Mark Rapp to be featured in EngenuitySC’s Competitiveness Week
Standout musician to close out celebration
EngenuitySC, the local nonprofit that works with area leaders to make the Columbia, S.C., region a standout choice for top talent and competitive companies, will close out its annual Competitiveness Week 2020 with a celebration of one of the city’s greatest levers of growth—its thriving arts community.
EngenuitySC has partnered with one of the prime movers of the Midlands’ music scene, Mark Rapp
, to support this month’s jazz dinner series, “Mark Rapp and the ColaJazz Little Big Band.” Featured as the closing celebration for EngenuitySC’s Competitiveness Week 2020, the event will be held on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020 from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $10, and dinner will be available for purchase. Find info here: https://www.engenuitysc.com/competitiveness-week-2020/
EngenuitySC’s Competitiveness Week 2020 celebrates and investigates Columbia’s ability to attract talented individuals and impactful businesses through innovation, talent development, livability, a healthy entrepreneurial environment and high-impact industry clusters.
When it’s time for a major corporation, a homegrown business, or even a recent graduate to choose a place to succeed, EngenuitySC — and the leaders in business, education and government that serve on its board — want to make it easy for them to choose the Columbia, S.C., region.
“Columbia’s arts scene is where we see four of the five pillars of competitiveness — innovation, talent development, entrepreneurship and livability — fold together,” says EngenuitySC Executive Director Meghan Hickman. “Right now, one of the city’s most prolific artist entrepreneurs is Mark Rapp, and we are so excited to highlight his work as our culminating event of Competitiveness Week 2020.”
Rapp’s work as a creative entrepreneur is part of what makes for such high quality of life in Columbia. Viewed as a pioneer of arts entrepreneurship in the region, Rapp returned from a successful career in New York City’s music scene and has continually made moves to advance the Columbia jazz scene.
With performance degrees from Winthrop and Tulane, and with big-name mentors (you may have heard of the Marsalis family), Rapp is a welcome bandleader and collaborator across the country. He had already released two acclaimed albums when he moved to Columbia in 2012 to be near family.
As he ventured into the local performance world, he was impressed with the population of talented jazz musicians living in Columbia and disappointed in the lack of recognition they received. A visit to an Asheville restaurant that co-produced a giveaway CD with their house band sparked an idea that became 2015’s “Cola Jazz Volume 1,” a compilation CD of 13 of the city’s bandleaders and their ensembles. The release, and the subsequent Volume 2, are now staples in the gift shop at the Experience Columbia SC Visitors Center — a move that supports the career of local artists and drives tourism purchases.
“When visitors take home our CD and play it for friends, we build the reputation of our musicians and the reputation of Columbia as a great jazz city,” he says.
The collaborative relationships built through the compilation project led to new opportunities: Rapp launched ColaJazz.com to promote the CD and its players (which has become to go-to calendar for jazz performances throughout the city), and he holds ongoing jam sessions and club gigs with rotating ensemble players. He also teaches and runs an all-ages summer jazz camp, in addition to producing the annual Cola Jazz festival.
In 2014, he forged a creative partnership with Columbia-based choreographer Stephanie Wilkins. The two created Woven, an original contemporary jazz ballet, as part of Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College’s Performance Incubator; they reunited for last season’s fresh take on The Great Gatsby at Trustus Theatre (a production that also featured Rapp’s wife, Columbia City Ballet Principal Dancer Claire Richards Rapp.)
“When Mark chose me to choreograph his evening-length jazz ballet, Woven, in 2015, it led to a wonderful and creative partnership which has continued to flourish more than four years later,” says Wilkins. “Mark has a gift for finding opportunities that can be lucrative for both creative and business partners. I’m always grateful and excited to work with him. He is the ultimate collaborator: open, patient, always engaged, and encouraging.”
Rapp recently re-homed the majority of his projects under a new ColaJazz nonprofit organization — the aptly named ColaJazz Foundation. The organization employs between one and two dozen musicians each month in its programs, which have expanded to include concerts in the lobby of Prisma Health Children’s Hospital and after-school programming using the Jazz at Lincoln Center curriculum.
While Rapp has undeniably expanded paying opportunities for jazz musicians living in the Midlands, he says there are a few substantial improvements that could be made to the local entertainment ecosystem. Namely, he advocates for restaurants and bars charging a cover in order to pay their musicians wages. The standard pay rate for musicians in Columbia lags behind the rate in Charleston and Greenville, a problem he attributes to the absence of meaningful cover charges.
“This can be a win-win,” he offers, “Musicians attract customers, customers help cover the cost of paying musicians a living wage and everyone gains the joy of making and listening to great music.”
