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SC Arts Commission increases access to grants and loans for artist entrepreneurs

Artists Ventures Initiatives letters of intent due January 11 Artists seeking to launch or expand a business venture may apply for grants or loans designed for varying levels of business readiness. Previous Artists Ventures Initiative grantees are eligible to apply for a new Business Builder Loan program through ArtsGrowSC. [caption id="attachment_33313" align="alignright" width="325"] Christine Eadie's nearly ready gypsy wagon[/caption] Christine Eadie of Ladson is the first artist to receive a business loan through ArtsGrowSC, a partnership between the S.C. Arts Commission and Community Works, a community development financial institution (CDFI) headquartered in Greenville. Eadie will use her loan to build and upfit a gypsy wagon to support her traveling tintype photography business. Eadie received an Artists Ventures Initiative grant from the Arts Commission in 2016.

"I was ecstatic to be awarded a grant by the Arts Commission via the Artists Ventures Initiative program to purchase a travel trailer and lights to turn the trailer into a mobile studio," said Eadie.  "The funds allowed me to turn my passion into a business and I was able to travel to arts events and started reached broader audiences for my tintype work.  I was invited to other states and made more connections which led to more business. My business has grown and I have attended events in Ga., N.C., Fla., Pa, Tenn., Ky., and Ark.

"The (ArtsGrowSC) loan I recently received allowed me to build a custom gypsy wagon trailer which is a dream come true!  Most of the events I am invited to attend are historic reenactments and living history events. It made sense that a more historically accurate trailer would fit in better.  Several leading photographers in my field have reached out to me expressing their admiration of this project. I plan on adding more options to my services in the coming year and I am optimistic this new venture will bring me more business.  I am excited for the future and very grateful to be part of this program!"

Artists Ventures Initiative grants encourage and enable the creation of new artist-driven, arts-based business ventures that will provide career satisfaction and sustainability for S.C. artists. Individuals and collaboratives may use AVI funding to help launch a new venture or significantly alter an existing venture. A one-time project/single purchase may be awarded up to $3,500. An ongoing business venture may be awarded up to $5,000. The AVI grant program is a two-part process, with letters of intent due Jan. 11, 2018. Selected applicants will be invited to develop a full grant proposal. Find out more about AVI grants. For more information about these opportunities, contact Joy Young.

Grants and loans available for new and seasoned artist entrepreneurs

Artists seeking to launch or expand a business venture may apply for grants or loans designed for varying levels of business readiness. Previous Artists Ventures Initiative grantees are eligible to apply for a new Business Builder Loan program through ArtsGrowSC. Christine Eade of Ladson is the first artist to receive a business loan through ArtsGrowSC, a partnership between the S.C. Arts Commission and Community Works, a community development financial institution (CDFI) headquartered in Greenville. Eadie will use her loan to build and upfit a gypsy wagon to support her traveling tintype photography business. "It's been a dream of mine for several years to build a gypsy-wagon style portable studio," said Eadie. "An historically  "period correct" studio is ideal for my business, because I mainly work at historic venues and events making vintage looking photographs called "tintypes" (a handmade process invented in 1851). "Being a divorced mother putting my daughter through college on my own, I simply couldn't afford to use my limited funds to invest in building a wagon.  This loan from Community Works has been such a blessing!  It has given me the boost I needed towards making my business stand out even more and set me apart from the crowd.  What I do is already unique, so I'm excited to get out on the road and travel to more and venues and events and bring my business to more people. I am excited about branching out into other areas and renting out my wagon as a digital photo booth." Eadie received an Artists Ventures Initiative grant from the Arts Commission in 2016. Artists Ventures Initiative grants encourage and enable the creation of new artist-driven, arts-based business ventures that will provide career satisfaction and sustainability for S.C. artists. Individuals and collaboratives may use AVI funding to help launch a new venture or significantly alter an existing venture. A one-time project/single purchase may be awarded up to $3,500. An ongoing business venture may be awarded up to $5,000. The AVI grant program is a two-part process, with letters of intent due Jan. 11, 2018. Selected applicants will be invited to develop a full grant proposal. Find out more about AVI grants. For more information about these opportunities, contact Joy Young.

