Ment Nelson brings pride of place to ‘Souf Cak’

It's a great day in South Carolina Souf Cak. One can easily envision that phrase appearing among Ment Nelson's tweets at some point, if it's not in the 3,100+ already tweeted. His mission statement on the social media platform is "I make it cool to be from South Carolina," so we posit that our lede is not a stretch. But don't take The Hub's word for it; the Post & Courier undoubtedly has more cachet and on Monday made the case for Nelson's innate coolness with a wonderful story you should read if you haven't already:

As an emerging artist who has gone from bagging groceries to collaborating on a New York gallery show in the span of two years, Nelson doesn't draw a line between his portraits, his hip-hop songwriting, his computerized artwork and his ebullient social-media presence. He'll use any format that gets the job done, up to and including posing for a selfie with a roost full of chickens.
Hat tip to P&C writer Paul Bowers. Artists from South Carolina are certainly germane to a Hub story, but Ment is also working on a new initiative we're going to begin talking about soon called "Create: Rural S.C." The S.C. Arts Commission will lead research on South Carolina’s creative cluster, with a deeper examination of the creative economy in the state’s rural Promise Zone (Barnwell, Bamberg, Allendale, Hampton, Jasper, Colleton Counties), a priority community of the USDA-RD (the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development). A cohort of “Next Generation” creative professionals in the Promise Zone will assist in all aspects of the development and roll-out of the plan. This program is an outgrowth of the SCAC's "The Art of Community: Rural S.C." initiative, which is active in each of the Promise Zone counties as the umbrella organization for this program and already bearing fruit in the region. Hear more from the young voices of "Create: Rural S.C." in this video. YOUNG VOICES VIDEO 5 MINUTES from Cook Productions on Vimeo.  

Arts in schools: What difference do they make?

Last week, the South Carolina Senate passed a version of the state budget (previously approved by the House, whose Ways & Means Committee begins the process) that increased arts funding by $350,000.  Not to be outdone, the Senate appropriated an additional $100,000 specifically for arts education. Both events are welcome news at the S.C. Arts Commission, and we're thankful for the support from both chambers of the General Assembly. They voted 159-2 on aggregate in favor of the budget that includes this funding. The differences will need to be worked out in conference committee and then approved before being presented to Gov. Henry McMaster for his signature.


So, why'd they do it? Do the arts really make a difference in education? Research included in a new book could have some answers, including this key passage:

The problem is not usually the students; it is the system. Change the system in the right ways and many of the problems of poor behavior, low motivation, and disengagement tend to disappear. It can be the system itself that creates the problems.

That excerpt comes from "What Happens to Student Behavior When Schools Prioritize Art" on the KQED website, which simply excerpts the new book, You, Your Child, and School: Navigate Your Way to the Best Education by Sir Ken Robinson, Ph. D and Lou Aronica. Go check out the excerpt on KQED, and know that the Arts Commission, through the ABC Project and other programs, is committed to providing quality arts education to all students across South Carolina.
Ed. note: the discussion or linking to of any publication by The Hub and/or the South Carolina Arts Commission does not express or imply endorsement or approval of any and/or all material therein.

