← View All Articles

Ken May to retire from S.C. Arts Commission

33-year tenure comes to an end this June

[caption id="attachment_38568" align="aligncenter" width="600"] May at S.C. Arts Awards Day in May 2018. Photo by Zan Maddox/Social Design House[/caption] Ken May will retire from leading the South Carolina Arts Commission in 2019 after 33 years working to improve equity in and access to the state’s arts, culture, and traditions. May, executive director for the past nine years, carved out his niche by leading the arts commission’s efforts to provide equal access to publicly funded grants and programs. Under his leadership, the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) earned bipartisan support, and it is widely considered a driver of the state’s $9.7 billion creative economy. With a new legislative session just beginning, May is to remain in place to shepherd the SCAC’s legislative agenda before stepping away at the end of June. “Early in my working life, after a few years in for-profit business, I became sure of two things: that I wanted to work in the arts, which have always been my passion, and that I wanted to be of service—to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Working at the South Carolina Arts Commission has given me an extraordinary opportunity to do both of those things, and I am deeply grateful for that,” May said.
When May became director of the Commission in 2010, the agency faced significant challenges from a severe economic downturn and a hostile political climate. Under his leadership, the agency rallied its supporters, weathered the political storm, and emerged leaner and better-funded to meet its mandate of service to all South Carolinians. In the most recent fiscal year, the SCAC distributed more than $4 million in grants to 44 of 46 counties. Through staff assistance, partnerships, programs, and grants, the agency served all 46 counties in the areas of community arts development, artist career development, and arts education initiatives. “Ken has served our state admirably during a distinguished career, and he cares deeply and works tirelessly to advance the arts in South Carolina,” SCAC Board of Directors Chairman Henry Horowitz of Greenville said. “This is a loss for the statewide arts community, but it has advanced to lofty places and serves more citizens and visitors because of Ken’s hard, diligent work. He’s leaving the agency in a great position with a terrific reputation on state and national levels.”
Throughout his long tenure at the Arts Commission, May played a key role in shaping the agency’s signature programs and initiatives. He was one of the principal architects of the Arts in Basic Curriculum Project, which has driven statewide improvement in arts education for all students for more than 30 years, and he continues as the longest-serving member of that project’s coordinating committee. As primary grant writer for the commission, May designed and secured funding for major initiatives to use the arts for rural community development, enhance community design, build public participation in the arts, and help artists build sustainable working lives in South Carolina. He also led long range planning and directed agency efforts to bring grantmaking into the digital age and to make grant processes more transparent and equitable. Presently, May is expanding the SCAC’s national profile by serving on nationwide boards for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and Grantmakers in the Arts. He also serves on the board for South Arts, a consortium of nine southern state arts agencies based in Atlanta. His recent focus on those boards has been to help funders work toward equity in the distributions of grant funds and other resources.
Incoming SCAC Board Chairwoman Delores "Dee" Crawford of Aiken will assume leadership on July 1. She praised May’s work. “Ken guided the Arts Commission to make significant progress in several rural South Carolina communities. The ‘Art of Community: Rural S.C.’ program is a national model for others to find success using the arts to revitalize places where other solutions failed. Our artists are turning into entrepreneurs, helping themselves make sustainable careers and changing the outlook in their communities,” Crawford said. “We, the commissioners, appreciate Ken’s dedication and leadership.” A nationwide search is underway to fill the executive director position, which has been posted with a full job description. Crawford hopes a new executive director is in place by the time May leaves. She is hopeful the next executive director expands on the work in rural communities and makes it a goal to develop more leaders in the arts statewide.

Full Statements

KEN MAY

Executive Director | South Carolina Arts Commission

“Early in my working life, after a few years in for-profit business, I became sure of two things: that I wanted to work in the arts, which have always been my passion, and that I wanted to be of service—to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Working at the South Carolina Arts Commission has given me an extraordinary opportunity to do both of those things, and I am deeply grateful for that.”  

