← View All Articles

New Florence County Museum set to open Oct. 11

The new Florence County Museum opens Oct. 11. Visit the museum's website for information about grand opening events, including a gala Oct. 10. From SCNow.com:
FLORENCE, S.C. – A headline on October 7, 1953, in The Morning News about the Florence Museum opening reads, “Modern Museum Result of Struggle.” The story, written by Eugene “Nick” Zeigler for the Morning News, told of the trials and tribulations before opening on Spruce Street. As it was then, and is now, the Florence Museum is a product of teamwork and hard work from many people.
The new Florence County Museum will welcome the public this week but the new facility never would have happened if not for a dedicated few who persevered.
The Florence Museum started as the Blue Bird Tea Room, organized by the League for Woman’s Service. The Tea Room raised money for the Red Cross and other organizations during World War I. One of those involved was Jane B. Evans, who later went on to become founder of the museum. The Blue Bird Tea Room went on for three years after the war and deactivated with $2,500 in funds.
In 1924, Evans moved from Florence to Phoenix, Ariz., where she learned of a surplus of post-Spanish Indian pottery. The seller would only sell the pottery to small museums. Evans made a plea to the Blue Bird Tea Room trustees to organize as the Florence Museum. It was incorporated in 1936. Shortly after, $400 was spent to acquire the pottery starting a collection that would grow many times over through the years.
The Florence County Public Library displayed several exhibits from the Federal Arts Project, organized by Evans. Unfortunately her and others efforts weren’t met with enthusiasm as Zeigler wrote.
“ The interest shown by Florentines was evidently not sufficient to keep the project for in February 1937, the state director of the Federal Art Project WPA closed the program in Florence,” he wrote.
Not to be stifled, Evans kept increasing exhibits and in 1939, was able to occupy three rooms in the basement of the library. She died in 1950 and Zeigler wrote, “it created a real void.” In 1951, Eugene “Nick” Zeigler was elected president of the Florence Museum Trustees and planned to complete fundraising efforts started by Evans.
The museum trustees, through City Council put up a public referendum for vote in 1952 on purchasing the Lawton –Willcox – Chase property on Spruce Street. The property was $75,000, with $45,000 contributed by the museum. The referendum was defeated by 71 votes. Ben Zeigler, Nick’s son, said his father was asked if African-Americans would be admitted to the museum. Zeigler’s answer was an affirmative “yes,” which Ben Zeigler said didn’t sit well with segregationists at the time. Another referendum for tax support failed to pass in 1972.
“ When the county eventually took over the museum, it was a very fulfilling thing for my father,” Ben said. “He very much wanted to be alive long enough to see the groundbreaking (of the new museum). He really kept himself alive long enough to see that happen.”
After the groundbreaking, Nick Zeigler visited the grave of Jane B. Evans, his longtime friend, and considered his promise to her that the museum would not fail fulfilled. He died five months later at the age of 91.
Ben Zeigler, now a County Museum board member, said he doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t involved in the museum. Growing up, he worked there after school and in the summer.
“ When the concept was developed in the 30s by Jane Evans, and pulled along by others in the 50s,” he said, “it was very much an aspirational thing that gave the people of Florence a window to the greater world. It exposed people to art, hands-on history and things of cultural significance in a world before TV and internet.”
Florence County Museum Trustee and Florence Museum Trustee Becky Crawford joined the board in 1982. She said the new museum will have the capability to reach many more people than it has in the past.
“ It’s not a typical museum,” she said. “Ms. Jane felt like we needed to bring the world to Florence. The museum has existed over all these years because people put their heart and soul into it. Nick was a very smart man and had a vision of how it should impact the community and it will continue to do that.”
Florence County Museum Director Andrew Stout said the new museum is a realized dream that started 90 years ago.
“ We’ve had many people who have believed in that foundation that this museum is important to the community,” Stout said. “It’s with great honor that I see how much they believe in this museum. For years, people of the museum did the best they could with the resources they had. This museum is a product of all that hard work. It documents the soul of Florence County.”

