Arts Grow SC to expand, first executive director named


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The South Carolina Arts Commission and the South Carolina Department of Education announce the expansion of Arts Grow SC as a permanent fixture in the state’s arts learning landscape.

Arts Grow SC began in July 2021 as a three-year partnership between the South Carolina Department of Education and the South Carolina Arts Commission to use ARP ESSER funds to help public schools address pandemic-related learning loss with proven, arts-based learning initiatives. This landmark investment of $20 million allows a professional team and a network of partners to help schools and teachers fill learning loss gaps, use arts integration to remediate core subject areas,​ and provide summer and afterschool learning opportunities.​

This newly announced expansion establishes Arts Grow SC as a permanent part of the arts learning community. It will utilize a collective impact model, with the SCAC serving as the backbone for the work. This approach brings greater sustainability: building on the strengths of the SCDE, the SCAC, partnering organizations, schools, and districts. The collective impact model will activate existing education consortiums, shared-resource school districts, and newly identified hubs in areas not currently being served. These hubs will enable statewide programs and services.

The flagship physical location for a more permanent Arts Grow SC will be the Spearman Center for Arts Innovation, located in Columbia at 1026 Sumter Street. Named for former music teacher and current state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, the Spearman Center will provide:

  • direct programs
  • professional learning
  • events
  • resource distribution
  • exhibitions

SCAC Deputy Director Ashley Brown has been appointed executive director of Arts Grow SC and the Spearman Center for Arts Innovation. Brown has served throughout the Southeast as a nonprofit and higher education administrator, public school teacher, stage manager, teaching artist, and director. She received her bachelor of arts in theatre from Winthrop University and her Master of Fine Art in theatre management from Florida State University.

Current Arts Grow SC partners include:

  • the Arts in Basic Curriculum Institute;
  • Engaging Creative Minds;
  • S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities;
  • ArtsNOW;
  • Boys and Girls Club of the Crescent Region;
  • S.C. Educational Television;
  • S.C. Arts Alliance;
  • Palmetto State Arts Education;
  • Education Commission of the States/Arts Education Partnerships;
  • and the Research, Evaluation, and Measurement Center at the University of South Carolina. 

“In just a year we have rallied a statewide network to use the arts to address COVID-19 related learning loss. Using a collective impact model, Arts Grow SC and the Spearman Center for Arts Innovation will work to ensure every student in South Carolina has access to quality arts education and experiences,” Brown said. “I can’t think of a better way to honor the legacy of Superintendent Spearman and all she has done for the arts in South Carolina.”

“I have seen first-hand the tremendous impact that the arts can have on student engagement and academic achievement,” Spearman remarked. “Throughout my career in public education, I have strived to bring these opportunities to all students across our state and am so honored that the South Carolina Arts Commission has chosen to name this center after me. I look forward to seeing the innovative practices and programs that this center will grow and support.”

“This is an exciting time for the arts in South Carolina,” said SCAC Executive Director David Platts. “Building on the strong foundation of existing partnerships across the state, Arts Grow SC stands as a model of how we, as state agencies, can work together with local consortia, organizations and school districts to help students most directly impacted by COVID recover and position themselves for future academic success.  I can think of no more fitting tribute to Superintendent Spearman, whose life and career have been dedicated to turning challenges into opportunities in order to better serve students from all over South Carolina.”

While Arts Grow SC programs, grants, and professional learning opportunities are already taking place, the SCAC hopes to site work on the Spearman Center for Arts Innovation in the coming year. To learn more about Arts Grow SC, visit

South Carolina Arts Commission News Release, Media Contact: Jason L. Rapp, Communications Director. or 803.734.8899