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College of Charleston’s Valerie Morris announces retirement

Long-time, accomplished arts dean exiting the stage


For 22 years Valerie Morris, dean of the College of Charleston School of the Arts, has sat in the audience at music and dance performances, theater productions and art lectures and presentations.

She has served as a member of various boards and joined committees to raise funds. A perennial champion of the arts, Morris has always been there, standing off stage, determinedly cheering. And it’s an essential role in a city where the arts often take center stage. “I have known Dean Morris for years as a fellow Rotarian and through her leadership in Charleston’s thriving arts community,” says Charleston Mayor John T. Tecklenburg. “Simply put, she’s been amazing in her impact on the arts scene here in Charleston, along with her personal joie de vivre!”
Morris’s “joie de vivre” or enthusiasm for the arts began at a young age. Growing up in Beverly, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, she first became interested in the arts at the age of six after an aunt took her to see the movie Hans Christian Anderson starring Danny Kaye. Then she became very active in the local children’s theater and “used every excuse to spend backstage” at the North Shore Music Theatre, the largest operating regional theater in New England. “I guess from the age of 6, I always felt pushed towards the arts,” Morris said, noting that in high school her focus shifted to public speaking and promoting the arts, which won her an award for marketing her high school’s productions. “First, I wanted to perform, then I realized I wanted to be around artists of all types, and to help them achieve their goals.” And that first meant achieving her goals. Morris received her bachelor’s degree in speech arts from American University and a master in speech with a theatre administration emphasis from the University of Michigan. Her career in the arts really picked up when she joined the faculty of American University’s Department of Performing Arts, where she became the founding director of that institution’s Arts Management program. According to Karen Chandler, associate professor of arts management at the College, Morris forged a path for women in the field. “When I entered the field in the early ’80s, Valerie was one of a handful of women arts leaders who had founded and very successfully developed a program in arts management (at American University),” says Chandler, who also worked alongside Morris at American University.
Morris came to the College as dean of the School of the Arts in the fall of 1998. Since then, she has helped establish the undergraduate Arts Management Program and the Graduate Certificate in Arts and Cultural Management, as well as the Historic Preservation and Community Planning Program. Under Morris’s leadership, the School of the Arts has grown and flourished, including earning the South Carolina Governor’s Award for the Arts, the state’s highest award in the arts. Other highlights of Morris’ tenure include helping to launch the Marion and Wayland H. Cato Jr. Center for the Arts in January 2010. The $27.2 million dollar, 70,000-square-foot building is a testament to the growth of the school from a small fine arts department into a comprehensive arts school with seven academic departments and programs. Morris also expanded the School of the Arts Council and, in 2003, established the Friends of the School of the Arts, a membership program that funds scholarships, student travel for competitions and productions, visiting artists, faculty research and development, and international recruitment efforts. And Morris’s hard work has garnered the attention and support of some of CofC’s most esteemed arts alumni, including acclaimed painter Brian Rutenberg (Class of 1987). “To excel as an artist, one needs to be organized, possess a clear-eyed vision and have a great sense of humor. These same qualities apply to leading an entire art school,” says Rutenberg. “Valerie has all of these attributes, plus she is a skillful communicator. Her creation is the world-class reputation that the School of the Arts at the College of Charleston enjoys today. We are all the beneficiaries of her effort.”
As for what comes next, Morris says her future will always include the arts as well as a focus on family. “I’m keeping active on local, regional and national boards,” she says. “Eventually, my husband and I plan to spend considerable time on the West Coast, where my children and grandchildren live.” To honor Morris’s 22 years of service to the College and the School of the Arts, longtime College of Charleston advocates, donors and volunteers Jean and Tap Johnson have established a scholarship in her name. It’s a fitting honor for someone who has done so much for CofC. “Valerie has been a consummate mentor, advisor and colleague over the past 25 years. But more importantly, she is a trusted supporter and dear friend,” says Chandler. “She deserves to do whatever she wants now, feeling satisfied about the outstanding contributions she’s made to the arts infrastructure in so many places – and especially here at CofC.”

