Eight competitors reach S.C. Poetry Out Loud finals
State finals to be held virtually March 5
for immediate release
COLUMBIA, S.C. – From among statewide submissions, judges selected eight finalists who now have a chance to represent South Carolina this spring in the national finals of Poetry Out Loud—an annual, nationwide recitation contest.The South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) coordinates Poetry Out Loud South Carolina (POLSC), partnering with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation to bring the competition to the state’s high schools. The program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry—recitation and performance. POLSC Coordinator Bonita Peeples once again arranged a 2021/2022 competition with a virtual structure. The first step, now complete, was inviting students in grades 9-12 to submit videos to twin regional competitions, each with its own set of different judges. Both regionals yielded four finalists to compete in the competition’s next step: virtual state finals on Saturday, March 5, 2022. The eight finalists come from four schools in Charleston, Greenville, and Spartanburg. Students from Region 1, roughly the lower half of the state, all come from Charleston County School of the Arts. They are:
- Tea Allen
- Kenneth Carrington
- Natalie Holland
- Adam Maierle
- Emily Allison, 2021 state champion (Fine Arts Center of Greenville)
- Harper Scott (Fine Arts Center of Greenville)
- Catherine Wooten (Westgate Christian School of Spartanburg)
- Caleb Xiao, 2021 first runner-up (Spartanburg Day School in Boiling Springs)
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.
S.C. public arts high school welcomes poet Danez Smith
On April 12, creative writing students at the Fine Arts Center in Greenville had the opportunity to participate in a class presented by Danez Smith, a national award-winning author and writer, through the Momentum Series, a program headed by the students of the program.The Momentum Series is a project produced and managed by the Fine Arts Center Creative Writing Program, in which members of the class work together to bring an innovative writer of national reputation to Greenville to do a community reading and teach a class to the creative writing program at FAC. Through this, the students are able to learn from professional and accomplished writers who are active in the field while also promoting the arts within the Greenville community and strengthening the bonds between the city’s diverse cultural communities and the school district. The Momentum Series is curated, organized, implemented and publicized by students in the Fine Arts Center’s Careers In Publishing class. While usually available to the public, this year the Momentum Series will take place as a closed, virtual event for the FAC creative writing class due to COVID-19 restrictions; however, next spring we hope to be live again in the community! For this year’s installment, the organizers of the program have worked together to bring in poet Danez Smith. Danez Smith is a Black, Queer, Poz writer & performer from St. Paul, Minnesota. Danez is the author of "Don’t Call Us Dead" (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award, and "[insert] boy" (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. Danez is a member of the Dark Noise Collective and is the co-host of VS with Franny Choi, a podcast sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and Postloudness. Danez’s third collection, “Homie”, was published by Graywolf in January 2020. - Elizabeth Scott, Fine Arts Center creative writing student
Nine Upstate students recognized in national arts competition
Students stand out in national applicant pool
Each year the National YoungArts Foundation holds one of the largest student art competitions highlighting promising young artists, ages 15-18, in the literary, visual, design and performing arts from around the country.This year, nine students from South Carolina, including two finalists, were selected as winners from an applicant pool of over 7,400 nationally. The South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities had seven students who placed, including Isaiah Boozer, theater finalist; Tyler Wesley, theater finalist; Grace Warren-Page, honorable mention for creative nonfiction; Alexa Smith, theater merit; Jaden McGuire, visual arts merit; Katherine Davis, creative nonfiction merit, and Felix Killingsworth, poetry merit. The Fine Arts Center in Greenville also had two students who placed, including Thomas Hicks, honorable mention for photography, and Philip Rawlinson, classical music merit in viola. "YoungArts empowers artists to pursue a life in the arts beginning at the critical time when many are faced with decisions about life after high school,” said Executive Director Jewel Malone. “This group of extraordinary artists has reminded us yet again that extraordinary artistry is ageless, and I encourage everyone to get to know these faces and names as we will be seeing them for many years to come." YoungArts award winners at the finalist level were invited to participate in National YoungArts Week + held earlier this month featuring virtual classes, workshops and mentorship from internationally renowned artists. A virtual showcase featuring these finalists will be held Jan. 25-30. For the full schedule, visit https://www.youngarts.org/national-youngarts-week. Finalists are also eligible to be nominated to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, one of the highest honors given high school seniors bestowed by the President of the United States. This year, YoungArts award winners at all levels will receive cash prizes between $100 and $10,000 and the opportunity to learn from leading artists such as Debbie Allen, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Frank Gehry, Wynton Marsalis, Salman Rushdie and Mickalene Thomas. YoungArts winners also become part of an alumni network of over 20,000 artists, which offers them additional professional opportunities throughout their careers.
