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Verner Award highlights: Nikky Finney and Hootie and the Blowfish

Poet Nikky Finney and Hootie and the Blowfish are ambassadors for South Carolina, using their success and celebrity status to draw attention to the benefits of the arts. Read more about these recipients of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts below, and find out more about all of the activities taking place as part of the South Carolina Arts Awards on May 11. Nikky Finney

newNikky1 Nikky Finney was born in South Carolina, within listening distance of the sea. A child of activists, she came of age during the Civil Rights and Black Arts Movements. At Talladega College, nurtured by Hale Woodruff's Amistad murals, Finney began to understand the powerful synergy between art and history. Finney has authored four books of poetry: On Wings Made of Gauze (1985); Rice (1995); The World Is Round (2003); and Head Off & Split (2011), which received the National Book Award for poetry in 2011. Finney’s electrifying acceptance speech prompted the ceremony's emcee, actor John Lithgow, to proclaim, "That's the best acceptance for anything I've ever heard in my life." Head Off & Split was also selected as the 2015-2016 First Year Book by University of Maryland, College Park, providing an opportunity for students and faculty to delve into complex topics using a common text. Finney writes extensively for journals, magazines and other publications. Her new work includes The Battle of and for the Black Face Boy, commissioned in 2013 by the University of Maryland and published in the fall 2015 issue of Oxford American, the first feature-length poem to be published in the literary magazine. Finney’s other awards and honors include a PEN American Open Book Award for Rice in 1997, the Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council in 1999, induction into the Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent in 2002, and the Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Booksellers Association for The World is Round in 2004, In 2013, Finney returned to South Carolina as The John H. Bennett, Jr. Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Letters and Literature at the University of South Carolina after teaching creative writing at the University of Kentucky for 21 years. Watch the video of Finney's National Book Award acceptance speech.
Hootie and the Blowfish
HootieandTheBlowfish250Hootie and the Blowfish members Darius Rucker, Mark Bryan, Dean Felber and Jim “Soni” Sonefeld met when they were freshmen at the University of South Carolina. The band sold over 25 million records worldwide after their debut album Cracked Rear View hit the airwaves in 1994. At the end of the year, Cracked Rear View and the band won two Grammys, an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist, a Billboard Music Award for Album of the Year, a People's Choice Award for Album of the Year and a People's Choice Award for Best Selling Artist, a feat they duplicated in 1996. Cracked Rear View remains the 12th best-selling album in music business history. The band grew up in an environment where education and music were important. Knowing how fortunate they were, they have a strong desire to improve education in their home state, funding programs that help provide a well-rounded and meaningful education based in practical studies and the arts. The band established the Hootie and the Blowfish Foundation in 2000 through the Central Carolina Community Foundation. The majority of funding comes from the annual Hootie and the Blowfish Monday after the Masters Golf Tournament. The event, created to support education and music programs nationwide, has raised over $2 million to date for multiple causes. Support ranges from building community learning centers to outfitting school marching bands to simply providing educators with the tools they need to nurture children's talents and help them succeed. In 2001, the band was involved in VH1’s Save the Music Foundation’s South Carolina kickoff, performing with students at the Statehouse to draw attention to improving the quality of music education in public schools. In addition to Monday After the Masters, the foundation also puts on various events throughout the year, including Hootie's Homegrown Roundup, a back to school program held in August each year to benefit the children of Charleston County School District. More than 12,000 students have benefited from the Roundup since the program’s inception in 2007. Although band members have had successful solo careers, they still consider themselves a band, performing together to benefit the causes they believe in. They willingly use their celebrity status as successful artists to draw attention to and benefit South Carolina. Their leadership in providing support and funding for education, particularly music education, has had a significant impact on the state and beyond.
 

2016 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award recipients announced

vernerstatuescolorCongratulations to the recipients of the 2016 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards for the Arts! The S.C. Arts Commission annually presents the awards, the highest honor the state gives in the arts, to recognize outstanding achievement and contributions to the arts in South Carolina. Awards will be presented May 11 at 11 a.m. during a ceremony at the Statehouse. This year’s recipients:

"Each of these Verner Award recipients has attracted positive national attention for the Palmetto State," said S.C. Arts Commission Chairman Henry Horowitz. "Their dedication to the arts greatly benefits South Carolinians and materially enhances our state’s economic vitality. Their contributions regionally and nationally are a source of pride for South Carolinians living anywhere. The Verner Awards recognize service, commitment and passion, and we are honored to have these individuals and organizations working to enhance our state's reputation as a leader in the arts." Also on May 11, the S.C. Arts Foundation will honor the recipients and the arts community at the South Carolina Arts Gala, a fundraiser supporting the programs of the S.C. Arts Commission. The gala begins at 7:15 p.m. in the Grand Hall, 701 Whaley St. in Columbia. Gala tickets are $75 per person and may be purchased online. The 2016 Verner Awards are sponsored by Colonial Life. For more about the Verner Awards or the S.C. Arts Gala, call (803) 734-8696 or visit www.SouthCarolinaArts.com. 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. For more information, visit www.SouthCarolinaArts.com or call (803) 734-8696.

