personality.” It will likely take a bit for visitors to truly feel her impact on the Nick’s programming. The theater hosts between six and eight curated series throughout the year, and the next 12 months are largely planned out. But Kozberg is raring to go. One idea she seems most excited about is pairing experimental filmmakers with purveyors of more traditional narrative features. She’ll do just that at a members-only event meant to introduce her to the Nick’s core audience, presenting Nicholas Ray’s 1956 movie Bigger Than Life and a more avant-garde piece from Mark Toscano that manipulates footage of “China Girls” — the images of women at the start of a reel once used for calibration when processing film.
“ a really interesting filmmaker of kind of classic Hollywood, so to speak,” Kozberg says. “I think it could be so incredibly contemporary and relevant at this moment to screen an emotionally and intellectually sophisticated film about masculinity, both as a culture of the 1950s, but also the perils of machismo.” She reasons that pairing Ray’s film with an experimental short culled from antiquated footage that also pricks notions of gender should tease out these themes even further. As for the Nick’s other aspirations — broadening its educational programs, expanding Indie Grits artist residencies into a year-round initiative — those efforts will also take more time. With Kozberg on board, the hope is to have Gadsden completely transitioned out of his managing director responsibilities by June or July. He’ll then continue working with the cohort of commissioned artists producing work for next year’s Indie Grits and begin planning new educational endeavors. “A big reason why the board approved this restructuring was so that the Nick ... could have space to really deepen and refine the Indie Grits Labs concept,” Smith says, “and start to realize that bigger vision without harming the theater in any way.”

Richland Library wins nation’s highest honor

From The State Article by Erin Shaw

The sound of cheers and plastic hand clappers and the glint of confetti filled Richland Library Main’s second floor Monday after executive director Melanie Huggins announced the library had received the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries. “We can proudly say that Richland County is home to one of the top libraries in the country ... setting new standards to what a library can be in a community,” Huggins said. The library won the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, one of 10 institutions nationwide to receive the award this year and the only one in South Carolina. Richland Library’s mission has been evolving over the past several years, with the facilities becoming a community resource beyond books. Of the library’s many community programs, the Institute of Museums and Library Services specifically cited the library’s post-flooding outreach, FEMA sign-up initiatives, and ConnectED Library Challenge, an effort to get a library card for every child enrolled in school. “They’re not fancy, expensive programs, but they’re super impactful. It’s more important to be making a difference in the community,” Huggins said last month, when the library learned it was a finalist for the prestigious award. “As a library system, Richland Library is working to set new standards for what a public library can do to impact the community. It works daily to break down barriers, ensuring that people have access to the resources and support they need to improve their lives,” IMLS said in a statement. “These aren’t just statistics. They represent the lives that Richland Library touches every day.” Last fiscal year, Richland Library saw more than 2.3 million visitors at their 11 locations, issued more than 30,000 new library cards, checked out more than 4.5 million items and offered 4,600 programs. That’s 500 more programs than it offered five years ago. Richland Library also is impacting the community by renovating every library in its system. Three years ago, Richland County voters agreed to spend $59 million to renovate and upgrade 10 library branches. To make room for more meeting rooms and activity spaces, about 10 percent of the library system’s hundreds of thousands of physical books will disappear through the system-wide renovation process. It’s the result of transitioning more spaces transition to people-oriented from book-oriented, Huggins has said. At the news conference Monday, Richland County councilwoman and library chairwoman Joyce Dickerson said the award is proof of the good job the library is doing. “It’s more than just checking out books. It’s community. It’s love.” Programs and partnerships librarian Sarah Gough said the award was “well-deserved.” “I’m really proud of everything we do,” she said. Three South Carolina institutions have received the National Medal for Museum and Library Service: Columbia Museum of Art in 2016, EdVenture Children’s Museum in Columbia in 2011 and Georgetown County Library in 2007. Richland Library was a finalist in 2016 but did not win. “The award is validation that the direction the library is going is visionary. It’s validation that we are being the kind of library that Richland County needs.” Huggins will travel to Washington, D.C. this summer to accept the award.

What would Greenville be without arts grants?

From The Greenville News

Article by Donna Isbell Walker, photos by Lauren Petracca

Image: Alyson Amato, co-founder of Carolina Dance Collaborative, leads an after-school dance class last week at Chandler Creek Elementary in Greer.

This weekend, Greenville will proudly display its commitment to the arts.