Denmark-Olar students to make music with renowned chamber ensemble

Thanks to funding from the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC), Decoda – a NYC-based chamber music ensemble – will create and perform original songs with teens from Denmark-Olar High School (DOHS) this week. “This is an incredible opportunity for one of South Carolina’s rural high schools to work directly with nationally and internationally acclaimed artists in a process that awakens students to their own creative abilities,” said Ken May, executive director of the SCAC. The week-long event is an arts education project that is part of the agency’s Art of Community: Rural SC initiative. Claire Bryant, by Caroline Bittencourt One of the visiting artists, Claire Bryant, grew up in rural South Carolina and now lives in New York City. She has been working closely with SCAC for several years to organize this event. She calls experiences like this “transformative.” Bryant is a cellist and is director of Decoda’s social justice initiative, "Music for Transformation." During the week at Denmark-Olar, she and three other visiting Decoda artists will facilitate a collaborative songwriting workshop for 20 student participants. Together, they will write new songs based on the theme, "Where I’m From." Other students will be involved in organizing and documenting the experience. The workshop week will culminate with a celebratory performance at the school Friday, March 30th at 2:15 p.m. It is open to the public. Decoda’s transformative songwriting programs have garnered national attention for the both the artistic and social impact of its recent projects in partnership with NYPD officers and teens from Police Athletic League in NYC. In addition, it has been highlighted nationally for its program with incarcerated residents at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville. Also in South Carolina, Decoda has a long association with the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County in Camden where it has performed and also been “in residence” at schools there. “The integration of arts within our schools plays a vital role in the development and success of our youth. The arts, especially music, nurtures and empowers the humanity inside all of us,” Bryant said. “We are especially grateful to the Denmark community for its hospitality and kindness. A special thanks to Denmark-Olar High Arts Coordinator Dr. Anna Martin, who has arranged all the details for our school visit, as well Principal Mickey Pringle and Dr. Thelma Sojourner, superintendent of Bamberg District 2 schools. The list is long,” she said. SCAC also recognizes Mary Rivers and Denmark Technical College Choral Director Dr. Yvette McDaniel and assistant director (and Denmark-Olar alumna) Ashley Jordan for their assistance in making this partnership possible. (Ed. note: McDaniel and Jordan are involved with the Art of Community: Rural SC initiative.)


About Decoda

Decoda is a New York City-based modular chamber ensemble dedicated to creating meaningful musical experiences through dynamic performances, education, and a quest for social impact. Decoda provides engaging performances, interactive concerts, and enlightened discussions serving the widest possible types of audiences. Now in its fifth season, Decoda's projects and performances have taken place in South Africa, United Kingdom, Germany, Abu Dhabi, Denmark, Iceland, Japan, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, and across the U.S. "Music for Transformation," Decoda’s social justice initiative, brings creative songwriting projects to help empower vulnerable and disenfranchised voices. Decoda’s exemplary work in maximum-security prisons and in the juvenile justice system has been recognized by CNN, Huffington Post, the Associated Press, Washington Post, and Billboard Magazine. Decoda has on three separate occasions been invited to the White House to perform and advocate for arts programming as a means for criminal justice reform. For more information, please visit decodamusic.org.

Tuning Up: Chills, Thrills, and Kills with ‘Grave Intentions’ + more

Good morning!  "Tuning Up" is a morning post series where The Hub delivers quick-hit arts stories of interest to readers. Sometimes there will be one story, sometimes there will be several. Get in tune now, and have a masterpiece of a day. And now, in no particular order...


  • Deadline extension! We first brought this to you in early February, but it's so cool we wanted to bring it back: Filmmakers and screenplay writers are invited to participate in a new project from Death Cat Entertainment – its “Grave Intentions" Anthology.  If your work fits the horror genre (including suspense, thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, supernatural, etc.), go here for more information.
  • An inspiring student from Ninety-Six who attends the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind, an ABC Project school in Greenwood, is "enthralling with her voice" according to the Greenwood Index-Journal.
  • Performing artists, here's a GREAT opportunity for you: apply now to be one of up to 16 groups presented in a juried showcase at South Arts' Performing Arts Exchange conference in Orlando this coming October. Present your best from industry pros from across the Southeast at an annual conference that supports the presentation and touring of performing artists along the east and gulf coasts.
  • ICYMI: this week, the Arts Commission announced the recipients of the 2018 Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts.

Submitted material

Furman professor’s short story collection published

Furman Department of English professor Laura Leigh Morris has written a new book of fiction about the daily lives of people in West Virginia. Her book, Jaws of Life: Stories, is a collection of short stories published by Vandalia Press, the creative imprint of West Virginia University Press. The book will be released next Thursday, March 1. A launch event is set for March 1, 6-8 p.m. at Fiction Addiction in Greenville. In her first book, Morris's collection portrays the diverse concerns the people of West Virginia face every day—poverty, mental illness, drug abuse, the loss of coal mines, and the rise of new extractive industries that exert their own toll. A summary by West Virginia University Press has this description:

“In the hills of north central West Virginia, there lives a cast of characters who face all manner of problems—from the people who are incarcerated in West Virginia's prisons, to a woman who is learning how to lose her sight with grace, to another who sorely regrets selling her land to a fracking company.”

