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S.C.’s original arts learning partnership turns 35

New name, new schools for FY23


COLUMBIA, S.C. — How do you celebrate 35 years of the Arts in Basic Curriculum Project? By changing your name to Arts in Basic Curriculum Institute, a name that acknowledges your legacy and claims your unwavering commitment to your mission.

Projects come; projects go. After 35 years, ABC is not merely a project but an institution of leadership for countless educators. A first-of-its-kind national model in 1987, the South Carolina Arts Commission’s partnership with the South Carolina Department of Education and Winthrop University is no project. It is an established collaboration that has sustained numerous challenges and continues to serve as an innovative model to assist student recovery from the unprecedented crisis of a pandemic. “South Carolina turned heads in 1987. Our governing partners received a $20,000 planning grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to craft a plan of action based on a vision, to make comprehensive and sequential arts education accessible for all South Carolina students,” ABC Institute Director Kim Wilson, Ed.D said. “The founding steering committee dreamed big. Within a year, it had a plan in place. Within two, there was money going to 11 schools and districts to serve as models for the entire education community. From there, it just hasn’t stopped growing or changing young lives.”

RELATED CONTENT: Read the original ABC Project plan from 1988

In year 35, the original 11 grants have transformed into 69 schools across 20 districts, serving some 41,000 students.

[caption id="attachment_52049" align="alignright" width="250"] Archival image courtesy ABC Institute.[/caption] ABC Institute is proud to announce the three new schools that joined the ranks for FY23:
  • Angel Oak Elementary School |Charleston County School District | John’s Island
  • Beaufort Elementary School | Beaufort County School District | Beaufort
  • Hendrix Elementary IB World School | Spartanburg School District Two | Boiling Springs
Research conducted within ABC Schools have repeatedly provided evidence to the value of arts education in a student’s life. Data collected in 2018 from Gallup Organization research confirmed that South Carolina students who had access to the arts in their curriculum were more hopeful and more engaged than students who didn’t. “The Gallup research validated years of work by our agency and partners over the years,” said SCAC Executive Director David T. Platts, who was an administrator in an ABC school district at the time. “All of a sudden, we had proof of concept. It was, and still is, so gratifying.” However, ABC’s mission states, “all students in South Carolina,” so there was much more to be done. Demand has always exceeded available funding; and funding ebbs and flows throughout the years. Statewide advocates twice helped the SCAC secure $1 million funding increases specifically for the ABC Institute (2013 and 2016). Platts likes to echo da Vinci’s quote that art is never finished, though da Vinci goes on to say it is only abandoned. That  has never been the case for the ABC Institute. After conducting a yearlong internal evaluation, ABC Institute announced a restructure at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year that featured the development of the ABC School Certification program and the Arts in Basic Curriculum mobile app as the primary tool to serve a redefined ABC Network, and eventually its name change.  Then in 2021, the greatest challenge in recent memory became the greatest opportunity for arts learning initiatives.

Pandemic-related school closures introduced unprecedented learning loss to South Carolina students over two school years.

The American Rescue Plan made funding available to all states to assist in addressing any number of crises, and the SCDE was allotted $2 billion in ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding. The SCAC approached SCDE with a radical idea: we can prove arts learning increases student engagement, it is what students needs to get through this, and we can help address learning loss with arts and creativity using the ABC Institute as a key partner. Superintendent Molly Spearman agreed, and South Carolina turned heads again in June 2021: SCDE committed $20 million over three years to help the SCAC expand ABC Institute and other initiatives using key partners on the local, state, and national levels. “Having the rich history of success with ABC made it easy to sell our idea, but it was only part of the plan for what we now call Arts Grow SC,” Platts said. “It’s after-school learning. It’s summer camps. Eventually, we hope for even more, and all of it uses arts-rich learning.”

RELATED HUB CONTENT: Arts Grow SC to expand, first executive director named

ABC Institute continues to grow and innovate thanks to unprecedented funding.

The Certification designation recognizes model practices of what arts learning can be and how it contributes to student development and achievement. As Wilson explained, “ABC Certified Schools serve as a model for others. ABC Schools commit to not only their students but sharing their work for the benefit of all SC students.” Through Arts Grow SC, ABC Schools have offered themselves as ‘learning laboratories” for others to learn how to leverage the power of learning in and through the arts for accelerated learning. Thanks to the new structure, anyone can access the Arts in Basic Curriculum mobile app and connect to the ABC network. “Our peer-to-peer networking has always been a strength, and now we are putting that in the palm of a teacher’s hand.” Wilson said. From its base at Winthrop University, a team of professionals dedicated to the erstwhile “project” with a steadfast vision of equitable access to quality arts education for all students, continues its work. To learn more about ABC Institute, its programs, and opportunity to learn from its network of leadership, visit www.abcinstitutesc.org.
South Carolina Arts Commission News Release, Media Contact: Jason L. Rapp, Communications Director. jrapp@arts.sc.gov or 803.734.8899

Jason Rapp

Five-year case study to seek improvements in rural arts ed

The Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) Project announced it will conduct an intensive five-year case study with the Allendale County School District to discover solutions in how to improve rural communities’ arts education offerings.

