Catawba potter and bluegrass advocate named recipients of Folk Heritage Awards

The South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina announce the 2016 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award recipients: Bill Harris, for Catawba pottery, and Harold Clayton, a posthumous award for bluegrass advocacy. The awards will be presented May 11 during a ceremony at the Statehouse. The 11 a.m. ceremony is free and open to the public.

Bill HarrisCurrently the Chief of the Catawba Nation, Bill Harris of Rock Hill began learning traditional Catawba pottery at age 18 from his grandmother, Georgia Harris, a recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Since the 1970s, Harris has cultivated his knowledge by learning aspects of the art from other Catawba potters. His work has been featured in exhibitions throughout the region, and the Catawba Cultural Preservation Project has named him a Master Potter, an honor only given to those who have been recognized by their peers as outstanding practitioners of the tradition.

Harold ClaytonHarold Clayton was a native of the Warrior Creek community near Gray Court. He played the upright bass and guitar, but his true passion was in providing a venue for music to be presented, taught, and appreciated. In 2006, Clayton, with the help of friends, remodeled and opened the Owings Music Hall. Now musicians from across the region show up every Friday and Saturday night to play for crowds of young and old and offer lessons. Clayton also made a conscious effort to share his love of music with his family – both his son and grandson learned from him and are accomplished musicians today. Clayton passed away in April 2015, but his family and the music community continue to carry on his legacy.

Also on May 11, the award recipients will be honored by McKissick Museum during a ticketed luncheon and by the S.C. Arts Foundation during the South Carolina Arts Gala, a fundraiser supporting the programs of the S.C. Arts Commission. For more information about the luncheon, contact Jane Przybysz at McKissick Museum, (803) 777-7251. The gala begins at 7:15 p.m. in the Grand Hall, 701 Whaley St.; tickets are $75 per person. For more information about the gala, visit www.SouthCarolinaArts.com.

The Folk Heritage Award is named for the late Jean Laney Harris, an ardent supporter of the state’s cultural heritage. The award was created by the legislature in 1987 to recognize lifetime achievement in the folk arts. The artistic traditions represented by the award are significant because they have endured, often for hundreds of years.

For more information about the Folk Heritage Awards and the ceremony, contact Laura Marcus Green, at (803) 734-8764. Also visit the McKissick website or the S.C. Arts Commission website for more information about programs and services.


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