The 13th annual Artisphere festival opens Friday, and for three days, the streets of downtown will overflow with rich color and the sounds of music and the aroma of lamb burgers and caramel popcorn.

Last year, Artisphere had an economic impact of $6.4 million, as 100,000 visitors packed the streets, purchasing original art, checking out the local merchants, sampling the cuisine.

But, what would the festival look like if it didn’t receive funding from the South Carolina Arts Commission?

Kerry Murphy, the festival’s executive director, said putting on the festival would be a lot tougher without a $21,000 general operating support grant from SCAC, which in turn receives a large portion of its funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The NEA has been under fire this year, as President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would have eliminated the NEA, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Those agencies were spared by the House Appropriation Committee’s appropriations bill for the 2017 fiscal year, which actually increased NEA and NEH funding.

Across the Upstate, arts grants make a difference. At Chandler Creek Elementary School in Greer one recent afternoon, students showed off the jazz and African dance moves they spent the previous six weeks mastering in an after-school program operated by Communities in Schools through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

At the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, teachers have the chance to attend workshops and other professional development opportunities, and they share that knowledge with other teachers, as well as the students The Greenville Symphony Orchestra targets elementary and middle school students with its educational outreach programs, and Warehouse Theatre takes Shakespeare to middle and high schools around the Carolinas, in a program that offers a mini-course in the Bard, complete with a live production of one of his plays.

It may be easy to take for granted that Greenville’s local theaters will continue to stage productions each year, that festivals will brighten the streets of downtown, that students can learn painting and music and creative writing in school.

But all of those programs require funding, in most cases more money than an arts entity can generate on its own, said Mike Sablone, producing artistic director for Warehouse Theatre.

“All of that funding is incredibly important to every aspect of the theater,” Sablone said. “We’re a non-profit. We rely on ticket sales, we rely on donations, we rely on grants. And all those allow us to do the work that we do. And without that money, we’d have to take a harder look at how we produce, what we produce, and the quality that we’ve come to expect with a Warehouse Theatre production.”

Greenville is blessed to have a vibrant arts scene, one that contributes to the city’s overall popularity as a place to visit and as a place where people are moving, said Dr. Braxton Ballew, education director for Greenville Symphony Orchestra.

“We’ve got a tremendous arts community here, and I think it’s no accident that you see Greenville on these top 10 best places to live, top 10 places to retire (lists), all the accolades that we get, and we just happen to have this great arts community here, that’s not a coincidence,” Ballew said. “It cannot be understated what a big part the Arts Commission is to that success.”

Learning new things

The Chandler Creek dance program offers third- through fifth-graders at the Title I school a chance to learn dances that they might not otherwise have an opportunity to practice, said Alyson Amato, co-founder and director of education for Carolina Dance Collaborative.

For six weeks, Amato and Kelsey Crum, Carolina Dance Collaborative’s other co-founder, taught the students the moves for three dances, and on the seventh week, they demonstrated their new skills for parents and friends.

They rolled their arms, snapped their fingers, did the “smush the bug” step, showed off their best jazz hands, and performed a celebratory African dance called yankadi, to songs like the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and “Blackbird” from the Broadway show “Fosse.”

The program isn’t just a chance to have fun, Amato said.

“The process of learning something, practicing it and then performing it is a massive self-esteem booster,” Amato said. “Seeing how they work hard at something, they can achieve in just six weeks. And also, having fun doing it at the same time. It’s also a way to really enhance what they get in their physical education during school time. Because you will see, we sweat. … But I really do want them to get their heart rate up, also their minds to be challenged.”

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding includes enrichment opportunities such as the dance program. Without that funding, the program might be merely homework-based, or it might be cut entirely, Amato said.

More than entertainment

A community’s support of the arts means more in the long run than an evening of entertainment at the theater or the ballet, said Julie Allen, vice president of arts and academics at South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities.

“Many people see arts-based funding as something which is nice,” Allen said. “It’s something that a community does when it’s nice, when there’s extra money. But I think when you delve a little bit deeper into that, you recognize that the arts, while there certainly is an aesthetic value, and there’s an intrinsic human value, there’s also a real economic value. The arts are a significant part of South Carolina’s economy; they’re an incredible part of Greenville’s economy. And so I do think anything we can do to help people see the arts as an intrinsic part of a vibrant economy is really important.”

But even beyond that, a talent and affinity for the arts can go a long way toward helping a teenager find his or her voice, a purpose in life, a profession.

“Particularly for arts students, who often see themselves as perhaps a little bit different than their typical peer, this is a place that they feel is home,” Allen said. “It’s a place they feel safe, it’s a place they’re willing to take risks. And a lot of students do come back talk about (how) ‘I found my voice here because it gave me the confidence to continue to grow and figure out who I was.’”

Dozens of grants

For the 2017 fiscal year, the South Carolina Arts Commission awarded 28 grants totaling more than $400,000 to Greenville County organizations and individuals. Those grants ranged from $625 to Foothills Philharmonic Orchestra for general operating support, to $2,057 for Sweet Adelines International Greenville in Harmony for operating support for small organizations, to general operating support grants of more than $25,000 each to the Peace Center Foundation, Greenville Symphony Association, and South Carolina Arts Alliance.

Warehouse Theatre receives funding from South Carolina Arts Commission, as well as a direct NEA grant for the Shakespeare program, now in its third year.

Shakespeare in American Communities, a national program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, offers a $25,000 matching grant, and Warehouse must raise an equal amount of money through corporate sponsorships and other donations.

The aim of the program is “to increase Shakespeare performance in different communities across the nation,” said Mallory Pellegrino, director of education for Warehouse Theatre. “We are one of the very few companies in the Southeast.”

Through the grant, Warehouse is able to present Shakespeare to middle- and high-school students in the Carolinas, using a company of six or seven actors who travel to schools and offer an introductory workshop on the play to be presented, as well as a follow-up class after students have seen the play.

If the grant money disappeared, Pellegrino said, the program wouldn’t necessarily disappear. It would, however, require substantial changes to the way it operates, perhaps by soliciting more local sponsorships and donors.

But the biggest change would to be make the program “revenue-driven,” Pellegrino said. “We would have to make sure that we had enough venues to be able to go out, that there were enough people interested in it. And you would begin to limit your reach and your impact.”

Making an impact

The Greenville Symphony Orchestra seeks to make much of its educational impact on elementary and middle school students.

This year, GSO received a $10,000 grant from the NEA to fund its free concert for middle-school band and strings students, said Linda Grandy, Greenville Symphony Orchestra development director.

In addition, the GSO received a general operating support grant of $25,391 from SCAC this year, which helps to fund other educational programs, including the concerts available to all of Greenville County’s elementary schools.

One important aspect of the GSO’s educational programs is the opportunity for students to see the symphony in concert at no charge, which is especiallyimportant for students at less-affluent schools, said the GSO’s Ballew.

Losing that funding would have an impact on several programs, including GSO partnerships with SC Children’s Theatre and Greenville County Library.

“Maybe we wouldn’t offer as many, or maybe we would start charging $5 at the door,” Ballew said.

Sharing the wealth

Education is, of course, the mission of the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, whose operational budget comes from the state. But continuing education is important to the teachers who share their knowledge and skills in visual arts, drama, creative writing and music.

And an SCAC grant for Arts in Basic Curriculum Advancement allows Governor’s School teachers to participate in continuing education programs that help both students and other teachers, Allen said.

When SCAC’s funding was increased two years ago, the commission passed on the increase, which allowed the Governor’s School to add a couple of components to its continuing education focus. One way was to share the knowledge, to offer professional development opportunities to teachers in other areas.

“We identified drama as an area where there seemed to be a real need for drama teachers in the state to have professional development experiences,” Allen said. “Typically, there’s one drama teacher in a school, maybe there’s two or three in a district. But to get content-level, really high-level training, those opportunities are often few and far between for them. So what we’ve been able to do is essentially share that wealth.

“For the last two years, we’ve brought a group of drama teachers here, we’ve let that group identify what their particular needs are, and the nice pairing there is the person that’s led those workshops for the last two years is someone who had elevated her own training by virtue of having taken advantage of the professional development funding earlier from the Arts Commission. So it was kind of a way of paying back what she had gained.”

Important source of funding

Artisphere depends on the SCAC funding for a large part of its budget; other revenue sources include vendor fees, corporate sponsorships, merchandise sales and other grants, Murphy said.

“That’s a very healthy mix, and is a huge part of why we’ve been able to grow the festival and its impact over the years,” Murphy said.

If the government grants were no longer available, Artisphere would survive, but other organizations might not be able to weather the loss, she said.

