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Examining the life and artistry of enslaved S.C. potter David Drake

On Sunday, Feb. 19, the Peace Center will host what may be the year’s best opportunity to celebrate the art and lives of South Carolina’s most distinguished Black artists, both living and deceased.

S.C. Governor’s Award recipient and poet Glenis Redmond, joined by MacArthur Fellow and literary historian P. Gabrielle Foreman, will lead a discussion of the collaborative book, Praise Songs for Dave the Potter. Featuring the art of internationally acclaimed Gullah painter Jonathan Green and Redmond’s poetry, Praise Songs for Dave the Potter examines how South Carolina slave David Drake has inspired visual artists and poets who claim him as an artistic ancestor. One of the country’s most accomplished 19th century potters, David Drake was a South Carolina slave in the Edgefield District. His pots—many inscribed with song and verse—are treasured artifacts by collectors and museum curators across the U.S. Redmond and Foreman will lead a discussion of Praise Songs, and books will be available for purchase and signing afterward. Tickets are $15 and all are welcome. Click here for more information.

Submitted material

Art exhibit spreads wings in the Upstate

'Wings of the City' on display in Greenville

[caption id="attachment_46737" align="aligncenter" width="600"]A man in a red shirt poses with giant bronze wings displayed in an outdoor art exhibition 'Wings of the City' on display in San Antonio, Texas.[/caption]

It's no secret that Greenville has really taken off...

As further evidence, the city is first East Coast landing spot of a famed art exhibit called Wings of the City. The traveling exhibition of Mexican sculptor Jorge Marin's work has giant bronze wings outdoors in Falls Park and on the Peace Center campus. His "Alas de Mexico" sculpture, shown above, is part of the fun and obviously 'gram-worthy if you're so inclined. The Hispanic Alliance of Greenville, a partner of the S.C. Arts Commission, helped make the exhibition a reality. Bank of America, a Governor's Award recipient in 2018, is sponsor. Read more about this from Fox Carolina.

Jason Rapp

‘The show can’t go on’

P&C  reviews hard times in the arts

Hub readers know the devastation felt in South Carolina's arts community because of the pandemic's economic effects.

Know, though, the story is reaching broader audiences. Today, the Greenville outpost of the Post & Courier published a story that paints a bleak picture throughout the state. From the story:

“You know the old adage, ‘The show must go on.’ Well, this is one of those times when the show can’t go on,” said Graham Shaffer, technical director at the Greenville Theatre. “We just have to sit here until we can.”

Some hoped for salvation via a federal coronavirus relief package that hasn’t materialized. Now, the South Carolina Arts Commission has asked the state General Assembly to approve $3.8 million in nonrecurring funds to prop up the ailing industry until it can recover. Originally, the arts commission asked for that amount to help venues make repairs to aging buildings.

Now it just hopes to keep the buildings open.

Read Nate Cary's full story here. Subscription possibly required.

Jason Rapp

Tuning Up: Update on relief funding awards to S.C. arts orgs

Good morning!  "Tuning Up" is a morning post series where The Hub delivers curated, quick-hit arts stories of interest to readers. Sometimes there will be one story, sometimes there will be several. Get in tune now, and have a masterpiece of a day. And now, in no particular order...


The Columbia Museum of Art announces it has been selected as a recipient of a CARES Act economic stabilization grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The $150,000 award will support public programming associated with the upcoming major exhibition Visions from India: 21st-Century Art from the Pizzuti Collection. “I am pleased that the Columbia Museum of Art has received funding allocated through the CARES Act,” says Congressman James E. Clyburn. “The museum serves as a community center, art studio and entertainment venue. We must continue to support them as they strive to provide safe opportunities to participate in meaningful cultural experiences and connect with others.” From Oct. 17, 2020, through Jan. 10, 2021, the CMA will present Visions from India, a breathtaking sweep of 21st-century painting, sculpture, and multimedia works from India and its diaspora. The museum is eager to showcase this exhibition for diverse local and regional audiences and believes it will make an important impact on the community. The NEH is generously providing support for exhibition-related activities that require retaining humanities staff to maintain and adapt critical public programs.


Local arts organizations have received another infusion of COVID-19 relief funds thanks to a $100,000 contribution from Hollingsworth Funds Inc. The funding, which is being distributed by the Metropolitan Arts Council, was awarded to the following groups: Artisphere, Centre Stage, Greenville Chorale, Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville Symphony Orchestra, Greenville Theatre, Metropolitan Arts Council, Peace Center, South Carolina Children’s Theatre and Warehouse Theatre. Each of the 10 organizations will receive $10,000 within the next few days, said Alan Ethridge, executive director of the Metropolitan Arts Council.

