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Francis Marion University’s Arts International Festival moving downtown

From the Florence Morning News Article by Shamira McCray
[caption id="attachment_19239" align="alignright" width="233"]Chief Kamu Chief Kamu Fire and Hula Show[/caption] Francis Marion University and the city of Florence announced Tuesday that they will partner to bring the Arts International Festival to FMU’s downtown Performing Arts Center in April. FMU President Fred Carter and Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela announced the partnership at a press conference held at the PAC.
The festival, held on FMU’s campus for nearly 40 years, features a mix of art, music and food.
“About every 10 years we revitalize this festival with changes,” Carter said. “The international component was added about a decade ago. Changing venues, I think, will be a very, very positive thing. The festival goes very, very well on campus, but this gives us an opportunity to cultivate new audiences.”
Changing venues will give FMU the chance to create new support partners downtown, Carter said. The festival is not leaving campus, he said, but instead going from one part of campus to another part that is six miles away.
Wukela said the relocation of the Arts International Festival allows for an opportunity to tap in to the cohort that is already accustomed to coming to downtown festivals. With it being centrally located in downtown, people might participate in the festival when they might not have otherwise.
“I think that produces a great, great dynamic,” Wukela said. “Also, of course, it makes very, very good use of the cultural amenities we have already here downtown and the international community that’s here in the city of Florence. So I think all of those melt very well, and I think we’ll have a very successful festival.
The Arts International Festival will serve as the signature spring festival in Florence, Wukela said.
The festival is scheduled for April 11. The Blue Dogs headline the list of artists scheduled to perform. The festival will also feature performances by FMU music groups, the Jabali African Acrobats, hula lessons, an international food court, beer and wine gardens, art displays and the Florence-Darlington Technical College’s welding sculpture competition, among other activities. Image above: the Chinese Acrobats

National acts attract broader audience for FMU Performing Arts Center

From SCnow.com

The Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center (PAC) has been open since 2011, bringing a rotation of musical acts and performances to downtown Florence. But this year, the PAC took a significant step forward.
National touring acts such as The Indigo Girls, Travis Tritt and Clint Black have all made stops this year at the PAC, and with it, they brought new twists on their traditional performances for the intimate concert hall. The Indigo Girls played with the Florence Symphony Orchestra, while Tritt went unplugged for his Florence date.
Daryl Bridges, vice president for development at FMU, said officials mapped out a strategy to evolve programming at the PAC this year.
“We decided we wanted to bring in accomplished performers,” Bridges said. “We also wanted to broaden the audiences in a geographic sense.”
With the season not wrapping up until November, there are still three shows remaining on this year’s calendar. Lyle Lovett and his Large Band are scheduled to take the stage on Aug. 30, Amy Grant on Sept. 26 and Mary Chapin Carpenter on Nov. 13.
PAC officials are also anticipating bringing in the following Broadway shows: “Sister Act,” “Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Memphis.”
Bridges said upping the star wattage at the PAC has helped increase the venue’s awareness, both with ticket buyers and performers.
“Indigo Girls had a great, great house when they partnered with the Florence Symphony Orchestra,” Bridges said. “We anticipate that Lyle Lovett will sell very strongly, and we anticipate that will be a packed house. Travis Tritt was a packed house. Those are some that jump out to me that had wonderful audiences.”
The venue has also been praised by several performers for its interior and exterior design, as well as for the acoustics.
“We received great feedback from the performers,” Bridges said. “They loved the design, and they absolutely enjoyed the performance space and the intimacy.”
In addition to being a venue for accomplished performers, the PAC is working toward becoming a statewide destination. According to Bridges, patronage has broadened this year.
“For some of the recent shows, up to 30 percent are selling outside of Florence,” Bridges said. “So we know that the PAC is gaining a reputation as a destination. People outside of Florence are beginning to see what we’re doing here, and they’re taking advantage of that.”
Not only is the PAC exapnding its offerings inside the building, but on the outside as well.
The upcoming schedule for the BB&T Amphitheatre, located on the Palmetto Street side of the venue, is still in the works, but Bridges said the community can expect to see some university groups performing there. Some short-notice shows might be scheduled in the fall.
“We’re working on some great things outside for the spring,” Bridges said. “Now that we have the covering on the amphitheater, we’ll be using that much more.”
The amphitheater will also be a venue for the Pecan Festival in November.
With places such as the Florence Civic Center and the Florence Little Theatre also serving as entertainment venues, Bridges said he does not view them as competition but rather as partners in the growing Florence arts community.
“We’re trying to attract to those performers that resonate with the audience and enjoy high-quality entertainment,” Bridges said. “They can get high-quality entertainment right here in Florence. This year we decided to step up with concert-type entertainment.”
Moving forward, Bridges said there are plans to have more local and regional acts perform at the PAC. He said the center’s vision is to become the focal point of the entertainment scene in Florence.
“We’re just excited to be able to provide the type of entertainment and venue the audiences want and the artists deserve,” Bridges said. “This is becoming a statewide venue.”