Jason Rapp

A look at SLED’s forensic artists

Bringing descriptions to life


Most of the time, being the subject for a professional artist is an aspiration, if not a treat.

If you are a subject for artists Deborah Goff or Lara Gorick, you've made some questionable life choices. Both are senior special agents with the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and both use their artistic skills to help law enforcement find alleged criminals on the lam. WCBD TV-2 in Charleston aired a fascinating story with the SLED agents last week. It takes a good look at the process of putting a forensic sketch together and the services these unique #SCartists provide:
  • composite sketches
  • forensic facial reconstructions
  • post-mortem images
  • and age progressions.
It's definitely worth a watch:

Jason Rapp

Greenwood arts giant retires

But Anne Craig has not gone away


Anne Craig officially retired as director of the Arts Center of Greenwood in March this year, but continued serving through September in an advisory role.

Anne Craig (Index-Journal photograph) Though she no longer has a title, she can still be found in the anchor facility of the city's cultural district (which she is credited with turning into a reality). Instead of meetings, her time is spent developing watercolor skills in a downstairs studio office. St. Claire Donaghy of the Greenwood Index-Journal has a new story online that is a nice look back over Craig's professional accomplishments:

Craig said renovation of the federal building, GCT and The Museum contributed to momentum for shops and restaurants to open in Uptown.

“Before the three cultural entities of the district were renovated and open, you could ride through Uptown on the weekends and there was not a car to be seen,” she said. “Now, I ride through, and it’s packed.”

Jason Rapp

S.C. non-profits requested $76 million in SC CARES Act relief

Nearly 1,600 applications submitted


Gov. Henry McMaster and the South Carolina Dept. of Administration (Admin) announced late yesterday that 11,217 applications were received for the SC CARES Act grant programs for the Minority and Small Business Relief Grant Program and the Nonprofit Relief Grant Program.

These programs award grant funds to small and minority businesses and nonprofit organizations to reimburse qualifying expenditures for providing services or for revenue loss due to COVID-19. Beginning on October 16, Governor McMaster, Admin, and other state leaders held events in Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Greer, and Myrtle Beach to raise awareness of the program and encourage business owners to apply for the program. “Small businesses are the cornerstone of our state’s economy and they were hit hard by the pandemic,” said Gov. Henry McMaster. “We knew we had to quickly get them the help they need through an easily-accessible program, and I’m happy to say that the results have exceeded our expectations.” Act 154 of 2020 allocated $40 million for the Minority and Small Business Program, with grant awards ranging from $2,500-$25,000. The total number of application submissions for the Minority and Small Business program was 9,627, with a total requested amount of $213,297,112.30. Act 154 allocated $25 million for the Nonprofit Program, with grant awards ranging from $2,500-$50,000. The total number of application submissions for the Nonprofit program was 1,590 with a total requested amount of $75,980,037.43. In early December, applicants will receive a notification indicating grant approval and the dollar amount of the grant. Grant awards will be issued to qualifying grant recipients by mid-December. If other CARES Act funds are not utilized, both the Nonprofit and Minority and Small Business Grant funds are eligible to be replenished and additional grants may be distributed at a later date.
In accordance with Act 154, applications for the Minority and Small Business Relief Grant Program will be evaluated and awarded by a panel consisting of:
  • the director of the Commission for Minority Affairs, or her designee;
  • the Secretary of Commerce, or his designee; and
  • the director of the Department of Revenue, or his designee.
Act 154 further provides that priority must be given to minority businesses, to applicants that did not receive other assistance, such as a Paycheck Protection Program loan or other CARES funds, to businesses with fifteen or fewer employees, and to businesses that demonstrate the greatest financial need. Applications for the Nonprofit Relief Grant Program will be evaluated and awarded by a panel consisting of:
  • the director of the Department of Social Services, or his designee;
  • the director of the Department of Mental Health, or his designee;
  • the director of the Department of Consumer Affairs, or her designee;
  • the director of the Department of Health and Human Services, or his designee;
  • the director of the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, or her designee;
  • the Secretary of State, or his designee;
  • the director of the South Carolina Arts Commission, or his designee;
  • the director of the Department of Archives and History, or his designee; and
  • the executive director of the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority, or her designee.
For the Nonprofit Relief Grant Program, priority must be given to applicants that did not receive other assistance, such as a Paycheck Protection Program loan or other CARES funds. Then, priority shall be given to applications for expenditures related to food assistance, including prepared meals, rent or mortgage assistance, utilities assistance, mental health counseling, health care services, including access to health care supplies, mental health, and behavioral health, criminal domestic violence and children’s advocacy services, and arts and cultural items or activities. Additionally, the panel will give consideration to the geographic distribution of services provided by the nonprofit organizations, so that grants are awarded on a statewide basis.

