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All you need to know about S.C. Arts Awards Day

14 recipients to be honored May 1

  • Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts, Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award presented at ceremony
  • S.C. Arts Awards Luncheon & Art Sale to follow

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Two awards honoring high arts achievement in South Carolina will be presented to 14 recipients Wednesday, May 1, 2019 during South Carolina Arts Awards festivities at the UofSC Alumni Center in Columbia. The South Carolina Arts Awards, sponsored by Colonial Life, are a joint presentation of the South Carolina Arts Commission, South Carolina Arts Foundation, and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina to award the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards.

Awards Ceremony

Both awards will be presented at the awards ceremony at the UofSC Alumni Center (900 Senate St., Columbia), which begins with a reception from 10-10:45 a.m. The official ceremony begins at 11 a.m. S.C. Arts Commission Board Chairman Henry Horowitz and Executive Director Ken May will be joined by South Carolina First Lady Peggy McMaster to present the awards to each recipient. Nine recipients from their respective categories are being recognized with Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards for the Arts for outstanding achievement and contributions to the arts in South Carolina:
  • ARTIST: Tyrone Geter, Elgin
  • INDIVIDUAL: Kathleen Bateson, Hilton Head Island
  • ARTS IN EDUCATION (Individual): Simeon A. Warren, Charleston
  • ARTS IN EDUCATION (Organization): South Carolina African American Heritage Commission, Hartsville
  • BUSINESS: Hampton III Gallery, Taylors
  • GOVERNMENT: Florence County Museum, Florence
  • ORGANIZATION: The Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston
  • ORGANIZATION (Special Award): Town Theatre, Columbia
  • LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Cecil Williams, Orangeburg
Four artists and one advocate are being recognized with the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award as practitioners and advocates of traditional arts significant to communities throughout the state. Their traditions embody folklife’s dynamic, multigenerational nature, and its fusion of artistic and utilitarian ideals. They are:
  • John Andrew “Andy” Brooks (Liberty): Old-Time Music
  • Dorothy Brown Glover (Lincolnville): Quilting
  • Julian A. Prosser (Columbia): Bluegrass Music
  • The Voices of Gullah Singers (St. Helena Island): Gullah Singing
  • Dale Rosengarten, Ph.D. (McClellanville): Advocacy, African-American Lowcountry Basketry & Southern Jewish Heritage
McKissick Museum will celebrate this year’s Folk Heritage Award recipients at a mixer Tuesday, April 30 from 6-8 p.m., at the Blue Moon Ballroom (554 Meeting St, West Columbia). Admission is free for McKissick members or $5 for non-members. RSVP’s can be made, or tickets purchased, by going here. For more information, or to RSVP or purchase a ticket over the phone, call 803.777.2876.

S.C. Arts Awards Luncheon & Art Sale

The S.C. Arts Foundation will honor the recipients afterward during a fundraising luncheon at the UofSC Alumni Center (900 Senate St., Columbia). Works by South Carolina will be on sale from 11 a.m. to noon, with proceeds supporting S.C. Arts Commission programs. The luncheon program is expected to run from 12:30 to 2 p.m.
  • Unique ikebana flower arrangements, in partnership with Ikebana International Chapter #182 of Columbia, will serve as table centerpieces. Each arrangement, available for sale, will be presented in an included, original vase crafted by a South Carolina artisan.
  • Art experiences will also be sold.
  • The keynote speaker will be S.C. Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May, retiring at the end of June 2019 after 33 years at the agency and the past nine as its leader, giving a “State of the Arts” message.
  • Luncheon tickets are $50 per person and available for purchase through SouthCarolinaArts.com or by calling 803.734.8696.

About the South Carolina Arts Commission

With a commitment to excellence across the spectrum of our state’s cultures and forms of expression, the South Carolina Arts Commission pursues its public charge to develop a thriving arts environment, which is essential to quality of life, education, and economic vitality for all South Carolinians. 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.

S.C. Arts Awards: Cecil Williams

2019 Recipient Feature Series

As the day nears for the 2019 South Carolina Arts Awards, The Hub is taking 15 days to focus on this year's recipients: nine receiving the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts and five receiving the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, which are managed jointly by the South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at UofSC. In between the two groups, we'll run a special feature on S.C. Arts Awards sponsor Colonial Life.

