The South Carolina Arts Commission’s initiative, The Art of Community: Rural S.C., received the first Power of Rural award October 11 from the South Carolina Office of Rural Health at the 21st annual Rural Health Conference, which was attended by health and medical professionals dedicated to providing access to quality healthcare in rural communities. Program Director Susan DuPlessis also led a conversation of Art of Community team members around using the arts as a different approach to building healthy communities.
The Art of Community: Rural S.C. advances the Arts Commission’s commitment to rural development through the arts, culture and creative placemaking and is supported by funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development. The initiative has led to national attention and new connections for the Arts Commission — from the White House to national thought leaders to significant organizations inside and outside of the state. In addition, the agency has been invited to take part in regional and national conferences and webinars to present the program as a model for building community, economic opportunity and local infrastructure for growth and development in rural and high-poverty communities.
“Through this initiative, we have created a new framework for building local connections, community engagement and capacity,” DuPlessis said. “It was born out of our participation in the Promise Zone’s strategic planning process in the fall of 2015. In all of the sessions, I heard how arts and culture were important, whether we were talking about healthcare or workforce development. The arts were clearly identified as key to community pride, attachment and new possibilities.”
Over the past year, The Art of Community: Rural SC resulted in six creative peacemaking projects being designed and implemented by local teams in the six counties in South Carolina’s federally designated Promise Zone . The Arts Commission provided small grants to assist with these projects. Six mavens are working closely with the Arts Commission to drive and sustain the work of each local team. Mavens and the communities they represent are Lottie Lewis, Allendale; Dr. Yvette McDaniel, Denmark (Bamberg County); Evelyn Coker, Blackville (Barnwell County); Gary Brightwell, Walterboro (Colleton County); Audrey Hopkins-Williams, Estill (Hampton County); and Johnny Davis, Jasper County
Twenty-three national and state leaders representing expansive thinking in the world of arts, culture and community development serve on the Art of Community Advisory Council, which is co-chaired by two native South Carolinians, Union native Dr. Ann Carmichael, dean of USC Salkehatchie, and Bob Reeder, program director for Rural LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) and a Rock Hill native.
For more information about The Art of Community, contact Susan DuPlessis, 803.734.8693.
Image: First row, left to right: team member LaShandra Morgan, maven Dr. Yvette McDaniel, Susan DuPlessis, maven Evelyn Coker. Back row, left to right: team members Ashley Jordan and Myron Brooker, Dr. Graham Adams, executive director, S.C. Office of Rural Health, and team member Brenda Hughes. Missing from photo: mavens Gary Brightwell, Johnny Davis, Audrey Hopkins-Williams, and Lottie Lewis.