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Camden to hold week-long celebration of cultural district

The City of Camden and the Arts Center of Kershaw County are thrilled to announce a week-long celebration of the cultural district, featuring art, live music, historical lectures and education, a community art project and a special visit from GRAMMY nominated jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon.

This celebration begins Saturday, Sept. 3 and runs through Saturday, Sept.10. The majority of events will be free or at little cost. In October 2020, the South Carolina Arts Commission designated a portion of downtown Camden as the state’s ninth cultural district. Cultural districts are defined by the SCAC as walkable geographic areas with a concentration of cultural facilities and activities, galleries and artist studios, theaters and other live performance venues, public art, museums and arts centers, in addition to other attractions like parks, restaurants and bars, and other commercial activity.
The week-long celebration includes:
  • Two events on Saturday, Sept. 3:
    • a “community coloring” project at the Kershaw County Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to noon at 906 Broad Street, sponsored by First Palmetto Bank. Residents are invited to color one of several large posters that will be hung around downtown.
    • A “Let's Talk About....." symposium at the Arts Center of Kershaw County from 1–3 p.m. at 810 Lyttleton Street. This discussion will focus on critical race theory (CRT), led by civic activist, author, and former Camden mayor Tony Scully and law professor and practicing attorney, Barbara Ransom. Together, these two individuals representing quite different life experiences will explore what CRT is and is not. “Let’s Talk About…” is a community engagement initiative offered by the African American Cultural Center of Camden, a department of the Camden Archives & Museum. The program consists of a series of lectures, literary readings, panel discussions, and stories woven together to present different perspectives on the achievements, culture, and history of African Americans. Admission is free, with donations welcome. Seating is limited. Register at eventbrite.com or by calling 803-425-6050.
  • Monday, Sept. 5, the community coloring project continues from 12–4 p.m. on Town Green, 1015 Market St.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 6, join Preservation South Carolina to learn about their statewide Sacred Spaces Program. They will discuss how the organization has built solutions for historic church buildings that have lost or are losing their congregations. Explore the different approaches to help preserve the legacy of these buildings that are a vital part of the state’s cultural landscape. This event will take place at 4 pm at Camden Second Presbyterian Church, 816 Market Street and is free and open to the public.
  • Thursday, Sept. 8, see art in all its forms during the downtown Art Walk from 4–7 p.m.will feature the opening reception of “The Mountain Girls” at the Arts Center’s Bassett Gallery, 810 Lyttleton St., which begins at 5:30 p.m. Other locations on the Art Walk include Rutledge Street Gallery (508 Rutledge St.), featuring scenes of Camden by local artist Salley McInerney; Artists Attic (930 Broad St.) and Camden Art Shoppes (1011 Broad St.), featuring works from more than a dozen local artists; Gallery 537 (537 East DeKalb St.), featuring the work of Lori Isom-Starnes; and Laurie McIntosh Art (1014 Broad St.), one of “The Mountain Girls” herself. This event is free.
  • Friday, Sept. 9, Gallery 537 will host cellist and Camden native Clair Bryant in the debut of her new album “Whole Heart” from 7–10 p.m. This debut album from Bryant features seven bold works for solo cello and string duo, written by a luminary slate of diverse living composers. These works reflect love and the human experience. “Whole Heart” is a reminder of the collective challenges we face and the resilience and strength that live inside each of us. Gallery 537 is located at 537 East DeKalb St.
  • Two events on Saturday, Sept. 10:
    • Fire fighters, law enforcement and first responders invite the public to join in or watch as the third annual 9/11 Walk of Remembrance makes its way from Lugoff Fire Department beginning at 9 a.m., along U.S. Hwy 1 and through downtown Camden to Camden Fire Station 1, 1000 Lyttleton St. Register at bit.ly/911walk.
    • Rounding out the cultural district celebration, what is truly considered to be the highlight of the week, will be “Thoughts on Grief: An Intimate Conversation with Nneena Freelon.” In this guided conversation with Rosalyn Smith-Stover, executive director of the Family Resource Center and founder of Act Up Drama in Camden, Ms. Freelon will discuss how the loss of her soulmate and husband, renowned architect Phil Freelon, and her sister Debbie have reshaped her way of being in the world. Ms. Freelon has felt the need to find her "voice" once more, through the lens of grief and loss. Her 2021 recording "Time Traveler" (her first studio recording in nearly ten years) is a reflection of this new territory, an intimate expression of her love for Phil and their 40 year journey and a universal love letter to all who’ve lost someone dear. This event will begin at 4 pm at Camden Second Presbyterian Church, 816 Market Street. This event is free, with a suggested $25 donation. Tickets can be reserved online at https://thoughtsongrief.eventbrite.com or by calling 803.549.5648. Tickets to both the conversation and a private 30 minute reception with Ms. Freelon afterwards are available for $35.
In addition to these events, residents are encouraged to explore all of the cultural district’s shops and restaurants, where activities and special events are planned year round. For more information on the cultural district or any of the events taking place during the celebration, visit www.downtowncamdensc.org/cultural-district or call 803.549.5648.
Learn more about South Carolina Cultural Districts here.

