Joe Riley to receive McNair Award at SC Arts Awards Luncheon

Joe Riley The Honorable Joseph P. Riley, Jr. The South Carolina Arts Foundation will honor Joe Riley, former mayor of Charleston, with the 2017 McNair Award for his dedication in ensuring that the arts continue to play a vital role in our communities. The McNair Award will be presented at a luncheon showcasing the South Carolina Arts Awards, which also honor recipients of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts and the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards. The luncheon takes place in Columbia May 2, beginning with an art sale at 11 a.m. at the USC Alumni Center, 900 Senate St.. The luncheon follows at 12:30 p.m. Established in 2007, the McNair Award is named for the late Governor Robert E. McNair, who signed legislation to create the Arts Commission in 1967 to “ensure that the arts continue to grow and play an ever more significant part in the welfare and educational experiences of our citizens." Originally presented posthumously to Governor McNair, the award continues to honor outstanding leaders who have built on the legacy of the award's namesake: working diligently to make South Carolina a place where the arts thrive for the benefit of all South Carolinians. Luncheon tickets are $50. Reserve tickets online or by calling (803) 734-8696. (Verner Awards and Folk Heritage Awards will be presented May 2 at 11:30 at the Statehouse. The awards ceremony is open to the public.)  

Two artists with South Carolina ties receive Guggenheim Fellowships

Two artists with South Carolina ties have been awarded Fellowships by The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Clemson resident Ron Rash has received a Fellowship for Fiction; Columbia native Paul Rucker has received a Fellowship for Fine Arts. Both are previous South Carolina Arts Commission Fellows: Rash in 1990-91 for Poetry and Rucker in 1996-1997 for Music Performance. A total of 173 Fellowships were awarded to a diverse group of scholars, artists, and scientists. Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, the successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Foundation’s 93rd competition. The great variety of backgrounds, fields of study, and accomplishments of Guggenheim Fellows is one of the unique characteristics of the Fellowship program. In all, 49 scholarly disciplines and artistic fields, 64 different academic institutions, 27 states and the District of Columbia, and three Canadian provinces are represented in this year’s class of Fellows, who range in age from 27 to 79. The amounts of grants vary. Ron-Rash_RisenHC_authorphotocreditAshleyJones-Clemson-World-magazine-2 Photo by Ashley Jones Ron Rash grew up in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, and received a B.A. in English at Gardner-Webb College and an M.A. in English from Clemson University. He is the author of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Finalist and New York Times bestselling novel Serena, in addition to five other novels, One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, The World Made Straight, Above the Waterfall, and The Risen; five collections of poems; and six collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, which won the 2010 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, Chemistry and Other Stories, which was a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Faulkner Award, and most recently, Something Rich and Strange. He has twice been a recipient of the O. Henry Prize. He has taught two years of high school, 17 years at a two-year community college and the last 13 years at Western Carolina University. Paul-Rucker-Fine-Arts-2017-photograph-Wendy-Johnson Photo by Wendy Johnson Paul Rucker (Baltimore, MD and Seattle, WA) is a visual artist, composer, and musician who often combines media, integrating live performance, sound, original compositions, and visual art. His work is the product of a rich interactive process, through which he investigates community impacts, human rights issues, historical research, and basic human emotions surrounding particular subject matter. Much of his current work focuses on the Prison Industrial Complex and the many issues accompanying incarceration in its relationship to slavery. He has presented performances and visual art exhibitions across the country and has collaborated with educational institutions to address the issue of mass incarceration. Presentations have taken place in schools, active prisons and also inactive prisons such as Alcatraz. His largest installation to date, REWIND, garnered praise from Baltimore Magazine awarding Paul “Best Artist 2015.” Additionally, REWIND received “Best Solo Show 2015” and “#1 Art Show of 2015” from Baltimore City Paper, reviews by The Huffington Post, Artnet News, Washington Post, The Root, and The Real News Network. Rucker has received numerous grants, awards, and residencies for visual art and music. He is a 2012 Creative Capital Grantee in visual art as well as a 2014 MAP (Multi-Arts Production) Fund Grantee for performance. In 2015 he received a prestigious Joan Mitchell Painters & Sculptors Grant as well as the Mary Sawyer Baker Award. In 2016 Paul received the Rauschenberg Artist as Activist fellowship and the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, for which he is the first artist in residence at the new National Museum of African American Culture. This fall, Rucker's work will be featured at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University in its inaugural exhibition, Declaration. Since its establishment in 1925, the Foundation has granted more than $350 million in Fellowships to over 18,000 individuals, among whom are scores of Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, Turing Award winners, poets laureate, members of the various national academies, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, and other internationally recognized honors. The Guggenheim Fellowship program remains a significant source of support for artists, scholars in the humanities and social sciences, and scientific researchers. For more information on the Fellows and their projects, visit the Foundation’s website.