About The National YoungArts FoundationThe National YoungArts Foundation (YoungArts) was established in 1981 by Lin and Ted Arison to identify and nurture the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts, and assist them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development. Through a wide range of annual programs, regular performances, and partnerships with some of the nation's leading cultural institutions, YoungArts aspires to create a strong community of alumni and a platform for a lifetime of encouragement, opportunity and support. YoungArts' signature program is an application-based award for emerging artists ages 15-18 or in grades 10-12 from across the U.S. Selected through a blind adjudication process, YoungArts winners receive valuable support, including financial awards of up to $10,000, professional development and educational experiences working with renowned mentors-such as Debbie Allen, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rebecca Walker, Plácido Domingo, Frank Gehry, Jeff Koons, Wynton Marsalis, Salman Rushdie and Carrie Mae Weems-and performance and exhibition opportunities at some of the nation's leading cultural institutions, including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and New World Center. Additionally, YoungArts Winners are eligible for nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, one of the nation's highest honors for high school students who exemplify academic and artistic excellence. YoungArts winners become part of a thousands-strong alumni network of artists, which offers them additional professional opportunities throughout their careers. YoungArts alumni who have gone on to become leading professionals in their fields include actresses Viola Davis, Anna Gunn, Zuzanna Szadkowski and Kerry Washington; Broadway stars Raúl Esparza, Billy Porter, Andrew Rannells and Tony Yazbeck; recording artists Josh Groban, Judith Hill and Chris Young; Metropolitan Opera star Eric Owens; musicians Terence Blanchard, Gerald Clayton, Jennifer Koh and Elizabeth Roe; choreographers Camille A. Brown and Desmond Richardson; visual artists Daniel Arsham and Hernan Bas; internationally acclaimed multimedia artist Doug Aitken; New York Times bestselling author Sam Lipsyte; and Academy Award-winning filmmaker Doug Blush. Carnival Foundation is the YoungArts National Premier Sponsor. For more information, visit youngarts.org, facebook.com/YoungArtsFoundation or twitter.com/YoungArts.
About S.C. Governor's School for the Arts and HumanitiesLocated in Greenville, the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities (SCGSAH) cultivates young artists from across the state through pre-professional training in the areas of creative writing, dance, drama, music and visual arts. As a public, residential high school, serving juniors and seniors, students refine their talents in a master-apprentice community while receiving a nationally recognized academic education. Summer programs are available to rising 7th-12th grade students. SCGSAH also serves as a resource to all teachers and students in South Carolina, offering comprehensive outreach programs designed to bring together artists, educators, community organizations and schools.
SCAC announces four 2021 fellowship recipients
Individual excellence in writing, dance honored
for immediate release
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Hard work and exceptional abilities are earning four South Carolina artists practicing in the dance and writing disciplines fellowships from the South Carolina Arts Commission for fiscal year 2021.The South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) Board of Directors approved four $5,000 fellowships among several other FY21 grant awards to be announced at a later date. The SCAC’s four fellows are:
- Sarah Blackman of Greenville County in prose,
- John Pursley III of Greenville County for poetry,
- Erin Bailey of Richland County for dance choreography,
- and Tanya Wideman-Davis of Richland County for dance performance.
