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."

University of South Carolina professor films the “Cotton Road”

Filmmaker Laura Kissel received a South Carolina Arts Commission Media Fellowship in 2007/2008.  Her documentary, "Cotton Road," has been screened at festivals and on college campuses across the country, including the Santa Monica Independent Film Festival, where it was awarded best documentary feature. From the University of South Carolina Story by Glenn Hare

At one point in Laura Kissel’s newest film a shopping cart rolls through aisles of low-priced blouses, slacks, jackets and sweaters. It’s a critical scene in “Cotton Road,” an award-winning documentary, that follows the journey of American-grown cotton across the Pacific Ocean to textile and clothing manufacturers in China, and the return trip of dresses, pants, socks and underwear that end up in retail outlets across the U.S. Laura Kissel“It’s a global phenomenon that I feel hadn’t been fully explored in film,” explains Kissel (pictured right), a filmmaker and media arts professor in the School of Visual Art and Design at Carolina. “The idea started in a small town in rural Georgia where I was working on another film about a cotton farmer.” Fascinated by the process, she learned that the majority — 75 percent, in fact — of all the cotton grown in America is shipped to China to be manufactured into clothing and other products and then shipped back. For a year, Kissel filmed more than 150 hours of footage. Starting in Aiken County, she documented the planting and harvesting, and then followed the cotton to the port of Savannah, Ga. During the first leg of this international odyssey, farmers, gin operators, truck drivers and commodities brokers explain their role in getting the fluffy plant from the fields to southeast China. “It’s a worrisome crop,” South Carolina grower Carl Brown tells the camera. “You worry about it from the time you plant it. You worry about it when you’re getting ready to pick it. You worry about it when you get it picked. The blasted thing will teach you something every year. And most of the time it teaches you something you didn’t want to know.” Once in China, “Cotton Road” focuses on lives of warehouse employees, factory workers, plant managers and even a factory cook, each explaining their role in transforming raw cotton into thread, thread into bolts of cloth and finally cloth into garments. The film records their lives in Hangzhou, Changzhou and Shanghai, where Kissel lived for seven months. “The first time, I think the smell (of cotton) is terrible,” Cathie Xu says in the film. Xu is a logistics and warehouse employee working near Shanghai. “But my boss tells me it’s the smell of money. Now, I like the smell.” Liu Chengfeng, a 19-year-old textile worker, is in the factory to help her family. “My mother said we must repair the roof right away, otherwise the house will flood when it rains,” Chengfeng says while facing the camera. “When I saw they repaired our house, I realized my schooling was over.” Textile worker Textile worker in Changzhou, China Chengfeng’s story isn’t unusual. Many young women leave China’s rural provinces in search of better lives in factory cities. Chengfeng is part of the largest migration of people in human history. The number of people living and working away from their homes in China is estimated to be 160 million to 230 million people. The impact of Western production standards is also made clear. “Some of my customers would like to give me orders, but the problem is that some American orders require factory inspection,” complains Jiang Guifang while walking through her factory. Guifang is the general manager of the Shanghai Sky-High Fashion Co., a small garment company. “The factory inspection standards are very, very high. For example, no working overtime. If they work overtime, you need to pay them several times their salary. How can we afford those salaries on the prices offered by American companies? I can tell you the truth: All companies that have ‘passed’ inspection have actually done something underhandedly.” In addition to a China-based producer, Kissel was helped by several UofSC faculty members in the making of “Cotton Road.” Music professor Fang Man composed the score, while language and literature professors Michael Hill and Jie Guo helped translate the Chinese to English. Since its completion earlier this year, the documentary has been screened at festivals and on college campuses across the country, including the Santa Monica Independent Film Festival where it was awarded best documentary feature. “Cotton Road” goes on to illustrate how the combination of low-cost labor and the appetite for cheap consumer goods is the force pushing this global transaction. “Clothing production travels to places where labor costs less and ‘human resources’ are plentiful. Most clothing is made by hand and not mechanized,” Kissel says. The industry needs people to sew on sleeves and buttons. Combine that with Western society’s rapacious consumption for cheap goods. “We consume and consume and consume. Somebody is going to have to supply that demand. China has become the manufacturer for the world. “I wanted to implicate the consumer in some way, to bring the consumer into the story,” Kissel says. “The best way to really do that was to think of the life cycle of the  clothing we buy, which we are so quick to discard. It’s the consumer’s responsibility to be aware that our consumption habits have negative impacts on the environment and human condition.”

