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George Patrick McLeer changes gears from Mauldin to state arts advocacy

From The Greenville News Article and photo by Scott Keeler

For someone who serves as executive director of the leading non-profit arts advocacy group in the state and works out of a performing arts center that has helped revitalize Fountain Inn, George Patrick McLeer’s new office really isn’t artsy. “I really probably should have more stuff up and I will eventually,” McLeer said as he looked around the white walls of his new work space at the Younts Center for Performing Arts. “We’re a pretty mobile office though. It’s a one-person show.” McLeer completed the move last week as the South Carolina Arts Alliance office officially shifted from Rock Hill to Fountain Inn. McLeer actually doesn’t have a typical office. It’s part of a shared space in the box office of the Younts Center. That’s just fine with him. McLeer didn’t take over as SCAA’s new executive director July 1 for a title or for fancy artwork in a luxurious office. He took it to continue doing what he’s done in Mauldin for the past six years, but on a statewide level. The SCAA is a coalition of arts organizations, educators, administrators, artists and other business and community leaders, that serve the arts through advocacy and leadership development. The SCAA works throughout South Carolina to encourage civic engagement to advance the arts, to inform public policy and to advocate for public-sector support for the arts and arts education. “Some of the work that the Arts Alliance does at the state and federal level is making sure that the arts are seen as a tool for community and economic and quality of life,” McLeer said. Having a mobile office is essential for McLeer as he works throughout the state. A goal is to visit all 46 counties over a two-year span. McLeer has spent the past six years transforming the Mauldin Cultural Center into an arts center that attracts more than 30,000 visitors each year to a variety of events. In addition to programs, McLeer also led beautification projects outside and inside the old Mauldin Elementary School. In 2013, McLeer joined the City of Mauldin’s team when it created a new Office of Cultural Affairs. As the Office of Cultural Affairs' administrator, McLeer continued to manage the Cultural Center's facility and programs. At the same time, McLeer was responsible for implementing the Mauldin’s new branding and logo, managing all citywide marketing as well as the city’s website. McLeer started the Railroad Concert Series, an annual free series featuring locally and nationally known performers. He managed the BBQ Cook-Off, which ranks as arguably the most popular annual event in Mauldin. Most recently, McLeer created the Maudlin Public Art Trail, a 10-year continuous cycle of public art installations surrounding the Cultural Center’s amphitheater. Soon after McLeer starting working in Mauldin in June of 2010, Southwest Airlines arrived at the GSP International Airport. A cheap fare to Washington D.C. played a big role in where McLeer is today. “In March of 2011, I ended up going to National Arts Advocacy Day almost by accident,” McLeer said. “Southwest had $40 one-way flights to D.C. and me and my family happened to go on the same weekend as Arts Advocacy Day.” McLeer said that experience inspired him to really become hands-on in advocacy work. Shortly after making those connections in Washington, McLeer accepted an invitation to join SCAA’s board. He most recently served as the vice president before becoming executive director following the retirement of Betty Plumb. Plumb, who served as executive director for 27 years, said McLeer brings a fresh look at what a new generation would want from the SCAA. While McLeer officially took the reins July 1, Plumb will be assisting in the transition until Sept. 1. “We think we've got the best man for the job," Plumb said. "He brings a new skillset and a lot more technology. He’s a real people person with a lot of enthusiasm and great ideas. “Our constituents enjoy working with him and there’s a real trust factor there because he’s worked with us so closely as vice president.” A perk of McLeer’s new position is that the SCAA shifted its physical location based on where the executive director lives as well as the commitment the city has made to the arts. McLeer said his Fountain Inn home is about 200 yards away from the Younts Center. In addition to walking to work, the Younts Center also serves as a homecoming location for McLeer. After graduating from the College of Charleston in 2010, McLeer began working as an intern in the same box office at the Younts Center which was then led by Van Broad. Much like the Mauldin Cultural Center, the Younts Center is an old schoolhouse that has transformed into a thriving arts facility. Working at an old school seems to come naturally for McLeer, whose parents were both teachers and whose sister is currently studying to become a teacher. “It’s nice being back. It’s like a full-circle moment,” McLeer said. “I’m on the Board of Trustees at St. Joseph’s (Catholic School) and the School of the Arts Council for College of Charleston, so I have a thing for my alma maters. It’s funny that I’ve always worked in someone’s alma mater.” McLeer added that education is a passion of his thanks to his family, and arts education is a big focus of the SCAA. Fountain Inn Economic Development Director Byron Rucker is thrilled to have McLeer as a part of the building that he manages. “With the ever-growing focus on performing arts in Fountain Inn, this is a natural location for the SCAA and its leadership as it moves into a new era,” Rucker said The Younts Center’s transformation that began years ago helped start what has been a city-wide revitalization of Fountain Inn. McLeer said part of his duties is to show what the arts can do for other cities — no matter their size — throughout South Carolina. “I remember building the set pieces for the very first theatrical show inside what is now Cucina 100 (restaurant in downtown Fountain Inn), and I remember having to always bring my dinner with me to rehearsal because there was almost nowhere to eat,” McLeer said. “I have seen firsthand how the arts continue to transform this community and how the vision set by city leaders includes the arts. It’s a vision which mirrors that of the SCAA, and made the move to Fountain Inn an easy decision for our board.” McLeer said his new job feels like a pinnacle in his career. He joked that with him being 27 years old and Plumb retiring after 27 years, SCAA’s next executive director may have just been born this year. “I’ve really fallen in love with the advocacy work and working with art in public policy. Mauldin was able to give me a really great platform to explore that,” McLeer said. “So I went for it (the executive director position) and luckily was chosen to do it. “To see your fingerprints and your impact happen in other areas of the state, not just your own backyard, is kind of surreal, overwhelming, thrilling and terrifying at the same time. But it’s a lot of fun.”

