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McKissick Museum opens search for folklife program director

Application deadline: Friday, July 15, 2022


The University of South Carolina McKissick Museum is looking for a folklife program director to implement folklife-related public programs and research.

The position is funded by a renewable folklife partnership grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission. That grant enhances McKissick Museum’s ability to document for archival purposes the cultural practices of tradition bearers in South Carolina and to raise public awareness and appreciation of these practices through a variety of public program formats. McKissick Museum's folklife program director plans and implements folklife-related research and public programs that engage on and off campus audiences. The role will involve managing:
  • the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award
  • Phase 2 of the Tradition Bearers Survey Project
  • the Folklife Resource Center
  • the South Carolina Broadcast Archives
The person in this position is also responsible for conducting in-depth fieldwork/research and continued asset mapping in communities across the state. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in American studies, anthropology, cultural geography, ethnomusicology, folklore, history, or related discipline and two (2 ) years of work experience in public sector folklore, folklife, ethnomusicology, or related work areas; or equivalency. Spanish fluency is strongly preferred. Learn more about the position by visiting the official posting here.

Jason Rapp

S.C. Arts Awards Spotlight Series: Ann Phillips

Folk Heritage Award: Artist Category

As the day nears for the 2022 South Carolina Arts Awards, The Hub is focusing on this year's recipients: four receiving the South Carolina Governor's Awards for the Arts and three receiving the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, which are managed jointly by the South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina.

For centuries, South Carolina women have contributed to their communities artistically, culturally, and socially through the making of quilts.

[caption id="attachment_50361" align="alignright" width="300"] Ann Phillips, seated, receives the Folk Heritage Award May 19, 2022 from Jane Przybysz of McKissick Museum at UofSC. Click image to enlarge. McKissick Museum photo.[/caption] Though Alabama born, ANN PHILLIPS of Sumter is a 40-year contributor herself. As a child, seated under her mother’s quilt frame, she threaded needles and learned to make a secure knot. However, she didn’t begin quilting until her husband’s military job landed the Phillipses in Sumter; Phillips felt their new country home needed quilts. Central to her approach is taking a traditional quilt block pattern and using it in a new way to great visual effect. Phillips has shown immense creativity and elevated the artistry of quiltmaking. She will change the set of a block, put it on point, or frame it with multiple borders or use non-traditional fabrics and colors with the same pattern. Quilting groups in South Carolina invite her for trunk shows and presentations to demonstrate taking a traditional, simple quilt block design and doing something new with it. Phillips’ work is regularly included at the South Carolina State Fair, and she shares her skill in her community: Through partnerships at her church, she assists in making quilts for a Sumter pregnancy center, all babies born to Shaw Air Force Base families, and for area assisted living centers.    
The South Carolina Arts Awards are coming live to SCETV on Monday, June 13, 2022 at 9 p.m. ET. South Carolina ETV, the state’s public educational broadcasting network, will broadcast the awards ceremony through its 11-station TV network that spans the state. Viewers can access the broadcast via livestream on the homepage of SCETV.org; by using a digital antenna; or through cable, satellite, and streaming live TV providers. Further information about accessing SCETV is available here.

Jason Rapp

S.C. Arts Awards Spotlight Series: Duncan Rutherfurd

Folk Heritage Award: Advocacy Category

As the day nears for the 2022 South Carolina Arts Awards, The Hub is focusing on this year's recipients: four receiving the South Carolina Governor's Awards for the Arts and three receiving the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, which are managed jointly by the South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina.

The gift of a knife to elementary-aged Duncan Rutherfurd sparked an interest that resulted in tireless dedication to raising public awareness and appreciation of South Carolina’s knifemaking tradition.