Kidney transplant connects theatre alums for a lifetime

Monica and Erin at fundraiser Monica Wyche, left, and Erin Wilson at a fundraiser held in their honor Two South Carolina actors, Erin Wilson and Monica Wyche, already connected through the arts, are now bonded in a life-altering way. Wyche recently donated a kidney to Wilson, who was diagnosed with acute kidney failure in 2013. The transplant operation took place in early November, and both women are doing well. This blog post, written by Sheryl McAlister and reprinted on Jasper Magazine's website, is a synopsis of their story, their connections through the arts, and the arts community that embraces all of us.  

Part 1, Erin’s Story: “Let’s get this Show on the Road” The first time I saw Erin Thigpen Wilson was March, 2014, in Charleston, SC. She was playing a sadistic human trafficker in PURE Theatre’s production of Russian Transport. She was the matriarch of a group of equally sadistic family members. She scared the shit out of me. “Art…,” Edgar Degas said, after all “… is not what you see, but what you make others see.” Meeting her, mercifully, was altogether different. She’s groovy in an old school, hippy sort of way. Laid back with a been-there, done-that attitude. Funny. Quick wit. Seemingly carefree. She grew up in community theatre in Columbia, SC, the child of a father who was a community theatre actor and high school drama teacher and a mother who ran the box office of the local theatre out of her living room. She performed in too many plays to count, starting at the age of 5 as “Rabbit #3” in Workshop Theatre’s production of Winnie the Pooh. Long ago, she learned how to play make believe. Seemingly…. carefree. Early in the summer of 2013, she nearly died. Her kidneys were destroyed. Doctors still don’t know why. “I was having trouble breathing, but that’s normal for me,” Wilson, an asthma sufferer, said. “The first doctor told me I had bronchitis and gave me an antibiotic. But a week later, I had this incredible body pain. My bones hurt. I didn’t sleep for days.” A second opinion led to tests that revealed elevated creatinine levels. As the doctor ran yet another set of tests to verify her assumptions, she told Wilson to decide which hospital she wanted to go to in the meantime. And she told her to decide quickly. Wilson’s husband Laurens had met her at the doctor’s office. “We just looked at each other and were like ‘WHAT?’ The doctor told us we could go by ambulance or drive ourselves but if we decided to drive ourselves, we had to drive straight there. No stops.” They called her parents – Sally Boyd & Les Wilson and Jim & Kay Thigpen. And her in-laws, Hank & Sue Wilson. She spent two days in the ICU and was diagnosed with acute kidney failure. Her only option was dialysis. And just like that… Life, as she knew it, had changed forever. Read the rest of the post on Jasper Magazine's site.

