S.C. Arts Awards Spotlight Series: Duncan Rutherfurd

Folk Heritage Award: Advocacy Category

As the day nears for the 2022 South Carolina Arts Awards, The Hub is focusing on this year’s recipients: four receiving the South Carolina Governor’s Awards for the Arts and three receiving the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, which are managed jointly by the South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina.

The gift of a knife to elementary-aged Duncan Rutherfurd sparked an interest that resulted in tireless dedication to raising public awareness and appreciation of South Carolina’s knifemaking tradition.

Rutherfurd is an encyclopedia of information on knifemakers in the state, though he is not one himself, and today’s knifemakers have him to thank for advocacy efforts that keep the tradition strong. Knifemaking, though specialized, has roots in blacksmithing—an essential trade for the farmers of a state dominated by agriculture. Though blacksmithing is no longer widespread anywhere, knifemaking proliferates in South Carolina because of Rutherfurd’s modernizing influence.

In late 1970’s he helped organize and promote a knife show for the Aiken Arms Collectors Association. At the time, such shows were the primary way makers reached large audiences. At one of those early shows, while exhibiting his vast collection of South Carolina knives (which he still does today), he conceived of what became the South Carolina Association of Knifemakers, a network of support and learning as makers and marketers during the pre-internet 1980’s and 1990’s. As internet usage exploded, Rutherfurd used his IT background to mentor SCAK members on using it to market their wares and themselves as makers. SCAK members recognized Rutherfurd’s tremendous contributions to South Carolina’s knifemaking community with an honorary membership.

He served as an advisor to McKissick Museum’s curatorial team on the exhibition Carolina Knives: The Roots of a Revival in 2021. Rutherfurd’s collection was core to one of its storylines and provided a bridge between the older generation of knifemakers and a new generation, which recently organized the South Carolina Custom Knifemakers’ Guild.

Duncan Rutherfurd, center, receives the Folk Heritage Award May 18, 2022 from Jane Przybysz of McKissick Museum at UofSC and David Platts of the SCAC. Click image to enlarge. SCAC photo by Margot Lane Strasburger.

The South Carolina Arts Awards are coming live to SCETV on Monday, June 13, 2022 at 9 p.m. ET.

South Carolina ETV, the state’s public educational broadcasting network, will broadcast the awards ceremony through its 11-station TV network that spans the state. Viewers can access the broadcast via livestream on the homepage of SCETV.org; by using a digital antenna; or through cable, satellite, and streaming live TV providers. Further information about accessing SCETV is available here.