Rutherfurd is an encyclopedia of information on knifemakers in the state, though he is not one himself, and today’s knifemakers have him to thank for advocacy efforts that keep the tradition strong. Knifemaking, though specialized, has roots in blacksmithing—an essential trade for the farmers of a state dominated by agriculture. Though blacksmithing is no longer widespread anywhere, knifemaking proliferates in South Carolina because of Rutherfurd’s modernizing influence. In late 1970’s he helped organize and promote a knife show for the Aiken Arms Collectors Association. At the time, such shows were the primary way makers reached large audiences. At one of those early shows, while exhibiting his vast collection of South Carolina knives (which he still does today), he conceived of what became the South Carolina Association of Knifemakers, a network of support and learning as makers and marketers during the pre-internet 1980’s and 1990’s. As internet usage exploded, Rutherfurd used his IT background to mentor SCAK members on using it to market their wares and themselves as makers. SCAK members recognized Rutherfurd’s tremendous contributions to South Carolina’s knifemaking community with an honorary membership. He served as an advisor to McKissick Museum’s curatorial team on the exhibition Carolina Knives: The Roots of a Revival in 2021. Rutherfurd’s collection was core to one of its storylines and provided a bridge between the older generation of knifemakers and a new generation, which recently organized the South Carolina Custom Knifemakers’ Guild. [caption id="attachment_50268" align="aligncenter" width="849"] Duncan Rutherfurd, center, receives the Folk Heritage Award May 18, 2022 from Jane Przybysz of McKissick Museum at UofSC and David Platts of the SCAC. Click image to enlarge. SCAC photo by Margot Lane Strasburger.[/caption]
The South Carolina Arts Awards are coming live to SCETV on Monday, June 13, 2022 at 9 p.m. ET. South Carolina ETV, the state’s public educational broadcasting network, will broadcast the awards ceremony through its 11-station TV network that spans the state. Viewers can access the broadcast via livestream on the homepage of SCETV.org; by using a digital antenna; or through cable, satellite, and streaming live TV providers. Further information about accessing SCETV is available here.

Jason Rapp

S.C. Arts Awards Spotlight Series: Justin Guy

Folk Heritage Award: Artist Category

As the day nears for the 2022 South Carolina Arts Awards, The Hub is focusing on this year's recipients: four receiving the South Carolina Governor's Awards for the Arts and three receiving the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, which are managed jointly by the South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina.

From his roots in the Trenton area of Edgefield County, Justin Guy has achieved acclaim as a potter after working in the craft more than 30 years.

Fascinated by the pottery from a young age, he graduated from the University of South Carolina, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a focus on ceramics. After school he was artist-in-residence at Taiwan’s Tainan National University for the Fine Arts, where he learned Taiwanese and other Asian ceramic processes, specifically as they relate to the tea cultures in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Additional travels across the U.S. and Europe yielded further revelations a professional ceramicist should know. Guy returned to South Carolina and began a teaching career in higher education institutions, serving multiple times at UofSC Aiken with stops at Columbia College, and Piedmont Technical College in between. Additional artist residencies during his career include the McKissick and South Carolina State museums, the Columbia Museum of Art, and area schools. His works have received honors in multiple instances of the Palmetto Hands Fine Craft Competition and Exhibition and the South Carolina State Fair. Guy is currently the master potter of the Phoenix Factory’s Old Edgefield Pottery, which has produced pottery in South Carolina for more than 200 years. [caption id="attachment_50262" align="aligncenter" width="849"] Justin Guy, center, receives the Folk Heritage Award May 18, 2022 from David Platts of the SCAC and Jane Przybysz of McKissick Museum at UofSC. Click image to enlarge. SCAC photo.[/caption]
The South Carolina Arts Awards are coming live to SCETV on Monday, June 13, 2022 at 9 p.m. ET. South Carolina ETV, the state’s public educational broadcasting network, will broadcast the awards ceremony through its 11-station TV network that spans the state. Viewers can access the broadcast via livestream on the homepage of SCETV.org; by using a digital antenna; or through cable, satellite, and streaming live TV providers. Further information about accessing SCETV is available here.

Jason Rapp

2022 South Carolina Arts Awards to be broadcast on SCETV

Monday, June 13 at 9 p.m. ET

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Arts Commission and University of South Carolina McKissick Museum are announcing an exciting first: the South Carolina Arts Awards ceremony will be broadcast on television Monday, June 13, 2022 at 9 p.m. ET thanks to a new partnership with SCETV.