Governor’s School Creative Writing students featured on The Atlantic website

Three South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities (SCGSAH) Creative Writing students are featured in new essays on The Atlantic website. Atlantic contributor Deborah Fallows requested the essays after visiting and writing about the school in January as part of the site’s “American Futures” series. “I asked Scott Gould, a creative writing teacher at the school, if he would ask his students to write me a short essay about their school,” Fallows wrote. “This was a wide-open request; I wanted to hear whatever perspective the students wanted to offer about their experience at the school.” The essays were written by Cameron Messinides (Camden), Shelley Hucks (Florence) and Jackson Trice (Simpsonville). They were published “unedited and untouched.” Founded in 1857, The Atlantic is one of the nation’s oldest publications. Its digital properties receive millions of hits per month. The following are snippets of the three essays. Cameron Messinides – “Long Distance” My family walked among the carcasses--once white, now bloodstained and caked with rain-softened clay. We wanted to find life, my mother said. They gave up at four in the afternoon, and my father and brother made a pile of the bodies in the woods, to be buried later. Phone calls like this are common now. I've been in a boarding school since August, and every weekend my mother seems to find something new to break to me. It's not always bad. The weekend before, she called to tell me my brother enrolled in a birding retreat on the South Carolina coastline. And before that, she told me about the new color she picked for the living room walls. I'm still not used to this kind of communication. I miss immediacy. A year ago, when I still lived with them, I would know all this. She wouldn't have to tell me two or three days later. I'd like to say I've adjusted, but I haven't. Shelley Hucks – “Florentine” At the Governor’s School, I’ve studied under excellent teachers. I’ve been exposed to new authors and genres, learned to be curious, analytical, to believe in the deliberation of every line of poetry and each line of dialogue in a short story. I’ve learned to put my personal life into artistic context with the help of professionals. I’ve learned to become aware. To make something strange, beautiful, something important. And, something particularly valuable to me because of my immense pride in my hometown, I’ve learned to appreciate a strong sense of setting, the way characters can function in so many complex ways. I’ve learned how to convey Florence in words. Jackson Trice – “Outside the Lines” I forget how strange my school sounds to the rest of the world until I leave it. On a card at the front desk inside a college admissions building, I am told to write the name of my high school. The full name, South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, does not fit on the dotted line, and I have to draw an arrow to the back of the card, and write the rest there. When I say my school’s name out loud to family members, it sounds prestigious, almost regal. But on the first day of school here it is made clear that I was chosen based on potential, and not necessarily talent. It’s this ego smashing that happens throughout junior year that creates the atmosphere of Governor’s School. You don’t get “good,” you just make progress. You are not special, you’ve just been given an excellent opportunity. Read the complete essays here. Via: South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities

Oconee County quilter brings lifelong lessons to her art

CENTRAL, S.C.— Anna Willis' knuckles are swollen, and her fingers remain curved no matter how much she tries to straighten them. "I have had arthritis a long time," she said. "As long as I can remember."
Yet, she still works with those fingers. The artwork they produce still makes it into galleries and museums. Anna Willis is a quilter, and has been since she was a child. Her mother first taught her to sew when she was 5. Willis was a young lady, in the 1940s, when she completed her first quilt by herself. She still has it, all these years later. "It's a sunshine and shadow pattern," Willis said. "I have never been able to part with it." Two folding tables pushed together dominate her living room in her small brick home in Central. On it is a sewing machine. All around it, and underneath it, are sacks of material. Small drawers hold spools of thread of every color. One couch is stacked with folded quilts. Some of the quilts are large enough to cover a queen-size bed. Others are made for babies or for hanging on the wall. Some are decorated with beadwork and hand-sewn patchwork. All have been made by Willis. Quilting is her art. Her work is on display at The Arts Center of Clemson and is part of the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail, a series of wooden, painted quilt squares that are mounted on public buildings, tourist sites and homes in the Upstate. The squares are a form of public art, meant to generate tourism. "This is what I do now, when I take a notion," Willis said. "As soon as I retired, I went right into quilting. I don't have anybody here. I had to find something to do." She has been a widow since the 1960s. Her only child, an adopted son, died last year. Her quilts keep her busy. She recently worked on a king-size Christmas quilt, one she meant to finish in time for the holidays, but the schedule was delayed when she came down with a cold. Some of her creations will take a couple of months to make. This king-size cover will take three months. She has taught others her art at local elementary schools, community centers and at Tri-County Technical College. Willis was raised in Seneca, near the Oconee County Training School. Then, flour sacks, salt sacks and feed sacks were used to put quilts together. Her mother had a large quilt frame that was held up with ropes at the ceiling. She would lower it in the morning and work on quilts until dinner time, Willis said. "We didn't have much," Willis said. "Mama made quilts, and I had to help her. Mama could make anything she wanted. Everything I knew about sewing, knitting and crocheting, I learned from her." That started a lifetime of working with fabric and sewing for Willis. She worked for 15 years at Gallant Belk on Seneca. But the longest span of her career was spent in a mill, sewing collars on blouses. About 23 years ago, she retired. "The doctor made me stop working because of my heart," she said. Her health is not what it once was. Those fingers will ache sometimes, and her arthritis will keep her awake all evening if her joints become too cold. But many days, Willis is still here, sitting at this table, working on her art.