Hootie & the Blowfish alum showcases music scene at historic Charleston venue

Story by Meg Kinnard; photo by Mary Ann Chastain
COLUMBIA — Charleston, South Carolina, has become a go-to destination for travelers seeking a dip into southern hospitality, history and haute cuisine, ranking consistently as a top domestic and international travel destination.
Now the lead guitarist and songwriter for one of the state's most popular rock bands is putting on an event to showcase some of the state's musical appreciation, alongside celebrated national music acts. On Friday, Feb. 13, Mark Bryan's "Live at the Charleston Music Hall" kicks off its radio run with performances by Greenville native Edwin McCain and bluegrass musician Sam Bush. Future acts have not been announced, but Bryan says the show will have a regular run on both public television and radio channels. This weekend's shows are airing on public radio and television throughout South Carolina. Shows later this year will be broadcast nationwide. Bryan is perhaps best known for his work with Hootie & the Blowfish, the Grammy Award-winning band he helped found while a student at the University of South Carolina and with whom he still plays occasional shows. In 2010, Bryan founded Chucktown Music Group, a company intended to help create exposure both for his own musical efforts but also for up and coming artists in the Charleston area. "It was a way for me to collaborate with other artists and songwriters, and as a producer to make albums with some of these up and coming artists," Bryan said recently in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "Live at the Charleston Music Hall" has its beginnings in Bryan's conversations with owners of the historic venue, a 19th century rail station that was transformed to an arts venue in the 1990s. In looking for artists for two pilot episodes, Bryan reached out to McCain and Bush, and then pitched the show to South Carolina Educational Television and national PBS outlets. Audiences will be a mixture of the artists' fans, as well as local music lovers. Bryan is energized about the exposure he hopes his show will give Charleston's music scene.
"It's this place where there's a vibrant scene with a lot of talented artists, a lot of venues where you can hear music, good radio, good press, but no industry infrastructure," Bryan said. "You can tell that there's enough talent here for something to bubble up on a national level, but we haven't built the infrastructure that Nashville or Austin or Athens has." That's what Bryan says he tries to do though his Chucktown Music Group, as well as via a program he helped found at the College of Charleston. Since 2009, Bryan has been teaching a course to help students learn about all facets of the music industry, from booking to publicity and songwriting. Two years ago, he also helped kick start a music industry concentration, giving students the chance to specialize as part of their studies. "We are helping kids get an education and, in turn, jobs in the music industry all over the country," Bryan said. "If you're not an artist or a musician, there's still a lot you can do in the music industry." Image: Members of the band Hootie & The Blowfish, from left, Darius Rucker, Dean Felber, Jim "Soni" Sonfeld, and Mark Bryan, arrive for the unveiling of a permanent piece of public art in honor of the band's 25th anniversary on Oct. 21, 2010, in Columbia. Bryan is putting on a show to showcase some of the state’s musical talent, alongside celebrated national music acts. On Friday, Bryan’s show “Live at the Charleston Music Hall” kicks off its nationally-televised run with performances by Edwin McCain and Sam Bush. www.ctmg.us www.charlestonmusichall.com

Students! Show off your talent!

Entry deadline: March 8

The BB&T “This School’s Got Talent” competition is back! South Carolina’s most exciting, fan-voted, statewide student talent contest is returning for its third year.

Celebrity judges from the GRAMMY Award-winning super-group Hootie & The Blowfish will help select the top entries. The final videos will then be posted online and the public will vote on the winner. The student deemed most talented will earn the opportunity to perform live at the televised “South Carolina Teacher of the Year Celebration” on May 1 in Columbia. The winner will also be invited to perform at the opening concert for the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation on May 17. BMW, the presenting sponsor of the state Teacher of the Year Celebration, will allow the talent show winner to perform with members of the Hootie and the Blowfish Band and other celebrity performers. The contest is open to public school students in grades one through 12 in all South Carolina school districts. To enter, adults 18 or older may submit videos of students showcasing their skills. Videos must be at least 30 seconds in length and may not exceed five minutes in length. Visit the SC Future Minds Facebook page to enter. The submission period for video entries began February 4, 2013, and ends at midnight on March 8, 2013. Finalists will be announced on or before March 15, and public voting via Facebook will begin. Viewers may cast their vote for each video one time per day during the voting period. There are no age restrictions on voting. Voting period will end at midnight on March 31.   The winner will be announced on April 1, 2013. Visit the SC Future Minds Facebook page for more information and to watch a performance of the 2012 winner, Hannah Peeples. Via: SC Future Minds