The Community Access to the Arts in Rural Education (CARE) Project, its study and resulting guidebook will be accomplished with a $2.58 million Assistance in Arts Education grant funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education. Set to begin in 2021, the CARE Project will include multiple strategic state and local partnerships with the goal to develop sustainable approaches that will continue beyond the 2026 grant completion date. “Rural communities require a rural network of partnerships because of their lack of resources, and the CARE Project will align, strengthen and expand community partnerships among the Allendale schools with state and local partners,” ABC Project Director Kim Wilson said. Initial commitments to the CARE Project were received from the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC), South Carolina Department of Education, Arts Access SC and South Carolina Educational Television. Additional state and national partners will develop based on the needs and areas of growth identified throughout the CARE Project. Margaret Gilmore, superintendent of Allendale County School District, said her district is truly excited and grateful to have been awarded the arts grant for the amazing scholars of Allendale County School District. “This funding opportunity will certainly provide access to a sustainable arts-rich learning environment for the entire school community,” she said.
Arts advocates also are pleased with this opportunity. “After many years of working in Allendale County, it’s clear that there are many people who love and care about their community and the next generation,” said Susan DuPlessis, SCAC director of community arts development.  “We are excited about ways to engage the community as this study and new practices are developed.” DuPlessis runs the SCAC's "The Art of Community: Rural SC" initiative, which works in partnership with Allendale Rural Arts Team, which is led by Lottie Lewis. “There is momentum in Allendale for building community, addressing issues and identifying assets like never before,” she said. “This new emphasis on learning through the arts within the school system will have a reciprocal effect, I believe, on the whole community—and that’s exciting for young and old.” In communities with high rates of poverty, access to the arts can be difficult, Wilson added. It takes money for art, music or dance lessons, and all too often, rural schools don’t prioritize arts education due to financial constraints. Access to the arts, however, has been found to influence student engagement and there is hope in South Carolina that the arts can be nurtured in every community.
The CARE Project’s goal is to create and share a resource guidebook based on Allendale’s experiences to empower other rural communities of persistent poverty to increase access to arts education for its students. “One of the most important outcomes will be to explore how to develop and maintain arts-rich learning environments as a pathway to equitable education,” Wilson said. “There is an urgent need to research and serve these communities, which have been continually absent from research and policy discussions, yet represent the most extreme gaps in equitable education,” she added. To communicate the grant’s significance, Wilson noted that the Palmetto state has a higher percentage of schools in rural communities than the national average and 12 of the state's 46 counties suffer from persistent poverty, meaning poverty rates have exceeded 20 percent of the population for more than 30 years. The CARE Project will provide direct arts education programs and professional development for arts educators, teachers and principals in practices that support arts-rich learning. “An arts-rich learning environment includes a combination of direct arts instruction, arts integration with other non-arts curriculum and arts experiences provided by visiting artists or cultural and community organizations,” said Wilson. The guidebook will contain instructional materials, arts-based lesson plans and other resources to engage stakeholder groups in other rural communities to replicate the promising aspects of the process developed during the CARE Project in Allendale. Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said that, growing up and teaching in a rural community, she has seen firsthand the disparities that still exist in South Carolina. “Students in rural schools deserve the same opportunities afforded to their peers in more affluent areas,” Spearman said. “I commend the Arts in Basic Curriculum Project for its pursuit and receipt of this funding that will help us establish innovative solutions for bringing access to arts-based education to all students in South Carolina. I look forward to seeing this work in Allendale and learning how we may replicate their successes across our state.”

Jason Rapp

ABC Project names new executive director

Dr. Kim Wilson promoted to lead Arts in Basic Curriculum Project

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) Project is announcing the promotion of Dr. Kim Wilson to be the program’s new executive director as of April 1, 2019. Wilson will be responsible for helping 84 schools or districts provide 170,000 South Carolina K-12 students with access to arts-rich education. The program, which is a partnership among the South Carolina Arts Commission, Winthrop University, and the S.C. Dept. of Education, provides critical training and networking for arts teachers who learn best practices from each other. Schools or districts join the program after receiving a grant from the S.C. Arts Commission to support their arts education efforts. The program’s field services coordinator for 18 months, Wilson is a Winthrop University alumna. She earned her doctorate in education this year from Walden University. Her experience in arts education began in community education teaching adult and children’s classes through the University of Vermont and Very Special Arts VT. Afterwards, she served as education director at Pewabic Pottery in Detroit and executive director for Sawtooth School for Visual Arts in Winston-Salem, N.C. Over the last 10 years, Kim has focused on public arts education. After only teaching four years, she was recognized as the 2012 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. Since then, she transitioned into empowering all educators with creativity-fostering teaching practices, including arts-integration strategies through her work with Arkansas A+ Schools. She replaces Christine Fisher, who served as executive director for 18 years and announced her retirement earlier this month. “My commitment to and passion for arts education have been influenced by ABC Project’s accomplishments and the people who contributed to its history. And while my personal arts education journey has taken many forms across several states over the last three decades, all have prepared me for this unique role in my home state. I am honored and eager for the opportunity to lead ABC Project in the next chapter of its rich history,” Wilson said. “In Kim Wilson, the ABC Project has someone with demonstrated success fostering and implementing arts education. In a relatively short time, she’s immersed herself in all facets of the program and contributed to its success. But beyond that, she has incredible passion for what she does and is a natural fit to be the ABC Project’s next leader,” S.C. Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May said.

About the Arts in Basic Curriculum Project

For 30 years, the Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) Project provides leadership to achieve quality, comprehensive arts education (dance, music, media arts, theatre, visual arts and creative writing) for all students in South Carolina. It is cooperatively directed by the South Carolina Arts Commission, the South Carolina Department of Education and the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Winthrop University. For more information, visit ABCProjectSC.com.

About the South Carolina Arts Commission

With a commitment to excellence across the spectrum of our state’s cultures and forms of expression, the South Carolina Arts Commission pursues its public charge to develop a thriving arts environment, which is essential to quality of life, education, and economic vitality for all South Carolinians. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts by providing services, grants, and leadership initiatives in three areas:
  • arts education,
  • community arts development,
  • and artist development.
Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the Arts Commission is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources. For more information, visit SouthCarolinaArts.com or call 803.734.8696.