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Susan DuPlessis

Rural arts and culture initiative expands to 15 counties

Addressing local issues with S.C. Arts Commission program

[caption id="attachment_45057" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Mavens join heads and hands to celebrate their local communities and discuss shared challenges in a January meeting in Eastover, South Carolina, hosted by Michael Dantzler. Shown l to r, mavens and their corresponding counties: Brooke Bauer, Catawba Indian Nation/York; Marquerite Palmer, Newberry; Lottie Lewis, Allendale; Betty McDaniel, Pickens; Victoria Smalls, Beaufort; Evelyn Coker, Barnwell; Audrey Hopkins-Williams, Hampton; Libby Sweatt-Lambert, Chester; Luis Rodriguez (seated), Marion; Johnny Davis, Jasper; Michael Dantzler, Richland; and Matt Mardell, Colleton. Photo credit: Sherard Duvall, OTR Media.[/caption]
For Immediate Release

Across South Carolina, an initiative called The Art of Community: Rural SC has taken root, creating new networks, community engagement, partnerships and energy to change minds and build communities together.

The initiative, a program of the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC), poses a central question: “How can we use arts and culture as strategic tools to address local challenges we face?” “It’s growing, and it’s always a learning opportunity,” said Matt Mardell, executive director of the Colleton Museum, Farmers Market and Commercial Kitchen in Walterboro, South Carolina. Mardell is one of the ‘mavens’ for The Art of Community; Rural SC. He said that, as part of this network of rural leaders and their teams, he is “hearing others’ creative solutions to issues we all face.” He and his predecessor, Gary Brightwell, have participated in the initiative with five other mavens from throughout a six-county Lowcountry region since it was conceived in 2015 and launched in 2016. Mavens in other counties include: Lottie Lewis of Allendale; Dr. Yvette McDaniel representing Bamberg; Evelyn Coker of Barnwell; Audrey Hopkins-Williams of Hampton; and Johnny Davis representing Jasper County. The growth Mardell references is an expansion of the initiative in 2019 that includes a broader swath of rural South Carolina. Nine additional mavens represent their communities from the mountains to the sea and myriad cultures in between. They include the following community leaders and their corresponding counties: Kayla Hyatt-Hostetler of Aiken; Victoria Smalls of Beaufort; Lydia Cotton of Berkeley; Libby Sweatt-Lambert representing Chester; Luis Rodriguez representing Marion; Marquerite Palmer of Newberry; Betty McDaniel of Pickens; Michael Dantzler of Richland; and Dr. Brooke Bauer with co-maven Laney Buckley of The Catawba Indian Nation in York County. How does the initiative work? “It’s a framework built with four critical components:  mavens, local teams, partners and advisors coupled with a state arts agency willing to invest in rural and tribal communities in a new way,” said Community Arts Development Director Susan DuPlessis of the arts commission. All 15 teams, created and led by the mavens, gather locally and as a statewide network to get to know each other better, to listen, and to consider their local assets and challenges—ultimately, to learn together. "Mavens are 'the bridges' who make this initiative work," DuPlessis said. "Knowing that I have a community beyond my community has bolstered me in my local work," said maven Lottie Lewis of Allendale. As part of this initiative, Lewis led members of her local team on a fact-finding field trip to Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, in 2019. They went to explore how another small, rural town had spurred connection and growth using arts and culture. They then planned to integrate some of that learning into their local project. “We learned so much from our new friends in Tamaqua,” Lewis said. “We were inspired by how they engaged their local community to share their ideas about where they live.” Allendale’s local project plan, though, along with the plans of the other 14 sites in this initiative, took an unexpected turn beginning in the spring of 2020. “We all had to shift in how we were engaging with one another and ask what our roles are in this moment of quarantine and separation,” according to DuPlessis who said many of the participating teams shifted their focuses to react to the circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic and mounting social justice issues. Since March 20, the arts commission has convened mavens in weekly meetings to continue the practice of sharing, listening and learning together. "That's what's been so important to me and other mavens who I now count as dear friends," Lewis said. She also notes the spirit of the initiative which, built on trust and relationships, has allowed for flexibility with grant-funded local projects in this “uncertain time.” Each of The Art of Community: Rural SC teams received a $7,500 grant award in FY20 to engage and build community in ways that use arts and culture strategically. “Project plans in January 2020 didn’t look the same three months later in March,” DuPlessis said. Some communities planning festivals and other gatherings have had to postpone those for now. In a number of cases, mavens and their teams retrofitted their projects to respond to the current context and include the following examples:
  • In Aiken, in addition to getting helpful information out about the pandemic, the local project also incorporated the NextGen fight for equality, justice and respect for all people through the creation of a ‘peaceful protest’ linking them with other students around the country;
  • In Allendale, the local project’s focus became community engagement through a celebration of frontline pandemic workers as ‘hometown heroes;’
  • In Bamberg County, the local team developed a 'Little People's Learning Page' to accompany the local newspaper and address learning in a fun, creative way for students who are isolated from one another;
  • In Barnwell County, the Town of Blackville team developed a new dance called ‘The Wagon Wheel’ to engage its residents on social media in a healthy activity during a time of isolation;
  • In Beaufort County, a collective of Gullah Geechee artists used their voices and talents for public service announcements that address safety protocols for the pandemic;
  • In Berkeley County, a Spanish-language video was created to remind its community of best practices for reducing infection rates; and
  • In Chester County, the town of Fort Lawn team partnered with local businesses and state parks to showcase artists' and entrepreneurs' work to help generate income during this time of economic distress.