About the FY21 Individual Artist Fellowship RecipientsSarah Blackman | Prose | Greenville County Sarah Blackman is the director of creative writing at the Fine Arts Center, an arts-centered public high school in Greenville, South Carolina. Her poetry and prose have been published in a number of journals, magazines, and anthologies and she has been featured on the Poetry Daily website. Blackman is the co-fiction editor of Diagram, the online journal of experimental prose, poetry and schematics; and the founding editor of Crashtest, an online magazine for high school age writers she edits alongside her Fine Arts Center students. Her story collection Mother Box, published by FC2 in 2013, was the winner of the 2012 Ronald Sukenick/American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize. Her novel, Hex, was published by FC2 in April 2016 and in 2018 she joined its board. John Pursley III | Poetry | Greenville County John Pursley III teaches contemporary literature and poetry at Clemson University, where he also directs the annual Clemson Literary Festival. He is the author of the poetry collection, If You Have Ghosts (Zone 3 Press), as well as the chapbooks, A Story without Poverty (South Carolina Poetry Initiative) and A Conventional Weather (New Michigan Press), among others. In addition, he works as the poetry editor of Burnside Review and is an assistant editor for the South Carolina Review. His poems and reviews have appeared in Poetry, AGNI, Colorado Review, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Erin Bailey | Dance: Choreography | Richland County Erin Bailey is a South Carolina native who discovered her passion for dance at the Fine Arts Center in Greenville. She has degrees from Columbia College (BFA) and Texas Women’s University (MFA) and has her certification and licensure in massage. She is an adjunct dance professor at Columbia and Coker colleges and the University of South Carolina. Bailey has worked and performed with Columbia area dance companies since 2004 and has performed nationally and internationally at festivals like Piccolo Spoleto in Charleston. In 2018 she founded and remains artistic director of Moving Body Dance Company. She has twice received awards for her choreography work. Photo by Jesse Scroggins. Tanya Wideman-Davis | Dance: Performance | Richland County Tanya Wideman-Davis is the co-director of Wideman Davis Dance and is on faculty as associate professor at the University of South Carolina in the Department of Theatre and Dance and African American Studies. With an extensive career as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher, she completed her Master of Fine Arts from Hollins University/ADF (2012). Tanya has danced with many world-renowned companies, including Dance Theatre of Harlem, Joffrey Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Alonzo King Lines Ballet, Spectrum Dance Theater, Ballet NY, and as guest artist with Ballet Memphis, Cleveland San Jose Ballet, and Quorum Ballet (Portugal). She received international acclaim as “Best Female Dancer of 2001-2002” from Dance Europe magazine. Photo by Sammy Lopez.
About the South Carolina Arts CommissionWith 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 grants, direct programs, staff assistance and partnerships in three key areas:
- arts education,
- community arts development,
- and artist development.
Six SC students participating in National YoungArts Week in Miami
This week 166 of the nation's most promising young artists in the literary, visual, design and performing arts will converge in Miami, Fla., for the 36th Annual National YoungArts Week. These students were chosen as finalists in the YoungArts Competition held in the fall. South Carolina had six finalists from four high schools. Julia Dotson, from the Charleston County School of the Arts, is a finalist in the Design Arts category. Amber Magnuson, from the Fine Arts Center in Greenville, is a finalist in the Poetry category. Jessica McCallum, from D.W. Daniel High School, is a finalist in the Cinematic Arts category. Samuel Gee and Jamiya Leach are finalists in the Creative Non-Fiction category and are students at the S.C. Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities (SCGSAH), and Cam'Ron Stewart, also from the Governor's School, is a finalist in the Spoken Theater category. During National YoungArts Week, students take master classes and workshops from internationally recognized professionals and compete for higher honors, while enhancing their artistic development. In total, South Carolina had 13 winners, including the six finalists. While only the finalists participate in YoungArts Week, all competition winners become part of a professional network of over 20,000 alumni artists and are eligible to participate in YoungArts' regional programs as well as nominations as a U.S. Presidential Scholar of the Arts. Additional South Carolina winners are Governor's School students Joshua Simpson (Spoken Theater), James Stevens (Baritone), Helen Coats (Creative Non-Fiction), Alyssa Mazzoli (Short Story), and Aidan Forster (Short Story); Richland Two Charter High School student Kierra Gray (Singer/Songwriter); and Clover High School student Derrick Ostolaza (Cinematic Arts). "The YoungArts Competition is one of the most competitive opportunities in the nation for students exhibiting artistic excellence, with over 8,000 submissions from 42 states," said Dr. Cedric Adderley, SCGSAH president. "We're very proud that eight of the winners came from the Governor's School, as this is an esteemed accomplishment for our students, our schools and our state." Image: The Upstate's five YoungArts Competition finalists at the Atlanta airport on their way to Miami. Pictured left to right: Samuel Gee, Jessica McCallum, Amber Magnusum, Jamiya Leach, and Cam'Ron Stewart. Via: Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities
SC jeweler takes risks and reaps national acclaim
[caption id="attachment_27847" align="alignright" width="200"] A model wears a conceptual wood piece by Kate Furman, made for “The Lines Within," a collaboration with Greenville, SC photographer Eli Warren.[/caption] Greenville, South Carolina native Kate Furman remembers the day she first was introduced to metalsmithing. “I was interviewing for the Fine Arts Center program and was in their metals studio. There were really cool tools everywhere. When they asked me what class I wanted to take, I said this one.” Spoiler alert-she was accepted into the program. Her skill blossomed there under the tutelage of renowned metalsmith Susan Willis who encouraged Kate to continue her education after highschool and pursue a BA in metalsmithing. Furman attended UGA’s metalsmithing program for four years and moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming afterward teaching at the local arts center and raft guiding on the side. “I fell in love with Jackson and never thought I would leave but got into RISD which was a lifelong dream. Winston (her dog) and I moved to Providence, Rhode Island and I earned a Masters Degree from RISD. My favorite part of that was that I was taught by the people that I had been studying for the past 5 or so years.” At RISD Kate was encouraged to think outside the box and mix the natural influences from Jackson Hole with metal elements to create wearable works of art. Furman’s original wood centric conceptual art style emerged from her time at Jackson Hole as a raft guide. “Some people are still very confused by them, but it’s funny. People either love them or aren’t quite sure what to think. I apply to art exhibitions all over the country with those pieces.” These large, strong pieces of jewelry are laden with chain work and can be worn draped around the neck. They, much like Furman herself are unusual, thought provoking and enigmatic. Furman’s smaller pieces of jewelry have found home in the southern trendy-chic boutiques such as Augusta 20. The smaller wearable pieces carry a visually apparent nature flashback as well including twig like bracelets, blue crab pendants and wood bark textured wedding bands made from golds, silvers and bronzes. Her wearable jewelry line is a perfect representation of South Carolina’s married landscape as it meshes influence from the Upstate’s signature oak branches to Pawleys Island tide forgotten castaway sea shells. Furman’s casting process takes the original items from their home in nature and perfectly recreates each sea shell, pine cone, and broken twig into a everyday piece of metal art. This two-tiered jewelry concept of producing both one of a kind conceptual jewelry as well as the wearable jewelry has allowed for her to grow her brand at a slow and steady pace. Some of her large conceptual pieces are in museums and shows world-wide. They’ve been in Australia, Netherlands and just recently shown in Boston. She shipped a few pieces overseas to the UK for a high end conceptual fashion shoot. She’s even ventured into using 3-D printing technology to mass produce jewelry for her more budget conscious clients. By partnering with a local 3-D printer, Furman not only supports another local business, but also is able to communicate for freely with her supplier about the process and the quantity of work she needs in order to satisfy her demand. [caption id="attachment_27849" align="alignright" width="300"] Kate Furman’s 3-D printed jewelry has been a fun and popular choice. Photo by Eli Warren of The Needed Image[/caption]
Furman’s eyes are set to the horizon as she plans her next stage as an artist. “I just bought a space on Pendleton Street that’s going to be a studio. Part of it will be retail with open hours and allow people to come visit me while I’m working and learn about the process and just hang out. Over time I’ll become more and more involved with the Greenville Center for Creative Arts as that program grows,” says Furman. Her recognition in Greenville is growing after she was selected as a 2016 Emerging Artist Award Winner for Artisphere. Artisphere is a nationally renowned art festival held in Greenville, South Carolina’s welcoming and chic downtown. Furman competed with thousands of artist nation-wide for a spot in the line-up and received a tent where she could sell her work during the festival along with the honor of her award. “It was one of the coolest weekends ever. I had so much support from family and friends and was able to meet many new artists and clients. I couldn’t even walk across my booth most of the time- it was so packed. It was a rewarding experience that I hope to be able to repeat again.” Her business grows every year. “I have always known what I wanted and have done it, “ she says as she fidgets. “Look I can’t sit still! I like being back at home because I have support of everyone I grew up with. I try to bring a version of art that wasn’t here before. Beyond fashion jewelry is kind of new to Greenville. It’s fun to be a bit of a pioneer. “ Check out Kate’s jewelry here at www.katefurman.com
