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S.C. Arts Awards: Cecil Williams

2019 Recipient Feature Series

As the day nears for the 2019 South Carolina Arts Awards, The Hub is taking 15 days to focus on this year's recipients: nine receiving the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts and five receiving the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, which are managed jointly by the South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at UofSC. In between the two groups, we'll run a special feature on S.C. Arts Awards sponsor Colonial Life.

Cecil Williams

Lifetime Achievement Cecil Williams is a professional photographer, videographer, publisher, inventor, and author. Born and raised in Orangeburg, his extraordinary life and career were shaped by the personal, economic, and political boundaries of segregated life during the Jim Crow Era South. He is perhaps best known for using his penetrating lens to document the struggle to achieve freedom, justice, and equality during the civil rights movement. By the age of 9, he had already begun his career in photography and by 15 was working professionally. From a childhood darkroom in Orangeburg to New York hotels with heads of state to the frontlines of protests and mass meetings around South Carolina, Williams has recorded remarkable moments from the past. He worked as a freelancer for JET magazine, the Baltimore Afro-Americana and the Pittsburgh Courier and as a stringer for the Associated Press. As a young journalist, Williams developed close associations with key Civil Rights figures who provided him unique access to events around South Carolina that were closed to outsiders and the mainstream press. The teenaged Williams documented the Clarendon County movement that led to Briggs v. Elliott, an important legal precedent for the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that desegregated public schools. He also captured the bravery of student protesters at South Carolina State College, desegregation at Clemson University and the University of South Carolina, the quiet heroism of teachers at the Elloree Training School who resigned from their jobs rather than renounce their affiliation with the NAACP and then and was there for the Orangeburg Massacre in 1968. When Lennie Glover, a Benedict College student, returned to the protest lines after a near-fatal stabbing, Williams was there, his camera focused on Glover’s determined steps down Columbia’s Main Street as he challenged segregation. An accomplished architect, he designed six residences that served as his home and art studio. He became an author in May 2006, publishing Out of the Box in Dixie, a photo-documentary. That publication’s sequel, Unforgettable, was released February 2018. Williams earned a degree in art from Claflin University and was recently appointed by Claflin as its historic preservationist. Williams is recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest award to an individual, and last fall received the Governor’s Award in the Humanities from SC Humanities. He owns Cecil Williams Photography, LLC in Orangeburg, and his new creation, the Cecil Williams Museum in Orangeburg, is slated to debut May 17, 2019.
South Carolina Arts Awards Day is Wednesday, May 1, 2019. The festivities begin at 10 a.m. with a reception that leads up to the awards ceremony at the UofSC Alumni Center (900 Senate St., Columbia). The event is free and open to the public. Following the ceremony, the South Carolina Arts Foundation honors the recipients and the arts community at the S.C. Arts Awards Luncheon and Art Sale. Tickets are $50. Please go here for more information and reservations.

Meet the Recipients

Use these links to read the long-form bios of the other 2019 South Carolina Arts Awards recipients.

SCAC grant supports Claflin campers’ ‘Aladdin Jr.’ performance

Here's a brief grantee spotlight from The Times & Democrat:

Claflin University is hosting an intensive residential camp designed to provide high-level artistic instruction to youth entering grades six through 10 in a college environment. It is funded through a S.C. Arts Commission arts education grant.

The camp will conclude on Saturday, June 16 with a musical theater production of Disney’s “Aladdin Jr.”

Claflin University Intensive (CUSAI) Residential Camp participants are taking classes led by college professors in acting, art (graphic design and jewelry making), dance, music and video production while preparing for the culminating musical theatre production featuring music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin, and book by Chad Beguelin.

Participants are also mentored by college students majoring in one of the artistic disciplines.

Go here to read the full story!