Jason Rapp

Peace Center reveals Wyche Pavilion plan revisions

Vibrant new (old) space for music, entertainment

[caption id="attachment_40604" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Artist rendering of the renovated Wyche Pavilion. Artist rendering of the renovated Wyche Pavilion.[/caption]
The Peace Center is announcing revisions to its plans for restoration of the Wyche Pavilion and will return to the City of Greenville’s Design Review Board on July 9. The July 9 meeting follows a public hearing in February, where the Design Review Board provided feedback on the proposed project. Based on those recommendations and further meetings with members of the city and Design Review Board, the design was updated to make the expansion more subordinate to the existing Wyche Pavilion, while preserving the elements required to transform the Wyche into a fully functioning music and entertainment venue. The design by Summerour and Associates retains, preserves and emphasizes the 3,578 square foot iconic shell of the Wyche Pavilion. The addition of custom-made windows and doors, wood floors and ceilings, fans, architectural lighting and HVAC will allow for year-round use. The Wyche will be outfitted as a fully functioning performance venue, featuring state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment. The open floor plan allows for a variety of performance configurations, from cabaret to concert-style seating, to standing room only club space. The full footprint of the original building (circa 1835) which is much larger than the existing Wyche Pavilion will be utilized for an addition to house the infrastructure required to support the venue. This new structure includes a grand glass entryway, a Green Room for artists, restrooms, storage and equipment rooms, and a catering kitchen. Special features of this project include a large outdoor deck connecting to a walkway which cantilevers from the Wyche along the river, and a large gathering space facing Main Street, all of which may be enjoyed by the public on a regular basis. The landscaping, by Earth Design, will feature lush, environmentally friendly plantings carefully chosen to evolve with each season. Peace Center Board Chairman and CEO of United Community Bank Lynn Harton said “As the Peace Center’s vision has evolved, activity on the campus has expanded as well. In addition to the wonderful Broadway shows and concerts showcased in the Peace Concert Hall, there is continuous activity throughout the campus. The Peace Center hosts songwriters, local performing artists, summer camps, a poetry program for students and adults, music education salons, film, student jazz performances and much more. The board of the Peace Center is excited to see the iconic Wyche Pavilion restored and expanded to become another outstanding performance venue that will benefit the entire community.” The Wyche restoration is the first phase of the Peace Center’s larger master plan, which includes renovation of the Roe Coach Factory and two buildings located on Main Street: the Markley and the Gullick.

About the Peace Center

The Peace Center is a nationally recognized artistic and cultural destination located in Greenville. Situated along the Reedy River in the heart of downtown, its multifaceted, six-acre campus is the region’s center for art, culture, entertainment and engagement. From programs featuring world-class artists in music, theater, and dance to intimate musical performances, to enriching educational experiences and everyday encounters with the arts, the Peace Center hosts hundreds of events every year and welcomes thousands of guests to its riverfront campus every day.

Fine food, fine art make for fine finale to 50th anniversary

[gallery columns="4" ids="34399,34400,34401,34402"]

The South Carolina Arts Commission and the South Carolina Arts Foundation, in partnership with United Community Bank, the Peace Center, and Table 301, are working together to create a memorable evening of art, art experiences and music to celebrate 50 years of public and private support for the arts.
  • Thursday, April 5, 2018
  • 6:30 p.m.
  • Genevieve’s at the Peace Center 
  • 300 South Main St., Greenville
  • $150/person | Buy tickets now!
Party goers will be treated to art from the State Art Collection, plus a silent auction and live auction conducted by Lydia Fenet, senior vice president at Christie's and benefit auctioneer. Both auctions include works by South Carolina artists, travel packages, and experiences. UPDATE: 30 March, 0944: Bidding is underway in the silent auction! Fabulous food by Table 301 Catering, music, and dancing will make for an exciting and unforgettable evening.

50th Finale Highlights

  • State Art Collection - a glimpse of works from the state's contemporary art collection. Leo Twiggs, Jeanet Dreskin, Sam Wang and Sigmund Abeles are among artists whose works are featured.
  • Silent Auction - a diverse array of works by more than 20 Upstate artists offers opportunities for collectors to add to their collections. See a preview above! Peter Helwing, Stephanie Norris, Jeanet Dreskin, Benjamin Gilliam, Diana Farfan, Teresa Roche, Carrie Burns Brown, and Nancy Fox are among the artists included in the sale. The silent auction includes an online component, which will go live prior to the event.
  • Live Auction - guest auctioneer Lydia Fenet will offer fantastic and memorable art and travel packages, including work by Leo Twiggs, a two-day stay and spa treatment at Palmetto Bluff, and a Lowcountry experience at premier hotels in Charleston.
  • Dance Party - DJ Craze-E Crane will get the party started with music from a variety of genres and a library of more than 50,000 songs. See you on the dance floor!
  • Be there... reserve your ticket now.