Henry HorowitzHENRY HOROWITZ

Chairman | South Carolina Arts Commission

“On behalf of SCAC board of directors, we greatly appreciate Ken’s service to our agency and outstanding job in managing the agency over the course of 33 years. Ken has served our state admirably during a distinguished career and he cares deeply and works tirelessly to advance the arts in South Carolina. This is a loss for the statewide arts community, but it has advanced to lofty places and serves more citizens and visitors because of Ken’s hard, diligent work. He’s leaving the agency in a great position with a terrific reputation on a state and national level. We wish him the best of success in his retirement and new endeavors.”  

DELORES "DEE" CRAWFORD

Incoming Chairwoman | South Carolina Arts Commission

“Ken guided the Arts Commission to make significant progress in several rural South Carolina communities. The ‘Art of Community: Rural S.C.’ program is a national model for others to find success using the arts to revitalize places where other solutions failed. Our artists are turning into entrepreneurs, helping themselves make sustainable careers and changing the outlook in their communities. We, the commissioners, appreciate Ken’s dedication and leadership.”

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.

Milly

South Carolina Arts Commission elects new officers

A new team is charting the course for the South Carolina Arts Commission's new fiscal year.  After four years of leading the Commission, Dr. Sarah Lynn Hayes of Rock Hill is stepping down as chairman. "We owe a big thank you to Sarah Lynn," said S.C. Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May. "She has been an active leader in the agency's accomplishments and a tireless ally during tough times. The statewide arts community is stronger because of her support." Greenville businessman Henry Horowitz takes over as chairman after two years of serving as vice chairman.  Entrepreneur Delores "Dee" Crawford of Aiken will serve as vice chairman, and Hayes will continue on the executive committee as immediate past chairman. "The Commission is in good hands," said May. "Our officers' business acumen and advisory experience will be key assets as we continue to work with the state legislature and partner with other organizations to ensure that the arts thrive in our state.” Henry Horowitz Horowitz is the co-founder, principal and managing partner of Oxford Capital Partners LLC, a real estate investment firm in Greenville, S.C. and Dallas, Texas. He is a managing principal of MedProperties Holdings LLC, a private equity firm in Dallas. Previously, he served as president of RealtiCorp and in various executive management roles with Insignia Financial Group. Horowitz is chairman emeritus and founder of Greenville’s Artisphere Festival and serves on the Bon Secours Health System Board of Directors and the Wells Fargo Bank S.C. Regional Advisory Board of Directors. He is the former chair of the Metropolitan Arts Council of Greenville and former president of the Charity Ball Board of Directors. Horowitz previously served as vice chairman for the Arts Commission. Dee CrawfordCrawford is president of a McDonald's organization that includes seven restaurants with more than 400 employees. She serves on the advisory boards of USC Aiken School of Business, the USC Aiken Inclusion Advisory Council and the Center for African American History, Art and Culture of Aiken County. She is an advisor to the Board of Directors of Juilliard in Aiken and a Fellow of the Riley Diversity Leadership Institute at Furman University. Sarah Lynn HayesHayes is director of the Central Child Development Center, which serves 350 at-risk four-year-olds in Rock Hill schools. She also co-owns Events per se, an event planning and management company in Rock Hill. She is past president of the Arts Council of York County. The Arts Commission Board is composed of nine volunteer citizens appointed at large for three-year terms by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate for the purpose of guiding the development of the arts in the state. Commissioners are residents of South Carolina who are selected for their practice of, participation in or support of the creative and interpretive arts. The Commissioners meet regularly to take action on funding and formulating policy for the Arts Commission. For more information about S.C. Arts Commission programs and services, visit www.SouthCarolinaArts.com or call (803) 734-8696. About the South Carolina Arts Commission: The South Carolina Arts Commission is the state agency charged with creating a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their location or circumstances. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts by providing services, grants and leadership initiatives in three areas: arts education, community arts development and artist development. Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the Arts Commission is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources.