S.C. Arts Commission building new relationships through Gullah Geechee partnership
Launching the partnership in May 2013 In May 2013, the South Carolina Arts Commission entered a partnership with the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission to help increase awareness of and connect to the state's Gullah Geechee artists and communities. This partnership between a state arts agency and the Corridor Commission is the first of its kind in the four-state corridor, which includes North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. The Arts Commission's involvement as a partner is also providing a template for recognizing the culture regionally and nationally. (Download the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor brochure - PDF) Young artist Layla Love at a Gullah Geechee community arts meeting at the Penn Center. Through this partnership, the Arts Commission has created an initiative to recognize the distinct artistic contributions of the Gullah Geechee -- descendants of formerly enslaved people -- by identifying and supporting artists with professional development, networking opportunities and grants. The Arts Commission's work follows the Corridor Commission's management plan in recognizing the Gullah Geechee people's contributions to music, arts, handicrafts, foodways, spirituality, language, education and economic development. The initiative includes fostering the preservation of the Gullah Geechee traditions while recognizing the culture as the setting for contemporary Gullah Geechee artists and creatives -- a way of honoring both the historical and living expressions that have shaped the history of our state, region and country. (Related: S.C. Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May explains the importance of connecting to Gullah Geechee culture in this short video developed with SC-ETV's Palmetto Scene.) This initiative is part of the Arts Commission’s long-standing commitment to strategically design and build partnerships with other organizations and commissions in order to develop arts participation and community engagement. (Related: the last in a series of marketing workshops for Gullah Geechee artists is scheduled for Feb. 24 in Okatie, S.C. The workshop is free, but registration is required.) Images above article: Left to right: Cast net maker and Folk Heritage Award recipient Joseph Legree of St. Helena Island; Sweetgrass Basket Festival in Beaufort; Michael Smalls and Dino Badger of Bluffton were among Gullah Geechee artists featured at OneSouthCarolina 2014.