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Ken May to retire from S.C. Arts Commission

33-year tenure comes to an end this June

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

Full Statements

KEN MAY

Executive Director | South Carolina Arts Commission

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

Henry HorowitzHENRY HOROWITZ

Chairman | South Carolina Arts Commission

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

DELORES "DEE" CRAWFORD

Incoming Chairwoman | South Carolina Arts Commission

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

About the South Carolina Arts Commission

With a commitment to excellence across the spectrum of our state’s cultures and forms of expression, the South Carolina Arts Commission pursues its public charge to develop a thriving arts environment, which is essential to quality of life, education, and economic vitality for all South Carolinians. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts by providing services, grants, and leadership initiatives in three areas:
  • arts education,
  • community arts development,
  • and artist development.
Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the Arts Commission is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources. For more information, visit SouthCarolinaArts.com or call 803.734.8696.

Wrapping up 2018

'Tis the season, after all.

The South Carolina Arts Commission had a notable 2018:
  • Through staff consultation, grants, and direct programs, our work impacted all 46 South Carolina counties.
  • Our grantees were able to provide more than EIGHT MILLION arts experiences for residents and visitors as a direct result of SCAC grants.
  • "Art of Community: Rural S.C." furthered its reputation as a national model for rural creative placemaking – addressing ongoing challenges in those unique communities with arts and culture-based solutions.
And there's plenty more. Today, we're making public a brief annual report that sheds light on FY18's accomplishments and outlines what and where grants and programs were put to use, from the three “corner” counties of Oconee, Horry, and Beaufort to the 43 arranged inside. You're invited to have a look.

Holiday Schedule at the SCAC

Many of the SCAC staff have already exited stage left for well-deserved annual leave, but others remain and constituents can still expect service with some exceptions: the office will close with other state agencies on weekends, from Dec. 24 to 26, and on Jan. 1. You can expect content on The Hub and Facebook to continue, though it will be less frequent. Whatever you celebrate this season (and even if you don't), the board and staff of the Arts Commission wish you the happiest, merriest, most festive time and peace and prosperity in the New Year!

Liked what you saw in the annual report? 

The South Carolina Arts Foundation would like to hear from you.  

Removing barriers for small org operating support grants

Accessibility continues to guide the S.C. Arts Commission's approach to grant-making, and the agency is happy to announce changes to Operating Support for Small Organizations (OSS) grants that further that goal. Much important work is done by smaller organizations, those with a budget of $75,000 or less. SCAC awarded $83,000 among 34 OSS grantees for FY19 to help them further their work and serve South Carolina citizens and visitors. As the name suggests, the unrestricted awards of up to $2,500 could, quite literally, allow a group to keep its lights on. Removing barriers to applying for these grants is critical for organizations that have few, if any, full-time staff. As such, an application process that's less rigorous and time-consuming is appropriate compared to that for larger organizations, which must instead apply for General Operating Support (GOS) grants.

So, what's new for the FY20 cycle?

  • The awards now feature a two-year cycle, rather than one.
  • The match requirement is now 1:1 instead of 2:1. Every dollar awarded by the Arts Commission must only be matched once rather than twice. (For example, grantees must match a $1,000 grant with a $1,000 from their communities, rather than $2,000.)
  • An even more simplified application process, which had one requirement eliminated altogether among other changes.
  • On-going arts programs at non-arts organizations are now eligible for grants to support only that programming, as long as the budget for it is $75,000 or less.
Go here to learn more about OSS grants.

S.C. Arts Commission seeking coordinator for program and project support

Application deadline: Dec. 31, 2018


The S.C. Arts Commission seeks a technology savvy, creative, and personable individual to perform with excellence while aiding the agency in meeting its mission.  Under the supervision of the Director for Administration, Human Resources, and Operations, the Coordinator for Program and Project Support (Arts Coordinator I) will provide expert level administrative support, coordination, management, and implementation of projects under the direction of program and/or department directors. Responsibilities will include administrative support, constituent customer service, and involvement in mail, scheduling, and supplies, among other duties. The ideal candidate exhibits personal qualities such as:
  • Communicating with adeptness
  • Attending to details and organization
  • Striving to meet goals
  • Accepting personal responsibility
  • Solving problems creatively
  • Demonstrating respect
Preferred qualifications include a bachelor's degree (preferably in an arts discipline, arts administration, public administration, business administration, or office systems technology) and professional experience in office management, event planning and coordination, administration, programming, or providing personal administrative assistance to a program or department.  Three to five years of professional experience is preferred. This is a full-time, salaried position. Salary details may be found at link below. Overnight travel, evening, and weekend work is sometimes required, as well as light lifting and long periods of sitting. Physical and other demands are outlined at the link below. Knowledge or experience reflecting a broad background in the arts is a plus. The South Carolina Arts Commission is an Equal Opportunity Employer actively committed to ensuring diversity. View the complete list of requirements and job duties and find out how to apply here.

Deadline extended to apply for Arts Directory, Teaching Artist Certification

Do you remember this post on The Hub in August?

