Chapman Cultural Center launches count of cultural assets

From the Spartanburg Herald Journal:

Culture Counts CowpensA half dozen Cowpens residents clustered around a map at the Timken Community Center on Tuesday morning pointing out cultural landmarks just as fast as The Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg President Jennifer Evins could note their location and description.

In a matter of minutes, the small group added 10 cultural items to the map including the historic marker for a jail demolished long ago, a farmers market and a community mural. None of the landmarks were previously noted by Arts Partnership staff or the Spartanburg County planning department staff that helped compile the map.

“This is why we’re doing this,” Evins exclaimed as she added another point to the map.

Despite the small turn out, Evins said the first public meeting of the Culture Counts project was a success, and the community will have 10 more opportunities to point out cultural assets at public input sessions across the county through the remainder of the summer.

Culture Counts is an initiative led by the Chapman Cultural Center, a subset of the Arts Partnership, to identify and inventory all cultural needs, opportunities and resources in Spartanburg County. Resources are defined as places with historic or creative significance, and people who participate in creative endeavors as professionals or hobbyists.

Culture Counts is the spawn of Evin’s personal inventory of downtown cultural resources. When she identified and mapped more than 75 public sculptures, 34 live performance venues and 158 studios and workshops, Evins said she felt compelled to show her findings to others.

“Everyone was blown away,” she said.

Now, the Chapman Cultural Center has teamed up with the county planning department to take the survey countywide. The goal of Culture Counts is to connect creative people, spark civic pride, attract new businesses and enhancing tourism and hospitality revenue throughout the county, Evins said.

“We want to get the word out so people know we have a vibrant community, and they can come visit and live here,” she said.

Attendees of Tuesday’s meeting were excited about the project and came to learn more about available resources.

Dan Ford was roaming through the Timken Community Center when he stumbled upon the meeting, but quickly became engaged in the discussion. A longtime resident of Spartanburg County, Ford said it’s the diverse atmosphere that’s kept him local.

“One of the things that I’m excited about is how rich this area is in music,” he said.

The presence of many cultures is part of what makes Spartanburg a dynamic hometown, but Ford said he would like to see them more fully represented in the county’s public arts space. The Hispanic culture is especially underrepresented, he said.

Avis Dawkins, a speech pathologist at the S.C. School for the Deaf and the Blind, said she would like to see access to the existing resources expanded. For example, she said she would be interested in community art and craft classes.

“We have so many in this town, I don’t understand why I have to struggle to find them,” she said. “I’m just trying to find a way to make the community better. There should be ways for everyone, no matter what their level is, to improve themselves.”

Once the information is gathered, Evins said Culture Counts will report back to the community, receive more feedback and develop a strategic plan for the future. The county’s last cultural plan was done in 1991. Evins said it is time for a new one, and she is optimistic about the project’s success.

“I think the 1991 cultural plan was one of the most successful planning processes our community has participated in because we saw it through to fruition,” she said.

Future Culture Counts meetings:

  • July 17 at Woodruff City Hall
  • July 31 at Campobello Gramiling Elementary
  • Aug. 7 at District 5 Fine Arts Center
  • Aug. 12 at Upstate Family Resource Center
  • Sept. 4 at Chapman Cultural Center.

Meetings start at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on each day.