Presenting Sponsor


Silver Sponsors

Jamie & Henry Horowitz        

About Lydia Wickliffe Fenet

As senior vice president, global director of strategic partnerships at Christie’s, Lydia Fenet leads a global team forging significant collaborations with other luxury brands. Building on her 15-plus-year career at the historic auction house, Ms. Fenet pioneered the Strategic Partnerships program at Christie’s in 2010, leveraging skills sharpened both as special events director from 2004-2010 and during her time on Christie’s client advisory team. Under Ms. Fenet’s purview, innovative brand partnerships have grown into a valuable marketing and business development platform for Christie’s and its partners, producing dynamic co-branded initiatives worldwide. These initiatives include major exhibitions, special events, and targeted digital activations. Since leading her first auction in 2001, Ms. Fenet has become Christie's global head of benefit auctioneering and the top performer in the field, raising hundreds of millions of dollars for some of the largest non-profit organizations around the world and training Christie’s new classes of charity auctioneers. Some of her recent auctions include The Clinton Foundation, AMFAR, Tipping Point, the Naples Winter Wine Festival, and The Bob Woodruff Foundation. In 2014 she partnered with Glenn Close and Robert DeNiro to launch the Bring Change To Mind auction benefiting mental health. Ms. Fenet is currently writing her first book, The Most Powerful Woman in the Room, which will be published by Touchstone, a Simon & Schuster imprint, in spring 2019. Ms. Fenet graduated with a bachelor's degree in both art history and history from Sewanee - The University of the South. She currently resides in New York City with her husband and three children, Beatrice, Henry and Eloise.

What would Greenville be without arts grants?

From The Greenville News

Article by Donna Isbell Walker, photos by Lauren Petracca

Image: Alyson Amato, co-founder of Carolina Dance Collaborative, leads an after-school dance class last week at Chandler Creek Elementary in Greer.

This weekend, Greenville will proudly display its commitment to the arts.

The 13th annual Artisphere festival opens Friday, and for three days, the streets of downtown will overflow with rich color and the sounds of music and the aroma of lamb burgers and caramel popcorn.

Last year, Artisphere had an economic impact of $6.4 million, as 100,000 visitors packed the streets, purchasing original art, checking out the local merchants, sampling the cuisine.

But, what would the festival look like if it didn’t receive funding from the South Carolina Arts Commission?

Kerry Murphy, the festival’s executive director, said putting on the festival would be a lot tougher without a $21,000 general operating support grant from SCAC, which in turn receives a large portion of its funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The NEA has been under fire this year, as President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would have eliminated the NEA, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Those agencies were spared by the House Appropriation Committee’s appropriations bill for the 2017 fiscal year, which actually increased NEA and NEH funding.

Across the Upstate, arts grants make a difference. At Chandler Creek Elementary School in Greer one recent afternoon, students showed off the jazz and African dance moves they spent the previous six weeks mastering in an after-school program operated by Communities in Schools through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

At the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, teachers have the chance to attend workshops and other professional development opportunities, and they share that knowledge with other teachers, as well as the students The Greenville Symphony Orchestra targets elementary and middle school students with its educational outreach programs, and Warehouse Theatre takes Shakespeare to middle and high schools around the Carolinas, in a program that offers a mini-course in the Bard, complete with a live production of one of his plays.

It may be easy to take for granted that Greenville’s local theaters will continue to stage productions each year, that festivals will brighten the streets of downtown, that students can learn painting and music and creative writing in school.

But all of those programs require funding, in most cases more money than an arts entity can generate on its own, said Mike Sablone, producing artistic director for Warehouse Theatre.

“All of that funding is incredibly important to every aspect of the theater,” Sablone said. “We’re a non-profit. We rely on ticket sales, we rely on donations, we rely on grants. And all those allow us to do the work that we do. And without that money, we’d have to take a harder look at how we produce, what we produce, and the quality that we’ve come to expect with a Warehouse Theatre production.”

Greenville is blessed to have a vibrant arts scene, one that contributes to the city’s overall popularity as a place to visit and as a place where people are moving, said Dr. Braxton Ballew, education director for Greenville Symphony Orchestra.

“We’ve got a tremendous arts community here, and I think it’s no accident that you see Greenville on these top 10 best places to live, top 10 places to retire (lists), all the accolades that we get, and we just happen to have this great arts community here, that’s not a coincidence,” Ballew said. “It cannot be understated what a big part the Arts Commission is to that success.”

Learning new things

The Chandler Creek dance program offers third- through fifth-graders at the Title I school a chance to learn dances that they might not otherwise have an opportunity to practice, said Alyson Amato, co-founder and director of education for Carolina Dance Collaborative.