Lexington and Richland county artists may apply for Pop-Up Art Show and Sale

Deadline extended to November 17. Lexington and Richland county artists are invited to apply for the inaugural North Columbia Pop Up Art Show and Sale taking place December 2. Sponsored by Woodforest National Bank and the S.C. Arts Commission's ArtsGrowSC program, the event will feature high quality art and crafts, a live band, a swing dance, food and beverage trucks, and artist demonstrations. Click here for more information on this unique opportunity. Artist exhibitors can apply to showcase and sell their work, which must be the original work of the artist. $200 will be awarded to artists selected to participate. No commission will be taken from sales.

  • When: Saturday, December 2
  • Where: 3730 North Main Street, Ste. D, Columbia, SC 29203
  • Time: 2 - 6 p.m. (Must be available for set-up beginning at 11 a.m.)
  • Applications will be accepted between November 6 and 17.
  • There is no entry fee! 
Who is eligible? Artists must reside in Richland or Lexington county and be 21 years of age or older. What kind of arts products are eligible for the show and sale? Items sold must be the original work of the submitting artist. Artists who create wearables, home-goods, visual and craft works, as well as other one-of-a-kind products may apply. What else?
  • Artists will be notified of their selection November 21.
  • Artists must be present to set-up December 2 beginning at 11 a.m.
  • Artists will be located indoors and provided with a 2 x 6 ft. table, two chairs, display space, wireless access, and electricity. More than one free standing pedestal, rack or display will be allowed only if space permits.
  • All items must be priced for sale (prices must be visible and include taxes) and ready to be hung. Artists will be responsible for their own sales; no commission will be taken.
  • 2D submissions: All work should be limited to 4ft x 4ft. If work is framed, include the frame in the measurement. Each piece must be ready to hang; no saw-tooth hangers or string will be accepted.
  • 3D submissions: 3D pieces may be of any reasonable size, of a permanent medium and suitable for an environment with pedestrian foot traffic. If a pedestal, rack, or display is required, the artist must provide.
How to apply Applications will be accepted online on Submittable between November 6 and 17. Go to the online application. Applications must be received by midnight November 17. Free workshop - DUE TO SCHEDULING CONFLICTS, THIS WORKSHOP HAS BEEN CANCELED As part of this artist entrepreneurship activity, Woodforest National Bank will host a free workshop, Money Smarts for Small Business, for all artists who submit. The workshop will be held November 20 from 6- 7:30 p.m. at 3730 North Main Street, Ste. D, Columbia, SC 29203. You do not have to attend the workshop to be considered for the show and sale; however, it is highly recommended. Want to attend the workshop but not apply for the sale and show? Just email jyoung@arts.sc.gov. Questions? Contact Joy Young or more information.