Morris, who joined the Furman faculty in 2015, teaches creative writing and literature. Before that, she spent three years as the National Endowment for the Arts/Bureau of Prisons Artist-in-Residence at Bryan Federal Prison Camp in Bryan, Texas. She has previously published short fiction in Appalachian Heritage, The Louisville Review, Notre Dame Review and other journals. She is originally from north central West Virginia. More information about the book may be found on LauraLeighMorris.com.

‘Trailblazing’ Spartanburg artists highlighted

In honor of Black History Month, Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg is highlighting a few of the many trailblazing black artists who’ve made their mark on Spartanburg. They've selected seven artists of various media who’ve impacted the county:

  • Geri Dye
  • Winton & Rosa Eugene
  • Raymond Floyd
  • Offrey L. Hines
  • Pat Kabore
  • Daryle Rice
  • Winston Wingo
Read more about these magnificent artists on the CCC website's story.
Image credit: Spartanburg Art Museum

Young Voices Build Pride in Place

Next week, the S.C. Arts Alliance presents the annual S.C. Arts Advocacy Day – with a twist: in 2018, it becomes Arts Advocacy Week. The main events are Tuesday with a State House rally and luncheon to follow. (We hope to see you there.) Here on The Hub, we're taking this week to connect the dots between public support of the arts and the net effect on society. This week's focus is on why we advocate, why support matters, and what arts support looks like on the ground, in communities around the state.


Sometimes, those communities have deep, historic problems. Oftentimes, those problems persist when one-size-fits-all solutions ... just aren't. Enter the Art of Community: Rural S.C. to foster creative, grassroots efforts to address problems through arts, culture, and creative placemaking. This program addresses the unique needs of rural South Carolina by taking what makes a community unique and building pride around that through creative partnerships with people previously not engaged to address those issues. An eclectic mix of young minds are rethinking the ways their rural communities are perceived to create a new framework for action. Please take a few moments to hear them tell their stories in the video below, which shows how arts and culture merge to face challenges where other attempts have fallen short. This is what arts support looks like on the ground. This is why we advocate: YOUNG VOICES VIDEO 5 MINUTES from Cook Productions on Vimeo.
The Art of Community: Rural S.C. advances the S.C. Arts Commission’s commitment to rural development through arts, culture and creative placemaking, creating a way to support new leadership, generate energy, and motivate action in a rural region of South Carolina. It is supported by the S.C. Arts Commission and U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development. Read more about it here.