South Carolina ETV, the state’s public educational broadcasting network, will broadcast the awards ceremony through its 11-station TV network that spans the state. Viewers can access the broadcast via livestream on the homepage of SCETV.org; by using a digital antenna; or through cable, satellite, and streaming live TV providers. Further information about accessing SCETV is available here. South Carolina First Lady Peggy McMaster and David T. Platts, executive director of the SCAC, will be joint hosts of the South Carolina Arts Awards for the third year running. They will recognize seven award recipients: three receiving the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award and four receiving the South Carolina Governor’s Award for the Arts. McKissick Museum Executive Director Jane Przybysz will introduce each Folk Heritage Award recipient:
  • Justin Guy (Edgefield): artist category, traditional alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery
  • Ann Phillips (Sumter): artist category, quiltmaking
  • Duncan Rutherfurd (Aiken): advocacy category, custom knifemaking
Platts will introduce the four recipients of the Governor’s Award for the Arts:
  • Darion McCloud (Columbia): artist category
  • Ed Madden (Columbia): individual category
  • Carrie Ann Power (Aiken): arts in education category
  • One Columbia for Arts and History (Columbia): organization category
The partnership between the SCAC and SCETV also allowed the South Carolina Arts Awards to take advantage of an SCETV production team, led by executive producer William I. Richardson, that created the pre-recorded ceremony. “This partnership with South Carolina ETV will help the South Carolina Arts Awards ceremony reach new highs in terms of production and reach. The quality of this broadcast, with the bonus of being accessible to nearly all South Carolinians, will showcase how valuable the latest recipients’ accomplishments are to all of us. The South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum are delighted to begin an exciting new chapter of the Governor’s Awards and Folk Heritage Awards,” Platts said. “Art is an expression of our culture, emotions and history. The 2022 South Carolina Arts Awards fits perfectly with SCETV’s mission to share the diverse viewpoints and stories of South Carolinians. We are proud to partner with the South Carolina Arts Commission and the University of South Carolina McKissick Museum for this first-ever televised broadcast of the awards ceremony," SCETV President and CEO Anthony Padgett said.
About the South Carolina Arts Commission The mission of the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) is to promote equitable access to the arts and support the cultivation of creativity in South Carolina. We envision a South Carolina where the arts are valued and all people benefit from a variety of creative experiences. A state agency created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the SCAC works to increase public participation in the arts by providing grants, direct programs, staff assistance and partnerships in four areas: arts learning, community and traditional arts, artist development, and arts industry. Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the SCAC is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts, and other sources. Visit SouthCarolinaArts.com or call 803.734.8696, and follow @scartscomm on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for #Arts4SC and #SCartists content.
About the University of South Carolina McKissick Museum The University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum tells the story of southern life: community, culture, and the environment. The Museum is located on the University of South Carolina’s historic Horseshoe with available parking in the garage at the corner of Pendleton and Bull streets. All exhibitions are free and open to the public. The Museum is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. The Museum is closed Sundays and university holidays. For more information, please call at 803.777.7251 or visit https://sc.edu/study/colleges_schools/artsandsciences/mckissick_museum/.
About South Carolina ETV and Public Radio South Carolina ETV (SCETV) is the state's public educational broadcasting network. Using television, radio and diverse digital properties, SCETV's mission is to enrich lives by educating children, informing and connecting citizens, celebrating our culture and environment and instilling the joy of learning. In addition to airing local programs, such as Carolina Classrooms, Making It Grow, Palmetto Scene and This Week in South Carolina, SCETV also presents multiple programs to regional and national audiences, including By The River, Expeditions, Reconnecting Roots, Reel South, Somewhere South, Yoga in Practice and Live from Charleston Music Hall. In addition, SC Public Radio produces the national radio production, Chamber Music from Spoleto Festival USA.
South Carolina Arts Commission News Release, Media Contact: Jason L. Rapp, Communications Director. jrapp@arts.sc.gov or 803.734.8899

Jason Rapp

Announcing three 2022 Folk Heritage Awards recipients

for immediate release

COLUMBIA, S.C. – In 2022, the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards will be presented by the General Assembly to three recipients being honored for work keeping the state’s traditional art forms alive.