Avoiding the life of the starving artist

From USC School of Music Article by John Brunelli

SAVVY Arts Venture Challenge teaches entrepreneurship to the arts community [caption id="attachment_31142" align="alignright" width="250"]Savvy Musicians SAVVY teams create exhibits showcasing their business ventures.[/caption] Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most celebrated postimpressionist painters of the 19th century. But at the time of his death, he was penniless and obscure — the epitome of a starving artist. "You don't get any brownie points for being an amazing artist, who is so poor that you can't afford to create your art or share your gifts," says David Cutler, director of music entrepreneurship at the University of South Carolina. For the past five summers, Cutler has led a School of Music workshop designed to help a diverse group of artists maximize income, prove their worth and adapt to a world that is changing at an exponential rate. This experiential workshop called the SAVVY Arts Venture Challenge explores how a variety of business lessons are applicable to all art disciplines. This year's class is the most diverse yet — including musicians, visual artists, dancers, actors and even two mimes. Each of the 72 participants begins the week by giving a one-minute elevator pitch for an innovative arts-based business. The entire class votes on favorites and ultimately selects nine ideas to develop throughout the week. They divide into teams each with a CEO, a CFO, a marketing director and other key positions designed to create a successful business model. "There aren't a lot of tidy, secure, full-time jobs available for artists, even those with the most talent," Cutler says. "Most of us have to create our lives. SAVVY helps participants develop a variety of relevant skills for their own unique career path." Throughout the week, teams are required to solve eight "challenges." The finance challenge asks groups to create a startup budget, explain their business' cash flow and build a financial statement. A digital branding challenge requires the creation of a website consistent with the brand's personality while meeting the needs of customers. A research challenge gets them into the community to conduct surveys, interview experts and test core assumptions. "Entrepreneurship, for me, isn't just about career training. It's a way of life," Cutler says. "It's about creative problem-solving and innovation, as well as value creation, financial literacy, business-model design, taking chances and bold unapologetic leadership." At the end of the week, the teams pitch their businesses again — this time to a panel of judges and local government, arts and business leaders during the SAVVY Reveal at the Copenhaver Band Hall. People watching a livestream of the program from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. June 9 also can vote for their favorites. The week begins with the SAVVY Chamber Showcase, where four finalist ensembles featuring artistic excellence and innovative event design compete for a $10,000 grant prize/School of Music residency and management options. All finalists receive full tuition scholarships to attend the 2017 SAVVY Arts Venture Challenge. This year's finalists are: Real Vocal String Quartet from Berkeley, California, a multi-genre string quartet where all members also sing. Projecto Acromusical, based in Dekalb, Illnois, is a world music sextet that reimagines the Afro-Brazilian berimbau, a single-string percussion instrument, through a repertoire of concert chamber music. BIK Ensemble from Montreal, Canada, is a theatrical trio whose musicians dance around the stage, use cutlery as percussion and incorporate a host of other surprises. The final ensemble, The Living Earth Show from San Francisco, is an electro-acoustic group that generates a huge variety of sounds and sights from just a guitarist and a percussionist. The four ensembles compete at 7:30 p.m. Monday (June 5) in the newly opened auditorium at the Richland County Main Library. The concert is free and open to the public. In addition to becoming business savvy, Cutler hopes the participants, who are from nine countries and 25 states, will gain an appreciation for the resources and potential of a vibrant city like Columbia. Local organizations, businesses and community members are involved with SAVVY in a variety of capacities, as partners, dinner hosts, guest presenters and "entrepre-tainers." "SAVVY is literally the best event of its kind in the world," Cutler says. "This parallels a lesson we emphasize. For those with the courage and audacity to lead in relevant ways, the benefits can be tremendous."

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.  

Free webinar for artists: find out more about Artists Ventures Initiative Grants

Webinar scheduled for December 2 [caption id="attachment_16931" align="alignright" width="250"]Barbara Streeter Barbara Streeter of Conway, a previous AVI grant recipient[/caption] Are you a professional-caliber artist or an artist collaborative with an arts-based business idea? Or, have you launched an arts-based business that needs a bit more lift? The S.C. Artists’ Ventures Initiative (AVI), a broad-reaching project at the South Carolina Arts Commission, may be just right for you. AVI grantees may be awarded up to $3,500 for a one-time project/single purchase in support of an arts-based business. An ongoing arts-based business venture may be awarded up to $5,000. Join us for a free webinar to learn more about the grant and the first step in the process, the all-important Letter of Intent, which is due January 11, 2017. (The deadline for AVI Letters of Intent is January 11, 2017. You do not have to participate in the webinar in order to submit a Letter of Intent.) Topics to be covered:

  • Learn about the S.C. Artists Ventures Initiative
  • Walk through the process of completing the online Letter of Intent
  • Hear from recent AVI grant recipient(s)
  • Ask questions
When: December 2, 2016
Time: 7:15 – 8:30 p.m.
Where: Online — you will receive log-in information two days before the webinar. You will need access to the Internet and a telephone to see and hear the presentation.
RSVP: This webinar is free, but you must register online in order to attend and to receive webinar log-in information. The registration password is AVI.
  Questions? Email Joy Young, jyoung@arts.sc.gov.

Artist entrepreneurs: apply for an Artists Ventures Initiatives grant

Letters of intent due Jan. 11, 2017 The South Carolina Arts Commission invites artists to apply for the next round of S.C. Artists Ventures Initiative grants. AVI grants encourage and enable the creation of new artist-driven, arts-based business ventures that will provide career satisfaction and sustainability for S.C. artists. S.C. artists (individuals and collaboratives) may use AVI funding to help launch a new venture or significantly alter an existing venture. A one-time project/single purchase may be awarded up to $3,500. An ongoing business venture may be awarded up to $5,000. The AVI grant program is a two-part process, with letters of intent due Jan. 11, 2017. Selected applicants will be invited to develop a full grant proposal. Read the complete guidelines online. Image: Artist Kristy Bishop of Charleston received an Artists Ventures Initiative Grant to expand her textile workshops.