The SCAC is completely overhauling what's long been known as the Roster of Approved Artists and turning it into two new, juried lists: the Arts Directory and Teaching Artist Certification (which is much like the Arts Directory but includes a background check so you can collaborate on the classroom level). To get said certification, you must first apply for the Arts Directory.

Current roster artists will be granted courtesy extensions into the new Arts Directory for one cycle, but still must apply. These artists will not be required to submit resumes, work samples, or letters of support for this year’s application. After the one-cycle courtesy extension, ALL current roster artists will be expected to submit a full application.

We strongly recommend you get the full information by clicking the Hub link above or by going here.

All that to lead to this news: the deadline to apply for the Arts Directory or for Teaching Artist Certification is being extended to Monday, Dec. 3, 2018.

Tuning Up: There’s a lot going on!

Good morning!  "Tuning Up" is a morning post series where The Hub delivers curated, quick-hit arts stories of interest to readers. Sometimes there will be one story, sometimes there will be several. Get in tune now, and have a masterpiece of a day. And now, in no particular order...


Getting down to business. The nine-member S.C. Arts Commission Board of Directors begins a two-day meeting in Spartanburg this afternoon. Members will convene at the Chapman Cultural Center at 2 p.m. today for light business and learning time about the vibrant Spartanburg arts scene. Tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. they're all business at the Spartanburg County Public Libraries main branch. "5 Lifetimes of Discovery" opens in North Charleston tomorrow. W.A.M (Women. Artist. Mentors) is a group of five female artists composed of Helen Beacham, Maria Bennett Hock, Kim Minichiello, Debra Keirce, and Carrie Waller. This international artist group develops their practices in different ways and comes together to form a strong and supportive collective. Their exhibition, 5 Lifetimes of Discovery, will focus on their discovery and cumulative experiences as artists living around the world. North Charleston City Gallery (5001 Coliseum Dr.) Free. Opens tomorrow through Oct. 31. Hours vary. South Carolina's creative economy is booming. Thanks to our friends at the S.C. Arts Alliance for putting the data together for each Congressional district. Reminder: in February, SCAC released a report that found the arts and creative sector makes a $9.7 billion impact on the state economy every year. Native American traditions at First Thursday on Main. Head to Columbia Art Center (1227 Taylor St.) from 6-8 p.m. tomorrow as Worlds of Creativity presents "Through Native Eyes: artwork and identity." Enjoy storytelling, pottery, basket demonstrations, drumming group Keepers of the Word. Farther up Main, the USC Concert Choir and University Chorus present their first concerts of the season at Main Street United Methodist Church (1830 Main St.). Both events free. More information here.

Greyson Smith joins SCAC as accountant

There's a new face wandering the halls at the S.C. Arts Commission. Greyson Smith (coincidentally a Columbia artist) joined our team Tuesday and is completing his first "full" week as our new accountant. For an agency that is set to distribute some $4 million in grant funding statewide (second time today we've successfully worked that link in...), filling a full-time accountant void is pretty important. The Columbia native graduated from Winthrop University with a bachelor's in business administration with a concentration in accounting, as well as a bachelor's in fine arts. In addition to his years of work experience as an accountant at Companion Life Insurance Company and Enterprise Holdings, Inc., he is also known as an actively exhibiting mixed-media artist and for his past service on the board of directors at 701 Center for Contemporary Art. Welcome, Greyson – we're glad you're here!

So, what would you say you do here?

[caption id="attachment_35603" align="aligncenter" width="600"] "The Bobs" from Office Space, 1999 by Twentieth Century Fox and Cubicle, Inc.[/caption] There's not a quick answer to that question, but let's start with this: The South Carolina Arts Commission does three things:

  • artist development,
  • community arts development,
  • and arts education
through four means:
  • direct programs,
  • staff assistance,
  • partnerships,
  • and grants.

The Hub serves as… a hub for the promotion of news items related to all those things. (The “Arts Daily” section serves as a centralized - what’s the word? - hub for promoting statewide arts events.) On a given week, you can see posts that serve to promote any number of those things. It’s critical for this outlet to do that because if you’re a tax-paying South Carolinian, your income comes to Columbia through the Department of Revenue and can return to your community from our agency by those four means. For the current fiscal year that ends in two weeks, we’ve helped provide one, some, or all the three things we do to all 46 counties. Barbara Streeter In short, we use The Hub to tell you how we’re attempting to be good stewards for your money. It’s not an election-year gimmick, but it’s here every year, on as many days as workload allows. The programs, artists, and ventures are not just lofty ones perched on the peak of Mount Olympus. No, we’re also using arts and culture to make Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper counties feel like they have a slice of the peak as new perspectives converge to address old problems. We help schools integrate the arts (top, right) into their curricula to foster creativity and critical thinking in new generations. We also enable artists to contribute to a $9.7 billion sector of the state economy by helping them not only further, but monetize their skills (bottom, right) to provide themselves sustainable income. That’s where your money goes, and it’s important for you to know that all the time, not just when differing opinions on funding collide - because it’s your money, entrusted to our professionals to impact all South Carolinians.
Two things you might have noticed here and/or our social media outlets lately are renewed emphasis on a) promoting what “SC Artists” are doing (spoiler alert: they are a wildly successful lot) and b) how “SCAC Grants At Work” are being put to work. Here is today’s example, which happens to encompass both. The grantee artists used an S.C. Arts Commission grant to take an art form often assumed to be reserved for Olympus right to Main Street: Here’s to seeing plenty more of this, all the time.

