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USC Upstate troupe awarded first national commendation

The University of South Carolina Upstate's Shoestring Players were awarded their first national commendation by The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. The troupe was recognized by the Kennedy Center’s National Committee and Awards Panel with a 2015 Commendation for the Acting Company for ensemble performances of “Memigery.” The award comes at a special time for the program, as the University just began offering a bachelor’s degree in theatre in August 2014. Until that time, students could only pursue a concentration in theatre. It also marked the 40th anniversary of the Shoestring Players. “The kind of national and international recognition that theatre at the University of South Carolina Upstate has received speaks to the quality of our program, our faculty and our students,” said Jimm Cox, professor of theatre at USC Upstate. “Our recruting for the fall semester has tripled our estimates and that is just the beginning of the growth we foresee for our new major.” In February, the “Memigery” troupe performed at the Region IV finals of The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. While the piece did not advance to the national stage, it was another first for the Shoestring Players to have been invited to perform at the competition. “Memigery” is a compilation of stories written by USC Upstate theatre students about memories of images from their childhoods, with music composed by student Elliot Ratgen. The production was initially performed last summer at The Rose Theatre in London as a participant in the International Youth Arts Festival and at the South Carolina Theatre Association Convention. The cast and technical crew includes Jordyn Chelf of New Mexico, Seth Kemp of Landrum, Harley Bevill of Greer, Andrea Azmuendi of Mexico, Ryan Barry of Spartanburg, Alistair Mann of Spartanburg, Garrett Gibson of Spartanburg, Michael Quinn of Spartanburg, Eliot Ratgen of Greenville, Jake Salgado of Alabama and Bethany Lancaster of Spartanburg. “Memigery” was sponsored by the USC Upstate Office of Academic Affairs, USC Upstate Faculty and Staff, Mr. and Mrs. Bernard F. Odasz and the General Electric Foundation, the Greenville Healthcare System and Mr. and Mrs. George Dean Johnson, Jr. – Phifer Johnson, a family foundation. Via: USC Upstate

Muse Machine Institute equips teachers to turn STEM into STEAM

The Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg (Chapman Cultural Center) was awarded a $17,000 Education and Community Partnership grant (ECP) through the South Carolina Arts Commission's Arts in Education program. The grant will help fund professional performances in Spartanburg County schools as part of the Muse Machine program. The Muse Machine STEAM Institute (taking place June 23-27) equips teachers to integrate arts education in the classroom. From the Chapman Cultural Center:

[caption id="attachment_13072" align="alignright" width="204"]ABC Project Director Christine Fisher presents at Muse Machine Institute ABC Project Director Christine Fisher presents at Muse Machine Institute[/caption] While most of the country’s educators are rightly focused on ramping up the hard sciences in the classroom, another faction of educators is looking for ways to enhance the high tech teachings with creativity. At the urging of the national business community that is looking to fill science-based jobs, primary education has embraced a philosophy of STEM—Science,Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. While there is widespread agreement on the necessity of STEM, most employers believe that for a complete educational experience and preparation for a qualified workforce, art must also have a place in the curriculum, thus adding “Art/Design” into the acronym equation: STEAM. Toward that goal, a group of teachers from South Carolina schools is focusing on the incorporation of the arts into student curriculum this summer in the annual Muse Machine STEAM Summer Teachers Institute, presented in Spartanburg by Chapman Cultural Center, Milliken & Company, and USC Upstate. The Institute is a graduate-level course for K–12 classroom teachers on how creativity fuels critical problem–solving skills. “We’ve presented the Muse Machine Institute for many years,” said Ava Hughes, arts education director for Chapman Cultural Center. “Every year, we focus on a different, but arts-related, concept. The whole idea is to equip teachers with something new they can use in their classrooms to inspire new ways of learning by connecting students to STEM theory with the arts. This year, we’ll focus on the most current developments of STEAM." Taking place June 23-27 at the Chapman Cultural Center and USC Upstate's The George Dean Johnson School of Business, the three-credit course is taught by Dr. Mary Lou Hightower, associate professor of Art Education at USC Upstate. Participants will hear from guest presenters such as Kennedy Center Teaching Artist John Bertles of New York, retired engineer and master kite maker Chuck Holmes of Spartanburg, and others. In addition, participants will tour the Innovation Gallery and Research Center at Milliken in Spartanburg. "STEM is a national educational movement focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, but like all stems, we feel it's only the beginning," Hughes said. "For children's minds to truly blossom, Art/Design is needed. That's how we get STEAM." Supporters of STEAM note that added creativity develops students' ability to adapt in a changing world, view problems from different perspectives, work in a teams, and generate new solutions. In a 2010 report by IBM, more than 1,500 CEOs noted that, given the ever-changing nature of the world around us, "creativity trumps other leadership characteristics" in forming an innovative workforce. “Every day Milliken’s community of innovators is invigorated by the challenge of finding new and creative ways to enhance people’s lives and make the world around us easier, safer, more sustainable, and more beautiful,” said Richard Dillard, director of public affairs for Milliken. “Our approach to innovation through unique insights, deep science, and meaningful design is a good fit with the objectives of the STEAM Institute.” "The Muse Machine STEAM Institute is about equipping our teachers with the power of STEAM to creatively fuel our students' futures, regardless of the careers they pursue," Hughes said. Primarily, Muse Machine is a program through which Spartanburg County schools receive three professional performances each year in music, theatre, or dance. The performances are informal and often interactive, acquainting students with a particular genre or art form. In addition to in-school shows, Muse Machine provides valuable tools to teachers on integrating arts education in the classroom. The STEAM Institute is one of these tools, and since its founding in 1994 has served more than 850 South Carolina teachers. The Muse Machine STEAM Institute is made possible by the generous support of Milliken & Company, and is one of the summer courses approved by the S.C. Department of Education through the ABC (Arts in Basic Curriculum) Program. Chapman Cultural Center education programs are made possible by support from Milliken & Company, BMW, Duke Energy, J M Smith Foundation, SunTrust Bank, Target, QT, TD Charitable Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, South Carolina Arts Commission, and Kennedy Center Partners in Education Program. For more information on the Muse Machine STEAM Institute, contact Ava Hughes at (864) 278-9693 or aHughes@SpartanArts.org.

