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ArtsGrowSC – Expanded Funding for Arts-Based Businesses

The South Carolina Arts Commission and CommunityWorks (CW), a community development finance institution based in Greenville, are collaborating on a pilot program designed to increase opportunities for artisans to develop and grow arts-based business ventures that contribute to the $9.2 billion generated by the state’s core creative industries. The ArtsGrowSC pilot will combine the strengths of both organizations to offer resources for qualifying artists, including a savings program, micro-loans, business venture loans, grants, personalized coaching and workshops.

The project is the next logical step for the Arts Commission’s artist development work and its Artist Ventures Initiative Program, says Executive Director Ken May. “Our Artists Ventures Initiative grant provides funding to launch or revamp an arts-based venture, but the grant is a one-time opportunity. Many of those funded artists are now ready for the next level of growing their businesses, and that growth is key to the vitality of the state’s creative economy.  This new collaboration provides CommunityWorks with a pool of artisans vetted through our grants process and helps connect those artisans to much-needed capital through their matched savings programs and loans. The collaboration also adds a funding resource for artists beyond the Arts Commission’s limited grant dollars.” CommunityWorks recognizes that artisans often operate as small business ventures. According to CW’s President/CEO Deborah McKetty, “We hear a lot about jobs created when large corporations set up shop in South Carolina. However, microbusiness development could become an important second-tier economic development strategy for fostering wealth and creating jobs within low-wealth communities.” McKetty is eager to offer CommunityWork’s resources in other parts of the state. “A successful pilot project will enable us to expand our portfolio. Our goal is leveraging funds to grow the creative industries statewide while also recognizing the role artisans and arts-based businesses play in community economic development. We anticipate reaching deeper into the arts community through the Arts Commission’s networks. ” The pilot was launched May 1 in Spartanburg, where creative businesses are fueling economic growth throughout the county. In 2014, Chapman Cultural Center’s “Culture Counts” project identified a growing cluster of creative industries in Spartanburg County. “We believe that this new financing mechanism will help others to jump start or expand their creative businesses to scale,” said Chapman Cultural Center CEO and President Jennifer Evins. “Creative industries and creative workers are very important to providing innovation and creativity to manufacturing, technology and research. We also hope that this new path to economic prosperity for artists will attract creatives from other states to relocate to Spartanburg and South Carolina.” Joy Young, the Arts Commission’s program director for Leadership and Organizational Development, as well as the Artists Ventures Initiative, added, “ArtsGrowSC is a perfect union of resources – arts, financial, personal and professional – to support arts-based business ventures." ArtsGrowSC is comprised of three components targeted to artists based upon their locale and business readiness: Individual Development Account (IDA) for Artisans – This matched savings program will initially focus on Spartanburg-area artisans. Those who qualify will commit to saving an agreed-upon amount of money over six months. CommunityWorks will then match the savings at a 3:1 rate; an artisan who saves $1,000 will receive a match of $3,000. Funds may be used to purchase long-term assets such as equipment or to open a small business. IDA to Artists Ventures Initiative (AVI) – Artisans who take part in the initial IDA program may then qualify for the IDA to AVI program. Artisans receive personalized coaching from the Arts Commission and may apply for an Arts Commission matching quarterly grant to receive business training from a recognized business development source. Additionally, the Arts Commission will help in preparing the Artists Ventures Initiative grant application. Artists Ventures Initiative Business Builder Loan Program – Artists are invited to expand their ventures with a business loan of up to $15,000 from CommunityWorks.  The micro-loan could be leveraged with an IDA account. Previous AVI grantees receive priority; however, any artist may apply. Previous AVI grantees may apply for an Arts Commission AVI-Expansion matching grant of up to $1,500 to assist with application and closing fees. For more information about ArtsGrowSC, contact Joy Young, (803) 734-8203.  