Countdown to SC Arts Awards Day – highlighting awards recipients

SC Arts AwardsWednesday, May 11 is a big day for the arts in South Carolina! The day begins at 11 a.m. in the lower lobby of the State House with awards presentations to recipients of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Art and the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards. The awards presentation is free and open to the public. Other events include a ticketed luncheon and the South Carolina Arts Gala, which features an art sale of original works by some of the state's finest contemporary artists AND a dance party with The Root Doctors! Overview of events (find more at www.SouthCarolinaArts.com):

  • 11 a.m. - State House awards presentation to recipients of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts and the Folk Heritage Awards; free and open to the public.
  • 12:30 p.m. - luncheon hosted by McKissick Museum at Michael's Cafe, 1620 Main St., Columbia. Tickets $20; reservations required by May 4. Email or call Jane Przybysz, (803) 777-3712 or jprzybys@mailbox.sc.edu.
  • 6:15 p.m. - concert featuring bluegrass and gospel; recognition of award recipients, in the Granby Room, 701 Whaley Street (in the same building as the gala). Free and open to the public.
  • 7:15 p.m. - South Carolina Arts Gala, presented by the South Carolina Arts Foundation as a fundraiser to support S.C. Arts Commission programs, including arts education and artist development. The gala features an art sale and dance party with The Root Doctors, 701 Whaley St., Tickets $75; purchase online at www.SouthCarolinaArts.com or call (803) 734-8696.
Meet two of this year's Verner Award recipients (and check back each day for additional spotlights): Mary Edna Fraser, Artist
Mary Edna FraserThe pioneering work of Charleston artist Mary Edna Fraser has been collected and exhibited worldwide. Captivated by the complex patterns of land and water when viewed from high above, she has been exploring aerial landscapes for more than a quarter century. Using her own aerial photography along with satellite photography, maps, and charts, Fraser composes pieces in the ancient textile medium of batik using modern dye technology. Her stunning works on silk have incredible visual impact by virtue of their scale and compelling designs. Fraser's interest in the environment enables her to bridge two areas often seen as opposites: art and science. Her art not only offers a creative depiction of watersheds and landscapes but communicates a broader message of conservation and stewardship. Her working relationship with Dr. Orrin H. Pilkey of Duke University resulted in two widely acclaimed publications illustrated with Fraser's batiks: A Celebration of the World's Barrier Islands, and Global Climate Change: A Primer. Fraser is a widely recognized master artist with numerous awards and a growing international reputation, having lectured abroad in countries including Australia, Indonesia and Taiwan. She has had more than 100 one-woman exhibitions of batiks and monotypes, including venues such as the National Academy of Sciences and Duke University Museum of Art. She was the first woman to have a solo exhibition at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Her work is in a number of important private and public collections, most notably the Elliot School of International Affairs  and  George  Washington  University,  the  Heinz  Center  for  Science,  Economics  and  the Environment in Washington, D.C., the New England Aquarium in Boston, the American Embassy in Thailand, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Through her work, Fraser has presented the natural beauty of South Carolina's coastline to the world.
Betty Plumb, Individual
Betty PlumbFor the past 27 years, Betty Plumb has been the principal voice for public support for the arts in South Carolina. As the executive director of the South Carolina Arts Alliance, she transformed the grass-roots advocacy organization into the most influential and effective champion of the arts in the public arena in South Carolina. In S.C. and across the country, her name is synonymous with exemplary arts leadership and effective arts advocacy. While much of her effort has been directed to maintaining sustainable funding for national and state arts agencies, she has been remarkably successful in advocating for funding and public policies that support quality arts education, strong local arts organizations, issues important to artists’ careers, and developing networks of arts advocates. These networks are continually strengthened by Plumb’s willingness to share resources, conduct workshops and serve on panels to educate nonprofit leaders on best advocacy practices. She is also active in recruiting younger advocates and has lectured in arts management programs at the College of Charleston, USC, and Winthrop University. Plumb has twice been listed among the 50 Most Powerful and Influential Leaders in the Nonprofit Arts in America by Barry’s Blog, a website published by the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF). She received the Alene Valkanas State Arts Advocacy Award from Americans for the Arts and the Medal of Honor in the Arts from Winthrop University. Thanks to Betty Plumb’s dedication and hard work, the arts are thriving in South Carolina.
The 2016 Verner Awards are sponsored by Colonial Life.  

