Rural creatives, S.C. Arts Commission to launch program

31 May 2018

Secondary Media Contact:
Susan DuPlessis, Program Director | 803.734.8693 (direct)

COLUMBIA, S.C. –  The South Carolina Arts Commission and a newly formed team of creative professionals are launching CREATE: Rural S.C. with a networking and informational meeting, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 12, at the American Legion Hut in Hampton, S.C.

“This new program is part of our greater work in community arts development with a special lens on rural communities,” said South Carolina Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May. “It’s an extension of what we began two years ago with our initiative called The Art of Community: Rural SC with six ‘mavens’ in six Lowcountry counties. As we build the narratives of place, we want to know who the creatives are: the innovators, artists, makers, and entrepreneurs. Who are the tradition bearers?”

To fuel local connection and discovery, the arts commission has enlisted the help of 12 “creative connectors” who will be asking for creative contacts across Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper counties. Amber Westbrook will manage the program from the Arts Commission office, and visual artist Ment Nelson of Hampton County has agreed to serve as the local coordinator and liaison for the following ‘creative connectors:’

  • Marcus Johnson (Allendale)
  • Shakora Bamberg (Bamberg)
  • Naviree Johnson (Bamberg)
  • James Wilson (Bamberg)
  • Terrance Washington (Barnwell)
  • Bobby Harley (regional)
  • Ian Dillinger (Colleton)
  • Tamara Herring (Jasper)
  • Joanna Brailey (Jasper)
  • Amanda Whiteaker (regional)
  • Ashley Jordan (regional)

For the next three months, these individuals will be reaching out to people they know, businesses, organizations and local associations to discover who fits under the creative umbrella. They will share their findings with the S.C. Arts Commission as it builds a creative network in this rural region. Those identified will be invited to networking meetings in local communities.

“We want an expansive list of folks and businesses that includes those who are well known and less well known but who are actively creative within their communities,” May said.

The program is funded in part by grants from USDA-Rural Development as well as from a Neighborworks America grant won by Center for a Better South.

“Part of this new program is to explore and develop the many assets of our places.  And we believe the creatives embedded within our small, rural communities are part of the lifeblood of community and what makes our places special,” said Susan DuPlessis, community arts development director at the arts commission. “Leadership, resource and professional development are important goals in this program as well as creating networking opportunities.”

Networking meetings are also scheduled for July 10 in Allendale County and Aug. 28 in Bamberg County. A fourth gathering will be held Sept. 19-21 in Barnwell County, where national, state and local advisors for The Art of Community: Rural SC will explore the richness of rural South Carolina and opportunities for framing stories in ways that build upon assets and consider local challenges in new ways that use arts and culture as instruments for change.

“One of the highlights of the September gathering will be to showcase some of the creatives who are discovered through CREATE: Rural SC and hear their stories about innovation, making and creation in rural communities,” DuPlessis said.  “And at the same time, we hope to put some of our local talent to work hosting and planning each of these networking meetings. We will be listening, connecting and learning from them as we support their next steps in entrepreneurship and creative expression.”

For more information about The Art of Community: Rural SC, go to

About the South Carolina Arts Commission

The South Carolina Arts Commission is the state agency charged with creating a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their location or circumstances.

Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts by providing services, grants, and leadership initiatives 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 or call (803) 734-8696.