Florence is the newest South Carolina Cultural District

The South Carolina Arts Commission has named downtown Florence as the newest state-recognized cultural district. A cultural district is an easily identifiable geographic area with a concentration of arts facilities and assets that support cultural, artistic and economic activity. The cultural district designation was created by the S.C. General Assembly and Gov. Nikki Haley in 2014. The City of Florence and the Florence Regional Arts Alliance worked with local leaders and Arts Commission staff to develop a map of cultural assets and a strategic plan for the district. City officials will use the cultural district designation to attract visitors and residents to downtown and promote the area as a hub of arts and culture. "This cultural district designation from the South Carolina Arts Commission is a tremendous honor," said Florence City Council member George Jebailey. "This designation recognizes the hard work done over the last 17 years by a community committed to a unified vision to create a detailed master plan establishing a purposeful clustering of multiple arts venues in downtown Florence. Through the collaboration of the many public-private partners working together on this unified vision, we have seen the master plan become a reality leading to this important designation. We anticipate that many new opportunities will now be available for us to promote both the City of Florence and the entire Pee Dee Region as an important destination for arts, culture and entertainment." “Receiving the S.C. state recognition of a designated cultural district will assist in our ongoing marketing of downtown Florence as a tourist destination,” said Florence Downtown Development Manager Ray Reich. “The Vision 2010 Initiative that was created in 2000, as well as the 2010 Downtown Master Plan, envisioned downtown as a place featuring a string of cultural pearls. The first pearl in the string was the library, followed by the Florence Little Theatre, and then the FMU Performing Arts Center, followed by the new museum, as well as many other cultural amenities that have been developed in recent years in our beautiful and historic downtown. This designation affirms that we are well in our way to achieving the vision of a string of cultural pearls. However, this is just the beginning, and while we have created an outstanding foundation, the work will not stop as we continue to work together as a community to live up to our new community brand of being a community full of life and moving full forward with more amenities.” Florence Regional Arts Alliance Executive Director Sandy Cook added, “We are very excited for this award, which shows Florence’s continued commitment to preserve and support the arts.  We thank all of our stakeholders for their collaborative efforts in making this happen.” The participation of those stakeholders is key, according to S.C. Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May. “Non-arts businesses and organizations are important pieces of a cultural district. A successful cultural district attracts creative enterprises, such as galleries and theatres, whose patrons want to dine out and shop, so nearby retail and other businesses benefit from that increased economic activity.” The cultural district program was developed after reviewing successful programs in other states and gathering input from leaders representing several sectors, including economic development, tourism, local government and the arts. Florence joins Beaufort, Bluffton, Columbia’s Congaree Vista, Lancaster, Rock Hill and Spartanburg as S.C. cities and areas that have earned cultural district status. Other states with similar cultural district programs include Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Texas. S.C. cities, towns and rural communities interested in exploring a cultural district designation are invited to contact their Arts Commission county coordinator or call (803) 734-8696. Complete guidelines are available at www.SouthCarolinaArts.com. About the S.C. Arts Commission The South Carolina Arts Commission is celebrating 50 years of public support for the arts. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission is the state agency charged with creating a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their location or circumstances. The Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts through staff assistance, programs, grants and partnerships 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 www.SouthCarolinaArts.com or call (803) 734-8696.