“We have spent a lot of time diversifying our funding model so that if we lose any single funder we can mitigate the loss of that funding, either through a focused effort to replace the money, or by trimming expenses here and there,” Murphy said. “That isn’t the case for smaller organizations, where SCAC funding could represent an entire marketing budget, or fees for artists for a performance.

“We think it is important to have public arts funding because it makes a statement about what we care about as a community.”

Alyson Amato, co-founder of Carolina Dance Collaborative, teaches an after-school dance class at Chandler Creek Elementary in Greer last week.

ArtsGrowSC – Expanded Funding for Arts-Based Businesses

The South Carolina Arts Commission and CommunityWorks (CW), a community development finance institution based in Greenville, are collaborating on a pilot program designed to increase opportunities for artisans to develop and grow arts-based business ventures that contribute to the $9.2 billion generated by the state’s core creative industries. The ArtsGrowSC pilot will combine the strengths of both organizations to offer resources for qualifying artists, including a savings program, micro-loans, business venture loans, grants, personalized coaching and workshops.

The project is the next logical step for the Arts Commission’s artist development work and its Artist Ventures Initiative Program, says Executive Director Ken May. “Our Artists Ventures Initiative grant provides funding to launch or revamp an arts-based venture, but the grant is a one-time opportunity. Many of those funded artists are now ready for the next level of growing their businesses, and that growth is key to the vitality of the state’s creative economy.  This new collaboration provides CommunityWorks with a pool of artisans vetted through our grants process and helps connect those artisans to much-needed capital through their matched savings programs and loans. The collaboration also adds a funding resource for artists beyond the Arts Commission’s limited grant dollars.” CommunityWorks recognizes that artisans often operate as small business ventures. According to CW’s President/CEO Deborah McKetty, “We hear a lot about jobs created when large corporations set up shop in South Carolina. However, microbusiness development could become an important second-tier economic development strategy for fostering wealth and creating jobs within low-wealth communities.” McKetty is eager to offer CommunityWork’s resources in other parts of the state. “A successful pilot project will enable us to expand our portfolio. Our goal is leveraging funds to grow the creative industries statewide while also recognizing the role artisans and arts-based businesses play in community economic development. We anticipate reaching deeper into the arts community through the Arts Commission’s networks. ” The pilot was launched May 1 in Spartanburg, where creative businesses are fueling economic growth throughout the county. In 2014, Chapman Cultural Center’s “Culture Counts” project identified a growing cluster of creative industries in Spartanburg County. “We believe that this new financing mechanism will help others to jump start or expand their creative businesses to scale,” said Chapman Cultural Center CEO and President Jennifer Evins. “Creative industries and creative workers are very important to providing innovation and creativity to manufacturing, technology and research. We also hope that this new path to economic prosperity for artists will attract creatives from other states to relocate to Spartanburg and South Carolina.” Joy Young, the Arts Commission’s program director for Leadership and Organizational Development, as well as the Artists Ventures Initiative, added, “ArtsGrowSC is a perfect union of resources – arts, financial, personal and professional – to support arts-based business ventures." ArtsGrowSC is comprised of three components targeted to artists based upon their locale and business readiness: Individual Development Account (IDA) for Artisans – This matched savings program will initially focus on Spartanburg-area artisans. Those who qualify will commit to saving an agreed-upon amount of money over six months. CommunityWorks will then match the savings at a 3:1 rate; an artisan who saves $1,000 will receive a match of $3,000. Funds may be used to purchase long-term assets such as equipment or to open a small business. IDA to Artists Ventures Initiative (AVI) – Artisans who take part in the initial IDA program may then qualify for the IDA to AVI program. Artisans receive personalized coaching from the Arts Commission and may apply for an Arts Commission matching quarterly grant to receive business training from a recognized business development source. Additionally, the Arts Commission will help in preparing the Artists Ventures Initiative grant application. Artists Ventures Initiative Business Builder Loan Program – Artists are invited to expand their ventures with a business loan of up to $15,000 from CommunityWorks.  The micro-loan could be leveraged with an IDA account. Previous AVI grantees receive priority; however, any artist may apply. Previous AVI grantees may apply for an Arts Commission AVI-Expansion matching grant of up to $1,500 to assist with application and closing fees. For more information about ArtsGrowSC, contact Joy Young, (803) 734-8203.