Cecil Williams

Lifetime Achievement Cecil Williams is a professional photographer, videographer, publisher, inventor, and author. Born and raised in Orangeburg, his extraordinary life and career were shaped by the personal, economic, and political boundaries of segregated life during the Jim Crow Era South. He is perhaps best known for using his penetrating lens to document the struggle to achieve freedom, justice, and equality during the civil rights movement. By the age of 9, he had already begun his career in photography and by 15 was working professionally. From a childhood darkroom in Orangeburg to New York hotels with heads of state to the frontlines of protests and mass meetings around South Carolina, Williams has recorded remarkable moments from the past. He worked as a freelancer for JET magazine, the Baltimore Afro-Americana and the Pittsburgh Courier and as a stringer for the Associated Press. As a young journalist, Williams developed close associations with key Civil Rights figures who provided him unique access to events around South Carolina that were closed to outsiders and the mainstream press. The teenaged Williams documented the Clarendon County movement that led to Briggs v. Elliott, an important legal precedent for the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that desegregated public schools. He also captured the bravery of student protesters at South Carolina State College, desegregation at Clemson University and the University of South Carolina, the quiet heroism of teachers at the Elloree Training School who resigned from their jobs rather than renounce their affiliation with the NAACP and then and was there for the Orangeburg Massacre in 1968. When Lennie Glover, a Benedict College student, returned to the protest lines after a near-fatal stabbing, Williams was there, his camera focused on Glover’s determined steps down Columbia’s Main Street as he challenged segregation. An accomplished architect, he designed six residences that served as his home and art studio. He became an author in May 2006, publishing Out of the Box in Dixie, a photo-documentary. That publication’s sequel, Unforgettable, was released February 2018. Williams earned a degree in art from Claflin University and was recently appointed by Claflin as its historic preservationist. Williams is recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest award to an individual, and last fall received the Governor’s Award in the Humanities from SC Humanities. He owns Cecil Williams Photography, LLC in Orangeburg, and his new creation, the Cecil Williams Museum in Orangeburg, is slated to debut May 17, 2019.
South Carolina Arts Awards Day is Wednesday, May 1, 2019. The festivities begin at 10 a.m. with a reception that leads up to the awards ceremony at the UofSC Alumni Center (900 Senate St., Columbia). The event is free and open to the public. Following the ceremony, the South Carolina Arts Foundation honors the recipients and the arts community at the S.C. Arts Awards Luncheon and Art Sale. Tickets are $50. Please go here for more information and reservations.

Meet the Recipients

Use these links to read the long-form bios of the other 2019 South Carolina Arts Awards recipients.

Tuning Up: In the news

Good morning!  "Tuning Up" is a morning post series where The Hub delivers curated, 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...


A handful of S.C. Arts Awards recipients have made it into various publications recently, so we thought we'd share:
PS: We're hiring ICYMI! SCAC recently posted a new job opening. You have through April 19 to apply to be the artist services program director.

2019 Verner Award to honor nine South Carolinians

State's highest arts honor recognizes outstanding achievement and contributions

Awards to be presented May 1 at S.C. Arts Awards


COLUMBIA, S.C. – Nine South Carolinians are to be honored by the South Carolina Arts Commission with the 2019 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts—the state’s highest arts honor. The following recipients from their respective categories are being recognized for outstanding achievement and contributions to the arts in South Carolina:
  • LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:  Cecil Williams, Orangeburg
  • ARTIST:  Tyrone Geter, Columbia
  • INDIVIDUAL:  Kathleen (Kathi) P. Bateson, Hilton Head Island
  • ARTS IN EDUCATION: Simeon Warren, Charleston (Individual) S.C. African American Heritage Commission, Hartsville (Organization)
  • BUSINESS:  Hampton III Gallery, Taylors
  • GOVERNMENT:  Florence County Museum, Florence
  • ORGANIZATION: Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston Columbia Stage Society (Town Theatre), Columbia (Special Award)
Print and web images of recipients available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/plf40ffa55oxh5g/AAAksiSWeKNQxxytp5yBM8DQa?dl=0 “It is an honor and privilege to recognize individuals and organizations who live out the service, commitment and passion that help the arts thrive in South Carolina,” S.C. Arts Commission Chairman Henry Horowitz said. “Each of the Verner Award recipients makes a tremendous contribution not just locally, but they are honored for broad impact on the state’s arts community and beyond. These are outstanding ambassadors for our state." A diverse committee, appointed by the S.C. Arts Commission Board of Directors and drawn from members of the South Carolina community at large, reviews all nominations and, after a rigorous process, makes recommendations to the board for final approval after a series of panel meetings produces a recommendation from each category. The 2019 Verner Awards will be presented with the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards at South Carolina Arts Awards sponsored by Colonial Life on Wednesday, May 1 in a morning ceremony at the USC Alumni Center (900 Senate St., Columbia). The S.C. Arts Foundation will honor the recipients afterward during a fundraising luncheon. South Carolina artists’ work will be on sale to support the programs of the S.C. Arts Commission. Luncheon tickets are $50 per person and are to be available for purchase by mid-March. For more about the Verner Awards or the S.C. Arts Awards Luncheon, call 803.734.8696 or visit SouthCarolinaArts.com.