South Carolina artist’s “Painting Table” helps Newtown heal

Artist Roger Hutchison, Canon for Children’s Ministries at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, S.C., was invited to help facilitate an arts therapy workshop in Newtown, Conn. after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Hutchison had written a book, “The Painting Table: A Journal of Loss and Joy," about the innovative group activity he uses with parishioners to blend art therapy with mindful spiritual practice. Hutchison's story is featured on the Huffington Post blog. We asked him to share his experience with us:

On December 14, 2012, the unthinkable happened. Twenty children and six adults were killed when a lone gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It was a beautiful Friday morning; my day off. I will, on occasion, spend my Fridays painting with children in local schools and on this day, I had spent the morning with children at Hammond School in Columbia, S.C. There were bold colors and lots of laughter. The joy of childhood was palpable. Little did I know that at that same time I was working with school children in Columbia, sheer terror and tragedy was unfolding in the hallways and classrooms of a small-town elementary school in a community called Sandy Hook. What happened on December 14, 2012, brought the world to its knees. I am the Canon for Children’s Ministries at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, SC. I am in my 16th year at the Cathedral. I’m a husband and a father. I am also an artist. I paint at my grandmother’s table, a table I once played under as a child and on which I enjoyed vibrant and delicious meals. The table became a Eucharistic symbol for me. It is the place where I go to paint, pray, and remember. It has become such an important place for me, that I knew I had to invite others to the table. In late March of this year, I received an invitation to travel to Newtown. Sue Vogelman, the Director of Christian Education at Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown, was looking at how she might gather the children to talk about faith and God and what happened and was struggling to find ways to make this happen. Trinity Church, Newtown, is a congregation that serves many families with children who attended Sandy Hook Elementary. Ben Wheeler, a child of the congregation, was one of the children killed. “The children are very resilient, but as time goes on they have been asking a lot more questions, faith questions, questions about God and death,” says Sharon Pearson, a Christian educator in Connecticut.  “Many of the Sunday School teachers are also parents. Having their children come to church and asking these questions in the context of faith has been difficult. Parents are looking for support in answering those questions, because they have those questions, too.” On Friday, May 3, we pulled into Newtown…and I fell in love. We had arranged to have two “Painting Table” sessions – one for children and families, and one for adults only.  We expected that there might be 20 or so people who participated, but when it was all said and done, some 50+ children and adults joined in. My painting table is an actual table, but the idea of the Painting Table is more than a wooden top with four legs. It is about the invitation. It is about sharing our own sacred stories.  It is a safe and holy space where conversation, prayer, and healing can take place. The canvas, paper, and other assorted art supplies are the simple tools that help bring us together. While there is grief, sadness, and loss, there is also hope.  There is an opportunity for celebration as we gather together, break bread, talk, and are welcomed. Whether it is through cooking, painting, or Eucharist, we come together to remember. The end result of The Painting Table is not the painting that is created. It is the conversation, sharing, and listening that takes place around the table. It is one mother comforting another mother as they both grieve for their friend who lost a child. It is about the conversation I had with a 3rd grade girl who told me she had had a really bad day.  Her painting was dark and frantic. I listened to her for a little while – then encouraged her to paint another one.  The second painting was a bit more colorful. She took her two paintings and smashed them together.  When she pulled them apart, the darkness had lifted. I could see light and love and a beautiful smile. The Painting Table is also about the conversation I had with a young mother who told me that she feels guilty sometimes that she still has her children. She shared with me what it was like to take her children home on that tragic day – passing house after house with state patrol cars in the driveways. And sometimes the Painting Table helps us express our gratitude for life, as well. We are created in God’s image so at the very center of our being is that need and desire to create. One does not have to be a “trained” or a professional artist to do this. Have you ever watched a child coloring or painting? There is an authenticity and holy joy in that very moment. I am often asked what inspired the idea of The Painting Table. My Grandmother inspired me. Her kitchen table became my painting table. When I sit at my painting table, I can still remember the love that she shared. Her love took the form of fresh tomatoes and bright green okra, black berry cobbler and chicken and dumplings.  My love takes the form of swirling colors smeared across canvas. It really comes down to love.  Just love. Isn’t that what it is all about?

Artists U: “All I need to be is open.”

