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On the passing of Thomasena Stokes Marshall

S.C. folk arts, political pioneer passed away Jan. 7


Official Statement from the S.C. Arts Commission

The South Carolina Arts Commission expresses its sadness after learning that Thomasena Stokes Marshall passed this past weekend. Most notable among her many accomplishments is a successful run for a seat on town council in Mount Pleasant that made her the first and only Black member of the council in 186 years (per the Post & Courier). She appeared on the S.C. Arts Commission radar as founder of the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival Association. The group was honored with the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 2017 (Hub coverage), and Marshall collaborated with the SCAC on that. The relationship led to the organization participating in FOLKfabulous@TheFair with McKissick Museum and also a Folklife & Traditional Arts Project grant from the SCAC in support of a sweetgrass basketry summer camp. The SCAC extends warm and sincere condolences to the surviving members of Marshall's family with gratitude for her achievements and hard work on behalf of a cherished traditional art form important to our state.
South Carolina Arts Commission News Release, Media Contact: Jason L. Rapp, Communications Director. jrapp@arts.sc.gov or 803.734.8899

Jason Rapp

Spoleto Festival mourns passing of Geoff Nuttall

[caption id="attachment_51522" align="aligncenter" width="921"] Geoff Nuttall, left, performs with the St. Lawrence Quartet at Dock Street Theater in Charleston. William Struhs/Spoleto Festival USA photo provided.[/caption]

Last week, South Carolina's arts community lost one of its brightest lights as it was announced Geoff Nuttall passed away at 56.

Though not native to the state, Nuttall had tremendous staying power as the director of Spoleto Festival USA's chamber music series. He began welcoming Spoleto festival audiences to chamber concerts at Dock Street Theater in 2010, taking over for the formidable Charles Wadsworth—who invited him to the role. Nuttall's charisma and charm enabled him to make the role his own. As director, he curated each of the 33 annual concerts and performed on many as a violinist and founding member of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Spoleto’s quartet-in-residence. “This is a loss not just for Spoleto Festival USA, but for music lovers around the world. Geoff was classical music’s greatest showman, eliciting a rowdy, raucous reception to Haydn that would sound more at home in a club than a concert hall. He didn’t care if people were clapping between movements; he didn’t care that people wore shorts and sandals to performances; he didn’t care for the rigid social formalities that govern classical music performance. All he cared about was the communitarian, cathartic power of music. And because of that, he changed chamber music in America," festival General Director Mena Mark Hanna said in a statement. Nuttall was claimed by pancreatic cancer and passed away Oct. 19 at his home in California.

More on Geoff Nuttall

Jason Rapp

On the passing of Dr. Rose Wilder

S.C. education pioneer, arts learning supporter passed Aug. 30


Official Statement from the S.C. Arts Commission

The South Carolina Arts Commission expresses its sadness after learning that Dr. Rose Ann Hilliard-Wilder passed yesterday according to her family. Among her accomplishments, in 1994, Wilder became the first Black female education superintendent in South Carolina since Reconstruction, serving Clarendon County School District 2. She was named Outstanding Superintendent by the South Carolina School Boards Association in 1999 and in the 2013/2014 school year, named Superintendent of the Year for the State of South Carolina. Tough times in the Williamsburg County School District called for just such a leader, and the S.C. Department of Education named her superintendent-designee in spring 2018. Wilder oversaw improvements to district finances, special education services, and academics overall during her time. The South Carolina Senate honored her with a March 2020 resolution, and the Clarendon School District One board renamed a school, formerly St. Paul Elementary School, to instead honor Wilder. The S.C. Arts Commission extends warm and sincere condolences to the surviving members of Wilder's family with gratitude for her achievements and support for arts learning. She was a partner for a summer STEAM camp in Clarendon County and a Spark Read to Succeed camp in Williamsburg County. Her dedication to so many students in rural school districts brought them immense benefit as learners. Wilder's obituary is posted here.
South Carolina Arts Commission News Release, Media Contact: Jason L. Rapp, Communications Director. jrapp@arts.sc.gov or 803.734.8899

Jason Rapp

On the passing of Steven F. Gately

State Art Collection artist passed last week


Official Statement from the S.C. Arts Commission

The South Carolina Arts Commission expresses its sadness after learning that Prof. Steven F. Gately passed last week according to reports. Gately was a long-time tenured faculty member at Francis Marion University. He coordinated its visual arts programs and in 2006 was named an endowed chair as the C.B. and Marlene Askins Professor of Art. His work is included in the permanent collections of notable South Carolina museums, including the Gibbes and Columbia museums of art, and the State Art Collection, managed by the SCAC. The S.C. Arts Commission extends its warmest condolences to the surviving members of Gately's family with gratitude for his accomplishments and excellence as a practitioner of art in the state, which is better for his contribution to its culture. No further details were provided in a brief news story. An obituary has not been posted.

Jason Rapp

On the passing of Tom Flowers

Artist and arts educator passed away Sunday


Official Statement from the S.C. Arts Commission

The South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) notes with sadness the passing of Tom Flowers, a 30-year art professor at Furman University and prominent artist with two works included in the State Art Collection. As a practicing artist, he was widely exhibited in the South, Southeast and Midwest. In his home state, his works are among the collections of the Columbia, Florence, and Greenville County art museums and he was included in a State Museum exhibition. A Portrait of the South exhibition in Rome also featured his work internationally. His career as an educator included two other positions in higher education prior to his 1959 move to Furman, during much of which he was its art department chair. He served in leadership roles for the Greenville County Museum of Art, Pickens County Arts Commission, and Greenville and South Carolina artist guilds and represented South Carolina on the American Craft Council. The SCAC board of directors and staff offer our most sincere condolences to Flowers' surviving family, students, colleagues, and the higher ed arts community throughout the state. His obituary is available here.