[caption id="attachment_45056" align="aligncenter" width="600"] The Allendale Rural Arts Team, led by maven Lottie Lewis,  celebrated its Hometown Heroes June 19 with recognition of front line workers in the face of COVID 19; and the unveiling of a community mural by Hampton County artist Sophie Docalavich. Photo credit: Xavier Blake.[/caption] Other participating communities in the initiative bolstered their local project planning by addressing infrastructure and equipment needs as they anticipate future community gatherings, festivals and local engagement as part of their community building strategies. For instance, in Walterboro where the WHAM Festival, originally set for March 27-29, was cancelled, Matt Mardell re-examined the needs for this inaugural event by purchasing displays for exhibits and creating a website for the festival--WHAMfestival.org. The festival is now tentatively set for Oct. 23-25, 2020. Set within the framework of “arts plus economic development,” Mardell said, “I know when the festival does happen, we will be ready and even better prepared for it.” In addition to implementing local projects, all participants are invited to join additional activities and programs to build their own toolkits for considering the importance of ‘place’ in South Carolina and in their personal lives. They include a community writing workshop series; a field school offering instruction in documentary skills; and asset mapping workshops. These offerings are all coordinated by the arts commission’s Folklife & Traditional Arts Program. In addition to these activities, a rural networking program called CREATE: Rural SC engages rural creative professionals who serve as conduits between the mavens, the local creative economies and the arts commission. "These new networks and learning opportunities are bridging gaps and connecting us in ways we need to be connected in rural communities and across the state," Hampton County Maven Audrey Hopkins-Williams of Estill said. All 15 communities, along with the arts commission, partners and advisors constitute a ‘learning community’ that spans the state and the nation. Its story has been shared in national and state conferences from South Carolina to Iowa and Colorado; and from Detroit to Washington, D.C. using the voices and stories of mavens, advisors and emerging creative leaders. Also, with more than 25 partners in its national Advisory Council, this learning community has access to a wide range of sectors, insights, geographies and resources for community building using arts and culture. Co-chairs for the advisory council are Pam Breaux, president and CEO for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), headquartered in Washington; and Bob Reeder, program director for Rural LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), headquartered in New York City. Looking at the value of community engagement in rural America, Co-Chair Pam Breaux cites The Art of Community: Rural SC as an exemplar for state arts agencies across the country. "This work has become a leading example of ingenuity in funding, partnership and framework creation for state arts agencies across the country," she said. Art of Community: Rural SC Director Susan DuPlessis was invited to share the initiative at a National Press Club briefing in Washington in January 2018; Mardell of Colleton County joined her as the local voice and example of growth and development through arts and culture as demonstrated through the Colleton Museum, Farmers Market and Commercial Kitchen. More than 25,000 'views' resulted on social media from that presentation. The South Carolina initiative was also included within a rural action guide on developing prosperity, produced by the National Governors Association, the National Endowment for the Arts and NASAA. “This initiative is about re-imagining 'place' in terms of assets, not deficits,” said Co-Chair Bob Reeder whose professional work in the field of community development crosses the nation. “We're building on the strengths of local communities and the power of a network that connects to state and national resources,” he said. “Ultimately, this work is about changing minds.” Concurring with Reeder, Advisor Dixie Goswami of Clemson, South Carolina noted that the initiative makes visible local people, including young people, as "assets with wisdom and knowledge, not as deficient and needing outside help." Goswami is director of the Write to Change Foundation and director emerita of Middlebury Bread Loaf NextGen Network. "We're a state rich in creativity and ingenuity—and this initiative showcases some of that in our smallest communities" said SCAC Executive Director David Platts. "We are grateful to USDA-Rural Development for first believing in and funding this initiative in 2015. We've built a case for creative placemaking—the strategic use of arts and culture to address community issues—and this platform is being showcased nationally. The arts commission has also garnered more support for this approach from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation as well as funding from the South Carolina General Assembly. The Art of Community: Rural SC initiative is part of the Community Arts Development program of the arts commission and is one of three program areas that also include artist services and arts education. “Through this program, we continue to strive to meet our mission-‘to develop a thriving arts environment’ for the people and places in our South Carolina,” said Board of Commissioners Chair Dee Crawford of Aiken, South Carolina. “The arts are invaluable to our communities, both big and small. They are tools for growth, development and social cohesion in each and every county in our state.” Crawford also serves on the Advisory Council for Art of Community: Rural SC. The South Carolina Arts Commission is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and collaborates in its work with the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and South Arts. It received funding from USDA-Rural Development to launch this program in 2015; and additional USDA-RD funding from 2017 to 2019. It also has received support from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation for this initiative since 2018. More information about The Art of Community: Rural SC can be found at https://www.southcarolinaarts.com/community-development/programs/art-of-community-rural-sc/, including a recently produced film called Meet the Mavens and a brochure featuring all mavens representing 14 South Carolina counties and the Catawba Indian Nation in York County.
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 grants, direct programs, staff assistance and partnerships in three key areas:
  • arts education,
  • community arts development,
  • and artist development.
Headquartered in Columbia, 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.