About the Verner Award Recipients

Cecil Williams (Lifetime Achievement), an Orangeburg native, is a professional photographer, videographer, publisher, inventor, author, and architect best known for his photographic documentation of the struggle to achieve freedom, justice, and equality during the Civil Rights struggle. By the age of 9, he had already begun his career in photography and by 15 was working professionally as a freelancer for such publications as JET and the Afro-American, and as an Associated Press stringer. The teenaged Williams documented segregated life in the Jim Crow era and the Clarendon movement that led to Briggs v. Elliott in the 1950s, countless protests and then desegregation at Clemson University and the University of South Carolina and was there for the Orangeburg Massacre in 1968. Williams, who received an art degree from Claflin University, owns Cecil Williams Photography, LLC and was recently appointed by Claflin as its historic preservationist. Williams is also recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest award to an individual, and Governor’s Award in the Humanities from SC Humanities. In a career that spreads across continents, Tyrone Geter (Artist Category) has built an international reputation as a world-class artist, painter, sculptor, illustrator, and teacher. Recently retired associate professor of art at Benedict College in Columbia, Geter received his Master of Fine Arts from Ohio University in 1978 with an emphasis on painting and drawing. In 1979, he relocated to Africa, living, drawing, and painting among the Fulani and local peoples of Northern Nigeria, “a lesson in the creative process that no art school would ever teach me.” Since, he has illustrated 30 children’s books, exhibited on four continents, and after relocating to South Carolina, until recently taught painting and drawing at Benedict and curated its Ponder Fine Arts Gallery. Kathleen P. Bateson (Individual Category) is president/CEO and executive producer of the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina – a past Verner Award recipient in the organization category. She is past president of the S.C. Arts Alliance board, served as chair and founding co-chair of the Arts & Cultural Council of Hilton Head; and was a founding member and is chair of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry’s Women in Philanthropy. Bateson is founder and president of Management for the Arts, a national firm specializing in NPO organizational restructure, institutional planning, strategic positioning and new business ventures. She has served as a cultural representative on international delegations to South Africa, China and Japan, and is herself a goldsmith and professional set designer. Simeon A. Warren (Arts in Education Individual Category) is a cathedral-trained stone carver, sculptor, and conservator. He holds a degree from the Glasgow (Scotland) School of the Arts, and his career has led to stone work at or on some of England’s major cathedrals (and even Buckingham Palace). In 2001 he emigrated to Charleston, where he was a founding faculty member at what became the American College of Building Arts in 2004. He developed college-level courses for professors, delivered the college’s licenses to recruit and to teach, hired the college’s faculty, and served as dean from 2006 to 2013. Warren owns a private architectural stone practice and is developing The Stone People Project, among other public art projects. The S.C. African American Heritage Commission (Arts in Education Organization Category) identifies and promotes the preservation of historic sites, structures, buildings, and culture of the African American experience in South Carolina, and assists and enhances the efforts of the S.C. Department of Archives and History. SCAAHC is a leader in integrating the arts into education resources, publishing the “Supplement to the Teacher’s Guide Integrating Art into Classroom Instruction” in 2016 and a subsequent revision last year. Since 1970, Hampton III Gallery (Business Category) has supported professional living artists and the estates of professional artists in or from South Carolina ranging from post WWII to the present. Hampton III Gallery’s vision of supporting artists and educating the public to the rich heritage of South Carolina artists continues into 2019. South Carolina’s oldest gallery has more than 500 paintings, sculptures and original prints in inventory. Changing exhibitions, artists’ talks, and special events provide educational opportunities for all. Consultation is available for private and corporate collections. Exhibitions change every 6-8 weeks. The public is invited to all events. The Florence County Museum (FCM) (Government Category) reflects the region’s rich artistic, cultural and historic heritage. Its permanent collection currently includes eight works by celebrated 20th century African American artist and Florence native, William H. Johnson and it is home to The Wright Collection of Southern Art, a volume of over 140 works representing some of the finest in 20th century Southern art (including some by Elizabeth O’Neill Verner). The FCM provides a platform for contemporary artists as host of the Pee Dee Regional Art Competition, South Carolina’s oldest juried art competition, since 1954. Since 1905, the Gibbes Museum of Art (Organization Category) has been a center for creativity for the visual arts. It provides more than 100 educational programs and events. Nine galleries spanning 300 years of art history are showcased to 60,000 visitors a year who discover, enjoy, and are inspired by the creative process. The museum loans 50 objects a year to the major U.S. art museums. Dynamic year-round programming engages, and the Gibbes continually develops new multi-dimensional education and outreach programs that expand the museum experience while offering exhibitions that stay relevant to current topics. Celebrating its 100th season in 2018/2019, Columbia Stage Society’s Town Theatre (Organization Category Special Award) provides quality, live, family-oriented community theatre and entry-level experience for those who wish to participate on or off stage. Every performance has open auditions, with all community members being encouraged to attend. On stage, Town Theatre’s current and alumni performers have appeared on Broadway, network television and in major feature films. Off stage, ample opportunity exists for community members to get involved as costumers, as set and backstage crew, by helping in the box office, or as ushers and house managers.

