← View All Articles

SC poet Nikky Finney earns place in history at new DC museum

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.

Sessions for everyone at the Statewide Arts Conference!

Update: Richard Evans' session (mentioned below) is now full. Conference registrants will receive information about the waiting list. The Statewide Arts Conference taking place Sept. 18 at the Columbia Conference Center is chock full of opportunities to learn from experts and network with colleagues. For less than $100, you'll have access to the kind of high-quality professional development usually found at regional and national conferences -- and you don't even have to leave the state! old cell phonesThe conference features not one, but two highly sought-after keynote speakers. National Book Award-winning poet and S.C. native Nikky Finney will kick off the conference, and Richard Evans of EmcArts will talk about adaptive change and innovation during lunch. Richard will also present a daylong session targeted at arts organizations and the complex changes we're facing. Space is limited in this interactive session and seats are going fast; everyone who registers for the conference will receive details about signing up for Richard's session. Registration is just $98 per person, or $88 per person if you and a colleague register at the same time. Session highlights (find complete details online.) For artists:

  • Making Your Life as an Artist: A Guide to a Balance, Sustainable Artistic Life
  • Practical Legal Tips for the Creative Person
  • A Life in the Arts: 10 Big Ideas on Career and Financial Success
  • Roundtable discussions/short sessions with Artists U facilitators
For everyone:
  • Creating and Cultivating the Agriculture and Art in Your Community
  • The Arts and Social Change
  • Creativity + Community: Leveraging Change for Good
  • Developing Community Partnerships for Arts Education
  • Everyone Tells Our Story But Us - Toward Authenticity in Artistic Presentations
  • Now Tweet This: Online Marketing is Here to Stay
  • Accessibility and New Audiences
Plus, explore program and funding opportunities from South Arts and the Humanities CouncilSC and get technology assistance through our curbside consultant. Read more details about the sessions and register today!

Second stellar keynote added to Statewide Arts Conference

Another internationally known speaker has joined the line-up for the Statewide Arts Conference being held Sept. 18: Richard Evans, president of EmcArts, a leading not-for-profit provider of innovation services to the arts and culture sector across the United States and abroad.

In addition to the opening keynote address by Nikky Finney, the conference will now feature a luncheon keynote and a workshop presented by Evans, who will share his experience of helping arts organizations innovate, with an emphasis on adaptive organizational change and effective ways to respond to the demands of a new era.

The two 90-minute portions of Evans' interactive workshop will be connected -- one occurs in the morning, and the second takes place after lunch. Participants will work in groups to explore complex challenges South Carolina's arts community is facing and dig in to some of the fundamental approaches that are helping organizations address our complex and rapidly changing world. Space for this workshop is limited to 60 participants, so pre-registration will be required. Everyone who registers for the conference will receive information about reserving a spot in Evans' workshop.

All conference attendees will have a chance to learn from Evans during lunch, when he will facilitate a conversation based on what he and his colleagues have learned from nearly a decade of leading adaptive work with 200 arts and cultural organizations of all types and sizes.

Arts organizations should consider bringing at least two people to the conference -- one person to participate in Evans' session, and one person to take part in the other sessions offered at the same time.  The $78 early-bird rate is good only through July 31, so register today!

More information about Evans' workshop and the conference is available online.

A big thank-you to the South Carolina Arts Alliance for generously sponsoring Evans' participation. Related: Poet Nikky Finney to headline Statewide Arts Conference

Poet Nikky Finney to headline Statewide Arts Conference

Nikky FinneyWelcome Nikky Finney as the keynote speaker for the 2014 Statewide Arts Conference! An award-winning poet and South Carolina native, Finney returned to S.C. in 2013 as the John H. Bennett, Jr. Chair of Southern Literature & Creative Writing at the University of South Carolina. After Finney’s fourth book of poetry, Head Off & Split, was awarded the 2011 National Book Award for poetry, her 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.” Watch the video and get a glimpse of what’s in store for the conference at nikkyfinney.net. Early bird conference registration is $78 per person until Aug. 1. Find out more and register today! Image: photo of Nikky Finney by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