Two practicing artists and one arts advocate will be recognized as ambassadors of traditions significant to communities throughout the state. Their traditions embody folklife’s dynamic, multigenerational nature and its fusion of artistic and utilitarian ideals. The 2022 recipients are:
  • Justin Guy (Edgefield): Artist, Traditional alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery
  • Ann Phillips (Sumter): Artist, Quiltmaking
  • Duncan Rutherfurd (Aiken): Advocacy, custom knifemaking
The Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award is named for the late State Rep. Jean Laney Harris of Cheraw, respected as an outspoken advocate and ardent supporter of the arts and cultural resources of the state. Up to four artists or organizations and one advocate may receive awards each year. The program is managed jointly by the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) and the University of South Carolina McKissick Museum. Community members make nominations to recognize exemplary artistic achievement/advocacy. An independent advisory panel appointed by the lieutenant governor and president of the Senate select the recipients, who must be living and practicing in the state. As McKissick Museum Executive Director Jane Przybysz notes, “This year’s recipients in the artist category have become masters of longstanding South Carolina traditional arts. The practice of turning stoneware from local clays dates to the first decade of the 19th century in Edgefield, South Carolina. And we know that—by the time the Sumter Agricultural Association was offering a premium of $2 for the best patchwork quilt in 1852—quiltmaking was a well-established craft in South Carolina communities. For centuries, South Carolina’s blacksmiths kept alive the knowledge of metalworking that enabled them to craft knives among the myriad of other tools famers relied upon. This year’s folklife advocate has worked to amplify the revival of custom knifemaking that arose in response to our citizens’ continued love of the outdoors.” “The recipients of this year’s Folk Heritage Awards embody not only South Carolina’s rich artistic traditions, but also our broad diversity as a people and society,” South Carolina Arts Commission Executive Director David Platts said. “Their crafts – now recognized as art forms in their own right – represent an important connection to, and recognition of, South Carolina’s cultural past. At the same time, they remain an integral and vibrant part of communities across the Palmetto State today. These artists do exceptional work that enriches the lives of all South Carolinians, and for that we are all fortunate and grateful.” Recipients of the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards and South Carolina Governor’s Awards for the Arts are honored during a video presentation of the South Carolina Arts Awards. The SCAC and McKissick Museum are finalizing plans for the 2022 awards and will announce details on a later date.

About the 2022 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award Recipients