From Hurricane Katrina to the Great Recession: Out of adversity comes art

Natalie Brown received a South Carolina Arts Commission Artists' Ventures Initiative grant in 2011. From Westwood.com Article by Ana Campbell, photos by Scott Bilby

Often it is the case that from bad comes good. For Natalie Brown, it took a few slipped discs, a natural disaster, the untimely death of a loved one and the Great Recession to find her calling: the Phantom Circus, the performance group she founded that will debut at the Oriental Theater this month. [caption id="attachment_27965" align="alignleft" width="271"]Natalie Brown, photo by Scott Bilby Natalie Brown, photo by Scott Bilby[/caption] Brown starts her story after college, when a genetic disease left the lifelong ballerina with a nearly broken back. With rehab in mind, she found a less grueling creative outlet in tribal-style belly dancing. She was practicing and performing with a group in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, forcing Brown and her then-partner out of Louisiana. They found a home in Columbia, South Carolina, where Brown's family was living. Nobody was doing tribal-style belly dancing in South Carolina at the time, so Brown decided to open a dance company that specialized in it. "If I can make art, then I'm okay," she says. Brown found the one "alt watering hole" in the sleepy Southern town and became friendly with the owners – so friendly that they let Brown and her belly-dancing troupe perform in the bar's parking lot once a month. The belly-dancing performances were just that until Brown decided to expand. She started looking into underground circuses, which were becoming more mainstream, particularly after several toured and found fame with the band Panic! at the Disco. Brown found a single mom living in the suburbs with a talent for hula-hooping and a fire performer who, as Brown tells it, "wouldn't burn the place down," and started Alternacirque in 2007. Just as the circus was picking up steam, Brown got word that her father had terminal cancer. He died shortly thereafter. "Once again, something bad happened, so I turned to art," she says. A year later, in 2008, the economy tanked. But for once, bad luck was on Brown's side. "No one had money to do anything at all," she explains. "Word got out that there was this free show in the parking lot." Before Brown knew it, the audience at her bar shows had grown from fifty people to 500. The show continued to grow and change – mostly through Kickstarter campaigns and self-taught performance pieces – until the performers decided to part ways in 2013. Brown used her newfound downtime to improve her performance art. She moved to Boulder to train with a renowned belly-dancing professor at the University of Colorado and eventually enrolled in Frequent Flyers, an aerial-dance studio in Boulder. As much as Brown loves performing and the arts, she also loves the business behind it, which she learned a lot about in South Carolina. A succession of conservative governors had slashed arts funding, so the state's arts commission told performers not to rely on anyone but themselves, Brown says: "They kept telling artists in South Carolina, 'Look, the salary is not coming; nobody's going to rescue you. You need to be self-sufficient, self-sustaining, learn the business and be entrepreneurs and artists.'" Once Brown finished at Frequent Flyers, where she also got professional business training in about nine months, she started thinking about running her own circus again. While she was formulating a business plan, she started interning at a company that taught her how to book corporate events. She married her passions and started the Phantom Circus, which until recently specialized in aerial bartending. "Imagine your guests walking into a ballroom greeted with the sight of aerialists hanging from a chandelier pouring champagne," explains the Phantom Circus's website. "A stilt-walker wanders by and pours a signature cocktail. A contortionist performs on a table and hands out wine glasses." Brown will premiere the strictly performance side of Phantom Circus on September 15 at the Oriental Theater. "We're doing this as variety-show style," she says. The all-ages show will feature belly dancing, acrobatics, hula-hooping and fire and aerial performers. Brown's romantic partner, Steve Millin, will serve as the ringmaster. Denver is hardly known for its underground-circus scene, Brown notes. "But I think there is a desire in the community for us to make our mark and to help each other and get better and build something really, really unique," she concludes.