For six weeks, Amato and Kelsey Crum, Carolina Dance Collaborative’s other co-founder, taught the students the moves for three dances, and on the seventh week, they demonstrated their new skills for parents and friends.

They rolled their arms, snapped their fingers, did the “smush the bug” step, showed off their best jazz hands, and performed a celebratory African dance called yankadi, to songs like the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and “Blackbird” from the Broadway show “Fosse.”

The program isn’t just a chance to have fun, Amato said.

“The process of learning something, practicing it and then performing it is a massive self-esteem booster,” Amato said. “Seeing how they work hard at something, they can achieve in just six weeks. And also, having fun doing it at the same time. It’s also a way to really enhance what they get in their physical education during school time. Because you will see, we sweat. … But I really do want them to get their heart rate up, also their minds to be challenged.”

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding includes enrichment opportunities such as the dance program. Without that funding, the program might be merely homework-based, or it might be cut entirely, Amato said.

More than entertainment

A community’s support of the arts means more in the long run than an evening of entertainment at the theater or the ballet, said Julie Allen, vice president of arts and academics at South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities.

“Many people see arts-based funding as something which is nice,” Allen said. “It’s something that a community does when it’s nice, when there’s extra money. But I think when you delve a little bit deeper into that, you recognize that the arts, while there certainly is an aesthetic value, and there’s an intrinsic human value, there’s also a real economic value. The arts are a significant part of South Carolina’s economy; they’re an incredible part of Greenville’s economy. And so I do think anything we can do to help people see the arts as an intrinsic part of a vibrant economy is really important.”

But even beyond that, a talent and affinity for the arts can go a long way toward helping a teenager find his or her voice, a purpose in life, a profession.

“Particularly for arts students, who often see themselves as perhaps a little bit different than their typical peer, this is a place that they feel is home,” Allen said. “It’s a place they feel safe, it’s a place they’re willing to take risks. And a lot of students do come back talk about (how) ‘I found my voice here because it gave me the confidence to continue to grow and figure out who I was.’”

Dozens of grants

For the 2017 fiscal year, the South Carolina Arts Commission awarded 28 grants totaling more than $400,000 to Greenville County organizations and individuals. Those grants ranged from $625 to Foothills Philharmonic Orchestra for general operating support, to $2,057 for Sweet Adelines International Greenville in Harmony for operating support for small organizations, to general operating support grants of more than $25,000 each to the Peace Center Foundation, Greenville Symphony Association, and South Carolina Arts Alliance.

Warehouse Theatre receives funding from South Carolina Arts Commission, as well as a direct NEA grant for the Shakespeare program, now in its third year.

Shakespeare in American Communities, a national program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, offers a $25,000 matching grant, and Warehouse must raise an equal amount of money through corporate sponsorships and other donations.

The aim of the program is “to increase Shakespeare performance in different communities across the nation,” said Mallory Pellegrino, director of education for Warehouse Theatre. “We are one of the very few companies in the Southeast.”

Through the grant, Warehouse is able to present Shakespeare to middle- and high-school students in the Carolinas, using a company of six or seven actors who travel to schools and offer an introductory workshop on the play to be presented, as well as a follow-up class after students have seen the play.

If the grant money disappeared, Pellegrino said, the program wouldn’t necessarily disappear. It would, however, require substantial changes to the way it operates, perhaps by soliciting more local sponsorships and donors.

But the biggest change would to be make the program “revenue-driven,” Pellegrino said. “We would have to make sure that we had enough venues to be able to go out, that there were enough people interested in it. And you would begin to limit your reach and your impact.”

Making an impact

The Greenville Symphony Orchestra seeks to make much of its educational impact on elementary and middle school students.

This year, GSO received a $10,000 grant from the NEA to fund its free concert for middle-school band and strings students, said Linda Grandy, Greenville Symphony Orchestra development director.

In addition, the GSO received a general operating support grant of $25,391 from SCAC this year, which helps to fund other educational programs, including the concerts available to all of Greenville County’s elementary schools.

One important aspect of the GSO’s educational programs is the opportunity for students to see the symphony in concert at no charge, which is especiallyimportant for students at less-affluent schools, said the GSO’s Ballew.

Losing that funding would have an impact on several programs, including GSO partnerships with SC Children’s Theatre and Greenville County Library.

“Maybe we wouldn’t offer as many, or maybe we would start charging $5 at the door,” Ballew said.

Sharing the wealth

Education is, of course, the mission of the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, whose operational budget comes from the state. But continuing education is important to the teachers who share their knowledge and skills in visual arts, drama, creative writing and music.

And an SCAC grant for Arts in Basic Curriculum Advancement allows Governor’s School teachers to participate in continuing education programs that help both students and other teachers, Allen said.