When asked about his professional goals for the next few years, Rapp focuses on three areas: Expanding the education work offered by the Cola Jazz organization, expanding the Cola Jazz Festival to a multi-day event, and turning his monthly event at Main Course, a venue on Main Street, into a subscription series.
It is this event, “Mark Rapp and the ColaJazz Little Big Band,” that will be highlighted during EngenuitySC’s Competitiveness Week on Jan. 31. Says Rapp of the event, which charges diners a $10 cover charge to enjoy a full jazz concert over dinner (available for separate purchase from the menu), “It provides opportunities for musicians in and around Columbia and, as a ‘ticketed’ event, it begins to establish a model of value for our art.”
To see the complete event lineup for EngenuitySC’s Competitiveness Week, presented by BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, visit https://www.engenuitysc.com/competitiveness-week-2020/
Governed by the highest-ranking regional leaders in education, government and business, EngenuitySC is a nonprofit that works to make the Columbia, S.C., region a standout choice for top talent and competitive companies. Structured as a neutral and independent project management team, EngenuitySC is known for achieving progress through partnerships using a unique, highly effective process. Whether it is equipping K-12 students with career-ready skills, elevating quality of life with the Midlands Business Leadership Group, or producing Competitiveness Week and the annual Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report, EngenuitySC is a trusted force, working behind the scenes to build a community cultivated for living, working, playing and learning. Learn more at www.engenuitysc.com.
Central Carolina Community Foundation awards Connected Communities grants to launch seven innovative projects
Central Carolina Community Foundation has awarded Connected Communities grants to seven nonprofits for new projects designed to enrich the Midlands region:
- Columbia Museum of Art: “Cut! Costume and the Cinema” – Visitors will peek behind the scenes into the craftsmanship and artistry of cinematic costume design with this international arts and education exhibition, including 43 costumes from 25 well-known films, depicting five centuries of history, drama and comedy. The exhibit, which aims to draw new, cross-generational audiences to the Midlands, will be on display at the Columbia Museum of Art from November 18, 2016 to February 19, 2017.
- Doko Meadows Park Foundation Amphitheatre Project – First-class performances and arts and community events will have a new home within Blythewood’s 25-acre, master-planned Doko Meadows Park, where the Doko Meadows Park Foundation will construct a new amphitheater, welcoming audiences and visitors of all socioeconomic backgrounds, ages and abilities.
- EngenuitySC: What’s Next Midlands – Economic development nonprofit EngenuitySC will launch its second year of What’s Next Midlands, the collaborative crowdsourcing program aimed to gather great ideas for Midlands improvement from residents, and then connect those ideas with the community, capital and volunteers needed to turn them into reality. The program will complete one publicly vetted and approved project per quarter. The first What’s Next Midlands project to be funded has recently added brightly colored, metal patio tables and chairs along Main Street to add social seating during events and peak times (pictured above).
- Riverbanks Society: Waterfall Junction at Riverbanks Botanical Garden – Waterfall Junction – a new attraction within the Riverbanks Botanical Garden – shelters three acres of ponds, creeks, falls and meadows, inviting visitors of all ages to connect with nature through hands-on exploration, imaginative learning and social offerings. The grant provides funding for public gathering and education sites within the new attraction.
- South Carolina Philharmonic: Conduct the Phil – The S.C. Philharmonic expands their successful pop-up, interactive experience that allows the public to conduct the orchestra, holding Conduct the Phil sessions in isolated areas of the community to interact with new audiences including the homeless, mentally challenged, incarcerated, physically ill and at-risk youth populations.
- South Carolina State Museum: RACE: Are We So Different? – The concept of race is scientifically and culturally examined, pondered and challenged at the S.C. State Museum’s new exhibit, which explores three primary themes – the science of human variation, the history of the idea of race and the contemporary experience of race and racism in the U.S. – and explains why we should celebrate our differences. Associated programs complement the exhibit, displayed from June 11 to September 11, 2016.
- The Jasper Project: Marked by the Water – In commemoration of the first anniversary of the devastating South Carolina flood in October 2015, local artists and community members will collaborate and produce a multi-disciplinary community arts project, featuring visual art, literary elements, music and dance. Funding from the Foundation will support the publication of a book containing collected works from this project.
The grant recipients presented innovative ideas that embrace one or more of the following three focus areas, identified by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Gallup as the three most important elements of an attractive community: Welcoming Community, which promotes and encourages open and inclusive activities and programs; Vibrant Social Offerings, which support the availability of community events, arts and culture opportunities; and Superb Public Spaces, which enhance the beauty and physical setting of the Midlands community. Each selected project encourages citizen involvement and community-wide collaboration.
“The projects selected relate directly to our quality of life and enrich our community in meaningful ways,” says JoAnn Turnquist, president & CEO of Central Carolina Community Foundation. “We look forward to working with these organizations throughout the next year and watching their projects unfold.”
