Searching for South Carolina’s tradition bearers

The South Carolina Arts Commission has launched the Survey of South Carolina’s Tradition Bearers to identify those who practice traditional arts handed down from generation to generation through community-specific practices.

This fourth phase of the survey will include Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry and Jasper counties. The survey is managed through the Arts Commission’s Folklife and Traditional Arts Program in collaboration with the University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum.

M.J. Holden of Lancaster“The Folklife and Traditional Arts Program aims to support tradition bearers throughout South Carolina,” said Doug Peach, program coordinator. “This survey provides vital and up-to-date information on the breadth of living traditions in our state, many of which have never been documented. This stage of the survey will be focused on coastal areas of South Carolina – a vibrant region for music, storytelling, and foodways, to name a few.

“By surveying artists and learning about their work, we can better understand how to assist them with our programs, such as the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards, the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Initiative, and Traditional Arts grants for nonprofit organizations.”

Maria Arroyo has been contracted to identify tradition bearers in Beaufort, Colleton, Dorchester and Jasper counties. Arroyo has a doctorate degree in school psychology (Quito-Ecuador, South America) and is a graduate of the S.C. Arts Commission’s Institute for Community Scholars. She has presented at conferences around the state and the U.S. about the advantages of biculturalism in an ever-changing society. In addition to her daily work as a parent educator with Lexington School District One, Maria compiles traditions in El Recado newsletter from the first generation of Spanish-speaking families that have settled in the Lexington County area.

Sarah Bryan has been contracted to identify tradition bearers in Berkeley, Charleston, Georgetown and Horry counties. Bryan is a folklorist and fiddle player and a native of Myrtle Beach. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Curriculum in folklore (MA, 2003), she has been a fieldworker and writer for the North Carolina Folklife Institute, based in Durham, since 2005; is the editor of the Old-Time Herald, a magazine about traditional Southern string band music; and has done extensive oral history research in Myrtle Beach and Horry County for Chapin Memorial Library and the Chapin Foundation.

Teresa Justice of Rock HillOne hundred artists have been identified in 20 counties since the survey launched in October 2009. Traditions practiced by these artists include chair caning, instrument making, basket weaving and quilt making. (Download a PDF of the survey results for the first 18 counties.)

This phase of the survey began in November 2013 and will be completed by June 2014.  With support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities CouncilSC, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, it is expected that tradition bearer identification will have been conducted in all of S.C.’s counties by the end of 2014.

Individuals or organizations who know of tradition bearers (in any S.C. county) should contact Doug Peach at or (803)734-8764.

(Images: Stringed instrument maker M.J. Holden of Lancaster and quilt maker Teresa Justice of Rock Hill. Both were identified in an earlier tradition bearers survey.)