When SCAC’s funding was increased two years ago, the commission passed on the increase, which allowed the Governor’s School to add a couple of components to its continuing education focus. One way was to share the knowledge, to offer professional development opportunities to teachers in other areas.

“We identified drama as an area where there seemed to be a real need for drama teachers in the state to have professional development experiences,” Allen said. “Typically, there’s one drama teacher in a school, maybe there’s two or three in a district. But to get content-level, really high-level training, those opportunities are often few and far between for them. So what we’ve been able to do is essentially share that wealth.

“For the last two years, we’ve brought a group of drama teachers here, we’ve let that group identify what their particular needs are, and the nice pairing there is the person that’s led those workshops for the last two years is someone who had elevated her own training by virtue of having taken advantage of the professional development funding earlier from the Arts Commission. So it was kind of a way of paying back what she had gained.”

Important source of funding

Artisphere depends on the SCAC funding for a large part of its budget; other revenue sources include vendor fees, corporate sponsorships, merchandise sales and other grants, Murphy said.

“That’s a very healthy mix, and is a huge part of why we’ve been able to grow the festival and its impact over the years,” Murphy said.

If the government grants were no longer available, Artisphere would survive, but other organizations might not be able to weather the loss, she said.

“We have spent a lot of time diversifying our funding model so that if we lose any single funder we can mitigate the loss of that funding, either through a focused effort to replace the money, or by trimming expenses here and there,” Murphy said. “That isn’t the case for smaller organizations, where SCAC funding could represent an entire marketing budget, or fees for artists for a performance.

“We think it is important to have public arts funding because it makes a statement about what we care about as a community.”

Alyson Amato, co-founder of Carolina Dance Collaborative, teaches an after-school dance class at Chandler Creek Elementary in Greer last week.

South Arts awards literary arts grants to three SC organizations

South ArtsSouth Arts, a Regional Arts Organization serving nine states in the Southeast, has announced $20,586 in grants to 14 literary arts presenting organizations throughout the region. These grants, made possible through funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, support organizations presenting out-of-state writers for public readings and educational activities. Three South Carolina organizations received funding:

  • The Poetry Society of South Carolina in Charleston received a $445 Literary Arts grant to present Dr. Bruce Weigl.
  • Peace Center Foundation of Greenville received a $1,963 Literary Arts grant to present Project Voice featuring Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye.
  • The Watering Hole Poetry Organization of York received a $2,044 Literary Arts grant to present E. Shockley, L. Wilson, B. Judd and  S. Strange.
“Thriving arts and culture are crucial to our region’s quality of life and competitiveness across multiple sectors,” explained South Arts executive director Susie Surkamer. “The events we help fund impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents, exposing audiences to diverse artists and artforms.” The grants cover the nine states in the South Arts region: including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Organizations applied in the spring, and were recently notified of their status; grants are matched at least dollar for dollar by the recipient organization. “Literature has always been such an important part of the South,” continued Surkamer. “South Arts is proud to be able to facilitate audiences being able to experience the spoken word. Our literary arts grants will introduce audiences to southern writers and poets such as Jamie Quatro, Clare Beams, and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry recipient Natasha Trethewey.” A full list of South Arts’ grant recipients and programs is available at www.southarts.org. Organizations interested in applying for the next grant cycle are recommended to sign up for South Arts’ email list and continue to visit the website. About South Arts South Arts, a nonprofit regional arts organization, was founded in 1975 to build on the South’s unique heritage and enhance the public value of the arts. South Arts’ work responds to the arts environment and cultural trends with a regional perspective. South Arts offers an annual portfolio of activities designed to address the role of the arts in impacting the issues important to our region, and to link the South with the nation and the world through the arts. For more information, visit www.southarts.org.