Group gets $50,000 grant to help Conway become an art district

From MyHorryNews.com Article by Kathy Ropp

Conway has a large number of talented artists and musicians who want to see the city emerge as an arts mecca, and now it looks as if they will have the money to make that happen. Conway Cultural Development Corporation President Dr. Dennis Stevens says the Knight Foundation has recommended that Conway get a $50,000 grant for the arts, and the Waccamaw Community Foundation has signed off on it. The only thing the area’s artists need now is the support of the Conway City Council, whose members did not discuss the issue in March after hearing from representatives of the S.C. Arts Commission, who explained the process of making Conway a cultural art district. One of the presenters, Joy Young, the SCAC’s arts coordinator for Horry and Georgetown counties, returned to Conway recently to meet with more than 35 artists and musicians in an informal setting to assess the arts possibilities in Conway and see what’s needed to move the city forward. Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy attended that meeting at Conway Glass where she offered encouragement to the group. The SCAC is in the nascent stage of creating a network of art districts throughout the state. Areas already carrying the label of cultural art district are Spartanburg, Rock Hill, Lancaster, Beaufort, the Congaree Vista area in Columbia and, the most recent city to join the group, Bluffton. Florence is working now to create a district in that city. “It’s not really a network like an art trail or anything like that,” Stevens said. “I think it’s more driven by the place and the resources that are in the place and enhancing the community and cataloguing resources. I think they have a specific vision that enables the place to enhance itself. “It’s less about the network of communities and more about the individual place putting forth its best assets.” Stevens says the agency defines the arts broadly so the term includes visual and performing arts, theatre and all kinds of music. Even a writer attended the recent gathering at Conway Glass. One idea Stevens likes is stepping up arts education in low-income areas, perhaps in the Whittemore Park or Racepath communities in Conway. This could be done with an artist-in-residence who might give art lessons, help youngsters secure orchestra instruments or, perhaps, help improve the looks of some of the U.S. 378 corridor, a project getting a lot of attention from Conway City Council recently. Becoming a cultural arts district will open the door for state grants, coordination with other cities and counties and advice from the SCAC. The Cultural Arts Development Corporation is already talking with consultants who can help the group get the process moving and guide its leadership in the direction Conway should go; however, the consultants won’t be signed until at least August when Stevens hopes everybody is on board and the Knight Foundation money is in-hand. If Conway City Council gives its blessing to the program, a board of stakeholders will be created to help guide the process. Supporters of the program say the arts and culture are economic engines that draw people to an area to shop, dine, buy gas and stay over night, and they make a city more livable. They point to Asheville, N.C., and Walterboro in this state to prove their point. Rusty Sox with the SCAC says the art districts program is relatively new, existing for only about 18 months now. He says developing the districts has given him interesting travel around South Carolina. The state’s mission is to create an environment where the arts thrive for all South Carolina citizens, he told Conway City Council back in March. The program hopes to provide quality arts education for youngsters in kindergarten through 12th grade, help artists develop their talents into sustainable careers and improve life for South Carolinians. He says the SCAC can help by offering the assistance of its staff, developing partnerships with other organizations, implementing professional development and training through conferences and meetings, and giving grants to individual artists, schools and arts programs. Some of their ideas include creating studios where people can watch artists work; opening retail shops, galleries, art centers, educational spaces and more. The program takes note of significant architecture and uses nontraditional settings, bank lobbies for instance, to offer art displays. Some cities also offer storytellers and performers. Through all of these activities the arts enthusiasts hope to celebrate and capitalize on an area’s local identification, or, in other words, the things that make each community unique. After the stakeholders are appointed, they will take public input, designate a cultural district and solidify a list of goals. Communities must be reviewed and recertified every five years to remain cultural art districts. Young and Sox recommend identifying a compact, walkable, easily-navigable area for an art district. They categorize it as a place where people can park and walk. Conway and its surrounding areas already have a good start on promoting the arts, according to area artists. Another issue that Stevens and Barbara Streeter with CREATE! Conway are pursuing is an office for arts groups. Streeter and other artists asked at a recent public hearing at Conway City Hall for space for art exhibits and performances in the old Conway Post Office/Horry County museum. Stevens points out that during the tenure of the late Mayor Greg Martin, he helped work on Conway’s comprehensive plan, which calls for a Waccamaw artisans center. He’d love to work out something with the Burroughs Company to see the center located in Conway’s riverfront district. Stevens says once the CCDC has its grant money he expects things to start happening quickly. By the fall of this year he hopes to hold some public meetings to discuss the needs of the arts and cultural community and to start things in motion to meet those needs. “I think everybody is engaged and excited about the possibility of arts and culture in Horry and Georgetown, but specifically what Conway can do to facilitate that,” he said. “There’s no central leadership now. We’re trying and we’re trying to do it in a new way.” Stevens says anyone who’s interested in becoming part of the process should talk with a member of city council because they’re the ones who will ultimately make the decision. “If they say no, I don’t know what comes next,” Stevens said.

Area artists want to see Conway designated as a state Cultural District

From WBTW News 13 CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Area art enthusiasts want the state to recognize Conway’s art and cultural spots as an official South Carolina cultural district. This would hopefully help promote local artists and bring more tourists to the area. The first Indie Market (was) held on Laurel Street on Saturday, and showcase(d) more than 20 local artists along with musicians. Organizers say it’s an example of how the arts are growing into an unofficial identity for the city, one that they’re working to make an official designation. Barbara Streeter is the director of Create Conway, the group behind the Indie Market. Streeter says Conway’s art scene was always vibrant, but was hit hard by the recession in 2008 and is only now coming back. She says art events like Indie Market will help the merchants develop more business and it’s a new part of a bigger trend for the city. “We have developed art and culture as a brand for Conway,” said Dennis Stevens, the president of Conway Cultural Development Corporation. “That’s not officially sanctioned by the city but something bubbling up naturally,” said Stevens, who wants Conway to build its brand on the arts. “There are very tangible ways in which arts and culture can improve the economic viability of a community,” said Stevens. Stevens went to city council to urge them to apply to be designated as a South Carolina Arts Commission Cultural District. “It’s this idea of really putting our collective head around the branding, marketing and branding as a cultural entity,” said Stevens. Six cities have been designated as cultural districts, it’s a way to highlight unique aspects of an area to spur economic development. Steven says it’s a way to stand out from a crowded destination area, “differentiating our selves as a city we can really shine in Horry County.” Businesses downtown say it’s an initiative they can support, as it would bring the possibility of new visitors. Jennifer Hucks is the owner of Jenn’s Southern Threadz, she’s been open for three years and welcomes the exposure arts can bring the city. “I think its going to bring new and different people who have never seen downtown Conway, so it’s an opportunity for all small businesses,” said Hucks. News13 reached out to the city of Conway to see where council stands on applying to create a cultural district, but have yet to hear back.