Thomas Hudgins

For nearly 50 years, father-son faculty members blaze trails at Clemson University

Jack and David Stevenson have made an impact in the Clemson community in very different capacities for almost five decades. Father-son pair Jack and David Stevenson took very different career paths. Jack (the father) spent time as a chaplain for the Navy before travelling south to organize outdoor wilderness camp programs. David pursued classical guitar at the University of South Carolina and has a thriving career as a musician and teacher. Both, however, found their way to Clemson University. Though their tenures did not overlap, the Stevensons have been a fixture in Tiger Town for almost 50 years. Jack began work as the camp director for the Atlanta Presbytery in Georgia, a year-round camp, conference, and retreat center. “Summer camps were the big thing, but we had a lot of other groups that came in,” he said. His experience with the camp led him to pursue a Ph.D. at Indiana University. He originally wanted to work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, so he applied for a position there in 1968. “The Department Chair, Doug Sessoms, said, ‘Jack, I don’t have any hard money, it’s all grant money, and I can’t guarantee that if you came here, that you’d have a job, so I wish you well.’” Then Sessoms sat down and sent all Jack’s application papers to Clemson’s brand new parks, recreations, and tourism management department. Jack was the fifth faculty member hired in the new department. Beyond the nuts and bolts of the curriculum, he enjoyed fostering students’ ambitions during their time at Clemson. “I loved helping students emerge and get enthusiastic about something that they didn’t know about before,” he said. “To learn on their own, I had everybody write in a journal. I asked them to tie in the readings I assigned with their lives. People emerged, and I got the biggest kick out of it.” This passion for helping students extended to his tenure as head of the Calhoun Honors College, which he held from 1981 until his retirement in 1992. Jack helped secure funding from deans throughout the University to help fund the program, which was in its early stages when he began. Jack’s son, David, grew up in Clemson. “I was running around here as a little kid,” he said. He remembers tagging along with his father when Jack took his classes on camping trips. “I would go because I wanted to hang out with cool college kids, and I remember being on a camping trip when everyone was saying, ‘Yeah, next year, this will all be under water.’ We were camping where Lake Jocassee is now.” “We’ve hiked many miles on the Appalachian Trail,” his father adds. The outdoors were not merely an area of study for Jack, but a way of bonding for father and son. Despite his enthusiasm for the outdoors, David took a different path, and discovered a deep love for music. “There was always music in our home – mostly classical,” he said. “But no one else in our family is a musician. It was something I took to.” He attributes his brother with providing him with that first spark of inspiration. “We were both home, the two of us, and we went into the living room, where he played this Led Zeppelin record on Dad’s stereo. The minute that needle hit the record, I said, ‘That is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. I want to be a guitar player.’” David’s early experiences and associations as a teenager in Clemson also heavily influenced his love of guitar. The Barnett family owned Barnett Music Center in downtown Clemson in the 1970s. Bobby Barnett was a faculty member at the Poole Agricultural Center, and David took his first guitar lessons from Bonnie Barnett in 1972. Their twin sons were talented guitarists themselves who once performed as the opening act for an Allman Brothers concert. “I had some of my first rock-and-roll lessons from those guys,” he said. Steve Goggins, an architecture student and talented guitarist, mentored David and was key in turning his interest from electric- and rock-based guitar to acoustic. His friend Robert Johnson, who lived in student housing (which was near the current location of the Brooks Center) with his wife Ann in the mid-1970s, introduced him to experimental music. In addition to being an engineering graduate student, he was a Vietnam War veteran who served in the Air Force. David would often visit the couple to listen to and talk about music. “I find it so interesting that I was visiting them and playing and learning literally where the Brooks Center parking lots are now,” he said. While he played guitar in rock bands around town, David wanted to grow as a musician. He would eventually enroll at the University of South Carolina as a classical guitar major. “Frankly, I didn’t have much talent,” he said. “But I had a lot of determination, so I was willing to work hard. And the classical discipline was really good for me, because I could follow instructions. I wanted what those people knew, and I wanted to do what they could do. I didn’t necessarily love classical guitar at the time that I showed up, but by the time I left, it had taken over my life.” Jack paid his son’s tuition to go to college, but had a little fun when he wrote the check, referencing the Clemson-Carolina rivalry in a subtle way. “Clemson was in a long period of dominance back then in football, and the only way he could write my tuition check was that he would put the football score in the memo line of the check.” “For five years,” Jack chimed in. “And they cashed them anyway!” After graduation, David ended up in Asheville, North Carolina, where he has lived for 26 years. In addition to being a freelance musician, he has taught at the University of North Carolina at Asheville for 28 years, as well as Gardner-Webb University, Brevard College, and, of course, Clemson. “Eventually, when the Brooks Center opened, word came: ‘We’re hiring teachers.’ So I applied and was hired in 1994,” he recalled. As the first faculty guitar instructor at Clemson, David commuted four total hours to Clemson to teach two hours of lessons to four students. Now he teaches three days a week and has over 100 students each semester, including one-on-one private lessons and larger classroom sessions. *   *   * In addition to being a performer and teacher, David is also an entrepreneur: “Part of my patchwork quilt of a living,” he says. With a friend, he began making and selling guitar accessories. He patented the A-Frame in 1991, a device that takes the place of the footstool used by classical guitarists during concerts. The small, compact invention props the guitar up to playing height on the thigh, rather than forcing the musician to put his or her leg in an uncomfortable position for the entirety of a performance. David earned his second patent in 2015 with the X-Strap, an extra strap (hence the name) that secures the guitar more tightly to a musician’s body. He was inspired to create it after seeing an ensemble that stood during an entire performance at the Brooks Center. “They were the happiest, most expressive group,” he said. “It was infectious! I loved it! I immediately thought, ‘We’ve got to get guitarists out of the chair.” There was one problem: David felt the standard guitar strap allowed the guitar too much movement, and classical guitarists need the guitar to be secure. This new, second strap would keep the guitar in place and allow the user to move. “I think it invites the audience in,” he said. “Often when you go to a classical guitar concert, here’s this person sitting very rigidly in a chair way over there, they’re playing a soft instrument and they barely move and they’re looking down all the time. It doesn’t invite the listener in. If you can engage your body a little, it somehow invites them in.” His A-Frame and X-Strap were conceptual solutions to problems he faced as a musician. But for his inventions to be of use to others, he had to do more than conceptualize: he had to find a way to build and distribute them efficiently and economically. With his company, SageWorks, he would develop such a system. Now, he makes both the A-Frame and X-Strap himself, by hand, in a workshop beside his house. “I source all the parts,” he said. “I fabricate everything and put them together when the orders come in.”  The A-Frame went through several iterations before it was finalized for the market. Aaron Shearer, a friend and world-class guitar pedagogue who taught at some of the most prestigious music institutions in the country, endorsed it, and David estimates that he has sold close to 20,000 units over 25 years. *   *   * The Stevenson family has always believed in Clemson, David said, even when he was on the road for lessons in Tiger Town longer than he was in the classroom. The fact that Jack established an endowment in 1989 that was, around 1994, re-designated for use by the guitar program shows how dedicated they are to the community and the performing arts. The endowment, which has grown substantially over the years, is now used to purchase sheet music and instruments, and to take care of other costs related to guitar. There are 18 guitars for use by students at Clemson, and classes are designed to help students of all levels and interests – even total beginners. David is often able to invite guest artists to perform and speak to students: Gaelle Solal, classical guitarist from Belgium; Bluegrass master musician Josh Goforth; the rock band Buster; and master fingers style guitarists Alex de Grassi from California and Al Pettaway from Asheville, to name a few. He points to his experiences in Clemson as a teenager to explain his long-lasting connection to his hometown. “Those early influences have literally kept me right here in almost the exact same spot sharing the guitar with so many Clemson students over the last 22 years,” he said. For many years after retiring from Clemson, Jack kept an office in Clemson as a pastoral Counselor at Fort Hill Presbyterian Church. When in town, David has the privilege, as his father says, of staying with him. Nearly 50 years later, for at least a few days each week, the Jack and David can be found under one roof near the University and city they love. For more information about David, his music, and his patents, visit http://riverpointdesign.com/davidsguitar/Home. Thomas Hudgins is director of marketing and communications for the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts in Clemson.