Florence is the newest South Carolina Cultural District

The South Carolina Arts Commission has named downtown Florence as the newest state-recognized cultural district. A cultural district is an easily identifiable geographic area with a concentration of arts facilities and assets that support cultural, artistic and economic activity. The cultural district designation was created by the S.C. General Assembly and Gov. Nikki Haley in 2014. The City of Florence and the Florence Regional Arts Alliance worked with local leaders and Arts Commission staff to develop a map of cultural assets and a strategic plan for the district. City officials will use the cultural district designation to attract visitors and residents to downtown and promote the area as a hub of arts and culture. "This cultural district designation from the South Carolina Arts Commission is a tremendous honor," said Florence City Council member George Jebailey. "This designation recognizes the hard work done over the last 17 years by a community committed to a unified vision to create a detailed master plan establishing a purposeful clustering of multiple arts venues in downtown Florence. Through the collaboration of the many public-private partners working together on this unified vision, we have seen the master plan become a reality leading to this important designation. We anticipate that many new opportunities will now be available for us to promote both the City of Florence and the entire Pee Dee Region as an important destination for arts, culture and entertainment." “Receiving the S.C. state recognition of a designated cultural district will assist in our ongoing marketing of downtown Florence as a tourist destination,” said Florence Downtown Development Manager Ray Reich. “The Vision 2010 Initiative that was created in 2000, as well as the 2010 Downtown Master Plan, envisioned downtown as a place featuring a string of cultural pearls. The first pearl in the string was the library, followed by the Florence Little Theatre, and then the FMU Performing Arts Center, followed by the new museum, as well as many other cultural amenities that have been developed in recent years in our beautiful and historic downtown. This designation affirms that we are well in our way to achieving the vision of a string of cultural pearls. However, this is just the beginning, and while we have created an outstanding foundation, the work will not stop as we continue to work together as a community to live up to our new community brand of being a community full of life and moving full forward with more amenities.” Florence Regional Arts Alliance Executive Director Sandy Cook added, “We are very excited for this award, which shows Florence’s continued commitment to preserve and support the arts.  We thank all of our stakeholders for their collaborative efforts in making this happen.” The participation of those stakeholders is key, according to S.C. Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May. “Non-arts businesses and organizations are important pieces of a cultural district. A successful cultural district attracts creative enterprises, such as galleries and theatres, whose patrons want to dine out and shop, so nearby retail and other businesses benefit from that increased economic activity.” The cultural district program was developed after reviewing successful programs in other states and gathering input from leaders representing several sectors, including economic development, tourism, local government and the arts. Florence joins Beaufort, Bluffton, Columbia’s Congaree Vista, Lancaster, Rock Hill and Spartanburg as S.C. cities and areas that have earned cultural district status. Other states with similar cultural district programs include Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Texas. S.C. cities, towns and rural communities interested in exploring a cultural district designation are invited to contact their Arts Commission county coordinator or call (803) 734-8696. Complete guidelines are available at www.SouthCarolinaArts.com. About the S.C. Arts Commission The South Carolina Arts Commission is celebrating 50 years of public support for the arts. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission is the state agency charged with creating a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their location or circumstances. The Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts through staff assistance, programs, grants and partnerships in three areas: arts education, community arts development and artist development. Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the Arts Commission is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources. For more information, visit www.SouthCarolinaArts.com or call (803) 734-8696.