Bluffton earns cultural district designation

Congratulations to Bluffton, the state's newest officially designated cultural district! From Bluffton Today Article by Scott Thompson

A yearlong effort to have Old Town Bluffton designated as a state cultural district paid off on Wednesday. The S.C. Arts Commission Board unanimously approved the town's application during its quarterly meeting, according to Doreen Baumann, co-chair of the Bluffton Creative Initiative, the group which has led the push for the designation since early last year. Baumann made a presentation to the board Wednesday in Columbia. The board "congratulated us on the 'thorough and substantive' application, and Board Commissioner Budd Farillo expressed his compliments by saying it was the best application he has read in 13 years," Baumann wrote in an email on Wednesday. "He said we have come a long way and should be very proud of what Bluffton has accomplished." A cultural district is defined by the state as “an easily identifiable geographic area with a concentration of cultural facilities, activities and assets which serves as the center of cultural, artistic and economic activity.” Uses can include galleries, live performance venues, theaters, art studios, museums, public art pieces, and restaurants, banks or parks that make their space regularly available to artists. Bluffton became the sixth community in South Carolina to earn the designation since state legislation was passed in June 2014, allowing the creation of such districts. It joins Rock Hill, Spartanburg, Columbia, Lancaster and Beaufort, which also recently gained approval. Bluffton's cultural district will span from Bluffton Village south to the May River, and from Burnt Church Road west to Cahill’s Market on May River Road. That area includes 120 cultural attractions and roughly three dozen annual festivals and events, according to town documents. Though no state money is tied to the designation, organizers have said it would generate exposure for Old Town, its businesses and culture through state marketing. Town Council voted in November to submit a formal application to the state on the Creative Initiative's behalf. Image: The Historic Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival attracts 20,000 visitors annually.