Justin Guy | Edgefield | Artist, Traditional alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery From his roots in the Trenton area of Edgefield County, JUSTIN GUY has achieved acclaim as a potter after working in the craft more than 30 years. Fascinated by the pottery from a young age, he graduated from the University of South Carolina, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a focus on ceramics. After school he was artist-in-residence at Taiwan’s Tainan National University for the Fine Arts, where he learned Taiwanese and other Asian ceramic processes, specifically as they relate to the tea cultures in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Additional travels across the U.S. and Europe yielded further revelations a professional ceramicist should know. Guy returned to South Carolina and began a teaching career in higher education institutions, serving multiple times at UofSC Aiken with stops at Columbia College, and Piedmont Technical College in between. Additional artist residencies during his career include the McKissick and South Carolina State museums, the Columbia Museum of Art, and area schools. His works have received honors in multiple instances of the Palmetto Hands Fine Craft Competition and Exhibition and the South Carolina State Fair. Guy is currently the master potter of the Phoenix Factory’s Old Edgefield Pottery, which has produced pottery in South Carolina for more than 200 years. Ann Phillips | Sumter | Artist, Quiltmaking For centuries, South Carolina women have contributed to their communities artistically, culturally, and socially through the making of quilts. Though Alabama born, ANN PHILLIPS of Sumter is a 40-year contributor herself. As a child, seated under her mother’s quilt frame, she threaded needles and learned to make a secure knot. However, she didn’t begin quilting until her husband’s military job landed the Phillipses in Sumter; Phillips felt their new country home needed quilts. Central to her approach is taking a traditional quilt block pattern and using it in a new way to great visual effect. Phillips has shown immense creativity and elevated the artistry of quiltmaking. She will change the set of a block, put it on point, or frame it with multiple borders or use non-traditional fabrics and colors with the same pattern. Quilting groups in South Carolina invite her for trunk shows and presentations to demonstrate taking a traditional, simple quilt block design and doing something new with it. Phillips’ work is regularly included at the South Carolina State Fair, and she shares her skill in her community: Through partnerships at her church, she assists in making quilts for a Sumter pregnancy center, all babies born to Shaw Air Force Base families, and for area assisted living centers. Duncan Rutherfurd | Aiken | Advocacy, Custom knifemaking The gift of a knife to elementary-aged DUNCAN RUTHERFURD sparked an interest that resulted in tireless dedication to raising public awareness and appreciation of South Carolina’s knifemaking tradition. Rutherfurd is an encyclopedia of information on knifemakers in the state, though he is not one himself, and today’s knifemakers have him to thank for advocacy efforts that keep the tradition strong. Knifemaking, though specialized, has roots in blacksmithing—an essential trade for the farmers of a state dominated by agriculture. Though blacksmithing is no longer widespread anywhere, knifemaking proliferates in South Carolina because of Rutherfurd’s modernizing influence. In late 1970’s he helped organize and promote a knife show for the Aiken Arms Collectors Association. At the time, such shows were the primary way makers reached large audiences. At one of those early shows, while exhibiting his vast collection of South Carolina knives (which he still does today), he conceived of what became the South Carolina Association of Knifemakers (SCAK), a network of support and learning as makers and marketers during the pre-internet 1980’s and 1990’s. As internet usage exploded, Rutherfurd used his IT background to mentor SCAK members on using it to market their wares and themselves as makers. SCAK members recognized Rutherfurd’s tremendous contributions to South Carolina’s knifemaking community with an honorary membership. He served as an advisor to McKissick Museum’s curatorial team on the exhibition Carolina Knives: The Roots of a Revival in 2021. Rutherfurd’s collection was core to one of its storylines and provided a bridge between the older generation of knifemakers and a new generation, which recently organized the South Carolina Custom Knifemakers’ Guild.
About the University of South Carolina McKissick Museum The University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum tells the story of southern life: community, culture, and the environment. The Museum is located on the University of South Carolina’s historic Horseshoe with available parking in the garage at the corner of Pendleton and Bull streets. All exhibitions are free and open to the public. The Museum is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. The Museum is closed Sundays and university holidays. For more information, please call at 803.777.7251 or visit https://sc.edu/study/colleges_schools/artsandsciences/mckissick_museum/.
About the South Carolina Arts Commission The mission of the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) is to promote equitable access to the arts and support the cultivation of creativity in South Carolina. We envision a South Carolina where the arts are valued and all people benefit from a variety of creative experiences. A state agency created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the SCAC works to increase public participation in the arts by providing grants, direct programs, staff assistance and partnerships in four areas: arts learning, community and traditional arts, artist development, and arts industry. Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the SCAC is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts, and other sources. Visit SouthCarolinaArts.com or call 803.734.8696, and follow @scartscomm on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for #Arts4SC and #SCartists content.
South Carolina Arts Commission News Release, Media Contact: Jason L. Rapp, Communications Director. jrapp@arts.sc.gov or 803.734.8899

Jason Rapp

New York Times features Jugnu Verma

'The Art and Ritual of Rangoli'

[caption id="attachment_48354" align="aligncenter" width="598"] Jugnu and her daughter create rangoli art at their Lexington home. New York Times photo.[/caption]

The morning the New York Times published a story on the traditional Indian holiday Diwali being observed worldwide today.

Hub readers might recognize one of its subjects: 2021 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award recipient Jugnu Verma (right). Verma was visited by a photographer this summer in preparation for the story, for which she was interviewed by phone. Excellent images resulting from that visit accompany Anna P. Kambhampaty's story. Access the story with this link; a subscription or login might be required. Here's an excerpt:

“The Christmas tree is to Christmas as rangoli is to Diwali,” Jugnu Verma, an artist and arts educator in Columbia, S.C., said in a recent phone interview. “It’s incomplete without it.”