Project seeks to document Orangeburg County musicians

From the Orangeburg Times and Democrat

Throughout this academic year, the South Carolina Arts Commission 2015-16 Folklife and Traditional Arts Grant has supported a project to document histories and living traditions of music in Orangeburg County. Project Director Dr. Peter Hoesing calls the effort the Orangeburg Musicians’ Integrative Community (MUSIC) Project. Hoesing serves as an assistant professor of music history and ethnomusicology in the Department of Music at Claflin University. Two research assistants on the project from Claflin’s Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College will continue to work with Hoesing throughout the Orangeburg Festival of Roses this weekend. Esther Jones of Orangeburg and Melonie Bryant of Lake City will join Hoesing in continuing to collect surveys from musicians of all stripes, whether amateur, semiprofessional or professional.
Beyond the questions on their survey of musicians, they are out to answer persistent, challenging inquiries about this vast county: Who are the musicians here, and how might they like to enhance their interactions with each other? Orangeburg has excellent proximity to artistic and other cultural amenities of larger nearby cities. It has something even better and more accessible than all of that, however: This enormous county boasts a tremendously diverse and talented cadre of musicians and other artists. Their credentials range from stints with James Brown and the Count Basie Orchestra to New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the Apollo Theater to Nashville stages and studios. This weekend’s annual Festival of Roses features many of those artists. The festival entertainment began Thursday evening with Showcase Orangeburg and continues with DORA’s street dance on Friday and on the festival stage throughout the weekend. Hoesing claims the community frequently has erroneous ideas about the number of musicians who live and make music here because people know so little about them and they often know little about each other. “What we often notice outside of public performances is that musicians here tend to be quite insular,” Hoesing said. “We stick to our own stylistic and social cliques, rarely understanding that a unified arts community makes us all stronger.” Hoesing said the exceptions to this observation are not limited to Claflin’s annual “Messiah” performance. Local gospel “shed” events and other jam sessions, for example, bring diverse influences into common spaces. Freddie Ford, Louis “Big Lou” Thomas and Men of Distinction frontman David Kitchings have been among the major proponents of such gatherings. Since his arrival at Claflin in 2012, Hoesing has been making music and speaking with musicians in the community. In 2014, he launched the Orangeburg MUSIC Project with two main motivations. First, he wants to generate and energize artistic and cultural links between the Claflin family and the surrounding community. He creates those links by training Claflin undergraduate students in cultural survey and interviewing techniques. A summer research grant from Claflin in 2014 supported Hoesing’s effort to build a cultural survey instrument focused on the musicians here. After building and launching the survey with music and sociology double major Akilah Morgan of Los Angeles, Hoesing integrated the survey instrument into his world music course. Using the initial survey data that Hoesing and Morgan collected, Morgan got her first few opportunities to present research at local, regional, and national gatherings of music scholars. For Morgan, “working on this project meant having the opportunity to meet interesting people and to hear and see them making music in diverse places.” She said, “The project opens up the perspectives of students to learn new things about our adopted city.” As the first university-based research infrastructure in the state to open field research opportunities on this scale to undergraduate students, the Orangeburg MUSIC Project seeks to provide such opportunities to many more Claflin students. However, its aims go well beyond the university. The purpose of collecting this data is to create new platforms for collaboration, foster community interaction and measurably enhance the unique artistic fabric of Orangeburg County.
Image: Gospel group Appointed

Philanthropist Darla Moore endows $1 million for Claflin University Department of Music

Claflin University received a major gift from one of South Carolina’s most prominent philanthropists and business leaders when Darla Moore committed $1 million to the institution’s Department of Music. Two years ago, Moore stood in awe as she listened to the Claflin University Concert Choir perform at the opening of the Dr. Ronald McNair Life History Center in her home town of Lake City.  She was struck by the choir’s expansive repertoire, its high energy, and captivating musical presence. That performance and those that followed made a lasting impression on Moore, herself an accomplished musician. It also inspired an amicable relationship with the choir and its director, Dr. Isaiah McGee. “Following our performance at the Ronald McNair Life History Center, Ms. Moore invited us back to Lake City to perform at the opening of the Bean Market. Then we were invited to the city again to perform Handel’s Messiah during a Christmas concert,” said McGee. Read the rest of the story. Via: Claflin University