Charleston artist Herb Parker wins South Arts Fellowship for South Carolina

OLYMPIA DIALOGUE interior by Herb Parker OLYMPIA DIALOGUE interior by Herb Parker As part of the inaugural Southern Prize and State Fellowships, South Arts has selected nine visual artists from the region to each receive a State Fellowship award of $5,000. The nine artists – Pete Schulte of Alabama, Noelle Mason of Florida, Masud Olufani of Georgia, Becky Alley of Kentucky, Joey Slaughter of Louisiana, Coulter Fussell of Mississippi, Stephanie J. Woods of North Carolina, Herb Parker of South Carolina, and Georgann DeMille of Tennessee – are now in consideration for the Southern Prize awards: the $25,000 Southern Prize and a two-week residency at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences, or the $10,000 Finalist Prize. The State Fellowship awards will be recognized and the winners of the Southern Prize will be announced at a ceremony on April 24 in Atlanta. The South Arts Southern Prize and State Fellowships acknowledge, support and celebrate the highest quality artistic work being created in the American South. From January through March 2017, over 850 visual artists submitted work for consideration, and a panel of jurors reviewed each application with the sole criterion of artistic excellence to determine the nine State Fellows. A second panel of jurors is currently reviewing the State Fellows to determine the two Southern Prize awardees. “There is a deep well of artistic talent throughout our region,” said Susie Surkamer, executive director of South Arts. “From traditional basket weaving through experimental 3D printing, the creative minds around us are producing brilliant work. The Southern Prize and State Fellowships are our way of celebrating the richness and diversity here in our backyards and shining a light on them for the region and the nation to see.” The State Fellowship juror panel included Erin Gilbert, independent curator from Chicago; Mark Scala, Curator with the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville; Lauren Haynes, Curator of Contemporary Art with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AK; Jan Davidson, retired director of the John C. Campbell School of Folk Arts in Brasstown, NC; and Gia Hamilton, director of the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans. The Southern Prize panel of jurors includes Miranda Lash, curator of contemporary art at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville; Dominique Nahas, independent curator and critic in Brooklyn; and Monica Moses, editor in chief of American Craft in Minneapolis. Visual artists living in South Arts’ nine-state region and producing crafts, drawing, experimental, painting, photography, sculpture, and mixed media work were eligible to apply. The awards will be presented to the artists as unrestricted funds. “The Southern Prize and State Fellowships will impact the careers of artists in our region,” continued Surkamer. “These fellowships and awards are part of the support system allowing artists in the South to make a living in our region.” The Southern Prize and State Fellowships are supported by Alabama State Council on the Arts, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Joanne Calhoun, Citizens for Florida Arts, Inc., Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, Cyberwoven, Evans General Contractors, Arnold and Fran Gellman, Georgia Council for the Arts, Kentucky Arts Council, J. Martin Lett, Louisiana Division of the Arts, CJ Lyons’ Buy a Book, Make a Difference, MailChimp, Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, Mississippi Arts Commission, North Carolina Arts Council, Scott and Terry Peterson, South Carolina Arts Commission, Tennessee Arts Commission, Pat and Susie VanHuss, and powered by The Hambidge Center.

About South Arts

South Arts, a nonprofit regional arts organization, was founded in 1975 to build on the South’s unique heritage and enhance the public value of the arts. South Arts’ work responds to the arts environment and cultural trends with a regional perspective. South Arts offers an annual portfolio of activities designed to address the role of the arts in impacting the issues important to our region, and to link the South with the nation and the world through the arts. For more information, visit www.southarts.org

2017 Folk Heritage Award recipients announced

The South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina announce the 2017 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award recipients:

The awards will be presented May 2 during a ceremony at the Statehouse. The 11:30 a.m. ceremony is free and open to the public. Peggie Hartwell’s quilts are a means of engaging with her community and in contemporary issues. Her quilts are inspired by diverse sources, from her childhood memories of rural South Carolina, to current issues, like the plight of children walking from Central America to the U.S., or hunger and gang violence. Her fabric artwork is in the collections of major museums across the U.S. and has been exhibited throughout the country. She has been featured on PBS’s Reading Rainbow and several documentaries about quilting. Hartwell is founder and instructor for Voices on Cloth, which promotes the art of quilt making with a focus on working with K-12 students via classroom programs. The Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival Association engages and educates the public about Gullah Geechee history, culture, traditions, and sweetgrass basketry, as well as Gullah Geechee contributions to the social, economic, political and domestic development of America. Begun in 2005, the annual Sweetgrass Festival provides basket makers the opportunity to promote and market their work and share their stories. In conjunction with the Festival, The “Real” Taste of Gullah Banquet offers a more intimate and personal cultural experience, featuring a Passing on the Tradition ceremony, gospel music, and Gullah folklore and cuisine. The Festival’s Gullah Geechee Seminar presents scholars who facilitate, interpret and provide information about Gullah Geechee history and heritage, as well as contemporary issues in the community. SCAFA’s multi-pronged approach ensures that the sweetgrass basketry tradition will continue as a cultural, economic and educational resource for generations to come. Traditional music is a way of life for Dan and Norma Hendricks, connecting them to their roots, their community, and to generations of young people they have mentored. Their traditional music advocacy shines bright in their mentoring and support of other musicians, especially young people. The Hendricks have been instrumental in the creation and success of such programs as Young Appalachian Musicians (YAM), Preserving Our Southern Appalachian Music (POSAM), the Sweet Potato Pie Kids, and more recently, the Am Jam, a weekly gathering for amateurs at Pickens’ Hagood Mill. Many of their protégés have gone on to form their own bands, record CDs, win competitions, attend college as music majors or minors, and become instructors themselves. Dan and Norma Hendricks have brought bluegrass and traditional music to the forefront of their mountain community through their enthusiastic participation and advocacy. Also on May 2, the award recipients will be honored by the S.C. Arts Foundation during the South Carolina Arts Award Luncheon, a fundraiser supporting the programs of the S.C. Arts Commission. Tickets are $50 per person. For more information about the S.C. Arts Awards and the luncheon, visit www.SouthCarolinaArts.com. The Folk Heritage Award is named for the late Jean Laney Harris, an ardent supporter of the state's cultural heritage. The award was created by the legislature in 1987 to recognize lifetime achievement in the folk arts. The artistic traditions represented by the award are significant because they have endured, often for hundreds of years. For more information about the Folk Heritage Awards and the ceremony, contact Laura Marcus Green, at (803) 734-8764. Also visit the McKissick website at http://artsandsciences.sc.edu/mckissickmuseum, or the S.C. Arts Commission website at SouthCarolinaArts.com. About the Folklife and Traditional Arts Program The Folklife and Traditional Arts Program is designed to encourage, promote, conserve and honor the diverse community-based art forms that make South Carolina distinct. The major initiatives of the program serve both established and emerging cultural groups that call South Carolina home. About the South Carolina Arts Commission The South Carolina Arts Commission is celebrating 50 years of public support for the arts. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission is the state agency charged with creating a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their location or circumstances. The Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts through staff assistance, programs, grants and partnerships in three areas: arts education, community arts development and artist development. Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the Arts Commission is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources. For more information, visit www.SouthCarolinaArts.com or call (803) 734-8696. About McKissick Museum The University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum fosters awareness and appreciation of the diversity of the American South's culture and geography, attending particularly to the importance of enduring folkways and traditions. It accomplishes these aims through original research about Southern life, material culture, natural science, and decorative and fine arts by holding exhibitions, issuing publications and by public programming. For more information, visit http://artsandsciences.sc.edu/mckissickmuseum.

From dancer to silversmith, it’s all about creativity

Jo Ann Graham is one of the artists whose work can be purchased at the April Showers Art Party April 5. Tickets are $75. From The Island News Article by Aileen Goldstein; photos by Bob Sofaly

Her gracefulness is obvious. Her slender build is a reminder of her past career.  Her moves are free-flowing and smooth. She is understated, yet hard to ignore. joanngrahambraceletJo Ann Graham has the movements of a dancer. Naturally brilliant in chemistry, her parents sent her to college to major in that field. After two years, Graham left college, married and became a potter, creating and shaping clay and developing her own glazes and finishes. She eventually realized, though, that she was not meant to be a potter. A self-proclaimed closet dancer, Graham came to the understanding she was a dancer. “It was something that was meant to be and I had a natural propensity towards it. I loved choreographing. I loved creating,” the Dataw Island resident said. Graham went on to teach dance. She became the first dance consultant in the South Carolina Department of Education and helped to build the dance programs in all the schools in South Carolina and developed a dance curriculum. “I think there is a connection. It is all about centering and being centered for me.  You have to center your clay and in dancing, you are centering yourself.  You have to turn around and spin,” she said as she waved her arm gracefully through the air. When she was physically unable to demonstrate moves for her students, Graham was forced to realize she needed to end her dancing career. After a series of health-related setbacks, Graham needed a new focus. While taking a class at a local scrapbook store, she created a necklace from the wire provided while other people in the class documented memories with paper and stamps. She realized she liked working with metal, especially the shaping and texturing of the material. Ironically, she was unaccustomed to wearing jewelry, as dancers refrain from wearing it. “I spent my whole life living in the world of dance and everything was ephemeral and I didn’t have anything to hold on to. Now I have this to hold on to.” Interestingly enough, she now has people come up to her booth at art shows and comment on her work, remarking how fluid a piece may be. Graham takes these moments as an opportunity to connect to the customer and share her past. “I am thoroughly convinced that my dance career is influencing whatever I make, whatever comes out of me,” she said. She also continues to seek new information and add to her vast array of skills.  Upon learning that welding school is free to those over the age of 65, she signed up for classes and developed a technique to solder sterling silver to steel. Most recently, she learned how to put gold onto steel to create eye-catching cuffs. “I am so fascinated by what I can do with metal,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. All of her work starts out as flat sheets of sterling silver or steel and all is hand-forged to create one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. Her favorite part of working with metals and creating is the surprises that come up during the process. She never knows where the gold will fuse with the steel and what the unique outcome will be on each piece. Graham has come full circle and realizes the value of her chemistry background in regard to her current career. “If you look deep enough, everything is connected,” she said. Graham flourishes in the solitude of her home studio and is equally energized at art shows when meeting customers. She has received many awards and accolades from the art shows she has participated in. Graham came up with the name of her business, Silver Lining Dezigns, after awaking from a dream. She has recently decided to shorten the name to the initials, SLD. She admits, though, she never in her wildest dreams ever though she would be creating jewelry for a living. “Things are often put in my hands and I have to learn to follow and pay attention,” she said. “I love my new career, I now choreograph in sterling silver and these (the work) are my dances.” Contact Graham at 843-838-7170 or 843-812-3190 or on Facebook.