While making rangoli can be celebratory, it is also a daily ritual for many women in India and throughout the diaspora — a tradition that grounds them in challenging times. Ms. Verma, 40, who has been making rangoli for three decades, said the focus required to make rangoli “helps develop meditative power.”

Kambhampaty did a great job focusing on Verma's rangoli art. Our feature on Verma for the South Carolina Arts Awards has more about Verma and why she was a worthy recipient of the Folk Heritage Award, which is presented with McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina. (There's also a video.) BONUS CONTENT Readers, remember that the deadline to nominate worthy traditional artists like Jugnu Verma for their own Folk Heritage Award is tomorrow, Nov. 5 at 11:59 p.m. ET!

Jason Rapp

Nominations open for S.C.’s best in arts, folklife

Time to recognize arts achievement, influence, and support!

NOMINATION DEADLINES: Friday, November 5, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. ET

Nominations are now open to honor persons or organizations in South Carolina who exhibit the highest levels of achievement, influence or support of arts and folklife with the South Carolina Arts Awards.

South Carolina Governor’s Awards for the Arts

The South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) is accepting nominations for the South Carolina Governor’s Award for the Arts, which recognizes persons or organizations in South Carolina who exhibit outstanding achievement or support of the arts. The Governor’s Awards use a simple, online nomination process, and all it takes to make a nomination is one letter, which should describe the nominee's exemplary contributions to the arts in South Carolina in these categories: Artist, Individual, Arts in Education, Government, Business/Foundation, and Organization. A nomination letter should address any characteristics included in the category descriptions. The nomination letters are due Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. ET. For complete nomination guidelines or more information about the South Carolina Governor's Awards for the Arts, visit SouthCarolinaArts.com or contact Senior Deputy Director Milly Hough: mhough@arts.sc.gov or 803.734.8698.

Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards

The SCAC, with McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina, honors the state’s exceptional folklife and traditional arts practitioners and advocates with the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards. The South Carolina General Assembly created the awards in 1987 to recognize lifetime achievement in the traditional arts and presents them annually to honor the work of stewarding and furthering the traditional arts significant to communities throughout the state. McKissick Museum is collecting nominations until Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. ET. For additional information and advisement, contact museum Executive Director Jane Przybysz: jprzybys@mailbox.sc.edu or 803.777.7251.
The South Carolina Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards are presented at the South Carolina Arts Awards ceremony in the spring. Nine distinguished recipients were recognized in May 2021 for exceptional achievements in, support of, or advocacy for the arts at a professional produced virtual ceremony. Details about the 2022 South Carolina Arts Awards will be announced later.

Jason Rapp

From The State: Sweetgrass basketry fighting for survival

A tradition in peril


Sweetgrass basketry intertwines with South Carolina heritage in the same way that the grasses come together to form the renowned finished product.

But for how much longer will it be part of the present? Today, Caitlin Byrd of The State tries to get a grasp on the situation (subscription possibly required):

Also driving up the price of baskets is the increased development in the coastal region, which continues to cut off access to the very plants Black families use to make sweetgrass baskets. And then there’s the concern about time itself, as a generation of sewers worry that this craft, which can trace its origins to the 17th century, will not be carried on in the way it once was.

This traditional art form is no stranger to The Hub or the South Carolina Arts Commission.
  • Sweetgrass basketmakers have been Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award recipients many times since the first in 1990, and the most recent was in 2018. (The Folk Heritage Award is presented annually by the SCAC and its partner the University of South Carolina McKissick Museum.)
  • A basket by Mary Jackson, one of the most decorated artisans, is included in the State Art Collection and is included in The State's story.

Jason Rapp

S.C. Arts Awards: Robert W. Hill III

2021 Recipient Feature Series

As the day nears for the 2021 South Carolina Arts Awards, The Hub is focusing on this year's recipients: seven receiving the South Carolina Governor's Awards for the Arts and two receiving the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, which are managed jointly by the South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina.