Jason Rapp

Ninth S.C. Cultural District approved in Camden

S.C. Arts Commission board votes unanimously for approval

For Immediate Release

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The city of Camden was awarded the ninth South Carolina Cultural District today by a unanimous vote of the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) board of directors, effective immediately.

The new Downtown Camden Cultural District runs along Broad Street from West/East DeKalb streets south to York Street and along Rutledge Street from Church to Lyttleton streets, touching all or part of 14 city blocks. It includes the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County, galleries, studios and other makers spaces, artisan and farmers markets, and prominent historic landmarks dating to the late 1800s. Signage and other markers are planned to define the area to residents and visitors. Children making chalk drawings in an alley in Camden“Camden has had a strong arts community for well over half a century, and downtown Camden hosts several arts spaces, including the Arts Center of Kershaw County, private galleries and studios, music and maker spaces,” said city of Camden Main Street Program Manager Katharine Spadacenta. “We’ve identified 60 cultural assets in this area to be designated as the Cultural District. We are very excited for the arts and culture of our community to be recognized as an official South Carolina Cultural District.” Cultural districts are defined by the SCAC as walkable geographic areas with a concentration of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. They are easily identifiable and serve as centers of cultural, artistic, and economic activity. They frequently have galleries and artist studios, theaters and other live performance venues, public art, museums and arts centers, and arts schools in addition to non-cultural attractions like parks, restaurants and bars, and other commercial activity. Legislation ratified by the South Carolina General Assembly in 2014 authorizes the SCAC to grant official state designation to cultural districts. The legislation specifies the following goals of this program:
  • attract artists, creative entrepreneurs and cultural enterprises to communities
  • encourage economic development
  • foster local cultural development
  • provide a focal point for celebrating and strengthening local cultural identity
“Cultural districts show the best of what South Carolina has to offer. They prove that arts and culture drive growth, bring people together, and make our communities stronger. We welcome Camden’s new cultural district. The possibilities and impact are boundless. We hope other cities and towns make arts a focal point of progress,” SCAC board of directors Chairwoman Dee Crawford said. “Our South Carolina Cultural Districts attract tourists, help preserve and reuse historic buildings, enhance the image and visibility of a place, foster a supportive environment for arts and culture,” SCAC Executive Director David Platts said. “You don’t have to be in Camden long to see all of that is going on in our newest district. It is a wonderful and fitting addition to the program, and I congratulate them for making arts and culture a point of community pride.” “Personal connections in Camden let me observe the progress of its ongoing downtown revitalization through the past 13 years. Strong, visionary leadership steered toward this accomplishment, and the arts commission is thrilled to see the arts and creative sector used yet again to keep momentum building,” South Carolina Cultural Districts Program Director Jason Rapp said. Downtown Camden Cultural Districts joins eight other districts: Beaufort, Bluffton, Congaree Vista, Florence, Greenwood, Lancaster, Rock Hill, and Downtown Spartanburg. More information about South Carolina Cultural Districts is available at https://www.southcarolinaarts.com/community-development/programs/cultural-districts/.

About the South Carolina Arts Commission

The mission of the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) is to promote equitable access to the arts and support the cultivation of creativity in South Carolina. We envision a South Carolina where the arts are valued, and all people benefit from a variety of creative experiences. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts by providing grants, direct programs, staff assistance and partnerships in three key 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 SouthCarolinaArts.com or call 803.734.8696.

Jason Rapp