Tuning Up: Arts funding update + Google grants opportunity for Midlands

Good morning!  "Tuning Up" is a morning post series where The Hub delivers quick-hit arts stories of interest to readers. Sometimes there will be one story, sometimes there will be several. Get in tune now, and have a masterpiece of a day. And now, in no particular order...


Increases possible for federal, state arts funding. No, really. Yesterday in Washington, a Senate committee concurred with the House that the NEA should be funded at $155 million for FY19. That's a $2 million increase from FY18. The Senate Appropriations Committee should vote on the measure Thursday. Across the street from us at the State House, a conference committee is to reconvene next week to reconcile differences between House and Senate budget versions. Both bodies already approved a $350,000 funding increase for the S.C. Arts Commission, but an additional $100,000 in Education Improvement Act funds recommended by the Senate will need conference committee approval to progress to Gov. McMaster's desk. Midlands arts nonprofits: want a $50,000 grant? Four nonprofits from Calhoun, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland, Saluda and Sumter counties will receive $50,000 in grant funding and training from Google thanks to Google Impact Challenge Columbia. All nonprofits are invited to submit proposals for their creative and innovative ideas to grow economic opportunity in their communities. A local panel will select four winners, and then the public votes on which of those will receive an additional $50,000. The SCAC can't urge you strongly enough to make a run at getting one of these. Be one of the... top dogs! The deadline is July 11. See a story from WIS here. Best of luck!

Rural creatives, S.C. Arts Commission to launch program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 31 May 2018 Secondary Media Contact: Susan DuPlessis, Program Director sduplessis@arts.sc.gov | 803.734.8693 (direct) COLUMBIA, S.C. –  The South Carolina Arts Commission and a newly formed team of creative professionals are launching CREATE: Rural S.C. with a networking and informational meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 12, at the American Legion Hut in Hampton, S.C. “This new program is part of our greater work in community arts development with a special lens on rural communities,” said South Carolina Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May. “It’s an extension of what we began two years ago with our initiative called The Art of Community: Rural SC with six ‘mavens’ in six Lowcountry counties. As we build the narratives of place, we want to know who the creatives are: the innovators, artists, makers, and entrepreneurs. Who are the tradition bearers?” To fuel local connection and discovery, the arts commission has enlisted the help of 12 "creative connectors" who will be asking for creative contacts across Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper counties. Amber Westbrook will manage the program from the Arts Commission office, and visual artist Ment Nelson of Hampton County has agreed to serve as the local coordinator and liaison for the following ‘creative connectors:’

  • Marcus Johnson (Allendale)
  • Shakora Bamberg (Bamberg)
  • Naviree Johnson (Bamberg)
  • James Wilson (Bamberg)
  • Terrance Washington (Barnwell)
  • Bobby Harley (regional)
  • Ian Dillinger (Colleton)
  • Tamara Herring (Jasper)
  • Joanna Brailey (Jasper)
  • Amanda Whiteaker (regional)
  • Ashley Jordan (regional)
For the next three months, these individuals will be reaching out to people they know, businesses, organizations and local associations to discover who fits under the creative umbrella. They will share their findings with the S.C. Arts Commission as it builds a creative network in this rural region. Those identified will be invited to networking meetings in local communities. “We want an expansive list of folks and businesses that includes those who are well known and less well known but who are actively creative within their communities,” May said. The program is funded in part by grants from USDA-Rural Development as well as from a Neighborworks America grant won by Center for a Better South. “Part of this new program is to explore and develop the many assets of our places.  And we believe the creatives embedded within our small, rural communities are part of the lifeblood of community and what makes our places special,” said Susan DuPlessis, community arts development director at the arts commission. “Leadership, resource and professional development are important goals in this program as well as creating networking opportunities.” Networking meetings are also scheduled for July 10 in Allendale County and Aug. 28 in Bamberg County. A fourth gathering will be held Sept. 19-21 in Barnwell County, where national, state and local advisors for The Art of Community: Rural SC will explore the richness of rural South Carolina and opportunities for framing stories in ways that build upon assets and consider local challenges in new ways that use arts and culture as instruments for change. “One of the highlights of the September gathering will be to showcase some of the creatives who are discovered through CREATE: Rural SC and hear their stories about innovation, making and creation in rural communities,” DuPlessis said.  “And at the same time, we hope to put some of our local talent to work hosting and planning each of these networking meetings. We will be listening, connecting and learning from them as we support their next steps in entrepreneurship and creative expression.” For more information about The Art of Community: Rural SC, go to http://www.southcarolinaarts.com/artofcommunity/index.shtml.

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 SouthCarolinaArts.com or call (803) 734-8696.