Greenville’s Metropolitan Arts Council marks new fundraising record

From The Greenville News Article by Paul Hyde

[caption id="attachment_25924" align="alignright" width="300"]greenvilleMACawards Lorraine Goldstein and Hal Weiss accept the 2015 MAC Lifelong Support of the Arts Award at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Metropolitan Arts Council in Gunter Theatre on Tuesday, March 29, 2016.[/caption] Greenville’s Metropolitan Arts Council raised a record of more than $2 million in 2015, MAC board chairman Charles Ratterree announced Tuesday. Most of the money generated helps to support dozens of Greenville arts groups and artists. “This allows us to provide record high grants to individuals, arts organizations and arts education programs,” said MAC executive director Alan Ethridge. Among MAC's grants recipients, eight local arts groups received $25,000 each in operating support. Those organizations are Artisphere, Centre Stage, Greenville Chorale, Greenville Little Theatre, the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, the Peace Center, the South Carolina Children’s Theatre and the Warehouse Theatre. MAC also committed $10,000 to the Greenville County Museum of Art to purchase works by Greenville-area artists for its permanent collection. To support its grants, MAC receives donations from a variety of sources: individuals, corporations, foundations, the city of Greenville’s accommodations tax, the South Carolina Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. Greenville’s arts scene has never been more vibrant and prosperous, Ratterree said, speaking at MAC’s annual meeting at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre. “We are in the midst of an arts renaissance in Greenville, with over 60 arts nonprofits that display not only the incredible talent in our community but an enthusiasm for sharing with others,” Ratterree said. “One of the great things about Greenville is the idea that the arts are for everybody. Many arts events are free and open to the public.” Now in its 43rd year, MAC also provided $111,336 for specific programs or projects to 60 schools, individual artists and local arts organizations, Ratterree said. Ratterree announced that last year’s Open Studios, a weekend MAC event that spotlights Greenville’s visual arts community, involved 132 artists, generated a record $277,548 in sales and was attended by 41,284 people. Before announcing MAC’s annual awards, Ethridge remembered Sherwood Mobley, the Greenville Symphony Orchestra’s executive director who passed away Feb. 26. MAC honored several Greenville arts leaders. The MAC Visionary Award went to Sally Potosky and Caroline McIntyre, sisters who lead the Greenville Chautauqua Society. The MAC Lifelong Support of the Arts Award was presented to local arts philanthropists Lorraine Goldstein and Hal Weiss. The Carl R. Blair Award for Commitment to Arts Education went to Dr. Gary Robinson, a faculty member of the Fine Arts Center and longtime director of the Young Artist Orchestra, one of the ensembles of the Greenville County Youth Orchestras. The Young Supporter of the Arts Award was presented to Elizabeth and Michael Fletcher. Elizabeth Fletcher is the vice president for strategy and business development for Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System. Michael Fletcher is a real estate broker and attorney. The TD Bank Business and the Arts Partnership awards went to: McKinney Dodge Ram Chrysler Jeep & Mazda (businesses under 100 employees) and BMW Manufacturing Company, LLC (businesses with 100 or more employees). The Put Your Heart in the Arts Volunteer of the Year Award went to Carl Sykes.