Fiber arts program launched to train Upstate designers
From The Greenville News Article by Nathaniel Cary, photo by Bart Boatwright
Textile executives from multiple Upstate companies banded together to fund a new program they hope will train a new generation of homegrown textile designers to carry on the textile heritage of the Carolinas. Many of those designers may come right from Greenville, trained at a new first-in-the-nation program run by the Greenville Fine Arts Center. Greenville County Schools officially launched the program Wednesday. The inaugural group of 24 students, who each auditioned for entrance into the program, will take a course-load built around design and use of fibers in the textile industry. Roy Fluhrer, Fine Arts Center director, conceived of the program years ago and approached business leaders three years ago with a plan for a program similar to an architectural design program that the center had started. Fluhrer called it a way to give the county’s bright artistic students creative futures built in South Carolina. The program drew interest from local companies who wanted to train and retain talented designers in the Upstate. Five companies each contributed $25,000 while Greenville County Schools agreed to fund the salary for a teacher and paid for renovations for two portable buildings that now sit adjacent to the Fine Arts Center on Pine Knoll Drive in Greenville. Sage Automotive Interiors in Greenville, Glen Raven Custom Fabrics in Anderson, Springs Creative in Rock Hill, Alice Manufacturing in Easley and Inman Mills helped purchase equipment for the program, Fluhrer said. A fiber arts program in Greenville made sense for local businesses to support, Randy Blackston, vice president of operations at Glen Raven, said. “There are billions of dollars of capital investment in the textile industry within 30 minutes of this school,” Blackston said. "More importantly, there are thousands and thousands of workers who work in the textile industry within 30 minutes of this school." The textile industry is beset by the preconceived notion that it’s a “dirty industry” whose reputation has been tainted by the number of jobs that have disappeared overseas, Dirk Pieper, president and CEO of Sage Automotive Interiors, said. “The arts and design are a very important part of our business so the opportunity to connect with students of the high school age and get them involved early in our industry of textiles and automotive textiles is a fantastic opportunity to develop homegrown talent here to support our business,” Pieper said. They’re working to change the perception of textiles, which is now high-tech, use new fabrics and design methods and are going to be a $56 billion industry employing more than 500,000 people in the United States, Pieper said. “It’s thriving and of course it’s significant in South Carolina and in particular, the Upstate,” he said. The industry in the Upstate is facing what leaders are calling a “silver tsunami” of retiring baby boomers and will need a new generation of skilled employees to fill their jobs. “Workforce development is the single most important issue in terms of supporting the manufacturing industry,” he said. As the manufacturing industry rebounded post-recession and the state’s leadership attracted new jobs, “It’s our role now to create the associates that are going to be able to work in these operations,” Pieper said. Fiber arts students will learn to weave, knit and construct cloth. They will dye fabric, shape fabric, cut fabric into conceptual art forms or works of art, April Dauscha, fiber arts instructor, said. Inside the remodeled portables, an open concept design splits the rooms into learning zones. A small classroom space with mannequins sits near the entrance with four computers connected to a photo printer. Tables with scraps of fabric, yarn and other materials and a large design table as well as a small kitchenette and laundry area complete the space. Students will spend two hours each day in the studio learning from a curriculum designed with help from professors at N.C. State University, one of the nation’s leading textile programs. The curriculum was built so students who complete the fiber arts program will have college credit that will either offset the amount of time it will take to complete the N.C. State bachelor of science degree or will allow students to study abroad or accept internships to gain added experience during their college years, Nancy Powell, professor in the College of Textiles, said. The fiber arts program moves the school district closer to its goal of graduating students who are college or career ready, Superintendent Burke Royster said. Companies involved in the program will interact with the students regularly, will facilitate visits to textile manufacturers and will offer internships, Pieper said. Image: Greenville Fine Arts Center fiber art student Eileen Selby, left, talks with Greenville School Board member Kenneth Baxter Sr. during a tour of the school's new one-of-a-kind industry-sponsored fiber arts program.