Jason Rapp

On the passing of Heather Hulsey

Arts teacher perishes in aviation tragedy


Official Statement from the S.C. Arts Commission

The South Carolina Arts Commission notes with sadness the tragic passing last week of Heather Hulsey, a middle school arts teacher in Spartanburg County School District Six. According to media reports, the airplane carrying Hulsey, her husband, and her brother and his girlfriend was involved in a midair collision with another aircraft in Alaska. Seven people died, and there were no survivors. In noting her passing, the South Carolina Art Education Association called her a "great art educator, member, and friend." District Six Superintendent Dr. Darryl Owings, in a statement, called the tragedy "beyond words" and that Hulsey was an inspiring teacher, well-loved by the Dawkins Middle School community. The commission board of directors and staff offer our most sincere condolences to Hulsey's family, students, colleagues, and the community of arts educators throughout the state during this time. An obituary is not available at the time of publication.

Jason Rapp

On the passing of Larry Lebby

Former commissioner passed away July 21


Official Statement from the S.C. Arts Commission

The South Carolina Arts Commission notes with sadness the passing this week of Larry Lebby at age 69. Lebby was a former commissioner and an artist of note in our state. Among the many accolades and achievements in his career is his being chosen to memorialize slain State Sen. Clementa Pinckney with a painting that now hangs in that body's chamber of the South Carolina State House. A portrait of President Jimmy Carter completed and presented to the president in 1977 made its way to the White House for the remainder of Carter's term. Fittingly, the State Art Collection includes one of Lebby's works. The commission board of directors and staff offer our most sincere condolences to his family during this time. An obituary for Mr. Lebby is still not available online, but The Hub recommends reading this wonderful story by Rodney Welch of Free Times.

A sad note on the passing of Julian A. Prosser

2019 Folk Heritage Award recipient passed away May 6


Official Statement from the S.C. Arts Commission

The South Carolina Arts Commission is expressing its sadness on learning that Julian A. Prosser, a 2019 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award recipient for his work in bluegrass music, passed away last week at 93. Prosser was honored at South Carolina Arts Awards Day on Wednesday, May 1. He was unable to attend the festivities because of an illness, and his son David Prosser accepted his award from S.C. First Lady Peggy McMaster on his behalf. David Prosser left word that he upon leaving the festivities he was going straight to his father to present him his award. Julian Prosser passed away Monday, May 6. The S.C. Arts Commission extends its warmest condolences to the surviving members of Prosser's family with gratitude for his deep accomplishments and excellence as a practitioner of one of the state's traditional art forms. The state and its people are better for his commitment to keeping the tradition alive. The obituary for Julian Prosser is available by clicking here.
[caption id="attachment_40103" align="aligncenter" width="500"] David Prosser, center, receives his father Julian's 2019 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award from S.C. First Lady Peggy McMaster and SCAC Board Chairman Henry Horowitz Wednesday, May 1. (Image by Michael Dantzler)[/caption]

Remembering Laura Spong (1926-2018)

The South Carolina Arts Commission notes with sadness the passing of Laura Spong of Columbia, recognized as one of South Carolina’s most prominent painters and the state’s premier abstract expressionist. In 2017, Spong was recipient of the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award Governor's Award for the Arts for Lifetime Achievement, presented annually by SCAC. She began painting in the 1950s, facing all of the obstacles common to women artists, and overcame these barriers through persistence and commitment to her work. She focused on developing her talents, always aiming to create good art rather than quick notoriety. Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May issued the following statement on the agency's behalf:

"Looking back at Laura Spong’s long career as a painter, it is hard to imagine that her recognition as an artist came later in life. The South Carolina Arts Commission was able to purchase two paintings by Laura in 2006 for the State Art Collection.  These works mark important moments in her career – White Flowers from the late 1950s and Dancing Under the Street Light from the early 2000s. White Flowers is unique as it is one of only three works in the collection that pre-date 1960 and it’s even more unique in this group of three – it’s an abstract work by a female artist.

"Laura’s nomination for the 2017 Verner Award for Lifetime Achievement was a packet of  'love letters' from artists, arts professionals and others who thrived under her mentorship and were inspired by her quiet leadership. Yet, even during the Verner Awards activities, which are designed to shine a spotlight, she shrugged off the attention. Her focus was as always, on art as a way of life, and not on the acknowledgement of her extraordinary career."

Details on arrangements can be viewed here. Below, some who knew or worked with Ms. Spong share feelings or anecdotes about her life and work.

From Wim Roefs

“Laura was ready, and so we have to be. I am terribly sad about it, though, and a bit choked up, even though I knew it was coming. Laura simply was one of the greats, as an artist and a human being, and I am very glad that I was part of her life for the past 18 or 20 years, and that she is part of mine. Laura just never disappointed. Great painter, cool person, living in an unusual but so compelling home, funny, quirky, principled, living the opposite of an un-examined life. You name it. Committed, to art and doing right and treating people well. All of it. And so unassuming, as a person and an artist. It took her forever to refer to herself as 'an artist;' for the longest time, she would say 'painter' instead. She never quite got used to being considered such a good artist and, at least within the South Carolina context, an important one. When she won the Verner Award, she looked at me, somewhat sheepishly, and said: ‘I thought that was only for really important people.’ I explained that she was important. "She won’t fade out of people’s memory anytime soon. And when those people and their memories die, there will be hundreds of Laura Spong paintings in hundreds of homes and public and institutional collections. So she’ll live on, and that’s great comfort.”