National Press Club briefing to feature SCAC program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Art of Community: Rural S.C., an S.C. Arts Commission program, and one of its community representatives from Walterboro, S.C. are to receive prominent recognition at the National Press Club Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 9:30 a.m. The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) arranged the National Press Club briefing, “The Arts and America’s Bottom Line,” to affirm the value of public investment in the arts. WATCH LIVE Tuesday from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. via NASAA’s Facebook feed: https://www.facebook.com/NASAA.Arts Update: the complete briefing is available here. Matt Mardell of Walterboro will join Susan DuPlessis, project director and county coordinator with the S.C. Arts Commission (SCAC), to participate in a national press briefing, talking about how the Colleton Museum, Farmers Market and Commercial Kitchen is an award-winning example of community building, and creating jobs and connection to place using arts and culture. Mardell is the facility’s executive director. The Art of Community: Rural S.C. is a community arts development program at the SCAC and has received national recognition for its innovative and down-to-earth approach in a rural region of South Carolina. The ongoing initiative receives funding assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development. Speakers will include Chairman Jane Chu of the National Endowment for the Arts; veteran and Purple Heart recipient Sebastian Munevar; Dr. Sara Kass (Capt.,retired) Senior Military Medical Advisor for ‘Creative Forces,’ an NEA program, and formerly with Walter Reed Medical Center; and NASAA’s chair, Ben Brown, and executive director, Pam Breaux. DuPlessis and Mardell will discuss using the arts to build key partnerships that help revitalize rural communities. They will be joined by Bob Reeder, national co-chair of The Art of Community: Rural S.C. and program director of Rural LISC (Local Initiative Support Corporation). All four will attend the briefing and be available as additional resources and for questions. ABOUT THE ART OF COMMUNITY, RURAL S.C. The Art of Community: Rural S.C. initiative was created in 2015-16 as a new framework for engagement in small communities with the consideration of how arts and culture can be used strategically in community building, leadership development and engagement. Gary Brightwell, retired executive director, was tapped to serve as the ‘maven,’ or community connector, for this six-county initiative, built a local team to consider the assets of Colleton County and design a project to meet a local challenge. Over the first two years of this initiative, six local projects have been designed and implemented in each of the following counties: Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper. Mardell will use the example of the Colleton Museum, Farmers Market and Kitchen to demonstrate the power of arts and culture to the town of Walterboro and Colleton County. Additional information on The Art of Community: Rural S.C. is available on the SCAC website: http://www.southcarolinaarts.com/artofcommunity/index.shtml. ABOUT THE SOUTH CAROLINA ARTS COMMISSION The South Carolina Arts Commission is the state agency charged with creating a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their location or circumstances. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts by providing services, grants, and leadership initiatives 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 SouthCarolinaArts.com or call (803) 734-8696. ABOUT THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF STATE ARTS AGENCIES NASAA is the membership organization that serves the nation’s 56 state and jurisdictional arts agencies. We are a national, not-for-profit, nonpartisan association that champions public support for the arts in America. NASAA provides advocacy, research, training and networking services to state arts agencies and their constituents. Our work is driven by a strong belief that the arts are essential to a thriving democracy and that the public, private and nonprofit sectors each have a vital role to play in achieving that vision. Learn more at NASAA-Arts.org.

From Kingstree High to Governor’s School to Cleveland Institute of Art: Young artist pursues automotive design career

From The Kingstree News

Article and photo by Michaele Duke

The children at the Williamsburg County Library were in for a treat last week when Shawn McClary, an artist who recently graduated from the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, showed up for a class.

McClary joined a long list of speakers who volunteered their time to enlighten the young ones through STEAM, a mini-grant funded by the SC State Library. The classes meet twice weekly with a number of speakers participating and will conclude with a gallery opening at the library on July 13, to display the students’ writings and artwork.

For his part in the STEAM program, McClary described his time at the school and conveyed his view of the world through his art. “They actually focus more on experimenting and finding new ways to approach art, rather than a great artist being defined and sophisticated in the arts,” said McClary. The Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities is a public residential high school for emerging artists. Students must apply and audition to attend the school.

While at the Governor’s School, McClary majored in the visual arts. This fall he will head to the Cleveland Institute of Art where he will continue his pursuit in design.

Most of his drawings focused on automobile design, which is a telling of his goals that began when he was a sophomore at Kingstree Senior High School. “It was the summer of my 10th grade year and we went to the BMW manufacturing plant,” said McClary of that fateful day in Spartanburg. “I really liked their aesthetics and that really influenced me to look into automotive design.” McClary’s goal is to work for Chevrolet or GMC as an exterior designer.

For his next step into the world of automotive design, McClary chose Cleveland Institute because they offer an industrial design program in which he can concentrate in transportation design.

He said three major auto companies participate in the program. “Just about every Saturday they come and teach the children how to draw cars and you can sign up for internships.”

He has one up on the drawing portion of the classes. He said he recently entered the Dodge Autorama design competition and placed in the top 10 out of approximately 90 sketches.

McClary’s mom says it’s been a pleasure watching him grow into an artist. “This is so exciting to me,” said Angela. “The house has become a museum of his work. I hate to see him leave but he’s following his dream.”