Christina Laurel of Greenville was one of 30 artists who participated in the South Carolina Arts Commission's recent Artists U Intensive, part of the Artists' Ventures Initiative. She shares her experience in a post on her blog:

Expectation, anticipation, and trepidation are all folded into the days prior to attending the November 15-16 Artists U in N. Charleston, SC. Expectation: dealing with social media. Anticipation: resources, tools, grant writing, and new ways of looking at the business of art. Trepidation: dealing with social media in a room filled with eye-rolling young artists. Before I reveal "which pea under which cup" emerges, let's discuss what I did know about Artists U as of November 14. Choreographer Andrew Simonet is founder and director of Artists U, operating initially from Phildelphia but now expanded to Baltimore and South Carolina. Facilitators include visual artists, educators, writers, performers, directors, and professionals from other disciplines.  The SC Artists U is open to 30 artists; applications were due September 13. The weekend intensive is part of the South Carolina Arts Commission's Artists' Ventures Initiative and is, I believe, the second occurrence of this event for the state. Here is what I know as of November 17: it is unnecessary to be expectant, anticipatory, or trepid. All I need to be is open. From the moment Andrew greets the ensemble ringing a horseshoe of tables, there is acceptance, validation, and encouragement. My fellow creatives are all ages, genders, ethnicities, and in different career stages. Okay, I do eagerly wish Friday evening would begin on time, as chitchat with tablemates is dwindling and refreshments are reduced to crumbs on plates. However, when the program officially begins, not for an instant does Andrew lose my attention. Participants are asked to bring a notebook and pen. Only. Handouts are provided, PowerPoints are absent, smartphones and computers are temporarily irrelevant. The facilitators - Tamara LaValla, Darion McCloud, David Mitchell, Karen Ann Myers, and Rodney Rogers - join in the discussion as appropriate and lead breakout groups. The SC Arts Commission has a supportive human presence - Program Director for the Initiative, Joy Young; Board Commissioner, Barbara Nwokikie; Program Director for Arts Participation, Susan DuPlessis; and Executive Director, Ken May. All of these totally engaged individuals are working as a team, just for us. Delicious. There is homework the first night: write a list of goals for what I want personally, professionally, and artistically in the next 2 years. No one checks the homework on Saturday; this is my job. I'm instructed to leave it alone for a week, then choose three goals (total), and write small steps for reaching the goals. It is helpful to be reminded of the concept of "small." I tend to conceive of artistic progress as going bigger. This weekend, I consider small as a way to go big. Without recounting a play-by-play as the intensive unfolds, I'll attempt to recapture its essence. If our art is mission driven, connected to our values; if we have community, manage our time and resources; if we think in terms of an art life versus career, then we can build one that is balanced, productive, and sustainable. Good stuff. Although It is a ubiquitous exercise - tell everyone one thing we don't know about you, it didn't fail to lighten the atmosphere and connect participants. Who knew that one can be an artist as well as a roller derby teammate? or a former medical photographer? or still hold a long jump record as a former gymnast? I find it is actually refreshing to rewrite my artist statement, and to hear how other artists deal with common issues. It is so relieving to be freed of the should's: the external and internal voices telling me I should be tweeting or tweaking. Unless tweeting and tweaking are relevant to my mission and are manageable. The sensation of being overwhelmed is not felt, even if I do have a handful of notes and handouts. Not overwhelmed even on Sunday, when I am one of the early recipients of an integral part of Artists U: one-on-one mentoring. Actually, my one-on-one is one-on-six, with Andrew and all the facilitators present. This session is clarifying and focusing as I look ahead to 2014 and beyond. Honestly, what a gift! I fully intend to consume my plateful of info and input from presenters and participants, until all is reduced to crumbs.
Via: Christina Laurel


