Past Comments

June Issue 2004
by Tom Starland

Spoleto Start Yet?

By the time you're reading this the Spoleto Festival will have started. But, at the time I'm writing this - it hasn't even started yet. Our publishing deadlines get sooner in the month and the Festival starts later and later. So, you'll have to wait for July for any comments about the visual arts offered during the Festival - not by the Festival , but during it - by other people.

Redux Summer Art Institute

Redux Center for Contemporary Art in Charleston, SC, is conducting the Summer Art Institute, a program being presented in conjunction with the Charleston County School District to help 45 selected high school students pursue advanced artistic studies. The students will spend four weeks in June studying four different areas of the visual arts with four different instructors. They will have the opportunity to work in an environment they cannot receive in most high schools.

The folks at Redux have been raising money for this program. They even held an art auction where every bid started at $10 - selling 170 works which brought in $5,500. That's a $32 average per work of art. Some went for $10 and one went for over $500. Some great bargains were had - all in the spirit of raising funds for this educational program. This program will give each student a massive portfolio to prepare them for applications to college, advanced placement art classes, or the SC Governor's School.

Here's the deal. They don't have all the money they need - at this writing. Some money that was promised hasn't materialized. What's that about? (No story yet.)

If you feel like making a donation to help out this program, call Redux at 843/364-2958.

They're a hard-working group of folks down there at Redux - they deserve your help. You can learn more about the Summer Art Institute at (

Hope to Hear from the Gov

I understand that SC Governor Mark C. Sanford has been receiving some letters from gallery owners and artists in SC complaining about competing with the SC Arts Commission in selling art to private clients - or at least his office has received some. No one knows if any of them have reached the Governor's eyes yet. (See last month's Commentary)

Our letter has been sent and we're hoping to have a reaction from the Governor by our next issue. We don't ever expect one from the Arts Commission. They wouldn't want to dignify the issue with a response.

If you want to send a letter to the Governor complaining about having a state agency use your tax dollars to compete with private industry - send it to:

Honorable Mark C. Sanford
Governor of South Carolina
Post Office Box 12267
Columbia, SC 29211

I'm sure he'd like to read your views on the subject.

The Mystery Exhibit

I'm also getting a lot of reaction to my comments last month about the exhibition, Thresholds: Expressions of Art & Spiritual Life, which took place in Charleston, SC last year during a national gathering of state arts agencies. You know - the one no one heard of before.

People still can't believe they've never heard anything about it - even people who thought they were in the loop when it come to the Arts Commission. I've had to start carrying the exhibit catalogue around with me to prove it really did take place.

And the lucky artists from SC who were included in the exhibit are still waiting to hear, if, when and where the exhibition will travel to - as stated in the catalogue. It's a real mystery.

Of course that's the way the SC Arts Commission operates these days. You have to go to them for information - they don't come to you. They don't send out press releases to the media about opportunities for artists. You have to call them and ask or find out about it on their website (

Like - did you hear about the opportunity to sell your artwork at the Verner Awards' Luncheon last month? Did you hear about the call for entries for the Arts Commission's TRIENNIAL 2004, which will take place at the SC State Museum from Nov. 2004 - Feb. 2004? The exhibit is open to all visual artists in SC. The prospectus states, "Artists working in all media and styles are encouraged to apply in order to reflect the stylistic diversity of art produced in the state."

No info about these opportunities was sent to us - because we'd tell you! They're hoping you won't find out about such things and apply. Because if you don't apply they don't have to worry about the reaction to not including you.

No exhibition that the SC Arts Commission has "ever" put on has "ever" shown the diversity of art being produced in the state - because most artists don't apply - because they don't know about the opportunity. And, that's the way the Arts Commission likes it.

It's their - don't ask - don't tell policy!

NC Economic Study

In the fall of 2002, the SC Arts Commission released an economic study showing the impact the cultural community in SC has on the overall SC economy. As I stated back then in my Sept. 2002 editorial (find it on our website under Commentary - then Past Commentary), someone was fishing for funding. I stated that the study was bogus then and I'll say it again - and so do the folks in NC.

What you talkin' bout Willis?

Here's a simple roundup of the study you'll find on the Arts Commission's website:

"The importance of the arts as an economic industry is supported by the magnitude of its impacts on wages and salaries, jobs, and economic output in South Carolina. Overall, the cultural industry supports $686.7 million in labor earnings, 29,348 jobs, and $1.8 billion in output. The earnings impact amounts to 1.3 percent of total earnings statewide, while the employment impact represents 1.6 percent of total nonfarm employment. That is, of every $100 of wages and salaries earned in South Carolina, $1.30 can be linked to the cultural industry. Of every 100 jobs in the state, 1.6 are directly or indirectly linked to the arts."

Now that's a heck of an impact - almost $700 million!

It's hard to fight these kinds of studies. They had a university do the study - you have your gut feelings. But, now I have something to fight back with. And, you can read all about it under the Featured Articles section.

It seems the NC Arts Council, NC's equivalent to the SC Arts Commission - wait! Let me take that back. I haven't found too many things equal about these two agencies. Any who - NC now has a study showing the impact of the arts on NC's economy.

Guess what? The arts industry in NC has a $723 million impact on NC's economy.

How can this be? A state twice as large as SC - a state with many more major cities than SC - a state with 1,000s of more arts organizations than in SC - and a state that gives less money to the arts community - per capita - than SC.

I'd say if NC does $700 million - at best, SC does $500 million. But, then again, these studies tend to be nothing more than an "educated" guess. NC's study was done by a university too. But somehow I have more faith in the NC study.

You see, I've got some experience with dealing with the SC Arts Commission. For twenty years or more I've listened to them explain to me - that the reason they do things the way they do is because it's the way their neighbors do things. That held some water for a time and then I started covering things in NC and began to see there is no comparison.

The fact is, the SC Legislature is giving the SC Arts Commission more money - per capita - than the NC Legislature is giving the NC Arts Council - per capita. Someone needs to do a study to see why we're getting short-changed in SC.

The first place to look is at the SC Arts Commission's staff - one of the largest in the nation. Let me say that again. It's got one of the largest staffs in the nation.

Unfortunately, no one in the Legislature has shown that they care much about what the SC Arts Commission does - one way or another. We're dealing with too little money compared to the overall state budget - it's pocket change.

I guess it's OK to be a the bottom of the list when it comes to education, but act like we're at the top of the arts. But it's only an act.


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