USC Press brings back Palmetto Poetry Series

From The State:

 Nearly three years after poet Kwame Dawes left the University of South Carolina for the University of Nebraska, one of his publishing projects is getting a second life. The current rendition of the Palmetto Poetry Series just released its first book — “New and Selected Poems,” by South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth — under its new editor, Nikky Finney. The selection process for future publications is under way, guided by Finney and a five-member board: Dawes, Wentworth, Terrance Hayes, Charlene Spearen and Ray McManus. “It seems to me that South Carolina is particularly known for fiction writers,” said Wentworth. “We have many who are New York Times best-sellers. But we have poets. To have Nikky Finney and Terrance Hayes win the National Book Award back-to-back says something about the quality of those poets.” Jonathan Haupt, director of the University of South Carolina Press, agrees. He’s credited with reviving the series. “I believe that a state that boasts the oldest poetry society in the nation and two recent National Book Award winners in poetry deserves this kind of opportunity for its current and future poets,” he said. “I chose the board in consultation with Nikky. We wanted a group of diverse talents with a likeminded commitment to supporting the accomplishments of South Carolina’s established poets while also discovering new voices as-of-yet unheard. This is that group. There’s no question about it.” Among the criteria for publication in the series is a tie to South Carolina. “You might have been born and raised here,” said Wentworth. “Nikky Finney is definitely a South Carolina poet, though she’s lived in Kentucky. Terrance Hayes is rooted here.” Another criterion is excellence. Haupt describes Finney’s participation as a key indicator of the series’ ambitions. In a press release, he noted: “As with last year’s announcement that Pat Conroy was joining us as editor of our fiction imprint, Story River Books, Nikky Finney’s appointment as editor of the Palmetto Poetry Series solidifies USC Press’s commitment to finding and fostering exceptional literary talents here in our home state. “Nikky’s monumental skills and unparalleled instincts as a poet make her an ideal choice for reinvigorating our poetry series. Moreover, she brings to the Palmetto Poetry Series undeniable evidence of the power and responsibility of poets to reshape lives, both at home and elsewhere.” Wentworth says that Finney exemplifies the goals of the series. “Her work is grounded in this place and in history and social justice. Though we don’t necessarily associate those themes with experimental form, her last book in particular is incredibly innovative. “That’s such a perfect fit for what we’re trying to do: looking at history in new ways, looking at experience in new ways. In many ways, that’s the type of work we hope to publish. Nikky’s personality and warmth will attract a lot of people in. You make an immediate connection with her. Poetry series can seem elitist or skewed a certain way—Nikky is the last person you’d see that way.” Wentworth also explores themes with a broad reach, as her “New and Selected Poems” shows. Along with pieces from her collections “Noticing Eden,” “Despite Gravity,” and “The Endless Repetition of an Ordinary Miracle,” the book contains 28 new poems. For her book launch at the State Library on April 18, she read a variety, among them “Newlyweds,” which has become a popular choice for weddings and was turned into a choral piece by composer Nathan Jones. She also read a few works based on short newspaper stories that caught her eye—such as “Runaway Cow Tracked Down in Germany,” which begins:
A cow named Yvonne, whose escape kept a corner of Bavaria on tender hooks, has turned herself in after three months on the run.
“I shape them, put a form on them, and whatnot,” she said. “They’re either very funny or very dark.” What makes poetry the art perhaps most relevant to daily life, said Wentworth, is the way “it shapes our collective experiences. Everyone is struggling with making sense of things. Reading poems is a great way to discover meaning. There’s a redemptive quality to finding your own experiences, whether love or profound loss, reflected in someone else’s words. You don’t feel so alone when you find a poem that articulates what you’re feeling.”
Via: The State