About the South Carolina Arts Commission

With a commitment to excellence across the spectrum of our state’s cultures and forms of expression, the South Carolina Arts Commission pursues its public charge to develop a thriving arts environment, which is essential to quality of life, education, and economic vitality for all South Carolinians. 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.

Photographer Cecil Williams tells students about growing up in the segregated South

[gallery ids="29482,29481,29480"] Note: The S.C. African American Heritage Foundation received an Arts in Education Project grant to help fund an artist residency featuring photographer Cecil Williams. Images above: The South Carolina Arts Commission's State Art Collection includes three works by Williams. (click on an image for larger view.) From SCNow.com Article and photo by Joe Perry

[caption id="attachment_29478" align="alignright" width="300"]Cecil Williams Cecil Williams[/caption] LAMAR, S.C. – Life under segregation in South Carolina was not easy, but Cecil Williams was there with his camera, capturing history as it was made. The 79-year-old Orangeburg native spoke on Jan. 9 to students at Lamar High School as part of a two-day residency that included a presentation that night at Black Creek Arts Council and an appearance at Mayo High School in Darlington. The residency is funded through the South Carolina African American Heritage Foundation and S.C. Arts Commission. Williams got his first camera when he was 9 years old as his brother’s interests turned to music and playing the saxophone. Williams was instantly enthralled with the Kodak “Baby Brownie,” he said, and he figured out “a little hustle” early on. With 12 exposures, he’d go to Edisto Gardens to photograph couples. Developing the film cost a dollar. “That means I would make 11 dollars,” he said, laughing. His career and subject matter, though, soon turned to how he saw the disadvantages African-Americans faced. As part of his slideshow, Williams shared photos that reached millions of people through publications such as Life and Newsweek magazines and The New York Times, while his primary employer was JET magazine. “How was it back then for African-Americans at the time?” he said. “When people, just because of the color of their skin, don’t have the same rights as other people?” Williams was chased out of the courthouse in Orangeburg for taking a photo of a restroom marked "Colored." Not one to shy away from controversy, he photographed a family victimized by the Ku Klux Klan. He told the students a cross was burned on their lawn because the grandson was deemed “sassy” for looking at a white person. His family’s heritage is Native American, Caucasian and African-American, he said, but they were considered people of color, and when a family trip to North Carolina came to a halt because their car broke down, they couldn’t find a place to stay. “This was probably what would be I-95 today,” he said, showing a photo of the broken-down car and his family. One of his most requested photos, he told the students, was from a march in downtown Orangeburg with students holding signs that said "FREEDOM" and "DOWN WITH SEGREGATION." Another of his well-published photos depicted teachers in Elloree fired for refusing to disavow the NAACP. He recalled he was probably paid $50 for a photo, which was a significant amount at the time “and encouraged me to go forward.” One of his most exciting times was personally meeting John F. Kennedy, then a Massachusetts senator who was aspiring to become president. “I became a good acquaintance of him and shared my pictures with him,” he said, and Williams even wrangled a seat on Kennedy's campaign plane as the lone member of the press. The most pivotal time of his life and career came in 1968, several years after the landmark Civil Rights Act had been passed under President Lyndon B. Johnson. “Everything had been opened up,” he said. “But not in Orangeburg, South Carolina.” A bowling alley that was still segregated prompted a demonstration by students that resulted in a melee ending with the shooting deaths of three African-American men. “Total disregard for human life,” he said. “They injured 27 and killed three young men, who were my friends, just because they wanted to bowl in a bowling alley, and they wanted the right to demonstrate.” Whether it was the Orangeburg Massacre or demonstrations in Columbia and Charleston, Williams said, he wasn’t there solely to capture history. “At the time it was unavoidable and, you might say, the thing to do,” he said. “Had I not been there with a camera, I would have been there as a student or participant myself. So I was an eyewitness and participant.” At one point in his life, Williams said, he wanted to study architecture at Clemson University but wasn’t able to because of his skin color. He nonetheless designed several homes and has spent time with inventions as well; one of those, the Film Toaster, is something he spent years tinkering with. Used to digitize decaying negatives, the Film Toaster – patent pending – has allowed him to preserve his legacy and ensure his archives remain in good shape. With grant funding, there are five Claflin University students working with two Film Toasters to keep his historical record intact. “I’m trying to show what it was like growing up in the middle of a revolution, one of the most significant revolutions of mankind,” Williams said. “It made America and the world a better place.”

FilmToaster: Acclaimed photographer Cecil Williams invents tool to preserve negatives

Note: Three photographs by Cecil Williams are in the State Art Collection. From the Orangeburg Times and Democrat Article and photo by Princess Williams