Downtown Beaufort named SC Cultural District

At age 25, Peace Center has a knack for risk-taking

From The Greenville News Article by Paul Hyde; photo by Katie McLean

As it celebrates its 25th birthday, the Peace Center has never been in better shape. A record-breaking 287,100 tickets were sold for 318 events at Greenville’s cornerstone performing arts venue during the 2014-15 season. Annual revenues, totaling $19 million, are at an all-time high. Plus, there are more shows on tap than ever before. “We’ve done nothing but go up up up,” said Megan Riegel, the Peace Center’s president and CEO since 1997. The world-class arts complex also has played a major role in revitalization, observers say, helping to make downtown Greenville one of the sparkling gems of the Southeast. For the Peace Center, the road to success has been paved with a fair amount of calculated risk-taking — of both the artistic and fiscal sort. In the past several years, the arts venue has pushed the artistic envelope with musicals such as “The Book of Mormon,” “Spring Awakening” and “Cabaret,” all of which include strong language and sexual content. The Peace Center, located on a 6-acre site at Main and Broad streets, also has hosted politically oriented “blue” comedians such as Bill Maher, Dennis Miller and Lewis Black. Maher, who’s often pointedly critical of religion, “certainly raised a lot of eyebrows for people, but he does a great show and he packs the house and people love him,” Riegel said. The Peace Center, nestled in the conservative South, might have avoided edgy shows in its earlier years, but the community’s tastes appear to have broadened over the past two decades. Several years ago, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” drew picketers outside the Peace Center. Today, such protests never occur at the center. “I think we grew together,” Riegel said. “We took a little more risk and people followed. I’ve seen a trend where people are more open-minded, embracing today’s culture. With the support of the board, over the years we became fearless in what we brought in. We wanted to have the highest-quality available. If it’s playing on Broadway and it’s a hit, we want to bring it in.” Balance also is fundamental to the Peace Center’s mission. “The Book of Mormon,” with its barbed critique of religious credulity, may capture the headlines, but the arts center also brings to town Broadway classics like “The Sound of Music” and family shows such as “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast.” The Peace Center and its resident companies feature hundreds of children’s shows, educational programs, and theater, dance and orchestral performances. Serving eclectic tastes is the name of the game. In recent seasons, the Peace Center has hosted singing legends Tony Bennett, Audra McDonald, Liza Minnelli, Johnny Mathis and Diana Ross, singer-songwriters such as Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Melissa Ethridge, country singers Don Williams and Martina McBride, rock bands Foreigner, Counting Crows and Moody Blues, jazz and world music groups such as Pink Martini, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, dance companies like the Joffrey Ballet, Pilobolus and the Dance Theatre of Harlem, comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Kathy Griffin, and humorist/storyteller Garrison Keillor – just to name a few. “The Peace Center’s goal is always a broad variety of programming,” Riegel said. Fiscal risk-taking The arts center has taken some bold fiscal risks as well. Six years ago, it forged ahead with a $23 million renovation plan in the midst of the deepest national downtown since the Great Depression. “We launched it right when the recession started in 2009,” Riegel said. “But we had done our homework. We knew what we were getting into. The original plan was for a $36 million renovation and we trimmed that way back. We had a good assessment of what we could raise.” Fundraising efforts, which proved a tremendous success despite the economic challenges, doubled the size of the Concert Hall’s lobby, added a lounge overlooking the Reedy River, and created an education studio, multipurpose loft, outdoor amphitheater, public plaza and a park along the river. “It’s an amazing, gorgeous facility,” Riegel said. “I think that capital campaign went so well because people understand the importance of the Peace Center to our community.” Today, by many measures, the Peace Center reigns as the largest arts organization in the state. Attendance and revenues have increased exponentially over the years. In the Peace Center’s inaugural season of 1990-91, 75,000 people attended 45 events. This past season, 287,100 tickets were sold for 318 events. “The fact that people are buying tickets the way they are suggests that we’re getting some things right,” Riegel said. In 2005, Peace Center revenues were $6.8 million. For the season ending in 2015, that figure is $19 million, representing a 280 percent increase over 10 years. The arts center has grown in prestige over the years as well, attracting many first national tours of Broadway shows, such as the recent “Kinky Boots,” “Motown” and “Newsies.” Performing arts centers particularly covet first national tours, which generally feature top-notch casts and the direct involvement of the Broadway creative team. “Tour producers have all taken notice,” Riegel said. “They want to come here.” Broadway shows often play for one week at the Peace Center. But some blockbusters, such as “Wicked,” “The Lion King” and “Phantom of the Opera” have enjoyed three- or four-week runs — often selling out each performance. Riegel is particularly proud, however, of the center’s educational programs that reach tens of thousands of students every year. In addition, 1,400 free tickets are distributed annually to under-served communities in the Upstate. “We’ve seen people who’ve never walked through our doors before and when they do, we try to make them feel that this is their home, too,” Riegel said. Big business The Peace Center is big business for Greenville, too, creating and sustaining jobs, and helping boost the local economy. The complex contributes particularly to downtown’s roaring economic engine. A single Broadway blockbuster, for instance, can deliver a multimillion-dollar economic impact. In 2012, “The Lion King” provided an estimated $15 million shot in the arm to Greenville — just over the course of one month. The show brought thousands of people downtown, with many patrons visiting from outside the city and some from outside the state. A considerable number enjoyed Greenville restaurants and stayed in local hotels. “The Lion King” tour hired two dozen local musicians and backstage crew to assist with costumes and wigs and in other capacities. The production, which returns to Greenville next season, in 2012 included 134 cast and crew members who stayed in local hotels and dined in local restaurants. Plus, revenues from events sustain the Peace Center’s 52 full-time and 96 part-time jobs. All of this is a boon for Greenville’s economy. The Peace Center also has been central to the rebirth of downtown, many local observers say. In the early 1990s, the Peace Center and Hyatt Regency, located at two ends of a struggling Main Street, helped to spark the dynamic economic growth that, in turn, created the vibrant, award-winning downtown that Upstate residents cherish