Poet Nikky Finney returning to South Carolina to teach at USC

Nikky Finney, winner of the 2011 National Book Award for poetry and one of Lexington's most beloved literary figures, is leaving the University of Kentucky to return home to South Carolina. The decision to take a job at the University of South Carolina in Columbia is based on spending more time with her aging parents, according to an entry on her website. Read the entire article. Nikky Finney Visit Finney's website to read more about her work. Photo of Nikky Finney by Rachel Eliza Griffiths Via: Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader

South Carolina Academy of Authors offers fellowships for poetry and fiction

The South Carolina Academy of Authors invites entries for its annual fellowships in poetry and fiction. Fellows receive $1,000 and are invited to the Academy's induction ceremony on April 27 in Columbia. Fellowship applicants must be full-time South Carolina residents. There are no restrictions on content, however submitted works must unpublished. December 1 is the deadline for both competitions. The judge for the 2012 Carrie McCray Nickens Poetry Fellowship competition is Nick Lantz, author of  poetry collections "We Don’t Know We Don’t Know" (Graywolf Press, 2010) and "The Lightning That Strikes the Neighbors’ House" (University of Wisconsin Press, 2010). He is the recipient of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize, the Felix Pollak Prize, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award and the Larry Levis Reading Prize. He teaches creative writing at Tinker Mountain Writers’ Workshop, Queens University’s Low-Residency MFA, and at Sam Houston State University, where he is the poetry editor of the Texas Review. Mary Robison, the Fiction Fellowship judge, has been widely hailed for her biting depictions of contemporary American life since her story “Sisters” was published in The New Yorker in 1977. Since then, her stories have appeared in The Paris Review, Esquire, GQ, Harvard Magazine, The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Fiction, The Pushcart Prize and The O.Henry Prize Stories. Her novel "Why Did I Ever" won the Los Angeles Times Book prize for Fiction, and "One D.O.A., One on the Way" was chosen by The New York Times Book Review as one of the “100 Most Notable Books of the Year." Robison has received numerous awards, including a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation, and in 2009 the prestigious Rea Award For The Short Story. She teaches at the University of Florida. Visit the S.C. Academy of Authors website for application guidelines. Induction ceremony open to the public The public may purchase tickets to the induction ceremony being held April 27 in Columbia at the University of South Carolina. This year's inductees are Jack Bass, Nikky Finney, Terrance Hayes and Eugene Robinson. The Academy board selects new inductees annually whose works have been judged culturally important. Each inductee, whether living or deceased, has added to South Carolina's literary legacy by earning notable scholarly attention or achieving historical prominence. For ticket information, visit the Academy's website. [caption id="attachment_2344" align="aligncenter" width="750"]SC Academy of Authors inductees Left to right: Jack Bass, Nikky Finney, Terrance Hayes, Eugene Robinson[/caption] About the S.C. Academy of Authors The Academy's principal purpose is to identify and recognize the state's distinguished writers and to promote their literature's influence on our cultural heritage. Public recognition of our state's literary hall of fame not only serves to increase the general readership of authors working today but also leads to the rediscovery of works from the past. Via: S.C. Academy of Authors

Milly

Four artists included in 2013 S.C. African-American history calendar

Four artists with S.C. connections are included in the just-released 2013 South Carolina African-American history calendar sponsored by AT&T South Carolina. These native South Carolinians have gained national and international acclaim for their work:

  • Opera singer Gwendolyn Bradley of Bishopville made her debut at the MET in 1981 and has achieved international fame.
  • Marie Brailey (deceased) and her son Willie Van Brailey, natives of Orangeburg, each worked at the art of chair caning for 50 years. Mrs. Brailey received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 1997, and Mr. Brailey received the award in 2011.
  • Celebrated poet Nikky Finney was born in Conway. Finney’s fourth book of poetry, Head Off & Split, was awarded the 2011 National Book Award for poetry.
  • Painter, sculptor and printmaker Otto Neals was born in Lake City. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally.
Read more about these artists by visiting the calendar website and clicking "Download the 2013 calendar." More information is also available in this article from The State. Via: AT&T South Carolina, The State