At age 25, Peace Center has a knack for risk-taking

From The Greenville News Article by Paul Hyde; photo by Katie McLean

As it celebrates its 25th birthday, the Peace Center has never been in better shape. A record-breaking 287,100 tickets were sold for 318 events at Greenville’s cornerstone performing arts venue during the 2014-15 season. Annual revenues, totaling $19 million, are at an all-time high. Plus, there are more shows on tap than ever before. “We’ve done nothing but go up up up,” said Megan Riegel, the Peace Center’s president and CEO since 1997. The world-class arts complex also has played a major role in revitalization, observers say, helping to make downtown Greenville one of the sparkling gems of the Southeast. For the Peace Center, the road to success has been paved with a fair amount of calculated risk-taking — of both the artistic and fiscal sort. In the past several years, the arts venue has pushed the artistic envelope with musicals such as “The Book of Mormon,” “Spring Awakening” and “Cabaret,” all of which include strong language and sexual content. The Peace Center, located on a 6-acre site at Main and Broad streets, also has hosted politically oriented “blue” comedians such as Bill Maher, Dennis Miller and Lewis Black. Maher, who’s often pointedly critical of religion, “certainly raised a lot of eyebrows for people, but he does a great show and he packs the house and people love him,” Riegel said. The Peace Center, nestled in the conservative South, might have avoided edgy shows in its earlier years, but the community’s tastes appear to have broadened over the past two decades. Several years ago, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” drew picketers outside the Peace Center. Today, such protests never occur at the center. “I think we grew together,” Riegel said. “We took a little more risk and people followed. I’ve seen a trend where people are more open-minded, embracing today’s culture. With the support of the board, over the years we became fearless in what we brought in. We wanted to have the highest-quality available. If it’s playing on Broadway and it’s a hit, we want to bring it in.” Balance also is fundamental to the Peace Center’s mission. “The Book of Mormon,” with its barbed critique of religious credulity, may capture the headlines, but the arts center also brings to town Broadway classics like “The Sound of Music” and family shows such as “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast.” The Peace Center and its resident companies feature hundreds of children’s shows, educational programs, and theater, dance and orchestral performances. Serving eclectic tastes is the name of the game. In recent seasons, the Peace Center has hosted singing legends Tony Bennett, Audra McDonald, Liza Minnelli, Johnny Mathis and Diana Ross, singer-songwriters such as Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Melissa Ethridge, country singers Don Williams and Martina McBride, rock bands Foreigner, Counting Crows and Moody Blues, jazz and world music groups such as Pink Martini, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, dance companies like the Joffrey Ballet, Pilobolus and the Dance Theatre of Harlem, comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Kathy Griffin, and humorist/storyteller Garrison Keillor – just to name a few. “The Peace Center’s goal is always a broad variety of programming,” Riegel said. Fiscal risk-taking The arts center has taken some bold fiscal risks as well. Six years ago, it forged ahead with a $23 million renovation plan in the midst of the deepest national downtown since the Great Depression. “We launched it right when the recession started in 2009,” Riegel said. “But we had done our homework. We knew what we were getting into. The original plan was for a $36 million renovation and we trimmed that way back. We had a good assessment of what we could raise.” Fundraising efforts, which proved a tremendous success despite the economic challenges, doubled the size of the Concert Hall’s lobby, added a lounge overlooking the Reedy River, and created an education studio, multipurpose loft, outdoor amphitheater, public plaza and a park along the river. “It’s an amazing, gorgeous facility,” Riegel said. “I think that capital campaign went so well because people understand the importance of the Peace Center to our community.” Today, by many measures, the Peace Center reigns as the largest arts organization in the state. Attendance and revenues have increased exponentially over the years. In the Peace Center’s inaugural season of 1990-91, 75,000 people attended 45 events. This past season, 287,100 tickets were sold for 318 events. “The fact that people are buying tickets the way they are suggests that we’re getting some things right,” Riegel said. In 2005, Peace Center revenues were $6.8 million. For the season ending in 2015, that figure is $19 million, representing a 280 percent increase over 10 years. The arts center has grown in prestige over the years as well, attracting many first national tours of Broadway shows, such as the recent “Kinky Boots,” “Motown” and “Newsies.” Performing arts centers particularly covet first national tours, which generally feature top-notch casts and the direct involvement of the Broadway creative team. “Tour producers have all taken notice,” Riegel said. “They want to come here.” Broadway shows often play for one week at the Peace Center. But some blockbusters, such as “Wicked,” “The Lion King” and “Phantom of the Opera” have enjoyed three- or four-week runs — often selling out each performance. Riegel is particularly proud, however, of the center’s educational programs that reach tens of thousands of students every year. In addition, 1,400 free tickets are distributed annually to under-served communities in the Upstate. “We’ve seen people who’ve never walked through our doors before and when they do, we try to make them feel that this is their home, too,” Riegel said. Big business The Peace Center is big business for Greenville, too, creating and sustaining jobs, and helping boost the local economy. The complex contributes particularly to downtown’s roaring economic engine. A single Broadway blockbuster, for instance, can deliver a multimillion-dollar economic impact. In 2012, “The Lion King” provided an estimated $15 million shot in the arm to Greenville — just over the course of one month. The show brought thousands of people downtown, with many patrons visiting from outside the city and some from outside the state. A considerable number enjoyed Greenville restaurants and stayed in local hotels. “The Lion King” tour hired two dozen local musicians and backstage crew to assist with costumes and wigs and in other capacities. The production, which returns to Greenville next season, in 2012 included 134 cast and crew members who stayed in local hotels and dined in local restaurants. Plus, revenues from events sustain the Peace Center’s 52 full-time and 96 part-time jobs. All of this is a boon for Greenville’s economy. The Peace Center also has been central to the rebirth of downtown, many local observers say. In the early 1990s, the Peace Center and Hyatt Regency, located at two ends of a struggling Main Street, helped to spark the dynamic economic growth that, in turn, created the vibrant, award-winning downtown that Upstate residents cherish today. “Along with its