Exhibition of soldiers’ art a celebration of recovery

For nearly a year, soldiers in the Wounded Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Jackson have created pottery and paintings as participants in Creative Journey, a monthly arts workshop designed to help soldiers recover from health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and brain injuries. Now their works of art will be exhibited at the City of Columbia Art Center's annual holiday sale on Nov. 23. Developed by Suzy Shealy, whose son died in Baghdad in 2005, and City of Columbia cultural arts coordinator Brenda Oliver, Creative Journey began in January 2013 and has served approximately 100 soldiers. "The program is indeed doing what it was designed to do -- provide art as a path to healing as part of the recovery process," said Oliver. "We have seen remarkable growth in many of the soldiers, and we want to celebrate their accomplishments with this exhibition. We encourage the public to come and see what the soldiers have created." One soldier who served two tours of duty in Iraq expressed his gratitude in a letter: "I came back (from Iraq) with chronic PTSD. I have been in and out of numerous hospitals since 2007. I am thankful for the people of Creative Journey. I tried working with clay and found it to be therapeutic. For so long it was my job to destroy. Although my battle is ongoing, I truly find a little solitude working with the clay (and) escaping from the war for a moment in time." All artists who work with the soldiers are volunteers and receive special training. Each soldier decides whether to participate in the program and which type of art they are interested in. The program is supported by monetary and in-kind donations from local businesses, arts organizations and service clubs. Creative Journey was recently recognized with a Program of Excellence Award from the South Carolina Recreation and Parks Association. "This is the only arts recovery program in the country for active members of the military that exists as a result of a partnership between city government and the military," said Oliver, who has big plans for 2014. "Our vision is to expand Creative Journey to veterans in other branches of the armed services." The Art Center's holiday sale takes place Saturday, Nov. 23, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Earlewood Community Center, 1113 Parkside Drive in Columbia. Several artists will sell ceramics, jewelry, paintings, and other items. The soldiers' work is not for sale, but a silent auction will benefit Creative Journey and help continue the work in 2014. Find out more about the sale on the Art Center's Facebook page. For more information about Creative Journey, contact Oliver at or (803) 545-3093.

Charleston Supported Art seeks local, emerging & established artists for inaugural year

Modeled after the popular Community Supported Agriculture movement in which consumers invest in a local farm and receive monthly deliveries of fresh produce, a new program is set to launch in early 2014 that will give Lowcountry art lovers the opportunity to purchase shares in exchange for original art created by a curated group of local, emerging and established artists. The program, Charleston Supported Art (CSA), is part of a nationwide Community Supported Art movement that has already spread to over 40 communities across the country and is the first of its kind in Charleston. CSA’s new model of art sponsorship and distribution supports artists in the creation of new work. Overall, 18 artists will be selected through a juried process and receive a stipend of $1,500 to create 32 pieces of fine art or fine craft, such as paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, ceramics, textile, jewelry and more. The program consists of three seasons per year with six artists per season – Spring/Summer, Fall and Winter. Shareholders will receive a total of six original works per season, one from each artist. Seasonal shares will be available for purchase at $450 beginning in February 2014. The shares will be delivered through special pick-up events for each season. The program aims to foster new relationships between buyers and artists with the potential for future art purchases. “People are more inclined to purchase and support a product that they feel a connection with,” says Kristy Bishop, visionary and co-founder of the program. “CSA offers a means to create that connection, providing artists a platform to showcase their talents to new audiences and allowing patrons to learn the story of the art and artist behind the work.” For artists, the advantage to participating in CSA extends far beyond the monetary stipend. Being a CSA artist means that your work is guaranteed to find a home with 32 patrons who may wish to deepen the relationship by buying additional work in the future. According to the New York Times article "'Buy Local' Gets Creative," the first CSA project was launched by Minnesota's Springboard for the Arts in 2010. The Charleston organizing group, however, was first inspired by the Brooklyn CSA+D (Community Supported Art + Design) project, according to Ann Simmons, one of CSA's founders. "We did end up purchasing the (Springboard) kit just to make sure we were covering all of our bases, but the real inspiration came from Brooklyn CSA+D. Kristy found out about that program through a friend who took part as an artist. Kristy emailed (the founding group) the link to CSA+D's website and asked the question, "Wouldn't this be an amazing project to try in Charleston?" Some of  us weren't familiar with the concept, while others had heard about other art CSAs throughout the country. Kristy's question sparked a conversation that led to the creation of Charleston Supported Art. We're the only CSA in South Carolina as far as we know." In addition to Bishop and Simmons, Charleston Supported Art founders include Camela Guevara, Stacy Huggins, Karen Ann Myers, Erin Glaze Nathanson, and AnneTrabue Nelson. Visual artists interested in participating in a season of CSA’s inaugural year should apply to the open call jury process set for November 1-December 2, 2013. Find out more or apply at Is there a Community Supported Art program forming in your community? Let us know about it! Via: Charleston Supported Art