How two Upstate actresses are doing their PART as arts entrepreneurs

From The Greenville News Article by Paul Hyde, photo by Heidi Heilbrunn

Kimilee and Candice Bryant will tell you they were born in a trunk. Not really. In theatrical parlance, it means the two grew up in a family of actors. Their parents met and courted while doing shows at Greenville Little Theatre, and their mother owned a dance studio. A grandfather performed with Joanne Woodward in Greenville. Kimilee and Candice, following in their family’s footsteps, have acted professionally themselves. Kimilee spent 10 years on Broadway in “The Phantom of the Opera.” Candice recently appeared in the CBS television series “Unforgettable.” Theater pulses in their blood. Now, the two are taking on their most challenging role ever: co-directors of a new Upstate theater company, PART (Performing Arts Renaissance Theatre). PART made its debut with Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Into the Woods” this past weekend at the University of South Carolina-Upstate’s Performing Arts Center. The Tony Award-winning musical intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm stories, following characters from “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rapunzel” and “Cinderella” as they strive for “happily ever after” and learn that life is no fairy tale. But some dreams do come true. For the Bryant siblings, the creation of PART qualifies as one. “This was something we wanted to do for a very long time,” Kimilee Bryant said. The Greenville-based Bryants shared creative duties: Co-directing “Into the Woods” and acting in the show as well.

Find a role for PART

Starting a theater company, of course, is no easy ambition. Though PART’s first production takes place at Spartanburg’s USC-Upstate, plans call for the company to perform at various other venues in Greenville. Greenville, of course, already is home to several thriving theater companies that produce their own work, including the Warehouse Theatre, Centre Stage, GLOW Lyric Theatre, Greenville Little Theatre and S.C. Children’s Theatre. And, of course, there’s the big presenter on the block, the Peace Center, which hosts national Broadway touring companies. How will PART fit in? The theater company’s specialty will be versatility, offering plays and musicals but also some opera, said Kimilee Bryant, who is also a former Miss South Carolina. “In my 25-year career, I’ve never come across a company that does all three genres,” she said. Long-term plans include designating or even building a permanent venue in Greenville for PART performances. Shows will feature both local and professional talent. Luckily for the Bryants, a strain of entrepreneurship runs alongside devotion to theater in the family. Their mother, of course, not only founded but led a dance studio for more than 50 years. A grandmother ran a daycare and a grandfather owned an air conditioning business. “We come from a entrepreneurial background,” Kimilee Bryant said. Candice Bryant took the reins of her mother’s dance studio for a few years and is now putting those skills to use in marketing PART and in other administrative duties. She also created PART’s website. Kimilee Bryant also is no stranger to small business. In 2008, while starring in Broadway’s “Phantom of the Opera,” she created her own company, Rubylee Productions, to produce concerts by Broadway singers. In a sense, though, Bryant has always been an entrepreneur. Actors are contract workers, selling a product – their talent – and dealing with an array of concerns such as marketing, health insurance and professional development. “As an actor, you are your own business and your own CEO,” Bryant said. Nevertheless, starting a theater company involves considerable on-the-job training, she said. “I’m trying to adopt the attitude of ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff,’” Bryant said, with a laugh. “It’s a tremendous challenge.” One definite factor in PART’s favor: Greenville loves theater. “There’s certainly enthusiasm for theater and plenty of talent,” Bryant said. Greenville’s large pool of actors is one reason Bryant wanted PART to showcase plays, musicals and opera. “We have so many people who have crossover talent,” she said.

Taking flight

The Bryants hope to announce future shows for this fall and next year, but first, as with all nonprofits, fundraising will be a big necessity over the next few months after “Into the Woods.” Before coming back to Greenville last year, Kimilee Bryant spent 25 years working as an actress in New York City. Her best-known role was Christine in “The Phantom of the Opera.” She was associated with “Phantom” for 10 years, beginning on Broadway in 1994 and later performing in the show in Switzerland, Toronto and on tour in North America. She’s the only actress ever to have played all three major female roles in the musical on Broadway. Kimilee Bryant, who graduated from the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities and attended Converse College, was named Miss South Carolina in 1989. She competed in the Miss America pageant where she won two talent scholarships to help with her graduate studies at the Manhattan School of Music. She received her Master’s of Music degree at the school. She returned to Greenville a little more than a year ago after the birth of her son, Aiden, now 2 years old. “I have family here and I want my son to be around family,” Bryant said. “My mother is just over the moon about Aidan. He’s her first grandchild.” Bryant is now an adjunct professor, teaching voice and other courses at Anderson University’s South Carolina School for the Arts. She’s also a guest lecturer at Converse College, having recently taught the opera workshop there. In addition, she has a thriving private voice studio and holds theater camps in the summer. Her younger sibling, Candice, just earned her theater degree at USC-Upstate. Kimilee Bryant finds herself busier than she’s ever been. “Eight shows a week on Broadway was so much easier,” Bryant said, with a laugh.