Fine Arts Center: inspiring young talent for 40 years
From The Greenville News Story by Paul Hyde Photos by Mykal McEldowney
The Fine Arts Center has nurtured the artistic interests and ambitions of generations of students. More than that, the Greenville school district's magnet arts program may have actually saved a life or two. "I really can't overstate the effect the Fine Arts Center had on my life," said Daniel Sollinger, a successful Hollywood producer with more than 350 commercials, music videos and short films to his credit. Thirty years ago, however, Sollinger was a struggling student, hanging onto school by his fingertips. His future didn't look very promising. Then he found the Fine Arts Center. "I was a lost teen who had been kicked out of Eastside High School and Riverside High School," Sollinger recalled recently. "I was attending night school and I met someone who had been studying filmmaking at the Fine Arts Center. "That moment changed my life." As students, faculty and supporters of the Fine Arts Center celebrate the 40th anniversary of the program, the first-ever of its type in South Carolina, they can look back on hundreds of graduates like Sollinger who've gone on to achieve success in the arts and other fields. Sollinger's struggles, in some ways, mirror those of the Fine Arts Center itself. There were times in the past when the program also hung by a thread but was successfully defended by its legion of passionate supporters. Coming together The Fine Arts Center got its start in 1974 as then-Superintendent J. Floyd Hall searched for ways to bring communities together during desegregation, said Roy Fluhrer, the center's longtime director. One of the answers that emerged, Fluhrer said, was a high school magnet arts program, free to all Greenville County high school students, regardless of race and socioeconomic background. "The arts have always been at the vanguard of change," Fluhrer said. With start-up money from a federal grant, district officials Virginia Uldrick, Margaret Gilliam and Ray Thigpen designed a curriculum for the Fine Arts Center, which would open at the renovated Hattie Duckett Elementary School on Washington Street. Uldrick became the Fine Arts Center's first director and would later create the Governor's School summer arts program and finally the South Carolina's Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, a residential school open to students statewide. The Fine Arts Center eventually outgrew its 22,000-square-foot building, and a new 65,000-square-foot facility opened in 2008 next to Wade Hampton High School. When Fluhrer was appointed director in September, 1989, there were just 168 students in the program — compared to today's 420 students, who take classes in seven art areas. Under those basic categories are 19 artistic subsets, ranging from chamber music to photography, ballet, modern dance and music history. Recently, the program became the first in the U.S. to offer architecture among its basic art areas, Fluhrer said. Students attend one of Greenville County's 14 high schools but also spend about two hours each day in classes at the Fine Arts Center. They not only have to audition to be admitted to the Fine Arts Center but have to re-audition every subsequent year they wish to attend.
Not everyone makes the cut. Some get placed on a waiting list. "Our teachers are constantly reminding students that they're capable of more," Fluhrer said. Last year, 88 students graduated from the program, earning $10.8 million in college scholarships. That represents about 2 percent of the graduates in Greenville County schools garnering almost 10 percent of the scholarship money awarded that year. "The Fine Arts Center is an outstanding example of the life-enhancing and, in some cases, life-altering opportunities for growth available to students in our schools," said Greenville County Schools Superintendent W. Burke Royster. The program challenges students to test their limits but also appeals to young people who already are highly motivated. A recent dance graduate, Mireille Fehler, was valedictorian at Eastside High School and now attends Case Western Reserve University, majoring in dance — and aeronautical engineering. Such success comes as no surprise to Fluhrer, who sees arts education as vital not only for overall educational achievement but national economic prosperity as well. "Our future will belong to those with the creative imagination to solve problems," Fluhrer said. "The arts have a signicant role to play." Surviving the cut The past four decades, however, have not always been easy ones for the Fine Arts Center. The school at one time faced possible closure. Several years ago, in fact, a top Greenville Schools official delivered a sobering message at the school: Due to budget difficulties, the Fine Arts Center would probably have to shut down. "An immensely talented group of kids would have educational opportunities ripped out from under them," Fluhrer said. The students, however, were not going to take the news sitting down. "They mounted a respectful and passionate defense of the arts and of what the Fine Arts Center meant to them as students," Fluhrer