Jason Rapp

SCAC program helps lead to debut album

Colleton singer goes country

[caption id="attachment_45014" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Promo photo of singer Jason Lee Cook standing in a field of high grass Jason Lee Cook, Colleton County artist.[/caption]
From Walterboro Live/Cindy Crosby:

"Local Jason Lee Cook will debut his country music album, “My Kind of Country,” Friday July 18 at 7 p.m. during an online CD release party.

A press release from Southern Roots Management of Nashville said Cook’s album will soon be available for purchase on all major distribution outlets including, Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, iHeart Radio, along with over a hundred major retailers, as well as at the recommended site, www.jasonleecook.com.

The release said, “This is Jason’s debut country music album, with the first two releases “Country To The Bone” and “The Song” already rising on independent country music charts. Jason’s debut single “Country to the Bone” has been named one of the finalists for Best Traditional Country Song at the Word Songwriting Awards. Jason is a member of BMI of Nashville, where he is a singer/songwriter, ISSA, International singer-songwriters Association, and the North Carolina singer/songwriters Association."

...

"According to Cook, he was connected through a mutual friend to BMI of Nashville. “It was there I was able to start a songwriting relationship,” said Cook. “My next step was someone to help with the recording process which led me to Southern Roots Management, with some extra help from the South Carolina Arts Commission. We recorded the album in December and January.”


Cook has been involved in the South Carolina Arts Commission program Art of Community: Rural SC for some time as a young creative in one of the six counties where the program first began. It now reaches rural communities in 15 South Carolina counties. Read Cindy Crosby's full story from Walterboro Live here.

Tuning Up: the SCAC at National Press Club, more

Good morning! "Tuning Up" is a new, morning series of posts 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...

(Image credit: South Carolina Philharmonic/Michael Dantzler)

Salkehatchie Arts hires new director

Salkehatchie Arts has announced that Susan J. Oswald, a local artist and lifelong resident of Allendale County, is the new director for Salkehatchie Arts. Her position will include management of the Salkehatchie Arts Center, a retail outlet for local artists, promoting arts in the Salkehatchie region, and assisting with Salkehatchie Stew, a storytelling initiative that promotes stories of the region through an original play each year. She comes to Salkehatchie Arts with extensive experience in management, retailing, wholesaling, marketing, and advertising. Oswald graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor of fine arts. She gained experience in retailing as the owner and operator of Country Flair, a retail business in Allendale, for 23 years.

Upon closing that business, she entered the wholesale fashion world as a multi-line manufacturer’s representative for five annual Women’s Apparel trade shows in the AmericasMart Atlanta and traveled a nine-state area as a manufacturer’s representative. During this period, she developed efficient marketing and advertising strategies to increase sales and acted as a link to provide customer service between retail stores and manufacturers.
In 2013, Oswald returned to Allendale to recapture a lifelong dream to paint. She has gallery representation in Allendale and Charleston, established an online presence and has been accepted into juried art competition/shows.
Salkehatchie Arts is a 501-c-3 nonprofit organization including Allendale, Barnwell, Bamberg, Hampton, and Colleton counties with a mission to foster cooperation between arts, economic, education, and community development groups. It supports the local artists and local economy, encourages future arts programs, helps to bring awareness to local arts resources, promotes tourism and the visability of the Salkehatchie Region, and enhances the production of arts and entertainment in the region.

