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City of Greenwood earns Cultural District status

The South Carolina Arts Commission has named Greenwood as the newest state-recognized cultural district. A cultural district is an easily identifiable geographic area with a concentration of arts facilities and assets that support cultural, artistic and economic activity. The cultural district designation was created by the S.C. General Assembly in 2014. The City of Greenwood and The Arts Center of Greenwood worked with local leaders and Arts Commission staff to develop a map of cultural assets and a strategic plan for the district. City officials will use the cultural district designation to attract visitors and residents to downtown and promote the area as a hub of arts and culture. (Find out more about the Greenwood cultural district.) “Thank you to the South Carolina Arts Commission for bestowing this honor on the City of Greenwood,” said Greenwood Mayor Welborn Adams.  “This designation recognizes the hard work over the last 14 years to implement the City Center Master Plan and grow Greenwood’s City Center as a cultural arts and entertainment hub for our six-county Upper Savannah Region.” Anne Craig, director of The Arts Center of Greenwood, gives credit to local arts organizations for their role. “Along with the City Center Master Plan, the arts and cultural organizations have led the way in the revitalization of Uptown Greenwood, which has become more vibrant with year-round events, programs and festivals. The strong cultural activity and extensive city improvements have been the basis for growth in restaurants, retail and businesses. It is a formula that has worked well for Greenwood.” Participation of community stakeholders is key, according to S.C. Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May. “Non-arts businesses and organizations are important pieces of a cultural district. A successful cultural district attracts creative enterprises, such as galleries and theatres, whose patrons want to dine out and shop, so nearby retail and other businesses benefit from that increased economic activity.” The cultural district program was developed after reviewing successful programs in other states and gathering input from leaders representing several sectors, including economic development, tourism, local government and the arts. Greenwood joins Beaufort, Bluffton, Columbia’s Congaree Vista, Florence, Lancaster, Rock Hill and Spartanburg as S.C. cities and areas that have earned cultural district status. Other states with similar cultural district programs include Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Texas. S.C. cities, towns and rural communities interested in exploring a cultural district designation are invited to contact their Arts Commission county coordinator or call (803) 734-8696. Complete guidelines are available at www.SouthCarolinaArts.com.

Arts-integrated magnet program enables students to grow in those studies and beyond

From the Greenwood Index-Journal Article by St. Claire Donaghy; photos by Joshua S. Kelly