GP McLeer named new executive director of SC Arts Alliance

George Patrick McLeerGeorge Patrick (GP) McLeer, Jr., administrator of the City of Mauldin's Office of Cultural Affairs, has been named to succeed Betty Plumb as executive director of the South Carolina Arts Alliance, SCAA President Rose Sheheen of Camden announced today. McLeer officially will take the reins of the statewide nonprofit arts advocacy and service organization on July 1, with Plumb assisting in the transition until September 1, including the relocation of the SCAA office from Rock Hill, Sheheen said. "The Arts Alliance Board completed a five-month search for its new executive director, and we were quite pleased to attract a number of highly qualified candidates, which made the selection process exceedingly difficult. However, GP was the board's unanimous choice," Sheheen said. "Not only has he been a board member since 2011, most recently as first vice president, but he also brings knowledge, enthusiasm, vigor, youth and passion to a most important position in the art world of South Carolina. It is with excitement and confidence that the Art Alliance welcomes GP as its next leader!" Sheheen continues, "He has extensive experience working with government officials and a broad spectrum of artists and arts agencies. As the sole employee of a nonprofit arts center and local government office, he has been responsible for everything from booking acts to grantwriting and even operating the lights during performances." Plumb, who has headed the SCAA for 27 years, achieved state and national prominence as a leader in advocacy for public funding of the arts and arts education. In recent weeks, she was announced as winner of the 2016 Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Award, in the individual category; the "Together for Good Advocacy Award," from the S.C. Association of Non Profit Organizations (SCANPO); and the S.C. Theatre Association's advocacy award. McLeer thanked Plumb "for her years of service in building the organization to the level it is today. The next chapter for the SCAA would not be possible without her having written the one before it. I am excited and honored to be selected as the next executive director for the SCAA. I have lived in South Carolina my whole life and have seen how the arts have positively impacted the lives of my family, friends and community. My passion has always been to help ensure that the arts can thrive in my community, so to be able to expand that passion to all communities in South Carolina is something I am ecstatic about. I look forward to working with the board of directors to continue advancing the arts for all South Carolinians, and to partnering with artists, arts administrators, advocates and community leaders all over the state to help the arts grow in South Carolina." McLeer's current responsibilities include managing the Mauldin Cultural Center, a repurposed 1937 school that hosts 30,000 people and more than 1,500 events annually, and handling all city-wide marketing efforts. He was responsible for starting the Railroad Concert Series, an annual free series featuring locally and nationally known performers; managing the Mauldin BBQ Cook-Off, a signature community event; and creating the Maudlin Public Art Trail, a 10-year continuous cycle of public art installations. Before working for the City of Mauldin, he was executive director of the Mauldin Cultural Center, a nonprofit organization. McLeer, 27, is a 2010 graduate of the College of Charleston's Arts Management Program. He lives in Fountain Inn.

2016 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award recipients announced

vernerstatuescolorCongratulations to the recipients of the 2016 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards for the Arts! The S.C. Arts Commission annually presents the awards, the highest honor the state gives in the arts, to recognize outstanding achievement and contributions to the arts in South Carolina. Awards will be presented May 11 at 11 a.m. during a ceremony at the Statehouse. This year’s recipients:

"Each of these Verner Award recipients has attracted positive national attention for the Palmetto State," said S.C. Arts Commission Chairman Henry Horowitz. "Their dedication to the arts greatly benefits South Carolinians and materially enhances our state’s economic vitality. Their contributions regionally and nationally are a source of pride for South Carolinians living anywhere. The Verner Awards recognize service, commitment and passion, and we are honored to have these individuals and organizations working to enhance our state's reputation as a leader in the arts." Also on May 11, the S.C. Arts Foundation will honor the recipients and the arts community at the South Carolina Arts Gala, a fundraiser supporting the programs of the S.C. Arts Commission. The gala begins at 7:15 p.m. in the Grand Hall, 701 Whaley St. in Columbia. Gala tickets are $75 per person and may be purchased online. The 2016 Verner Awards are sponsored by Colonial Life. For more about the Verner Awards or the S.C. Arts Gala, call (803) 734-8696 or visit www.SouthCarolinaArts.com. 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 www.SouthCarolinaArts.com or call (803) 734-8696.