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” or so goes the old saying. If that's true, an award-winning Orangeburg photographer's body of work over several decades speaks volumes about the history he has chronicled with his cameras. Cecil Williams has captured once-in-a-lifetime moments dating back to the Civil Rights Movement. He is also an "inventor," with his most recent creation being a tool called the FilmToaster, which preserves negatives. Williams, who has worked for JET Magazine and owns a photography studio, Cecil Williams Photography LLC, created the tool that enables users to put their film in digital format. “Digital offers (film) a new lease on life,” Williams said. Williams began taking photos in 1947 at the age of 9. Since then, he has accumulated approximately a half-million to a million negatives. He recently recognized that about 2,000 of his negatives were in peril. They had begun to crack, coil and become damaged. “I was alarmed at the rate of the decline. This happens just like cancer. It spreads,” Williams said. Each of the damaged negatives has to be discarded because they've dried out and can catch fire easily. “As they become inflammable -- if I didn’t weed these out where all my other negatives are stored, it could be dangerous,” Williams said. “Our heritage, our history, our legacy, our culture lies in someone taking the responsibility to save archives like my collection,” he said. Williams was driven to find a solution to the problem in order to save his negatives. He began to experiment to find a less time-consuming tool than the flatbed scanner most photographers use. “I got to thinking about it. I said, ‘Well, with today’s digital cameras, why not take a picture of (the negatives)?' " he said. The FilmToaster takes a photo of the negatives in less than 5 or 6 seconds, preserving and converting the negative into digital format, which takes less time than the flatbed scanner. “My product does it faster and with higher resolution. At the most, I don’t care how expensive you go with a flatbed -- it’s still limited to do about 10 or 8 or 6 megabytes. Wherein, if I take a 24- or 36-megabyte camera, I’ve then got a 24- or 36-megabyte copy of my negative. The more resolution, the higher the quality of it," Williams said. His invention has "slots" that enable its users to put different sizes of film inside. “It’s probably the only one in the world that does that. I can use 35 millimeter; I can use slide film; I can use medium format; I can even use 4x5,” Williams said. A replaceable light source is used at the bottom of the FilmToaster. “This whole unit is completely passive. It has no electricity within itself or any electronic components. Therefore, it won’t go out, neither will it become obsolete,” Williams said. Users can always add new cameras by way of the filters, and they can always add a new light if the light should burn out, he noted. Williams compares his invention to "a horse, a saddle and a rider." “The FilmToaster is the saddle because the camera can 'ride' on this device that I’ve created in this cozy environment in order to get a closeup picture and duplicate your negative," he said. “Once your negative is digital, then you can put it on the computer. You can add metadata to it. You can use digital asset management software to further identify when it was or who it was in the picture.” Williams debuted the FilmToaster at the New York Photo Expo in October. About 35,000 photographers attend the expo each year. The FilmToaster is currently being sold online on Amazon, eBay and on Williams’ website atwww.filmtoaster.photography for $2,399. Within a five-month period, he has sold 63 FilmToasters. He uses Google Analytics to monitor the locations of his potential buyers. Currently, the machine and its components (four film carriers) are made in Nova Scotia. “Frequently, my customers have questions. I give support also, along with selling of the merchandise,” Williams said. “You have to know something about macro photography to be versatile with this.”
Creating the FilmToaster was about a six-year task for Williams. He is awaiting a provisional patent.
Williams also has created two other inventions during his career, but he did not patent them or follow through on them. He markets the FilmToaster through his own developing list of potential buyers, such as museums, archiving places and photographers. The FilmToaster has been mentioned in USA Today and has been described as the "Object of Desire" by PDN Magazine, an award-winning publication for the professional photography industry. Williams has been appointed the director of Historic Preservation at Claflin University. “We will have work-study students who will be working with the FilmToaster. They’ll be helping me scan my vast collection of negatives -- at the same time, gaining practical experiences," he said. Williams was recently selected to receive the Herbert A. DeCosta Jr. Trailblazer Award for extraordinary accomplishments in his profession by the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission. The award recognizes exceptional achievement by South Carolinians in the arts, science, government, economics and academics. Congressman James "Jim" Clyburn is also a recipient of the Trailblazer Award. Williams, 78, says it has become extremely difficult to stay ahead in the photo and digital technology world because "everyone thinks they’re a photographer." “However, I would call myself a real photographer. I go beyond what a lot of the instant picture-taking does today through cellphones and digital cameras,” he said. “I think I stay ahead by doing things other people cannot do ... " Williams calls himself the "Energizer Bunny," saying he doesn’t stop when it comes to his craft. “I am passionate about history, technology, photography and art," he said. "I feel that in order to be good at something, you have to go beyond the ordinary amount of time that you devote to it to learn about it, become an expert in it and overcome the challenges that may come about.”

Orangeburg artist rediscovered: new book, exhibit pay homage to James Green Jr.

From the Orangeburg Times and Democrat:

An obscure Orangeburg abstract artist may not be able to fully comprehend his legacy because of his life-altering mental illness that began in 1962. “James Green Jr. will probably never pick up another paint brush, but we will see where the Lord takes him,” says Annie Green-Purvis, the artist’s sister. Green’s art was rediscovered in late July after being stored for decades in the upstairs attic of the family homestead in Orangeburg. Purvis and renowned photographer Cecil Williams have teamed up to create a 200-page, large-format coffee table book paying homage to the rediscovery of Green’s highly creative work and the heartrending story of how his career and life were impacted by mental illness. The public is invited to the unveiling of “Timeless Expressions: The Rediscovered Art of James Green Jr.,” a book signing and art exhibit, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 16, in The Carolina Room at The Cinema. The Orangeburg Area Mental Health Center is the co-sponsor of the event; a portion of the proceeds from the book and original art sales will benefit that agency. “Green’s story is a phenomenal modern-day art treasure discovery,” said Williams, publisher of the book. What the pair describe as an extraordinary art discovery began when Annie, the book’s author, called Williams and suggested they take a more exhaustive look at her brother’s work. The treasure hunt through the attic uncovered a collection with more than 400 works of art in boxes that had not been opened in more than 40 years. Remarkably, Green’s collection of acrylics, oils, sketches and sculpture remained sequentially intact. After hours spent viewing the collection, he was “astounded by the rich treasure we had uncovered,” Williams said. The collection, which spans 26 years, represents the complete artistic works created by the artist — from his high school through his college years and beyond. Williams and James “Jimmy” Green Jr. are no strangers. Their close friendship began in the 1950s. They were best friends and partners in tennis doubles, winning against opponents all the way to the finals of the American Tennis Association, Williams noted. At that time, ATA was the only tennis organization that sponsored national and regional tournament competition for African-American players — men, women, juniors and boys. ATA was the catalyst for tennis greats Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson. The same year Green graduated from Wilkinson High School, the skilled left-handed tennis player was the ATA’s 1954 junior singles title champion. His prowess and ability to put a spin on the ball that made it difficult to return earned him several trophies and junior championship titles nationally and in the Southeast. “Jimmy assisted me in graphic arts when I was editor and photographer of our high school newspaper and yearbook, ‘The Wilkinsonian,’” Williams said. More than 200 images are reproduced in the soon-to-be released book of Green’s work. “Until now, none of the artist’s art has ever been reproduced, sold or offered to be sold. Only a few works of art have ever been exhibited or shown to the public,” Williams said. “Even in his hometown of Orangeburg, very few people know about or have seen the talent of this gifted artist.” He said that’s extremely unusual because by the time most artists reach the pinnacle in their career, they have sold their art to patrons and collectors. “Green’s abstracts represent art that is sometimes independent of known visual references. He uses color, pattern, form and lines that are a departure from reality. However, his portrait drawings in charcoal, conte´ (French crayon) and pen and pencil are quite realistic,” Williams said. “Miraculously, his abstract paintings of 30 and 40 years ago closely resemble current trends in modern abstract art.” If they were alive today, Purvis is confident that her parents, James Henry Green Sr., an accomplished architect from Rowesville, and Maggie Miles Green, a homemaker from St. Matthews, would be extremely proud of their only son’s achievement. Green’s artistic abilities were likely inspired by his father, who taught industrial arts at Wilkinson High School after graduating from Claflin Trade School and South Carolina State College. While in Professor W.W. Wilkins’ class at Claflin, he and another student designed Trinity United Methodist Church. In later years, the senior Green went on to design Trinity’s parsonage, which is now used as the church’s office. “In addition to other buildings around the city, he also designed and built our house at 792 Chestnut Street, where James’ paintings were stored,” Purvis said. She and her sister, the late Martha Green Hunter, both graduated from Claflin College with degrees in health and physical education and elementary education, respectively. After graduation, James Jr., with the help of the late Dr. Clemmie Webber, choose to attend Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. While there, he made a name for himself on the university tennis team and became a member of Beta Sigma Tau Fraternity. After his junior year at OWU, Green left to attend the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois while supporting himself as a part-time employee with the United States Postal Service. At age 26, while studying at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts in 1962 at the urging of his sister Martha, Green began experiencing medical problems. “To this day, we don’t really know exactly what caused them. Sometimes life throws us a curve. How we handle that curve can determine where life takes us,” Purvis said. She and her husband, Vietnam veteran William Purvis, moved their young family back to Orangeburg to help care for her brother. Leaving the house only for necessities, he lived in a deep state of depression and isolation, Purvis said. In 2007, his medical condition worsened when his kidneys failed and he had to go on dialysis. Green, who is now 78, never married and has no children. He is a resident of the Calhoun Convalescent Center in St. Matthews. Although the center offers a wide range of activities, Green is said to only attend the religious activities that have been his foundation since childhood. Aside from his artistry, Purvis admires her brother as a visionary who aimed “to excel in fields that were just opening up to African Americans. Maybe, he wanted to prove a point — that blacks can be just as good as any other race in whatever field they choose.” “As I think many will see through the art presented in this volume, had it not been for an illness in his life, James could have been one of the brightest and upcoming artists in this country,” she said. “My reason for this book project is to share with others how talented he was, that he did something with his life and, hopefully, he will be recognized for his creativity.” For additional information about the book signing and the art exhibit, call Annie Purvis at 803-536-2357 or Cecil Williams at 803-531-1662.
Image: "Desota Musicians," an acrylic on masonite painting by James Green Jr., ca. 1967