Submitted material

McCormick school a beneficiary of new murals

MACK program completes three new murals at elementary school

Artist Darion Johnson sits for an interview in front of his mural Artist Darion Johnson sits for an interview in front of his mural “Science Discovery: Oceans” at McCormick Elementary School.

There are now three new murals on the McCormick Elementary School campus that provide engagement for specific educational goals: science, inquiry, and innovation.

These murals, painted by South Carolina artist Damion Johnson, are made possible through the McCormick Art Council (MACK) program "Painting a Brighter Future," a public art program designed to engage our community members, students, and visitors. We are able to combine the intentions of this public art program and help our schools deliver a series of engaging, rich, and vibrant paintings designed to make the student feel immersed in the learning environment. Each mural at McCormick Elementary School adheres to the curriculum standards and pacing guides for lesson plans and utilizes the arts as an important learning partner in providing a quality educational experience to our students.

BONUS CONTENT: Artist Darion Johnson discusses Science Discovery: Oceans on YouTube

This project was made possible through an Arts in Education grant provided through the South Carolina Arts Commission, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts. It is also an extension of the school district's participation in the Arts in Basic Curriculum Project mission to provide students with quality art education and advance our student's educational experience by providing access to the arts for daily learning experiences. Most importantly, our students and teachers have celebrated the project and are actively enjoying and creating moments of learning engagement. The sheer scope and presence of the learning murals has transformed our school hallways with a quality project that excites, engages, and celebrates art in education. The images are truly spectacular. Our greatest accomplishment is to deliver these high-quality discovery walls for our students to enjoy. The look of awe and amazement on our littlest community members was worth every challenge this school year. We also are very encouraged by the continued greater commitment and value that art has to offer non-art curriculum. We believe these projects have accomplished achieving support and recognition for the value art has in enhancing our student's educational experiences. MACK extends its thanks to everyone involved.

Meet the Artist: Damion Johnson

“Art is the one thing that makes you enjoy the world. Art is far more important, far more than just being important to the world, it is the world. It is the world.” - Damion Johnson

Damion Johnson, a talented artist and native South Carolinian, is the featured artist for this series of educational murals. He is a regional artist, educator, and entrepreneur. His work was featured at the McCormick Arts Council (MACK) in October 2014 and again in September 2016. He is the visual arts teacher at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School and was notably selected to represent his school as Teacher of the Year for 2018/2019. He is a professional artist and small business owner who represents the Orangeburg community. Johnson’s artistic journey formally began under the watchful eye of his middle and high school art instructor and uncle John Scott, who planted the seed for developing his artistic trade. Damion continued his studies and earned his bachelor's in professional art from Claflin University and now teaches and operates a successful art studio, as well as a barbershop, to serve his community. His current work honors a process Damion uniquely coins as the ‘capturing what is felt" ideal. His artistic work transforms song lyrics, phrases, and emotions into visual statements. Damion’s art features collage-style compositions where figures often exist on different planes in very involved ways and defines the character of his unique painting style.