Florence and Lancaster recognized for revitalization and development

Congratulations to the cities of Florence and Lancaster for being recognized by the Municipal Association of South Carolina for downtown revitalization and economic development efforts. In both cases, arts and culture organizations (most of whom have been awarded S.C. Arts Commission grants over the years) played key roles in the cities' achievements. These examples of partnerships and cooperative planning between local governments, educational institutions and arts organizations are models in how to attract new businesses and visitors. Florence's plan for arts and cultural development included a new library and theatre, and a soon-to-be new museum, and has culminated in the state-of-the-art Francis Marion Performing Arts Center:

In 2005, the City of Florence hired a consultant to create a master plan for downtown redevelopment. The plan identified arts and cultural development as a necessity to encourage renewal for the city center. In the years that followed, a new library and theatre were constructed, and the city anticipates the opening of a new museum this year. But the crown jewel of these new developments is the state-of-the-art Francis Marion Performing Arts Center, located in the heart of downtown Florence. Francis Marion University Performing Arts CenterThe $37 million facility boasts a main stage and outdoor amphitheater, a garden courtyard, an academic wing, and upper and lower lobbies for events and receptions. It has been honored with architectural awards for its innovative use of sustainable materials. Officials formed partnerships with private entities to secure the land and fund construction of the Center. The partnership formed between the city and the university is a mutually beneficial one. Francis Marion handles the ongoing costs and daily operation of the performing arts center and, in return, the university’s theatre and fine arts department is in the academic wing of the facility. Pee Dee residents are winners as well, as they now have a venue to enjoy musical and theatrical performances close to home. Using culture and the arts as an economic development tool is working in Florence. After the performing arts center was constructed, a boutique hotel opened downtown. New businesses and restaurants are flourishing as well, and office and retail space in the city center is being redeveloped for new merchants.
The City of Lancaster partnered with USC Lancaster to open a new Native American Studies Center downtown, which provided more room for the half-million Catawba artifacts—the world’s largest Catawba collection—in the school’s possession, as well as space for a growing number of students attending USCL:
Downtown Lancaster needed an anchor. The University of South Carolina Lancaster needed space to store and showcase its large collection of Catawba pottery and artifacts. A partnership was born. Plans for the Native American Studies Center began when Lancaster municipal officials met with community groups to discuss cultural tourism and historical assets as catalysts for downtown revitalization. They brought faculty in on the conversations. The faculty shared that they were in desperate need of more room for the half-million Catawba artifacts—the world’s largest Catawba collection—in the school’s possession, as well as space for a growing number of students attending USCL. Native American Studies CenterThe City of Lancaster purchased a long-empty furniture store on Main Street using funds raised from hospitality taxes and a Duke Energy grant. Officials worked with faculty from USCL’s Native American Studies department to design classrooms, labs and galleries in the renovated space. The city improved existing parking and created additional parking areas. Working with regional tourism and preservation groups, the city then developed a marketing plan to promote the new center. Locating a cultural attraction downtown has been a boon for tourism in Lancaster. Even better, there are more college students spending time—and dollars—in the city center. The project has been so successful that officials are working with USCL to relocate more of the University’s departments downtown. Workshops, festivals, seminars and other public events are in the works as well to draw more people to the Native American Studies Center. A once-empty building is now a cultural asset, and downtown Lancaster is once again the center of conversation.
The awards were presented at the MASC's annual meeting July 20. Via: Municipal Association of South Carolina

Florence Museum to close in preparation for move

Florence Museum The Florence Museum, in Florence, S.C., will close its current location (pictured above) July 20 and reopen in the new Florence County Museum (rendering pictured below) in early 2014, according to the Florence Morning News:
FLORENCE, S.C. -- At a meeting held on Tuesday, the Trustees of the Florence Museum voted unanimously to officially close the doors of the Florence Museum at 558 Spruce St. The Florence Museum will be open during regular business hours until Saturday, July 20, closing at 5 p.m. The Trustees of the Florence Museum purchased the Art Moderne style home in 1952, moving the collections from the basement of the Florence County Library, then located on Pine and Irby streets, and opened the doors to the public on Oct. 7, 1953. Over the past 60 years, the Trustees of the Florence Museum have worked to promote art, science and history through educational programs, lectures, and exhibits. During that time, the Trustees of the Florence Museum have collected and preserved important artifacts that connect world cultures to Florence County and the Pee Dee. As with any museum, the primary concern is the safety and care of the objects. Although the new facility is located a few blocks away, each object is packed and cared for in a very sensitive manner. Museum staff began re-cataloging, re-photographing and re-packing some 15,000 objects in early 2008. These artifacts range from ancient Egyptian artifacts, to Pre-historic Anasazi pottery, Japanese prints and porcelains, American Civil War uniforms, paintings, ethnographic sculptural objects, textiles, historic maps and railroad memorabilia. “We are essentially packing and moving the history of Florence County and the Pee Dee; there is no room for error,” said Florence County Museum Director Andrew R. Stout. “This is a time-consuming process but one of the most important steps in this transitional period for the museum.” The collections of the Florence Museum will be leased for $1 a year to Florence County and exhibited in the newly construction Florence County Museum located at 111 W. Cheves St. in downtown Florence. The Florence County Museum will open officially to the public in early 2014.
Florence County Museum   Related: Florence County museum halfway done (March 2013).
Via: SCNow