Reading a text book or taking notes from a teacher are not the only ways for children to learn. An arts-integrated learning approach might be a good fit for a child if he or she would rather make stop-motion animation videos than more traditional techniques to understand prehistoric reptiles and dinosaurs. Instructors with Greenwood School District 50's Arts, Communication and Theatre School (ACTS) Magnet program at Brewer Middle School said the curriculum offered there often appeals to students who learn best by touching, drawing, moving and performing. The program at Brewer is for students in grades six through eight. "A kid should not apply for the ACTS program solely as an avenue to get into the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities," said Brewer ACTS program dance teacher, Sheri Brewington. "The focus of this program is learning through arts integration. That being said, it may spark greater interest in the arts and a student may be inspired to pursue them further. "We do turn out a lot of kids who do go on to study the arts through Governor's School and beyond, but that is not the focus of ACTS," Brewington said. brewermiddleschoolRecently, more than 70 ACTS eighth-graders enrolled in the program's musical theater course performed Disney's "The Lion King Jr." ACTS drama teacher Ansley Keenan, 32, said exposing young people to theater provides them with opportunity express themselves in different ways. "All of the ACTS kids, from fifth through eighth grade, are exposed to drama," Keenan said. "If it's not going to turn them into theater practitioners, it will at least develop some kind of arts appreciation and understanding of audience etiquette. If they do want to audition for shows outside of school, it gives them the tools to do that." With the drama production the eighth grade just put on, Keenan said students have gotten valuable experience in collaboration and self-confidence by being on stage. In addition to core academic subjects, ACTS students are also taught drama curriculum in accordance with state standards for drama, Keenan said. They are taught about acting, play writing, technical design, theater history and research. "In ACTS, students choose a focus," Keenan said. "It could be voice or drama or dance, or strings, art or another focus and there is opportunity to choose a rotation for focuses as well, depending on grade level and what courses they have fulfilled already." Brewer Middle SchoolThere are six class periods in a school day. Sheri Brewington, 43, ACTS dance teacher, was teaching dance at Brewer as an elective even before the district implemented the ACTS magnet program at the school. She said the district liked the "school-within-a-school" format that also enabled students to take part in core academics and athletics. "About half of our students come in with previous arts experience and about half do not," Brewington said. Brewington has seen former students go on to become teachers at Brewer and others go on to study dance in college. "It's surreal to think that something you taught a student stuck, especially when you reflect back on days teaching when you felt nothing went right," Brewington said. Beverly Psomas, 61, ACTS voice, guitar and musical theater teacher said her main goal is for students to be able to understand and read music. "At some of the music festivals and clinics we attend, there is a sight-reading component," Psomas said. "They have to read music they have never seen before. I really try to prepare students for music study at the high school level and eighth-graders here get a high school credit for my class." This style of learning helps students feel comfortable in front of other people, whether it's an interview or performance situation, Psomas said, noting she has been with the ACTS program for eight years. Jessica Hrivnak, 23, ACTS strings teacher said the program exposes a number of students to the study of music. "We started a pilot strings program for fifth-grade non-magnet program students," Hrivnak said. "And, a fifth-grade magnet program is at Woodfields Elementary." Cathy Chalmers, Greenwood School District 50 director for gifted and talented and magnet programs, said finding the right fit for a child's style of learning can be a key to academic success. "The South Carolina Department of Education encouraged us, six or seven years ago, to look at children through different lenses," Chalmers said. "We were encouraged to create various learning environments for children, because all don't learn the same way or have interests in the same things. If we find matches for students' areas of interest and talent, they flourish. "A dancer may be able to spend a really focused hour in honors Algebra I when she knows she's going to her dance class, in school, in an hour," Chalmers said. "The same thing may be for tech kids. They can handle that advanced English class because they know they are going to go to robotics for an hour."

ELEVATE UPSTATE invites grant proposals for community vibrancy projects

Application deadline is September 15. Ten at the Top, an organization created to foster collaboration and partnerships across the Upstate, is accepting applications for its ELEVATE UPSTATE grants program. The initiative will award two grants of up to  $5,000 for programs that promote community and economic vibrancy in local areas across the Upstate. Eligible applicants include neighborhood associations, civic or community-based organizations, nonprofit organizations or local governments that are committed to developing and implementing programs designed to increase local vibrancy in Upstate communities. Applicants must be located in and do their work within communities in one of the 10 Upstate counties: Abbeville, Anderson, Gaffney, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg or Union. Proposals may seek to produce a physical result, such as a mural, sculpture or signage that will increase the vibrancy and sense of place within a community, or implement the first of a recurring or annual event or program that helps grow vibrancy within a community. The ELEVATE UPSTATE Community Vibrancy Grant Program was started in 2013 by local developer Phil Hughes and Hughes Investments. In 2013 three grants were awarded for programs designed to increase local vibrancy and sense of place in Seneca, Anderson and Greer. For 2014, two grants, each for up to $5,000, will be awarded. Ten at the Top requests that those who plan to submit applications confirm their commitment of interest by August 1, 2014. The final deadline for proposal submissions will be September 15, 2014. The recipients of the 2014 ELEVATE UPSTATE Grants will be announced at the 2014 final forum for Ten at the Top in November. Visit the Ten at the Top website for more information or to apply. Examples of community vibrancy projects are available on the website in the Great Ideas for Community Vibrancy booklet. Via: Ten at the Top