Jason Rapp

Emerging Leaders of Color application deadline approaches

Sept. 15 deadline announced by South Arts


Heads up, South Carolina arts leaders of color.

South Carolina is a partner on the southern pilot of this program, and we're doing our part to make sure the first cohort is a strong one. (You might remember we talked it up once or twice this spring. Don't worry; there's no quiz.)

To promote representative leadership and equity in the arts, a small cohort of cultural workers and arts administrators located in seven states in the southern region will be selected for this partnership program between South Arts and our colleague regional arts organization WESTAF (Western States Arts Federation). Building on the success of WESTAF’s ELC program, which has been attracting, training, networking and promoting a new generation of diverse arts leaders since 2010; the South Arts program will serve to advance southern vitality through the arts through leadership development.

If that piques your interest, or might for somebody you know, full program information, including guidelines and eligibility are found here: https://www.southarts.org/programs-conferences/emerging-leaders-color.

Jason Rapp

S.C. Phil to party like it’s 2009

Saturday concert to feature pair of 2009 SCAC fellows


A pair of 2009 South Carolina Arts Commission music fellows will have prominent roles in the South Carolina Philharmonic's next concert this Saturday night in Columbia. The orchestra is continuing its year-long celebration of 250 years of Beethoven with his first piano concerto. Out front on the Steinway will be Phillip Bush: music professor at the University of South Carolina, frequent presenter at the Southeastern Piano Festival, well-traveled and highly regarded concert pianist, recording artist and—oh by the way—the S.C. Arts Commission's 2009 music performance fellowship recipient. The Peabody alum has taken the stage across the U.S. and Japan, where he performed some 25 concerts over a 10-year period. His repertoire includes works from the 16th century to the 21st, as he is a devoted advocate for contemporary music. And that is where John Fitz Rogers comes in. He also received an S.C. Arts Commission fellowship in 2009, his for music composition. To start the concert, the orchestra will reprise his The Passing Sun, a work commissioned by the Phil to celebrate its 50th season in 2014/2015. It is an orchestral piece, but Fitz Rogers has composed for works featuring bassoon, guitar, piano, saxophone, and vocal soloists (with orchestras, including chamber ensembles). He holds degrees from Cornell, Yale, and Oberlin and is currently professor of composition at the UofSC, where he founded and, for a time, directed the widely acclaimed Southern Exposure New Music Series. His works have been recorded and released by multiple labels. The concert is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Koger Center for the Arts (1051 Greene St., Columbia). $16-$50. Click here to learn more.
Learn more about South Carolina Arts Commission fellowship recipients here.  

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Trustus Theatre names Chad Henderson producing artistic director

Trustus Theatre On Monday, the Trustus Theatre board of directors voted to end the organization’s search for a managing director that began in September 2019 and named Artistic Director Chad Henderson as the producing artistic director. Henderson will now serve the organization in an executive capacity to lead artists, staff, board and the community in realizing the theatre’s mission. He is a native of Spartanburg and began working at Trustus Theatre in 2007 as the marketing director after graduating from the University of South Carolina. After an eight-year career as a professional director, he became Trustus' third artistic director at the start of the theatre’s 31st season in 2015. This is Henderson’s fifth season as the artistic leader of the organization, and the South Carolina Theatre Association recognized him with the 2019 Founders Award last season in recognition for his contributions to South Carolina theatre the previous year. The theatre intends to hire an administrative assistant of production in the coming months to assist in the management of productions, contribution programs, and communications.