Fine Arts Center: inspiring young talent for 40 years

From The Greenville News Story by Paul Hyde Photos by Mykal McEldowney

The Fine Arts Center has nurtured the artistic interests and ambitions of generations of students. More than that, the Greenville school district's magnet arts program may have actually saved a life or two. "I really can't overstate the effect the Fine Arts Center had on my life," said Daniel Sollinger, a successful Hollywood producer with more than 350 commercials, music videos and short films to his credit. Thirty years ago, however, Sollinger was a struggling student, hanging onto school by his fingertips. His future didn't look very promising. Then he found the Fine Arts Center. "I was a lost teen who had been kicked out of Eastside High School and Riverside High School," Sollinger recalled recently. "I was attending night school and I met someone who had been studying filmmaking at the Fine Arts Center. "That moment changed my life." As students, faculty and supporters of the Fine Arts Center celebrate the 40th anniversary of the program, the first-ever of its type in South Carolina, they can look back on hundreds of graduates like Sollinger who've gone on to achieve success in the arts and other fields. Sollinger's struggles, in some ways, mirror those of the Fine Arts Center itself. There were times in the past when the program also hung by a thread but was successfully defended by its legion of passionate supporters. Coming together The Fine Arts Center got its start in 1974 as then-Superintendent J. Floyd Hall searched for ways to bring communities together during desegregation, said Roy Fluhrer, the center's longtime director. One of the answers that emerged, Fluhrer said, was a high school magnet arts program, free to all Greenville County high school students, regardless of race and socioeconomic background. "The arts have always been at the vanguard of change," Fluhrer said. With start-up money from a federal grant, district officials Virginia Uldrick, Margaret Gilliam and Ray Thigpen designed a curriculum for the Fine Arts Center, which would open at the renovated Hattie Duckett Elementary School on Washington Street. Uldrick became the Fine Arts Center's first director and would later create the Governor's School summer arts program and finally the South Carolina's Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, a residential school open to students statewide. The Fine Arts Center eventually outgrew its 22,000-square-foot building, and a new 65,000-square-foot facility opened in 2008 next to Wade Hampton High School. When Fluhrer was appointed director in September, 1989, there were just 168 students in the program — compared to today's 420 students, who take classes in seven art areas. Under those basic categories are 19 artistic subsets, ranging from chamber music to photography, ballet, modern dance and music history. Recently, the program became the first in the U.S. to offer architecture among its basic art areas, Fluhrer said. Students attend one of Greenville County's 14 high schools but also spend about two hours each day in classes at the Fine Arts Center. They not only have to audition to be admitted to the Fine Arts Center but have to re-audition every subsequent year they wish to attend.
Not everyone makes the cut. Some get placed on a waiting list. "Our teachers are constantly reminding students that they're capable of more," Fluhrer said. Last year, 88 students graduated from the program, earning $10.8 million in college scholarships. That represents about 2 percent of the graduates in Greenville County schools garnering almost 10 percent of the scholarship money awarded that year. "The Fine Arts Center is an outstanding example of the life-enhancing and, in some cases, life-altering opportunities for growth available to students in our schools," said Greenville County Schools Superintendent W. Burke Royster. The program challenges students to test their limits but also appeals to young people who already are highly motivated. A recent dance graduate, Mireille Fehler, was valedictorian at Eastside High School and now attends Case Western Reserve University, majoring in dance — and aeronautical engineering. Such success comes as no surprise to Fluhrer, who sees arts education as vital not only for overall educational achievement but national economic prosperity as well. "Our future will belong to those with the creative imagination to solve problems," Fluhrer said. "The arts have a signicant role to play." Surviving the cut The past four decades, however, have not always been easy ones for the Fine Arts Center. The school at one time faced possible closure. Several years ago, in fact, a top Greenville Schools official delivered a sobering message at the school: Due to budget difficulties, the Fine Arts Center would probably have to shut down. "An immensely talented group of kids would have educational opportunities ripped out from under them," Fluhrer said. The students, however, were not going to take the news sitting down. "They mounted a respectful and passionate defense of the arts and of what the Fine Arts Center meant to them as students," Fluhrer