said. Efforts to close the center were defeated. The program's future now seems secure. "When you think of the trials and tribulations that the Fine Arts Center has gone through, it's very special to have reached 40 years and to have the support we have in the district and community," said Fluhrer. "I think we've made a contribution to the community as well and we continue to have a significant role to play." Kimilee Bryant attended the program for only one year but believes it contributed greatly to her later success as a Broadway actress. "The Fine Arts Center was the highlight of my senior year," said Bryant, best known for playing Christine in the Broadway production of "The Phantom of the Opera." "I wish I had been able to attend all four years and all day my senior year," Bryant added. "I knew I was going to be a performer and I really felt at home at the Fine Arts Center." Sollinger, the producer, echoed Bryant, saying that the Fine Arts Center provided an avenue for him to express his energy and ambition. "Part of the reason I had gotten kicked out of the other schools was that I didn't really fit in," Sollinger said. "I was an artistic person but had no place to focus that artistic energy. The Fine Arts Center gave me the ability to find myself as a creative person and gave me the confidence and the curiosity to see how far I could take my talent." After first hearing about the Fine Arts Center, Sollinger was able to get back into Eastside High School and then successfully applied to the Fine Arts Center. "I never realized that film was something you could study, let alone make a living doing," Sollinger said. "I can pretty much guarantee I would not be living in Hollywood and producing movies had the Fine Arts Center not been there." Young artists are surrounded by "other students with a passion for their craft," said Rory Scovel, a comedian, actor and writer who attended the Fine Arts Center in 1998-99 and went on to do standup on Comedy Central and network talk shows hosted by Jimmy Fallon and Craig Ferguson. "The Fine Arts Center did more than just educate me in film and filmmaking, courtesy of the great Eric Rogers," said Scovel, who also played the character of Harvard on the TBS sitcom "Ground Floor" and guest-starred on such shows as "Modern Family." "The school actually made me understand the overall need for every kind of art and the respect all of it deserves," Scovel said. "I think receiving an education about respecting art matures not just a student but a person. That's what the Fine Arts Center gave to me." Artists who teach Scovel and Bryant believe a big part of the Fine Arts Center's success is its top-notch faculty of teaching artists. For Bryant, the late voice teacher Michael Rice particularly left a lasting impression. "I was so lucky, as were many other voice students, to have had Mr. Rice as a teacher," Bryant said. "He was world class, more than a teacher — a real mentor and friend." Bryant would parlay her Fine Arts Center experience into a career that encompasses not only Broadway but opera and concert appearances worldwide. She's the only actress to play all three leading female roles — Christine, Carlotta and Madame Giry — in "The Phantom of the Opera." The talented, enthusiastic student body makes the Fine Arts Center a coveted place for teachers, Fluhrer said. "I think the faculty will tell you it's an absolute thrill to go into your classroom," Fluhrer said. "It's a very rewarding environment for teachers. Why would you not want to help a student release their inner Van Gogh?" When an teaching opening comes up, searches are conducted nationwide. A recent position for a painting teacher generated 90 applicants from across the nation. "We have incredible teachers," Fluhrer said. "You could put us in an open field and the teachers would still find a way to make everything work." Fluhrer recently announced that he would retire in June, 2016. The center's assistance director, Charles Ratterree, is Fluhrer's designated successor. At 26 years, Fluhrer has been, by far, the longest director of the center, following the leadership of Uldrick, James B. Senn, Charles W. Welch, Thomas Drake, Jesse Beck and Gene Wenner. "The leadership of the Fine Arts Center has been so completely devoted to the students, and the success rate of its graduates has been remarkable," said Alan Ethridge, executive director of Greenville's Metropolitan Arts Council, an umbrella arts organization that has provided modest funding for some Fine Arts Center projects. For Fluhrer, who has a doctorate in theater history and criticism, part of the Fine Arts Center's success is that it gives students ample room to indulge their creativity — even if they come up short before finding their way. Fluhrer likes to quote playwright Samuel Becket: "Fail. Fail again. Fail better." "We have to have the arts and give students the freedom to experiment and try new things and even fail," Fluhrer said. As he looks toward retiring in 2016, Fluhrer said his long tenure at the Fine Arts Center has been a labor of love. "I get to see kids who are engaged and loving every moment that they're with us," Fluhrer said. "This place is a jewel."