SC Arts Alliance seeking new executive director

1/19/16 update: The application process for this position is now closed.  The South Carolina Arts Alliance, a 501-c-3 statewide non-governmental membership organization, seeks a dynamic executive director to work with its board, membership, the state arts agency, state legislators and other policy makers and stakeholders in South Carolina as well as colleagues in national organizations. SC Arts Alliance(Related: Long-time S.C. Arts Alliance director announces retirement) The South Carolina Arts Alliance is the state's primary, private sector arts coalition of arts organizations, educators, administrators, artists, parents, business and community leaders. The organization’s mission is to serve the arts through leadership development and advocacy throughout South Carolina, to encourage civic engagement to advance the arts, and to inform public policy and to advocate for public sector support for and of the arts and arts education. The executive director is responsible for day-to-day operations of the organization, including project management; management of a state-wide membership organization; and working collaboratively with a variety of agencies, organizations, institutions and volunteers. Experience in financial management, including building and monitoring a budget, and outstanding oral and written communication skills are necessary. Candidates must have an established record of or related experience in the management of a nonprofit organization. Successful candidates will have earned a bachelor’s degree (or a higher degree) and possess knowledge of media relations and the workings of social media as well as fundraising skills, including grant writing and grant management, development of business sponsorships and memberships, and the implementation of constituent services. Knowledge of South Carolina’s legislative processes and environment, as well as experience in working with legislators in strategic advocacy, is preferred. Knowledge of education policy is preferred. Executive leadership skills, including strategic thinking, diplomacy, flexibility, creativity, and the ability to work independently are necessary. A minimum of five years of arts management or related experience are highly preferred for this full-time position that will include oversight of a part-time financial administrator. This is a salaried position with a benefit package that includes paid vacation, health benefits and 401K. Applicants should send a cover letter with salary range and resume or CV to Rose Sheheen, president of the South Carolina Arts Alliance, at rsheheen@bellsouth.net. (Please send all documents as PDF files and as Microsoft Word attachments.) Review of applications will begin on January 15, 2016. The position will remain open until filled. An announcement about the new executive director is planned for May 2016 with a start date of July 1, 2016. Visit  www.scartsalliance.net for more information on the organization and its activities. Via: South Carolina Arts Alliance

Long-time SC Arts Alliance director announces retirement

Long-time South Carolina Arts Alliance Executive Director Betty Plumb has announced her retirement effective Sept. 1, 2016. Plumb's career in arts administration and advocacy spans more than 30 years, with 27 of those years spent with the Arts Alliance. (Related: S.C. Arts Alliance seeking new executive director) Here's an excerpt of Plumb's announcement:

Dear Friends, Betty PlumbAfter more than 30 years in the arts administration and advocacy field, 27 of those years with the South Carolina Arts Alliance, I recently notified my board that I would be stepping down as executive director effective Sept. 1, 2016, the month that I will observe my 70th birthday. In advocacy and in life, timing is everything, and this is the right time for me to step away from the professional world. Seventy may be the new 50, but it's time for a new phase in life. Over the years, the Arts Alliance has been state's primary private sector coalition for developing leaders to advance the arts, inform public policy development and advocate effectively for public sector support of the arts and arts education. I hope you agree that we have lived up to that vision. With your help, we have advocated successfully for increased funding for the South Carolina Arts Commission and for arts education initiatives within the South Carolina Department of Education. We have also advocated in support of federal cultural agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts, arts education programs within the U.S. Department of Education, and for other policy issues that have impacted the arts at the national level. The Arts Alliance has been recognized nationally for our advocacy efforts. We have developed an informed and civically engaged constituency and built bipartisan support among legislators who value the contributions of artists and arts educators to South Carolina's economy and quality of life. And what's more important, we will continue to strengthen our efforts to ensure that students have the opportunity to experience quality arts education regardless of where their school is located or their financial circumstances. During the coming months, there will be plenty of time to say farewell to my many friends in the arts community, both in South Carolina and across the country. Under the leadership of our Board President Rose Sheheen and the search committee, our priority at this time is a nationwide search to select a dynamic, visionary leader to take the Arts Alliance forward. Even as retirement nears, be assured that we will continue to pursue an aggressive advocacy agenda for 2016, knowing that we can count on your continued support. Thank you for your support and the support of the Arts Alliance! Betty Plumb Executive Director South Carolina Arts Alliance Betty@scartsalliance.net www.scartsalliance.net
Image, left to right: Kathleen Bateson, S.C. Arts Alliance Immediate Past President; Ken May, S.C. Arts Commission Executive Director; and Betty Plumb, S.C. Arts Alliance Executive Director