Art to fill vacant windows in downtown Spartanburg

Converse College, in partnership with the Spartanburg Art Museum, has received a $5,000 One-Time Arts Project grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission for No Vacancies, a public art exhibition taking place this spring in downtown Spartanburg. These funds will help pay for materials, supplies, marketing and public relations efforts. No Vacancies was an idea born last fall when Spartanburg Art Museum’s new Executive Director Elizabeth Goddard moved to Spartanburg. “My first Saturday night in town I walked along Main Street and counted roughly 20 vacant spaces in about a six-block stretch. These beautiful buildings sat in darkness, and I thought, 'wow, what an incredible opportunity for the visual arts to add light, engagement and aesthetics to the downtown area.' ” Goddard then reached out to area professors of art and design to see who might be interested in collaborating to create a rich and relevant public art exhibition utilizing these vacant windows. Several answered the call. The project quickly moved forward as a partnership between the Spartanburg Art Museum, Converse College, USC Upstate and Wofford College. From Converse College, Greg Mueller, a sculpture professor, is leading two teams of students to install two projects, one titled, Recycling the Void and the other titled The Mill, which speaks to the rich history of the textile industry in the Upstate. From Wofford College, Ann Stoddard, Kris Neeley and Dawn Dickins are working with students to install in three spaces. Professor Jane Nodine from USC Upstate is working with students from the Art and Design club to install work in two spaces. Student artist Erin Patton from USC Upstate said about her participation, “I think this is an exciting opportunity to be involved in something that the community will be able to enjoy during their everyday lives. It’s not something that viewers have to go to a museum or gallery to enjoy; it is something that can be experienced walking down the sidewalk.” “I am so pleased with how this project has evolved to a truly collaborative effort that will provide real public art exhibition experience to a diverse group of college students who might not have been granted such an opportunity,” said Goddard. “There is growing knowledge that economies improve for everyone when the arts are front and center in a downtown area. People come to see the art, stay for a meal or some shopping. This is what we want for Spartanburg and for South Carolina.” Viewers of No Vacancies will see how the financial support of the South Carolina Arts Commission aids in the transformation. Goddard added, "Support from the state level is a wonderful confirmation that this project is providing a relevant experience not only to a group of artists, but for hundreds, if not thousands, of viewers.” No Vacancies installation takes place in early April, and the opening event takes place April 17 from 5 - 9 p.m. during Art Walk along Main Street in downtown Spartanburg. For more information, visit spartanburgartmuseum.org or call (862) 582-7616. Via: Spartanburg Art Museum