Florence Men’s Choral Society preps for Carnegie Hall trip

From the Florence Morning News: The Florence Men's Choral Society is raising funds to participate in the invitation-only Distinguished Concerts International series at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
There’s an old saying: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.” That’s partly true. You also need money. And that’s what the Florence Men’s Choral Society is hoping the community can help with. On Nov. 19, the FMCS will host its annual fundraising dinner and concert to raise money for underprivileged youth interested in music. But there will also be opportunities for the public to help with the getting the choir to travel in January to the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City as part of the invitation only Distinguished Concerts International series. “It’s one of those things that I have on our (FMCS’s) bucket list,” FMCS founder and artistic director Julian Young said. It will be a memorable experience for the choir, albeit one that comes at a hefty price. Less than half of the 25 member choir are able to go due to the expense. In all the group is hoping to raise the almost $9,000 needed to attend. During the free concert Tuesday, there will be a special collection in hopes of raising some of the money. Until the money is raised, choir members are having to dig into their own pockets. “We’re basically paying out of our own pocket individually at the moment,” Young said. “The money that has been raised is being spread around the members going.” The idea of going to Carnegie Hall was pretty far down the bucket list until six months ago when Young got a call inviting the FMCS. “I put it down on the list because I’d heard there were ways to get invited to go there. One phone call changed all that and put it at the top of our list,” he said. Matt Oltman, one of the organizers for the festival, saw a video of FMCS on YouTube. “I couldn’t believe it. He said, ‘You are exactly the kind of group we’re looking for and we want you,’” Young said. “I told the guys, ‘This is the time, we have to do do this.’ We are the only male organization in the Pee Dee that have ever been invited to Carnegie Hall. We’re not professional but we’ve worked hard enough to be recognized. This is a great opportunity to be ambassadors for the Pee Dee.” As fate would have it, one of the songs the choir is set to sing at Carnegie — “The Testament of Freedom” — is also a song that will be performed Tuesday night. It was part of their planned repertoire already and is a collection of writings of Thomas Jefferson with music by Randall Thompson. The concert Tuesday night features patriotic freedom songs from all over the world including a selection from the musical “Les Miserables” and arrangements of “America” and the “Star Spangled Banner” with an accompanying orchestra. The concert starts promptly at 7:30 pm in the First Presbyterian Church sanctuary, 700 Park Avenue, Florence, following dinner at 6:30 p.m. in the Family Life Center. Tickets to the dinner are $30 for adults, $25 for senior citizens and $20 for students. Tables are $250, seating eight. WANT TO HELP? To make a donation to the Carnegie Hall trip, make checks payable to FMCS and write New York on the memo line and mail to 1106 S. Edisto Dr., Florence, 29501, or P.O. Box 7258.
Via: Florence Morning News

Art on the South Carolina Cotton Trail

[gallery link="file"]   The South Carolina Cotton Trail, stretching from I-95 to I-20 in the Pee Dee, offers a history lesson on cotton's influence in the rural South. It's also a map to the talent and diversity of the region's artists, thanks to the Artisans of the South Carolina Cotton Trail. The group brings together artists, artisans and retailers to attract tourists, share resources and educate the public about the area's tradition of fine visual arts and craft. Through Sept. 28, the Artisans will exhibit their work at the Art Trail Gallery in Florence. The exhibition is free and includes paintings, jewelry, mixed media, photography, glass, ceramics and more. Visit Pee Dee Arts for a list of artists and more information. Photos: Examples of art work by six of the participating artists. Via: Pee Dee Arts