The South Carolina Arts Commission has named downtown Florence as the newest state-recognized cultural district. A cultural district is an easily identifiable geographic area with a concentration of arts facilities and assets that support cultural, artistic and economic activity. The cultural district designation was created by the S.C. General Assembly and Gov. Nikki Haley in 2014.
The City of Florence and the Florence Regional Arts Alliance worked with local leaders and Arts Commission staff to develop a map of cultural assets and a strategic plan for the district. City officials will use the cultural district designation to attract visitors and residents to downtown and promote the area as a hub of arts and culture.
“This cultural district designation from the South Carolina Arts Commission is a tremendous honor,” said Florence City Council member George Jebailey. “This designation recognizes the hard work done over the last 17 years by a community committed to a unified vision to create a detailed master plan establishing a purposeful clustering of multiple arts venues in downtown Florence. Through the collaboration of the many public-private partners working together on this unified vision, we have seen the master plan become a reality leading to this important designation. We anticipate that many new opportunities will now be available for us to promote both the City of Florence and the entire Pee Dee Region as an important destination for arts, culture and entertainment.”
“Receiving the S.C. state recognition of a designated cultural district will assist in our ongoing marketing of downtown Florence as a tourist destination,” said Florence Downtown Development Manager Ray Reich. “The Vision 2010 Initiative that was created in 2000, as well as the 2010 Downtown Master Plan, envisioned downtown as a place featuring a string of cultural pearls. The first pearl in the string was the library, followed by the Florence Little Theatre, and then the FMU Performing Arts Center, followed by the new museum, as well as many other cultural amenities that have been developed in recent years in our beautiful and historic downtown. This designation affirms that we are well in our way to achieving the vision of a string of cultural pearls. However, this is just the beginning, and while we have created an outstanding foundation, the work will not stop as we continue to work together as a community to live up to our new community brand of being a community full of life and moving full forward with more amenities.”
Florence Regional Arts Alliance Executive Director Sandy Cook added, “We are very excited for this award, which shows Florence’s continued commitment to preserve and support the arts. We thank all of our stakeholders for their collaborative efforts in making this happen.”
The participation of those stakeholders is key, according to S.C. Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May. “Non-arts businesses and organizations are important pieces of a cultural district. A successful cultural district attracts creative enterprises, such as galleries and theatres, whose patrons want to dine out and shop, so nearby retail and other businesses benefit from that increased economic activity.”
The cultural district program was developed after reviewing successful programs in other states and gathering input from leaders representing several sectors, including economic development, tourism, local government and the arts.
Florence joins Beaufort, Bluffton, Columbia’s Congaree Vista, Lancaster, Rock Hill and Spartanburg as S.C. cities and areas that have earned cultural district status. Other states with similar cultural district programs include Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Texas.
S.C. cities, towns and rural communities interested in exploring a cultural district designation are invited to contact their Arts Commission county coordinator or call (803) 734-8696. Complete guidelines are available at www.SouthCarolinaArts.com.
About the S.C. Arts Commission
The South Carolina Arts Commission is celebrating 50 years of public support for the arts. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission is the state agency charged with creating a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their location or circumstances. The Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts through staff assistance, programs, grants and partnerships in three areas: arts education, community arts development and artist development. Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the Arts Commission is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources. For more information, visit www.SouthCarolinaArts.com or call (803) 734-8696.