today. “Along with its significant role in downtown’s revitalization, the Peace Center truly catalyzed an amazing level of interest and support for the arts from both the public and private sectors,” said Alan Ethridge, executive director of Greenville’s Metropolitan Arts Council. The beginning The idea of building what came to be known as the Peace Center emerged as early as the late 1970s or early 80s with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, said Betty Peace Stall, who was president of the foundation that built the Peace Center. The orchestra performed regularly at Furman University’s McAlister Auditorium but desired a newer and more centrally located venue. In 1985, then-Mayor Bill Workman put together a task force to determine the cost of building a performing arts center. The late Greenville attorney David Freeman proposed a public-private fundraising partnership. Fred Walker, who had recently retired as president of Henderson Advertising, chaired the campaign. Three branches of Greenville’s prominent Peace family kicked off the capital fund drive by donating $10 million in 1986. “I think we did it for the quality of life for the people in this region,” said Stall, whose grandfather, Bony Hampton Peace, was a longtime owner of The Greenville News. “We didn’t have access to the things that come to the Peace Center these days,” she said. Other prominent local residents, including the Jolley and Furman families, supported the effort. Eventually, six branches of the Peace family would become involved with the project, Stall said. A total of $42 million was raised in just a few years, with 70 percent of the money coming from private donations. At the time, there were no large venues in Greenville capable of hosting major Broadway shows, although McAlister Auditorium provided space for classical concerts. The Greenville Memorial Auditorium, torn down in 1997, hosted big rock concerts — such as the last show by the original Lynyrd Skynyrd on Oct. 17, 1977, the day before the plane crash that claimed the lives of three members of the band. Project leaders looked at more than 15 possible sites for the new performing arts center and settled on a 6-acre area on Greenville’s Main Street that was then occupied by “a hodgepodge of buildings,” Stall said. “There was a paint shop in there, a construction office, a dry cleaner’s and a sewing plant,” Stall said. “There was an old coach factory. The first time I went in there, I stepped backwards on a dead pigeon. The Reedy River had been running different colors. That whole site really needed some help.” More than 1,500 attended the Peace Center groundbreaking in September, 1988. The Peace Center Concert Hall would have a capacity of 2,100 and feature state-of-the-art acoustics and technology. Dorothy Hipp Gunter, meanwhile, donated $3 million for a second performance space, the 400-seat theater that later would be named the Gunter Theatre. Grand opening The Peace Center opened its doors for the first time on Nov. 19, 1990, hosting “First Night at Peace.” The center bustled with artistic activity from the start. Jack Cohan, who served as the Peace Center’s executive director from 1989 to 1997, is particularly proud of the range of classical music legends he brought to the Peace Center in the early years. Many were visiting Greenville for the first time. Violinist Itzhak Perlman, a friend of Cohan’s, performed at the Peace Center five times. Soprano Leontyne Price sang in the center’s first and second seasons. Other classical performers at the venue included soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, pianist Andre Watts, violinist Joshua Bell, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma in recital with pianist Emanuel Ax. Cohan recalled a visit by flutist James Galway, who phoned Cohan from the downtown Hyatt Regency with a minor emergency. “Jack, I’ve ripped me trousers,” Cohan remembers Galway saying in his lilting Irish accent. “You’ve got to take me shopping.” (The two found some suitable clothes at a local haberdashery.) The Peace Center featured Broadway greats Carol Channing and Rita Moreno. Also visiting were groups such as the Vienna Choir Boys, the Canadian Brass, the King’s Singers and the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. Hal Holbrook offered his iconic portrayal of Mark Twain. Shirley MacLaine performed three concerts at the Peace Center before a European tour. “We were doing a wide range of programming,” said Cohan, now a Travelers Rest resident who came to the Peace Center after leading a performing arts complex at the University of Connecticut. “There were loads of interesting and high-quality things in every category.” Another early public performance at the center was a concert by the visiting USSR State Symphony, conducted by Edvard Tchivzhel, who, while in Greenville, requested and was granted asylum in the United States. Tchivzhel was appointed music director of the Greenville Symphony in 1999 and continues to serve in the position today. The idea for the Peace Center originally came from the Greenville Symphony, of course, and classical musicians routinely praise the Concert Hall and Gunter Theatre for their fine acoustics. Tchivzhel said both halls offer a “very clear, warm, rich and natural sound.” He added, “That is why the Peace Center has become a wonderful, beloved home for the Greenville Symphony Orchestra.” Stall credits Riegel, who became president and CEO in 1997, for the Peace Center’s smooth sailing over the past 19 years. Under Riegel’s leadership, the center through the years has created an endowment of almost $28 million. Some interest from the endowment can be used for annual operations and capital expenses as well as a cushion when unexpected problems arise. “It’s put away for a rainy day,” Riegel said. Among Stall’s favorite events at the Peace Center are its educational programs for students. “For children to be able to enjoy these performances is really exciting,” Stall said. “When I would be in the Multimedia Building (currently The Greenville News building) and look out at those yellow school buses at the Peace Center, it just made my heart leap.” The Peace Center recently honored Stall for her many years as chairwoman of the Peace Center board by dedicating an art installation called “Butterflies for Peace.” Created by artist Yuri Tsuzuki, “Butterflies for Peace” displays 200 stainless steel butterflies in flight, measuring between 6 and 12 inches each. It is located on the south side of the Concert Hall building, on an exterior wall facing the Reedy River. “I was just blessed to have been a part of this,” Stall said. “It’s really gratifying to see the impact the Peace Center has had.” Riegel, for her part, is focusing on the Peace Center’s next big project: a multimillion-dollar campaign to address a number of needs, upgrading or replacing boilers, the HVAC system, roofing, sound systems and lighting, among other priorities. The Concert Hall also needs new seats. She’s confident the Peace Center’s generous supporters will once again step up to the plate. “I’m grateful every single day for this opportunity to lead this organization,” Riegel said. “I’m grateful for the board and this beautiful facility and the donors and volunteers and staff. It takes a village and everybody is just fantastic. I’m confident we’ll make good strategic decisions for the next 25 years.”

