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Conway artist uses Artists’ Ventures Initiative grant to make studio wish come true

Letters of Intent for the next round of AVI grants are due Dec. 15. Barbara Streeter, owner of Conway Glass, received an Artists' Ventures Initiative grant of $5,000 for the Conway Open Studio project, a six-month arts initiative to invigorate the arts in downtown Conway, S.C. This account of her experience was originally posted on her blog.
Can Conway be a cool art town?Barbara Streeter by Barbara Streeter

If you had told me a year ago that I would be creating glass in this beautiful studio, I probably would have said, “I wish!” But, through planning, hard work (with the help of friends & family), artist collaborations, a S.C. Arts (Commission) Grant, customer and sponsor support and a bit of serendipity, we pulled it off. The expanded studio is really better than we imagined. It’s a joy to work in the new space...the workflow and positive chi is inspiring. We now have an organized work area for everything we do.

This all began with a meeting in Myrtle Beach hosted by the Myrtle Beach Museum and the South Carolina Arts Commission. Joy Young, S.C. Arts Commission Coordinator for Horry County, presented an informative seminar outlining the grant opportunities available for artists and nonprofits. A few months later Joy sent me a link to the upcoming S.C. Artists' Ventures Initiative Grant. She thought this grant would be a good fit for our business. Had I not attended that meeting, I probably would have missed that opportunity. Joy’s e-mail gave me hope; I was fired up!

The process of applying for the S.C. Artist Ventures Initiative Grant was at first intimidating, until I looked at it in a completely different way. I realized that the documents they were asking for were items I should have readily available anyway. So I did that part first. I struggled over and wrote my artist statement, I polished and updated my resume, I assembled my best photos in the required formats and I added the grant and upcoming art show deadlines to my calendar. I updated my portfolio as well. These are all the basic items I would need for grant applications and art show entries for the upcoming year. With that, half the job was done! I applied and was awarded the S.C. Artists' Ventures Initiative Grant in August 2014. I’ll write about how I tackled the program proposal and the budget part of the application in a future post. Leveraging the money for the project matching funds proved to be the most challenging aspect of pulling my plan together. The S.C. Arts Commission releases funds based on expenditures. In other words, “spend the money, then we’ll reimburse you.” The grant is for $5,000 with a requirement for matching funds of $2,500. When I applied for the grant I assumed the $2,500 matching funds would be available through our business, Conway Glass. Unfortunately, we had an unexpected expense that took those funds. I didn’t want to postpone our renovations and our upcoming projects, so I decided to create a KICKSTARTER campaign. The campaign’s goal was to raise the matching funds. It was a super success! The KICKSTARTER helped us gain new customers, raise over $3,000 and create an art buzz in the community. With total funds of $8,000, I was able to begin the installation of new technology, energy efficient lighting, advertising, fuel for the glass furnace, color and glass batch. We now had everything we needed to kick off the Conway Open Studio Project. In addition, we can now record our classes, demonstrations and other events, right from the studio floor. We’ll soon be able to live-stream our events. Yes, we are moving into the 21st century. Tom Anderson Construction and John Isle Construction played a big part in making this all happen. We couldn’t have completed the renovation without their help. I left the demolition, bathroom, plumbing and electrical work to the experts and they did an excellent job. Tom Anderson Construction (our landlord) also installed a new firewall, which completely transformed the studio space. In addition, this semester I am completing an Independent Study at Coastal Carolina University. The study documents art events, workshops, and artists collaborations in downtown Conway, S.C. It also provides written analysis on how processes developed during the study could help other rural communities through the arts. My goals are to:
  1. Successfully coordinate new initiatives into existing Conway Glass Studio environment.
  2. Collaborate with others to achieve successful marketing outcomes.
  3. Expand and develop community involvement in the arts in Conway South Carolina.
  4. Critically reflect on successes and disappointments during the South Carolina Arts Commission grant period in order to incorporate benefits into future initiatives.

Furthermore, the October First Saturday Glass Blowing Demonstrations were “standing room only” with over 400 visitors that day! Our Experimental Glass Theatre event held on November 8th was a huge success and glass blowing classes at Conway Glass are almost sold out for 2014!

Overall, I heard many positive comments...the best being “I feel like I’m in a cool town that really cares about art!” I guess that sums up what we need in this sleepy little town. A little fun, cool art projects and lots of hot glass activity.