Sumner Bender, president of Trustus Theatre’s board, is confident in the board’s decision to make Henderson the producing artistic director. “Over the past several years, Trustus Theatre has been in a structural transition,” said Bender. “One of the only constants during that change has been Chad Henderson. The board of directors worked diligently over the past year to assess and evaluate the responsibilities and duties for an organizational leader. Many of those duties were already being performed by Mr. Henderson. A theatre organization is mutable, just like many smaller arts organizations, and it must be able to recognize when that change is needed. Therefore, when hiring an organizational leader, you can only hope for one that understands the mission, is a champion for the vision, and willing to work hard to maintain that integrity. We’re lucky that Mr. Henderson possesses all of those qualities and will continue to serve as a leader for Trustus Theatre.” Henderson is honored by the opportunity to serve Trustus in this new capacity. “Trustus has been my artistic home for over fifteen years,” said Henderson. “Being given the chance to lead the organization in this capacity is humbling, and it is also energizing. I can’t quantify what this theatre has given me since its co-founders Jim and Kay Thigpen hired me right out of college, but I constantly endeavor to give back in whatever way I can. While our strategies may transform on occasion, the organization continues to be a vital cultural institution in South Carolina. My hope is that my service to the organization can position it for continued success in the next 35 years by celebrating artistry, community, and the power of storytelling.”
Trustus Theatre is currently in its 35th season as the Midlands’s contemporary professional theatre. Founded in 1985 by Kay and Jim Thigpen, Trustus Theatre boasts two performing venues with the Thigpen Main Stage seating 132 and the Trustus Side Door Theatre seating 50. The theatre and the Trustus Company endeavor to enrich the lives and deepen the experiences of their artists and patrons by producing works that examine humanity in the 21st century. The theatre’s goal is to select challenging scripts that will start and nurture dialogues that promote discussion within the community with productions that are brought to life through dynamic storytelling and inventive designs.

Tuning Up: The Lowcountry is hopping

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...


You love to see it.

SCAC grantee Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston (FY20 General Operating Support) was the subject of the "Non-Profit Minute" from LowcountryBizSC late last week:

Verner Award recipients unite!

Verner Award recipients Nikky Finney (2016, Lifetime Achievement) and the Gibbes Museum of Art (2019, Organization) will collaborate tomorrow night, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. Finney, along with author of Charleston-based novel The Cigar Factory Michele Moore and professor and director of southern studies at the College of Charleston Julia Eichelberger join the museum to consider the literary traditions and social landscape that gave rise to voices like Eudora Welty and Zora Neale Hurston. This event is inspired by the exhibition Central to Their Lives: Women Artists in the Johnson Collection and is designed to put the stories and experiences of southern women artists in dialogue with the experiences of southern women writers. Guests will also have an exclusive opportunity to purchase copies of Finney's newest publication Love Child's Hotbead of Occasional Poetry, which will not be available to the general public until April. Finney and Moore will be signing copies of their works after the program. Learn more about the speakers and register here. (Member, non-member, and student rates apply; 135 Meeting St., Charleston)

Artist Minute, Feb. 18

The Artist Minute is up on LowcountryBiz, and you will want to make sure you listen to and watch Quiana Parler of Ranky Tanky fame.

GP McLeer

Live from an arts school

Today only!


Our future is in good hands!

Today is all about Arts Education, because the arts are alive in South Carolina schools! Hear from the students and schools benefiting from the arts. Today, the South Carolina Arts Alliance is teaming up with our friends at the Arts in Basic Curriculum Project to bring you a series of Facebook Live events held around the state by various schools who have received ABC Advancement Grants and who place value on the arts in their school day. Click here to see the schedule, and tune to each school's Facebook page to catch it all live.

About the Arts in Basic Curriculum Project

The Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) Project provides leadership to achieve quality, comprehensive arts education (dance, music, media arts, theatre, visual arts and creative writing) for all students in South Carolina. The ABC Project is cooperatively directed by the South Carolina Arts Commission, the South Carolina Department of Education and the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Winthrop University. ABC Grants currently provide quality arts education to 170,730 students at 84 sites throughout the state, enabled by Education Improvement Act Funds approved by the General Assembly, and administered by the South Carolina Arts Commission. Unfortunately, as demand for grants and services continues to grow, no new applications are being accepted due to insufficient funding. This year, we are requesting a $500,000 increase in EIA/SCAC funding to increase the ABC Project's impact.
GP McLeer is executive director of the South Carolina Arts Alliance.