Congaree Vista named official South Carolina cultural district

From The State Article by Erin Shaw; photo by Rob Thompson

The Vista has been named an official South Carolina Cultural District, the Congaree Vista Guild announced Friday. The S.C. Arts Commission awards the designation to communities that prove a desire to retain an artistic identity and creativity that encourages growth and tourism, according to a press release. A qualifying district is made up of galleries, live performance venues, artists studios, public art pieces and museums — all things the Vista has. “The Vista as we know it today is a hub for entertainment and tourism because of the artistic aesthetic and vision that artists and the arts community founded many years ago in this neighborhood,” Vista Guild director Meredith Atkinson said in the release. “We’re proud that responsible growth in the Vista through the years has retained the character of the neighborhood, continued to support the arts and led to this cultural district designation.” The Vista is the fourth entity to receive a cultural district designation and the first non-city. Previous cultural district designations have been awarded to Spartanburg, Lancaster and Rock Hill. The Vista Guild will have a special announcement about its designation as a cultural district at Vista Lights, the area’s holiday open house, on Nov. 19.

Lancaster and Spartanburg are the state’s newest Cultural Districts

The South Carolina Arts Commission has named downtown Lancaster and a portion of downtown Spartanburg as state-recognized cultural districts. A cultural district is an easily identifiable geographic area with a concentration of arts facilities and assets that support cultural, artistic and economic activity. The cultural district designation was created by the S.C. General Assembly and Gov. Nikki Haley in 2014. [caption id="attachment_21765" align="alignleft" width="250"]Spartanburg, SC Spartanburg's 1Spark Festival[/caption] Each city's leading arts organization worked with local leaders and Arts Commission staff to develop a map of cultural assets and a strategic plan for the district. City officials will use the cultural district designation to attract visitors and residents to downtown and promote the area as a hub of arts and culture. Related: Chapman Cultural Center invites Spartanburg artists to submit qualifications for cultural district logo design. [caption id="attachment_21763" align="alignright" width="250"]Lancaster, SC Downtown Lancaster[/caption] “The recognition as a cultural district will help enhance the vibrant arts initiatives in Lancaster,” said Cherry Doster, marketing and development manager for "See Lancaster." “The cultural district designation is another way to help increase support of existing businesses and attract new ones.” City of Lancaster Administrator Helen Sowell remarked, “The City of Lancaster is honored to have received this award.  Our city is fortunate to have a number of local artists who have educated our citizens to understand the importance of art not just to the community, but especially to our school children. Our own resident artist, Bob Doster, has worked tirelessly to teach our children to embrace their creativity and  to explore and appreciate all forms of art.” Non-arts businesses and organizations are important pieces of a cultural district, says S.C. Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May. “A successful cultural district attracts creative enterprises, such as galleries and theatres, whose patrons want to dine out and shop, so nearby retail and other businesses benefit from that increased economic activity.” “The cultural districts legislation is a new initiative that promotes  the value of the arts and the benefits of economic growth to promote a thriving local arts environment,” said S.C. Arts Commission Chairman Henry Horowitz. “This program was developed after reviewing successful cultural district designations in other states and gathering input from key S.C. stakeholders, including representatives from economic development, tourism, local government and the arts.” Lancaster and Spartanburg join Rock Hill as the state's first three cultural districts. Other states with similar cultural district programs include Massachusetts, Kentucky, Texas and Colorado. South Carolina cities, towns and rural communities interested in cultural district designation are invited to contact Rusty Sox, (803) 734-8899. Image above: Downtown Lancaster

