S.C. Arts Awards: Dr. Stephen Criswell
2018 Recipient Feature Series
As the day nears for the 2018 South Carolina Arts Awards, The Hub is taking 10 days to focus on this year's 10 recipients: five receiving the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts and five receiving the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, which are managed jointly by the South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at USC.
This week, the Folk Heritage Award recipients are featured.
Dr. Stephen Criswell
Traditional Arts & Folklife
| Advocacy Award
Dr. Stephen Criswell has worked in the field of folklore for over twenty years. A 1997 graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, he has concentrated on the study and preservation of South Carolina traditions, customs, and cultural practices. His research and fieldwork (much of it conducted with his late wife, Samantha McCluney Criswell) have included African American family reunion traditions, Southern foodways, especially Carolina Fish Camps, and literary uses of folk culture. His most prominent contribution is his work as an advocate for Native American culture, with a special focus on Catawba potters and contemporary expressive traditions.
In 2005, the University of South Carolina Lancaster hired Criswell and challenged him to build and direct USCL’s Native American Studies program. Thirteen years later, the Native American Studies Center (NASC) houses the largest fully intact collection of Catawba pottery in existence, an extensive archival collection, and a staff dedicated to celebrating and promoting Native American culture. Through the efforts of Dr. Criswell and his colleagues, USCL now offers students a concentration in Native American Studies. Criswell has worked closely with South Carolina tribal leaders and members, the Catawba Cultural Preservation Project, and a variety of arts and cultural agencies, to bring greater attention to the history and culture of South Carolina Native communities. Under his leadership, the NASC has mounted thirty-two exhibitions, covering a range of subjects. Since opening in 2012 in the heart of downtown Lancaster, the NASC has seen 30,000 visitors from all over the world, a clear demonstration of raising awareness of the history, culture and traditions of Native people of the South.
Criswell has conducted oral history interviews with a host of Catawba potters, including Eric Cantey, Evelyn George, Elsie George, Bertha Harris, Beulah Harris, Cora Harris Hedgepath, and Elizabeth Plyler. His work with these artists provides a public forum that gives voice to Native American community members of whom many might otherwise be unaware. In 2013, the NASC launched the Native American Artist-in-Residence Program, which provides Native artists a venue to present their culture and heritage to a wide audience of students, teachers, community members, and tourists.
Criswell’s philosophy is grounded in knowing who we are, who we all
are, embracing our different cultures, and learning from each other through the richness of our shared heritage. With this zeal he has written grants to secure funding to create and sustain programs that bring the Native American experience into the conversation of contemporary South Carolina culture. To date, he has secured more than $360,000 in funding from such notable sources as the National Endowment for the Arts, the South Carolina Arts Commission and the Duke Endowment. This funding has created a platform that brings people together to learn, share, and connect through an important, though underappreciated, aspect of South Carolina culture.
Traditional artist and educator Beckee Garris of the Catawba Nation states, “Dr. Stephen Criswell has made part of his life’s mission to help people understand the vast cultural histories of the natives in South Carolina. He preserves these histories by collecting our stories and respecting us in the process. I am very fortunate to say he is my mentor and also my friend.” A dedicated scholar, advocate, and mentor, Criswell is a tireless supporter of the traditional arts in South Carolina.
South Carolina Arts Awards Day is Wednesday, May 2, 2018. Gov. Henry McMaster will present each recipient's award beginning at 10:30 a.m. in the State House. The event is open to the public. Following the ceremony, the South Carolina Arts Foundation honors the recipients and the arts community at the S.C. Arts Awards Luncheon and Art Sale. Tickets are $50. Please go here for more information and reservations.
Florence and Lancaster recognized for revitalization and development
Congratulations to the cities of Florence and Lancaster for being recognized by the Municipal Association of South Carolina for downtown revitalization and economic development efforts. In both cases, arts and culture organizations (most of whom have been awarded S.C. Arts Commission grants over the years) played key roles in the cities' achievements. These examples of partnerships and cooperative planning between local governments, educational institutions and arts organizations are models in how to attract new businesses and visitors.
Florence's plan for arts and cultural development included a new library and theatre, and a soon-to-be new museum, and has culminated in the state-of-the-art Francis Marion Performing Arts Center:
In 2005, the City of Florence hired a consultant to create a master plan for downtown redevelopment. The plan identified arts and cultural development as a necessity to encourage renewal for the city center. In the years that followed, a new library and theatre were constructed, and the city anticipates the opening of a new museum this year. But the crown jewel of these new developments is the state-of-the-art Francis Marion Performing Arts Center, located in the heart of downtown Florence.
The $37 million facility boasts a main stage and outdoor amphitheater, a garden courtyard, an academic wing, and upper and lower lobbies for events and receptions. It has been honored with architectural awards for its innovative use of sustainable materials.
Officials formed partnerships with private entities to secure the land and fund construction of the Center. The partnership formed between the city and the university is a mutually beneficial one. Francis Marion handles the ongoing costs and daily operation of the performing arts center and, in return, the university’s theatre and fine arts department is in the academic wing of the facility. Pee Dee residents are winners as well, as they now have a venue to enjoy musical and theatrical performances close to home.
Using culture and the arts as an economic development tool is working in Florence. After the performing arts center was constructed, a boutique hotel opened downtown. New businesses and restaurants are flourishing as well, and office and retail space in the city center is being redeveloped for new merchants.
The City of Lancaster partnered with USC Lancaster to open a new Native American Studies Center
downtown, which provided more room for the half-million Catawba artifacts—the world’s largest Catawba collection—in the school’s possession, as well as space for a growing number of students attending USCL:
Downtown Lancaster needed an anchor. The University of South Carolina Lancaster needed space to store and showcase its large collection of Catawba pottery and artifacts. A partnership was born.
Plans for the Native American Studies Center began when Lancaster municipal officials met with community groups to discuss cultural tourism and historical assets as catalysts for downtown revitalization. They brought faculty in on the conversations. The faculty shared that they were in desperate need of more room for the half-million Catawba artifacts—the world’s largest Catawba collection—in the school’s possession, as well as space for a growing number of students attending USCL.
The City of Lancaster purchased a long-empty furniture store on Main Street using funds raised from hospitality taxes and a Duke Energy grant. Officials worked with faculty from USCL’s Native American Studies department to design classrooms, labs and galleries in the renovated space. The city improved existing parking and created additional parking areas. Working with regional tourism and preservation groups, the city then developed a marketing plan to promote the new center.
Locating a cultural attraction downtown has been a boon for tourism in Lancaster. Even better, there are more college students spending time—and dollars—in the city center. The project has been so successful that officials are working with USCL to relocate more of the University’s departments downtown. Workshops, festivals, seminars and other public events are in the works as well to draw more people to the Native American Studies Center.
A once-empty building is now a cultural asset, and downtown Lancaster is once again the center of conversation.
The awards were presented at the MASC's annual meeting July 20.
Via: Municipal Association of South Carolina
Native American Studies Center opens Oct. 4
Did you know that the world's largest collection of Catawba Indian pottery is in Lancaster, South Carolina? It's housed at the new Native American Studies Center, which opens Oct. 4 from 5-7 p.m. with a free public reception, tours and demonstrations. The center promotes regional Native American art, culture, and history and offers exhibitions, classes and programs. For more information, check out this article from the Lancaster News, visit USC Lancaster's website or contact Stephen Criswell, (803) 313-7172.
Via: USC Lancaster Native American Studies and the Lancaster News
Photos: Catawba Indian pottery from the Native American Studies Center collection