significant role in downtown’s revitalization, the Peace Center truly catalyzed an amazing level of interest and support for the arts from both the public and private sectors,” said Alan Ethridge, executive director of Greenville’s Metropolitan Arts Council. The beginning The idea of building what came to be known as the Peace Center emerged as early as the late 1970s or early 80s with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, said Betty Peace Stall, who was president of the foundation that built the Peace Center. The orchestra performed regularly at Furman University’s McAlister Auditorium but desired a newer and more centrally located venue. In 1985, then-Mayor Bill Workman put together a task force to determine the cost of building a performing arts center. The late Greenville attorney David Freeman proposed a public-private fundraising partnership. Fred Walker, who had recently retired as president of Henderson Advertising, chaired the campaign. Three branches of Greenville’s prominent Peace family kicked off the capital fund drive by donating $10 million in 1986. “I think we did it for the quality of life for the people in this region,” said Stall, whose grandfather, Bony Hampton Peace, was a longtime owner of The Greenville News. “We didn’t have access to the things that come to the Peace Center these days,” she said. Other prominent local residents, including the Jolley and Furman families, supported the effort. Eventually, six branches of the Peace family would become involved with the project, Stall said. A total of $42 million was raised in just a few years, with 70 percent of the money coming from private donations. At the time, there were no large venues in Greenville capable of hosting major Broadway shows, although McAlister Auditorium provided space for classical concerts. The Greenville Memorial Auditorium, torn down in 1997, hosted big rock concerts — such as the last show by the original Lynyrd Skynyrd on Oct. 17, 1977, the day before the plane crash that claimed the lives of three members of the band. Project leaders looked at more than 15 possible sites for the new performing arts center and settled on a 6-acre area on Greenville’s Main Street that was then occupied by “a hodgepodge of buildings,” Stall said. “There was a paint shop in there, a construction office, a dry cleaner’s and a sewing plant,” Stall said. “There was an old coach factory. The first time I went in there, I stepped backwards on a dead pigeon. The Reedy River had been running different colors. That whole site really needed some help.” More than 1,500 attended the Peace Center groundbreaking in September, 1988. The Peace Center Concert Hall would have a capacity of 2,100 and feature state-of-the-art acoustics and technology. Dorothy Hipp Gunter, meanwhile, donated $3 million for a second performance space, the 400-seat theater that later would be named the Gunter Theatre. Grand opening The Peace Center opened its doors for the first time on Nov. 19, 1990, hosting “First Night at Peace.” The center bustled with artistic activity from the start. Jack Cohan, who served as the Peace Center’s executive director from 1989 to 1997, is particularly proud of the range of classical music legends he brought to the Peace Center in the early years. Many were visiting Greenville for the first time. Violinist Itzhak Perlman, a friend of Cohan’s, performed at the Peace Center five times. Soprano Leontyne Price sang in the center’s first and second seasons. Other classical performers at the venue included soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, pianist Andre Watts, violinist Joshua Bell, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma in recital with pianist Emanuel Ax. Cohan recalled a visit by flutist James Galway, who phoned Cohan from the downtown Hyatt Regency with a minor emergency. “Jack, I’ve ripped me trousers,” Cohan remembers Galway saying in his lilting Irish accent. “You’ve got to take me shopping.” (The two found some suitable clothes at a local haberdashery.) The Peace Center featured Broadway greats Carol Channing and Rita Moreno. Also visiting were groups such as the Vienna Choir Boys, the Canadian Brass, the King’s Singers and the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. Hal Holbrook offered his iconic portrayal of Mark Twain. Shirley MacLaine performed three concerts at the Peace Center before a European tour. “We were doing a wide range of programming,” said Cohan, now a Travelers Rest resident who came to the Peace Center after leading a performing arts complex at the University of Connecticut. “There were loads of interesting and high-quality things in every category.” Another early public performance at the center was a concert by the visiting USSR State Symphony, conducted by Edvard Tchivzhel, who, while in Greenville, requested and was granted asylum in the United States. Tchivzhel was appointed music director of the Greenville Symphony in 1999 and continues to serve in the position today. The idea for the Peace Center originally came from the Greenville Symphony, of course, and classical musicians routinely praise the Concert Hall and Gunter Theatre for their fine acoustics. Tchivzhel said both halls offer a “very clear, warm, rich and natural sound.” He added, “That is why the Peace Center has become a wonderful, beloved home for the Greenville Symphony Orchestra.” Stall credits Riegel, who became president and CEO in 1997, for the Peace Center’s smooth sailing over the past 19 years. Under Riegel’s leadership, the center through the years has created an endowment of almost $28 million. Some interest from the endowment can be used for annual operations and capital expenses as well as a cushion when unexpected problems arise. “It’s put away for a rainy day,” Riegel said. Among Stall’s favorite events at the Peace Center are its educational programs for students. “For children to be able to enjoy these performances is really exciting,” Stall said. “When I would be in the Multimedia Building (currently The Greenville News building) and look out at those yellow school buses at the Peace Center, it just made my heart leap.” The Peace Center recently honored Stall for her many years as chairwoman of the Peace Center board by dedicating an art installation called “Butterflies for Peace.” Created by artist Yuri Tsuzuki, “Butterflies for Peace” displays 200 stainless steel butterflies in flight, measuring between 6 and 12 inches each. It is located on the south side of the Concert Hall building, on an exterior wall facing the Reedy River. “I was just blessed to have been a part of this,” Stall said. “It’s really gratifying to see the impact the Peace Center has had.” Riegel, for her part, is focusing on the Peace Center’s next big project: a multimillion-dollar campaign to address a number of needs, upgrading or replacing boilers, the HVAC system, roofing, sound systems and lighting, among other priorities. The Concert Hall also needs new seats. She’s confident the Peace Center’s generous supporters will once again step up to the plate. “I’m grateful every single day for this opportunity to lead this organization,” Riegel said. “I’m grateful for the board and this beautiful facility and the donors and volunteers and staff. It takes a village and everybody is just fantastic. I’m confident we’ll make good strategic decisions for the next 25 years.”