Established arts leader chosen to lead city arts agency

One Columbia stays local with executive director hire

One Columbia for Arts and Culture wrapped up a 10-month search for a new leader with today’s announcement of Xavier Blake as its incoming executive director.

The Bamberg native spent more than two decades at South Carolina Educational Television working in the nonprofit public media, arts and cultural sector as a videographer, producer, and director. He served South Carolina artists as a creative mentor for an SCAC Artist Development initiative. His most recent media position was with WMHT Public Media in Troy, New York, but Blake and his family returned to Columbia in January 2023 when he began serving as the community programming & engagement coordinator at Nickelodeon Theater.

Blake is to begin his new role Aug. 7. In a news release, he said, “It is an honor to continue the rich legacy established by Lee Snelgrove and the board’s dedication to strengthening the arts in Columbia. I welcome the opportunity to collaborate with all key stakeholders in this capacity to enhance the city’s growth and progress as we continue to implement the Amplify Cultural Plan.”

“One Columbia is delighted to welcome Mr. Blake as our new executive director,” said One Columbia Board Chairman Tyler Bailey. “[He] brings a wonderful mix of community building, leadership skills and inspired vision to the role. I look forward to working with him and as we continue to expand the organization’s advocacy for artists in our community.”

The One Columbia board led an active, “intentional” search, interviewing local and regional candidates for about 10 months, according to Interim Executive Director Margie Reese.

“I believe that Xavier possesses an ideal combination of first-hand knowledge of the arts ecosystem in Columbia, ground-level experience in nonprofit leadership and community engagement, and a deep commitment to public service,” Reese said.

Blake earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from Newberry College in Newberry. He has a Certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from the University of South Florida and was a member of the inaugural class of Central Carolina Community Foundation’s BIPOC Leadership Training and Coaching Program. He is an annual presenter at the International Public TV Conference and served as a conference moderator at their 2022 convening in Taipei.