Greenville arts teacher receives Mary Whyte Art Educator Award
[caption id="attachment_16824" align="alignright" width="188"] Donna Shank Major, left, with Mary Whyte[/caption] Applications for the next award are due June 1, 2015. Donna Shank Major, an instructor at the Fine Arts Center of Greenville, is this year's recipient of the annual Mary Whyte Art Educator Award. Established in 2007, the award highlights high school visual arts teachers in South Carolina school districts who have demonstrated superior commitment to their students and to their craft. The award is accompanied by a cash prize of $2,500 and is administered and presented annually by the Gibbes Museum of Art. The awards were announced at the South Carolina Art Education Association annual meeting in Greenville on Nov. 21. “I am so pleased to announce Donna Shank Major as this year's recipient of the Art Educator Award," said Whyte. "Together with the other two state finalists, Josh Drews (Spring Valley High School, Columbia) and Mary Catherine Peeples (Wando High School, Charleston), Ms. Major represents the finest this state has to offer in arts education. South Carolina has most definitely set the bar high in fine arts instruction." At the Fine Arts Center, Major is the instructor for 2D and 3D design courses and coordinates the Explore the Arts summer program. She also teaches in the ARMES program, a tuition-free program designed to meet the needs of students in grades four through eight who have demonstrated outstanding talents and an interest in theatre, visual arts, strings or dance. Major grew up in Greenville and was an art student at Fine Arts Center for three years. She graduated from Converse College and continued studies at the college to earn a Masters in Education. She has been teaching art for 18 years in Greenville and Spartanburg counties and works in a variety of media and techniques including clay, printmaking, painting, and bookmaking. She has received many grants, including a Fulbright Memorial Fund grant to study in Japan and fellowships to study at Arrowmont School of Crafts and Penland. Her work has been exhibited in shows at the Art Bomb, Open Studios with the Metropolitan Arts Council, the Belton Juried Professional Show, the Anderson Art Show and the Union Juried Professional Show. Two years ago, the award was opened to teachers statewide; Major is the first recipient from outside the Lowcountry area. The Gibbes Museum would like to increase the number of applicants, according to Curator of Education Rebecca Sailor. "There are so many teachers worth recognizing, and we want to see the award continue to grow and receive the recognition it deserves. It’s the only one of its kind in the state. Mary’s support of art educators in South Carolina is immeasurable, and the Gibbes is honored to support the award." Applications for the next award are due June 1, 2015. More information and the application are available online at www.marywhyteaward.org. About Mary Whyte Whyte is a watercolor artist, teacher and author whose figurative paintings have earned national recognition. A resident of Johns Island, S.C., Whyte garners much of her inspiration from the Gullah descendants of coastal Carolina slaves who number among her most prominent subjects. Her portraits are included in numerous corporate, private, and university collections, as well as in the permanent collections of the Gibbes Museum of Art and the Greenville County Museum of Art. Her paintings have been featured in International Artist, Artist, American Artist, Watercolor, and American Art Collector, L'Art de Aquarelle, and numerous other publications. Whyte is the author of numerous books and her work can be found at Coleman Fine Art in Charleston, where her husband, Smith Coleman, manages the gallery and makes gilded and carved frames. Whyte is the 2013 Individual Artist recipient of the South Carolina Arts Commission's Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Award for the Arts. About the Gibbes Museum of Art Established as the Carolina Art Association in 1858, the Gibbes Museum of Art opened its doors to the public in 1905. In the fall of 2014, the Gibbes temporarily closed for major renovations and will reopen in the spring of 2016. The renovation project is designed to showcase the museum's collection, provide visitors with a history of American art from the early colonial era to the present, and engage the public with a center for education, artist studios, lecture and event space, a museum café, and store. During the renovation the museum will offer programs such as the Insider Art Series, Art With a Twist, Art of Healing, events including the Art of Design and annual Gibbes on the Street Party, and educational offerings such as Art to Go and Eye Spy Art. Highlights of the Gibbes permanent collection can be viewed on Google Art Project at www.googleartproject.com.