New Conway group hopes to build downtown arts scene, boost economy

From The Sun News: Article by Charles D. Perry

When local officials talk about economic development, the discussion tends to focus on how tax breaks and other incentives can be used to entice industry. Dennis Stevens wants to shift that conversation to the arts. Stevens, along with Barbara and Ed Streeter, recently formed the Conway Cultural Development Corporation, an organization dedicated to spurring economic growth by creating a vibrant arts scene. Four years after the Horry Arts and Cultural Council disbanded, the nonprofit hopes to fill that void, not just in Conway but also in Myrtle Beach and other parts of the county. “The fact that there’s no county arts council places Horry County at a disadvantage in terms of these questions about art and culture as they relate to economic development,” Stevens said. “Somebody has to lead that and somebody has to have expertise in that in order for those things to happen.” So what exactly would the CCDC do? The founders envision the organization working with local municipalities’ planning departments to include space for the arts in development projects. The initiatives would use both public and private funding. One idea the CCDC supports is the creation of a Waccamaw Art & Design Center-MakerSpace, a cooperative gallery and studio in Conway that would allow members to use a shared space with tools and equipment, including a 3D printer, a laser cutter and industrial sewing machines. Additionally, the nonprofit hopes to set up a rental studio to recruit and launch design- and art-based companies. CCDC’s leaders also support projects that encourage community participation. Consider “Play Me, I’m Yours,” an international exhibit that places pianos in public areas for anyone to use. The program recently arrived in Florence. “It’s a good example of what art can do to make a place more culturally vibrant and livable,” Stevens said, adding that these projects “encourage people to go into public space and have them interact with each other in new ways, to form some basis of community and imagine new possibilities for themselves.” Stevens is a visual artist who was active in the local arts scene in the late 1990s. He then moved to California, attended graduate school in New York and returned the area a few years ago. The Streeters run Conway Glass on Laurel Street. All three are involved with CREATE! Conway, a membership organization that promotes the arts in the Rivertown. The difference between the CCDC and past arts advocacy groups, Stevens said, is the nonprofit’s focus on collaborating with city planners. “That’s where they fell short,” he said. “They lost sight of the municipalities’ strategic plans and the goals that are outlined in there.” This week, the group plans to meet with Conway City Administrator Bill Graham. CCDC representatives already have been in talks with Mayor Alys Lawson and Planning Director Adam Emrick. Lawson said she told the group that Conway leaders want to hear their proposals. “Anything that has the benefit of attracting additional people to your community has a spillover effect,” Lawson said. “Whether or not they are just spending money for the day or if they decide it’s a community where they want to live, I think the more that a community has to offer, the more vital that community’s going to be.” Eventually, the CCDC plans to approach Conway City Council with a proposal to establish a “cultural district” in the city. The designation was created last year by state lawmakers who wanted to highlight communities with certain artsy features. “It really provides an official state recognition that a town has a significant concentration of what we’re calling arts and cultural assets,” said Rusty Sox with the S.C. Arts Commission, which determines if the “cultural district” title is merited. “There are opportunities for either visitors or residents to have direct arts and cultural experiences right in the community where they live or where they visit.” “Assets” could include galleries, theaters, studios, concert halls, museums and businesses that provide spaces for creative pursuits. Sox said 15 other states have similar programs. “In general,” he said,” what they’ve found is that having this type of designation can really be a tool that a city or a town can use in helping to attract visitors, improve downtown [and] engage in economic and downtown development activities using the arts as sort of a focal point to drive interest.” That’s exactly what the new group wants to do. “There are so many needs,” Barbara Streeter said. “But we need a place — and a vibrancy.”
Image: Conway Glass