Gullah Geechee artists and residents invited to community meetings

Gullah Geechee artists, residents and organization representatives are invited to a series of networking meetings hosted by the South Carolina Arts Commission and the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission. The goals of the meetings are to identify Gullah Geechee residents who practice or represent one or more of the expressions outlined in the Corridor’s management plan (music, arts, handicrafts, foodways, spirituality, language, education and economic development) and to gather ideas for developing awareness of the Gullah Geechee culture. The Arts Commission and the Corridor are partnering to create networks and resource opportunities.

To RSVP for either meeting, email sbauer@arts.sc.gov or call (803) 734-8687. Be sure to indicate which meeting you will attend: Each meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. and runs through 8 p.m.

The first meeting, held in Mt. Pleasant on Oct. 29, attracted a variety of community members.

“Our ultimate goal is to make new relationships that bring new resources to people and create interest in the Corridor – both in the state and beyond,” said Ken May, S.C. Arts Commission executive director. “We were pleased to have such a good turnout for the first meeting."

Those attending the meetings are encourage to share a "chatta" -- a seven-word essay describing a Gullah Geechee sentiment. Examples include: "Just the way we live. Embrace it!" and "Gullah Geechee wisdom. Listen to our ancestors." For additional information about the partnership, contact Arts Participation Program Director Susan DuPlessis, sduplessis@arts.sc.gov or (803) 734-8693. About the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor was designated a national heritage area by Congress on Oct. 12, 2006. The Corridor was created to recognize contributions made to American culture and history by African Americans known as Gullah Geechee, who settled in the coastal counties of South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida; to assist organizations in the four states in interpreting and preserving Gullah Geechee folklore, arts, crafts, and music; and to assist in identifying and preserving Gullah Geechee sites, historical data and artifacts for the benefit and education of the public. South Carolina counties in the Gullah Geechee Corridor are Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry, Jasper, Marion and Williamsburg. For more information, visit www.gullahgeecheecorridor.org.

Gullah Geechee residents invited to meetings celebrating culture

The South Carolina Arts Commission is pleased to partner with the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission to help connect Gullah Geechee artists, residents and organizations to resources and promote the state’s Gullah Geechee culture.

“Our goal is to identify Gullah Geechee residents who practice or represent one or more of the expressions outlined in the Corridor’s management plan,” said Ken May, S.C. Arts Commission executive director. “Those areas include music, arts, handicrafts, foodways, spirituality, language, education and economic development. We want to build relationships with Gullah Geechee artists and those who advocate for the preservation of Gullah Geechee culture and traditions. Our ultimate goal is to make new relationships that bring new resources to people and create interest in the Corridor – both in the state and beyond.” Gullah Geechee artists, residents and organization representatives are invited to learn more during a series of networking meetings that will be hosted by both the S.C. Arts Commission and the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission:
  • Oct. 29, Mt. Pleasant Waterworks Community Room, 1619 Rifle Range Road, Mt. Pleasant
  • Nov. 19,  The Frissell House at Penn Center, St. Helena Island, Beaufort County
  • Nov. 21, Georgetown County Library Auditorium, 405 Cleland St., Georgetown
Each meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. and runs through 8 p.m. “The Gullah Geechee Corridor’s partnership with the South Carolina Arts Commission hopefully will develop a template for use with other arts commissions throughout the Corridor,” said Ronald Daise, Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission Chairman. “We’re excited that the initial meeting is being held during Gullah Geechee Awareness Month, and we encourage Gullah Geechee artists in each community to participate. All ideas that are expressed will help to develop awareness of authentic representation of Gullah Geechee culture.” Those attending the meetings are encourage to share a "chatta" -- a seven-word essay describing a Gullah Geechee sentiment. Examples include: "Just the way we live. Embrace it!" and "Gullah Geechee wisdom. Listen to our ancestors." View the Oct. 29 mtg invitation. To RSVP for this meeting, email deona@dejogroup.com or call (843) 793-8684. For additional information about the partnership and future meetings, contact Arts Participation Program Director Susan DuPlessis, sduplessis@arts.sc.gov or (803) 734-8693. About the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor was designated a national heritage area by Congress on Oct. 12, 2006. The Corridor was created to recognize contributions made to American culture and history by African Americans known as Gullah Geechee, who settled in the coastal counties of South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida; to assist organizations in the four states in interpreting and preserving Gullah Geechee folklore, arts, crafts, and music; and to assist in identifying and preserving Gullah Geechee sites, historical data and artifacts for the benefit and education of the public. South Carolina counties in the Gullah Geechee Corridor are Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry, Jasper, Marion and Williamsburg. For more information, visit www.gullahgeecheecorridor.org.

Job opening: Colleton County Arts Council executive director

The Colleton County Arts Council is seeking an energetic, self-motivated individual with a heart for the arts to be its new executive director. Flexible schedule and growth opportunities. Base salary from 28K to 35K commensurate with experience and proposed work plan. Must be able to manage time wisely and manage teachers, performers and other contractors. The ED is responsible for program management, program development, supporting fund raising activities and overall marketing. A relevant degree is preferred, however equivalent experience is acceptable. For more information, or to apply, email CCARTS@lowcountry.com, or call Hank Amundson at (843) 599-0865. Job Description The executive director position is full-time including some evenings and weekends.  The ED works with and for the board of directors and reports directly to the board chairman.  The ED is responsible for attending monthly board meetings and providing a progress report to the full board.

  1. Program Management: Plan and implement all aspects of yearly artistic programs and handles all contracts with artists and performers.
  2. Fund Raising: Responsible for creating and evaluating an annual fund raising plan. The ED and board of directors are responsible for executing this plan together. The ED, board president and fund raising committee will evaluate the effectiveness of the organization in reaching goals according to the plan and will report to board quarterly on the progress of fund raising efforts.
  3. Budgeting: Work with the finance committee to develop an annual operating budget to be approved by the entire board.  Project specific budget will be created by the ED and shared with the finance committee. ED will manage cash flow, accounting and financial record keeping, which will be monitored by the CCAC treasurer. An outside CPA will handle the annual audit of fiscal operations.
  4. Personnel Management:  Hire, fire, manage and evaluate part time, full time paid staff AND volunteers. ED will provide job descriptions for staff and volunteers. Personnel will report directly to the ED (in the event that there is an issue with the ED, personnel will speak with the board chairman).
  5. Marketing:  Responsible for all marketing materials for the organization including:
    1. Sponsorship materials
    2. Direct mail appeal components
    3. Ads
    4. Fliers
    5. Managing social media (including the website)
    6. Newsletters
    7. Correspondence with donors (mailings)
    8. End of year / promotional materials (ie: annual reports, brochures, etc.)
    9. Public relations
  6. General Office Management: In the absence of a paid office manager, the ED will be responsible for all email correspondence, telephone calls, general maintenance of the building, etc.
(Editor's note: The organization's website is out-of-date, but provided here for reference.) Via: Colleton County Arts Council

Milly

New Harmonies exhibition explores the roots of American music

[gallery link="file"] Hartsville and Walterboro are the last South Carolina stops on the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibition, "New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music." New Harmonies explores Americans' creative expression through music -- music known by names such as the blues, country western, folk ballads and gospel. The instruments vary from fiddle to banjo to accordion to guitar to drum, but a drum in the hands of an African sounds different than one in the hands of a European or an American Indian. Yet all the rhythms merge, as do the melodies and harmonies, producing completely new sounds -- new music. Through photographs, recordings, instruments, lyrics and artist profiles, the exhibition explores the distinct cultural identities of music that shaped America and made this country the birthplace of more music than any place on earth. The story is full of surprises about familiar songs, histories of instruments, the roles of religion and technology, and the continuity of musical roots from "Yankee Doodle Dandy" to the latest hip hop CD. New Harmonies is on exhibition at the Black Creek Arts Council in Hartsville until Nov. 11. The exhibition then moves to the Colleton County Museum and Farmers Market in Walterboro from Nov. 17 - Jan.5.  Marlena Smalls and the Hallelujah Singers will perform at the opening Nov. 17. Developed as part of the Museum on Main Street program, New Harmonies is designed especially for small museums and rural audiences that lack regular access to traveling exhibitions. New Harmonies is sponsored in South Carolina by the Humanities CouncilSC. Photos (top, left to right): Blues "harpist" James Cotton. Spanish American musicians in Taos, New Mexico, 1940. American Indian Powwow, 2006. (bottom, left to right): Folk musicians, New York City, 1960s. Nathan Williams and his Zydeco Chas Chas, Louisiana. Roy Acuff at the Grand Ole Opry, 1939. Via: Humanities CouncilSC, Museum on Main Street