Robert W. Hill III

Advocacy Category: American Long Rifle & Accoutrements | Folk Heritage Award

Robert W. Hill III began making duck decoys in his early 20's, and eventually added other figures and animals to his repertoire. Hill’s work ranged from traditional whittling to refined sculptures. Both of his grandfathers were accomplished blacksmiths, woodcarvers, and gun stockers. While neither of them lived long enough to teach Hill their skills, he grew up an avid outdoorsman with an interest in the skills that supported his passion, which included decoy carving, forging knives, and carving gun stocks. In 1985, his desire to own a handmade muzzle- loading rifle drove him to learn more about the traditional crafts of blacksmithing, tool making, stock carving, inlaying, and engraving. While attending art shows across the region, Hill had the opportunity to watch and learn from master engraver Jack Spain. Spain would share tips on engraving and teach Hill how to make his own engraving tools. Back at home, Hill practiced engraving on scrap metal, constantly comparing his work to examples of engraving on historic firearms. He attempted to mimic the work of the Gillespie family of gunsmiths from Pickens County and the Vogler family of Salem, North Carolina. These Carolina gunsmithing families had established styles that were recognized as the best representatives of America’s golden age of gunsmithing. Hill also developed a relationship with master gunsmith Frank Burton, who was running a shop out of Pawleys Island. Burton shared his collection of original Carolina rifles with Hill, who was soon producing his first muzzle-loader. The untimely death of Burton prevented Hill from completing a long-term apprenticeship with the master gunsmith, but he certainly made the most of his time with the artist. Hill attended Dixon’s Gunmaker’s Fair in Kempton, Pennsylvania, a conference of traditional gun makers and after a year of studying and experimenting, Hill completed his first rifle. He took the rifle to the next conference in Kempton and entered it in the competition so he could receive the judges’ critique sheet to learn how to improve. To his surprise, his first rifle won a second- and third- place ribbon in the show. Hill recognized the need to preserve the craft and continued his training by studying historic firearms from the Carolinas. Hill embraced the chance to work with older makers. Today, he is part of a thriving community of gunsmiths and is recognized by gunsmiths across the region as both an exemplary artist and an advocate. The success of his first gun spurred him on to continue gun making and share what he knew with others who wanted to learn the craft and, like him, did not have access to formal training. Hill began demonstrating at Kings Mountain State Park in 1986 and continued to do so until 1999. He has promoted the art of traditional gunsmithing to thousands of people in the Southeast over the past thirty years. He continues to demonstrate gun building techniques, including carving and engraving, at living history events, battlefields, museums, and historic sites. These include Middleton Place, Charlestown Landing, Historic Camden, Horry County Museum, L.W. Paul Living History Farm, House in the Horseshoe, Guilford Courthouse, Colonial Williamsburg, Georgetown County Museum, and the Lake City Museum. He has been the gunsmith at the North Carolina State Fair’s Village of Yesteryear for over twenty years and was instrumental in organizing the South Carolina Muzzleloader Conference at the South Carolina State Museum in 2015, where he volunteered as an event organizer, demonstrator, and lecturer. In 1994, Hill co-founded the South Carolina Artist Blacksmith Association, later to become the Phillip Simmons Artists Blacksmith Guild of South Carolina. He served as president of the group for ten years and frequently demonstrated forging and engraving techniques. He is also a member of the Contemporary Longrifle Association. In 2014, Hill was documented in the Survey of South Carolina Tradition Bearers a joint project of McKissick Museum and the S.C. Arts Commission. Through demonstrations and lectures, he has educated people about gun makers from South Carolina to recognize and preserve the contributions of the artists of the State’s past artists. Hill has been instrumental in passing his skills onto others, including his son and grandson, assuring a legacy of continued preservation, study, and celebration of the traditional craft of gunsmithing.
The South Carolina Arts Awards stream live Monday, May 24, 2021. The festivities begin at 6 p.m. on SouthCarolinaArts.com. There is no in-person event in 2021. The virtual ceremony will be available on demand from the S.C. Arts Commission YouTube Channel after the livestream presentation.

Meet the Recipients

Use these links to read the long-form bios of the other 2021 South Carolina Arts Awards recipients.

Jason Rapp