said. Efforts to close the center were defeated. The program's future now seems secure. "When you think of the trials and tribulations that the Fine Arts Center has gone through, it's very special to have reached 40 years and to have the support we have in the district and community," said Fluhrer. "I think we've made a contribution to the community as well and we continue to have a significant role to play." Kimilee Bryant attended the program for only one year but believes it contributed greatly to her later success as a Broadway actress. "The Fine Arts Center was the highlight of my senior year," said Bryant, best known for playing Christine in the Broadway production of "The Phantom of the Opera." "I wish I had been able to attend all four years and all day my senior year," Bryant added. "I knew I was going to be a performer and I really felt at home at the Fine Arts Center." Sollinger, the producer, echoed Bryant, saying that the Fine Arts Center provided an avenue for him to express his energy and ambition. "Part of the reason I had gotten kicked out of the other schools was that I didn't really fit in," Sollinger said. "I was an artistic person but had no place to focus that artistic energy. The Fine Arts Center gave me the ability to find myself as a creative person and gave me the confidence and the curiosity to see how far I could take my talent." After first hearing about the Fine Arts Center, Sollinger was able to get back into Eastside High School and then successfully applied to the Fine Arts Center. "I never realized that film was something you could study, let alone make a living doing," Sollinger said. "I can pretty much guarantee I would not be living in Hollywood and producing movies had the Fine Arts Center not been there." Young artists are surrounded by "other students with a passion for their craft," said Rory Scovel, a comedian, actor and writer who attended the Fine Arts Center in 1998-99 and went on to do standup on Comedy Central and network talk shows hosted by Jimmy Fallon and Craig Ferguson. "The Fine Arts Center did more than just educate me in film and filmmaking, courtesy of the great Eric Rogers," said Scovel, who also played the character of Harvard on the TBS sitcom "Ground Floor" and guest-starred on such shows as "Modern Family." "The school actually made me understand the overall need for every kind of art and the respect all of it deserves," Scovel said. "I think receiving an education about respecting art matures not just a student but a person. That's what the Fine Arts Center gave to me." Artists who teach Scovel and Bryant believe a big part of the Fine Arts Center's success is its top-notch faculty of teaching artists. For Bryant, the late voice teacher Michael Rice particularly left a lasting impression. "I was so lucky, as were many other voice students, to have had Mr. Rice as a teacher," Bryant said. "He was world class, more than a teacher — a real mentor and friend." Bryant would parlay her Fine Arts Center experience into a career that encompasses not only Broadway but opera and concert appearances worldwide. She's the only actress to play all three leading female roles — Christine, Carlotta and Madame Giry — in "The Phantom of the Opera." The talented, enthusiastic student body makes the Fine Arts Center a coveted place for teachers, Fluhrer said. "I think the faculty will tell you it's an absolute thrill to go into your classroom," Fluhrer said. "It's a very rewarding environment for teachers. Why would you not want to help a student release their inner Van Gogh?" When an teaching opening comes up, searches are conducted nationwide. A recent position for a painting teacher generated 90 applicants from across the nation. "We have incredible teachers," Fluhrer said. "You could put us in an open field and the teachers would still find a way to make everything work." Fluhrer recently announced that he would retire in June, 2016. The center's assistance director, Charles Ratterree, is Fluhrer's designated successor. At 26 years, Fluhrer has been, by far, the longest director of the center, following the leadership of Uldrick, James B. Senn, Charles W. Welch, Thomas Drake, Jesse Beck and Gene Wenner. "The leadership of the Fine Arts Center has been so completely devoted to the students, and the success rate of its graduates has been remarkable," said Alan Ethridge, executive director of Greenville's Metropolitan Arts Council, an umbrella arts organization that has provided modest funding for some Fine Arts Center projects. For Fluhrer, who has a doctorate in theater history and criticism, part of the Fine Arts Center's success is that it gives students ample room to indulge their creativity — even if they come up short before finding their way. Fluhrer likes to quote playwright Samuel Becket: "Fail. Fail again. Fail better." "We have to have the arts and give students the freedom to experiment and try new things and even fail," Fluhrer said. As he looks toward retiring in 2016, Fluhrer said his long tenure at the Fine Arts Center has been a labor of love. "I get to see kids who are engaged and loving every moment that they're with us," Fluhrer said. "This place is a jewel."