In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the Foundation’s first Connected Communities grants funded local programs such as “What’s Next Midlands,” a crowdsourced regional improvement program championed by EngenuitySC; The Nickelodeon Theatre’s “Indie Grits at the River,” enabling the Indie Grits Film Festival to offer free admission for all events for the first time; and educational opportunities in conjunction with the “From Marilyn to Mao – Andy Warhol’s Famous Faces” exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art, bringing the works of the world-famous artist to downtown Columbia, S.C.
For more information about Connected Communities grants, visit the Foundation's website
or call 803.254.5601.
About Central Carolina Community Foundation
Central Carolina Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization serving 11 counties in the Midlands by distributing grants and scholarships and linking the resources of donors, nonprofits and area leaders to communities in need. For more information about the Foundation, visit www.yourfoundation.org
or call 803.254.5601.
USC student wins $5,000 in 2015 Ignite! Ideas Contest
Article by Rachel Ham; photo by Kelly Petty
An idea launched in 2013 at the University of South Carolina took home the top prize at Wednesday's Ignite! Ideas Contest.
University of South Carolina student Vincent Felix won $5,000 to support his startup, Mr. Penguin Designs, over two other finalists. The big reveal was made Wednesday night during the annual celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation at the new USC Alumni Center.
Local business and education leaders attended, tweeted about the startups' presentations and voted for their favorite throughout the evening.
Mr. Penguin Designs gives cellphone users a unique way to express themselves with one-of-a-kind protective cases. Felix partners with local artists who create fresh designs, and he found a retail partner in Comporium.
"We've been working incredibly hard for the last two and a half years," Felix said. "This shows if you don't give up ... something good will happen."
Felix said the concept of Mr. Penguin Designs — to help student artists gain exposure to their work while also providing them with residual income — began in 2013. Felix was a sophomore at USC and noticed the lack of different and individualized options for phone cases. After seeing the creative potential in his artistic friends, Felix got to work on his startup. Ten percent of the proceeds from each case sold now go back to the artist.
"It's about giving back to them," Felix said of the artists.
Felix plans to use the $5,000 Ignite! award to boost his marketing campaign. The company will collaborate with USC student media to reach more students and people beyond the Midlands.
Though not everyone went home with a novelty-size check, people were inspired by the story of another Columbia entrepreneur. Ramone Dickerson and Corey Simmons of 2 Fat 2 Fly were among the guest speakers and shared their story from the first stuffed chicken wing to the restaurant they now own.
Simmons and Dickerson said support from the community played a significant role in their success. Simmons recalled the early days were tough but said "as long as we had wings in the cooler, we were OK."
EngenuitySC Executive Director Meghan Hickman said businesses like those represented at Ignite! are what makes the Midlands a force in economic competitiveness.
"We have incredible things to come ahead of us," she said.
The next Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report from EngenuitySC is due out soon.
Could your big idea win $5,000 from EngenuitySC?
2012 winner launches public art project
Midlands start-ups, small business owners, social entrepreneurs, savvy students, big thinkers and go-getters are encouraged to apply for the $5,000 prize in EngenuitySC’s Ignite! Ideas Contest. As part of its mission to boost economic competitiveness in the Midlands, EngenuitySC is looking for individuals and organizations with an original idea or business solution to start or grow a Columbia-based initiative.
Finalists will present to 500+ movers and shakers at the Nov. 20 Ignite! celebration at The Zone, and live audience voting will choose the winner on the spot.
Oct. 24 is the deadline to submit your two-minute video describing your original idea or business solution. Complete application information can be found here: http://www.engenuitysc.com/ignite/i-have-idea.
Since winning the Ignite! 2012 Ideas Contest, Will Bryan of Public Works of HeART (pictured far right) has announced his organization's first project: the transformation of a 22,000 square foot water tank into a crowd-funded work of art (pictured below) in Cayce, S.C., in partnership with Gamecock Athletics, the City of Cayce and Harvest Hope Food Bank.
To involve the community, the artwork will be divided into 10,000 virtual squares that will be for sale. A $25 purchase funds about 2 square feet of the actual mural, and the proceeds will benefit the nearby Lexington County emergency food pantry.
Public Works of HeART is a private company that chooses to support nonprofit organizations as a part of its business model. By using crowd-funding through social media to finance public works of art, the company uses the beauty of art to improve lives and communities, create awareness of needs, and give money to good causes – with a emphasis on causes that help those most in need.
Find out more about Public Works of HeART and the water tank project.
Who will be the Ignite! 2013 Ideas Contest winner? Reserve your seat today and find out! Last year the event sold out several days in advance, so don't miss out!