The man of steel: Lancaster artist shaping heavy metal and young artistic minds

USC Beaufort’s student literary journal wins first place

The PenThe Pen, the journal of student creative writing and art at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, has been recognized by the American Scholastic Press Association with a first-place award for literary excellence in the organization's annual magazine competition. The Pen scored 915 of a possible 1,000 points in the ASPA's most recent competition conducted last fall. "The Pen is an excellent publication which deserves a first-place award in the annual American Scholastic Press Association's magazine competition," the ASPA noted in a message to The Pen staff and its faculty advisor, P. Ellen Malphrus, Ph.D. Dr. Malphrus is a Professor of English in the Department of English, Theater and Liberal Studies at the university. USCB submitted the fall 2015 and spring 2016 issues of The Pen for consideration in the 2016 competition. The magazine issues were judged on the basis of content coverage, organization, design, presentation and creativity. Now in its 10th year, The Pen grew out of the Society of Creative Writers, the USCB student writing club that Dr. Malphrus organized a decade ago. Over the years, the society has become increasingly professional and the quality of its work has improved proportionally. The Pen is a biannual publication of the society produced under the supervision of the Department of English, Theater and Liberal Studies. It features original work in the form of fiction and poetry, and other creative arts. The Pen staff generally numbers around six people, all of whom are members of The Pen Practicum, a one-hour course for credit that students may take up to six times over the last three years of their studies at USCB. Students in the practicum meet once a week to discuss story selection, layout and design, photography and related subjects. Members of The Pen's student editorial board for the fall 2015 issue were: Katie Hart, Alexis Henderson, Brenda Hill, Ciera Love, Taylor Piscitello and Bill Lisbon, a recent graduate who handles graphic design and photography. The editorial staff for the spring 2016 issue consisted of: Ms. Hart, Ms. Henderson, Ms. Hill, Ms. Love, Elizabeth Higginbotham, Kat Trent and Bill Lisbon. "I couldn't be more pleased that The Pen is getting the recognition it deserves and that creative writing is flourishing at USCB," Dr. Malphrus says. "When I first began teaching creative writing workshops, we didn't have an actual creative writing program. Now we have a writing minor within the English major. That's essentially a creative writing minor. "Every semester, I teach an upper-level creative writing workshop along with a sophomore-level course I designed called 'Creative Writing across the Curriculum' that draws students from all across campus. Every semester we get students from biology, communication studies, psychology, English and history and on and on. This interdisciplinary creative effort has buoyed up the creative writing program at USCB." Several English majors at USCB, all graduates of the creative writing program, have gone on to graduate school to earn a master of fine arts degree in creative writing. Others have secured editorial and teaching positions. Via: USC Beaufort

Governor’s School faculty member receives national award for emerging writers

Alan RossiThe New England Review (NERand the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference have selected Alan Rossi as the recipient of the third annual NER Award for Emerging Writers. Rossi will receive a full scholarship to attend the 2017 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference as the New England Review Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Scholar. The NER Award is given to a writer with an unusual and compelling new voice who has been published by NER within the previous year. Rossi’s story “Did You Really Just Say That to Me?” appears in NER 37.4. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the AtlanticGrantaMissouri ReviewFlorida ReviewNew Ohio ReviewNinth Letter, and other journals. He is also the recipient of a Pushcart Prize in fiction. Rossi is a creative writing faculty member at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities and lives in Spartanburg with his wife, daughter and various woodland creatures. Via: S.C. Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities

Laurens County Visual Arts Coordinator finalist for Teacher of the Year

From GoLaurens.com
Marcia WombleState Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman surprised Gray Court-Owings teacher, Marcia Womble, in her classroom with news that she has been selected as one of five finalists for the South Carolina Teacher of the Year award.
"Marcia is the proud product of Laurens County public schools and is truly devoted to ensuring that her students receive a well-rounded arts infused education," said Superintendent Spearman. "I am so proud of her devotion to arts education and look forward to her continued leadership." Marcia Womble is a Visual Arts teacher at Gray Court-Owings Elementary and Middle School in Laurens County School District 55. She also serves as the District Visual Arts Coordinator. Drawn to teaching at a young age, Womble has opened doors for her students by obtaining several grants to purchase new art media, tools, and sponsorship for her annual Arts Day. During Arts Day, each class visits with different artists, musicians, dancers, authors, and actors. She believes in the power of positivity and starts each class by getting her students to “tell her something good.” ”Marcia Womble is a great example of what today's students need; a great teacher who understands the importance of how to capture, inspire, and teach all of her students in ways that they receive the greatest benefit. She exemplifies the qualities parents desire, principals expect and colleagues emulate. As superintendent of schools in Laurens County 55, I am grateful to be her leader and enjoy working with her to advance the important work assigned to us. Mrs. Womble is one of the best teachers I've had the opportunity to work with in my 37 years in public education,” said Laurens County School District 55 superintendent Dr. Stephen Peters. As one of five finalists, Womble will receive $10,000 and go on to the next stage of competition which involves an in-person interview with a team of expert judges. The South Carolina Teacher of the Year Gala will be held May 3 in Columbia.  The overall winner receives a total of $25,000 and gets to drive a new BMW for one year while advocating for the teaching profession across the state. View photos from Spearman's visit.