Florence Museum celebrates birthday of artist William H. Johnson

From SCNow.com/Morning News Online: A year after being memorialized with a stamp from the U.S. Postal Service, William H. Johnson will again be remembered Saturday (March 23) at the Florence Museum with a birthday celebration. In what has become an annual tradition, the trustees of the Florence Museum will host an ice cream social open to the public starting at 3:30 p.m. for the birthday of one of Florence’s most famous sons and artists. Sadly, Johnson, a black artist who is still growing in popularity around the world as a top African-American artist 43 years after his death, never lived to see his hometown recognize him for the talent he was. In fact, the only time Johnson ever saw his paintings recognized in his hometown was in 1930 at a three-hour art show held at the YMCA and hosted by The Morning News. No work was sold, and Johnson was later arrested during the same trip for painting a hotel downtown that served white people. Not a very welcoming atmosphere for a hometown boy who was popularly received throughout the Northeast and Europe at the time, even earning a gold medallion from the Harmon Foundation in New York City for distinguished achievement among Negroes in that same year. However, the Florence Museum is doing what it can to atone for the past.

In a testament to how well his work is revered in the art world outside of Florence and to what an important icon he is finally becoming here, Johnson will have the only permanent exhibit space in the Florence Museum when it relocates to its new downtown location early next year.
Through a rotational loan with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which owns more than 1,500 of his pieces, guests will be able to see a large variety of his works. Read the complete article. Read more about Johnson in this Florence Museum blog post. About the stamp image: An oil-on-plywood painting dated 1939-1940, Flowers depicts a vase of boldly rendered, brightly colored blooms on a small red table. The two-dimensional, consciously “naive” style in which Flowers was painted was one of the many techniques of modernist abstraction and “primitive” art adapted by Johnson during his career. The painting, a gift of the Harmon Foundation, belongs to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Read more about the stamp. Via: SCNow.com, beyondtheperf.com

Remembering arts visionary Nick Zeigler of Florence

We note with sadness the passing of Eugene N. "Nick" Zeigler of Florence, who spent a lifetime leading the development of and supporting the arts and education in his local community and in South Carolina. As a state Senator, Zeigler wrote and sponsored the legislation that created the South Carolina Arts Commission in 1967. He helped create the Florence Little Theatre in 1939 and the Florence Symphony in 1950 and founded the Florence Fine Arts Council in 1954. As president of the Florence Museum, he championed the organization's move to its present location in 1953. He was also a playwright, author, historian and civil rights advocate. Zeigler was one of the first four recipients of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Awards presented by the S.C. Arts Commission in 1972. An excerpt from "Marking 40 Years and Moving Forward" (a history of the S.C. Arts Commission): "On Oct. 28, 1965, Gov. Robert E. McNair issued Executive Order No. 5, creating the South Carolina Inter-Agency Council on Arts and Humanities, chaired by E. N. "Nick" Zeigler of Florence. The goal of the council was "to conduct a study of the arts in South Carolina" and to "...determine the potential of the arts within the state." Upon his election to the South Carolina Senate, Zeigler resigned from the council. After the council presented its findings, Sen. Zeigler introduced legislation to create the South Carolina Arts Commission. On June 7, 1967, Gov. McNair signed the legislation, and the South Carolina Arts Commission was in business." We are grateful for Zeigler's vision and his commitment to the long-range value of state support for the arts in South Carolina. Today we honor his memory. Zeigler's obituary and articles about his contributions and awards are published online. Via: SC Now, The State [caption id="attachment_1593" align="aligncenter" width="479"] Nick Zeigler (left) looks on as Gov. Robert E. McNair signs legislation creating the S.C. Arts Commission on June 7, 1967. Also shown, Marvin Trapp, who served as the Commission's first chairman.[/caption]


Florence Museum invites entries to Pee Dee Regional Art Competition

The 59th annual Pee Dee Regional is the oldest continuing art competition in South Carolina, according to the folks at the Florence Museum. Entries for the 2012 competition will be accepted Sept. 20-22, and the exhibition will be presented by the museum's board of trustees Oct. 5 through Dec. 16. Artists who are natives or residents of these counties are eligible to enter: Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Kershaw, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Sumter and Williamsburg. This year's competition judge is artist Jane Allen Nodine, professor of art and director of the Curtis R. Harley Gallery at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg. Visit the Florence Museum's website for more information and to download a prospectus and registration form. [caption id="attachment_682" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Interrogate 33 by Jim Boden Jim Boden's Interrogate 33 received top honors at the 2011 Pee Dee Regional Art Competition[/caption] via: Florence Museum