Past Commentaries

October Issue 1998
We Finally Have A Web Site

by Tom Starland, editor/publisher

For all you cyber space cowboys and surfer dudes, check out and bookmark our site at: ( That's where you'll find Carolina Arts Online, an electronic version of the newspaper.

It's going to be in a state of change at first, but it enables us to do some things we can't do in the printed version of the paper. For one thing you'll see "color" photos. There will be more articles, more commentary, expanded gallery listings, old articles, old reviews, and lots and lots of information, even mailing lists. There will also be an opportunity for people to add their own opinions and commentary about exhibits, art in general, my commentary, the paper, and anything else related to the visual arts in the Carolinas. Frankly, Carolina Arts Online will be the overflow for all those things we can't afford to print in the paper. Eventually we'll add links to other sites and we'll have that directory of web sites and e-mail addresses.

If you want to participate, you better get connected to the Internet. For most of you, you better get a computer or start hanging out at your local library.

Spoleto Festival USA Update

Last month Spoleto announced that for the third year in a row they have ended their fiscal year with a surplus. The Festivals "unaudited" financial report says that the 1998 income was $5,231,660, which resulted in a $17,312 surplus. Of course the Festival still has several loans to pay off, but this is great news. Perhaps they can put some of the money toward a visual art exhibit!

There's just one thing I'm wondering about. The Charleston, SC, Festival ended in June, so why does it take until September to find this out? Does it take that long to count to 5 million?

Another Round with Art Czars and Arts Councils

Last month I tried to give a clue to the good folks in Columbia, SC, about their idea of setting up an Office of Cultural Affairs for the City of Columbia - just like the City of Charleston. Some people thought that having an art Czar to direct the city's support for the arts would be helpful. I tried to give a few examples of how that kind of thinking could be unproductive, based on past experiences here in Charleston. I've got another example.

A few months ago the Charleston area arts council, formerly known as the Lowcountry Arts & Cultural Council, shut down operation. All the current Board members of the organization resigned leaving the nonprofit part of the council in limbo without formally and legally dissolving the non-profit organization. The last office of the the council was at the City of Charleston's Office of Cultural Affairs (just another of the arts council's many mistakes in its final days). The ex-council's records are locked in a room at the Office of Cultural Affairs.

After news of the arts council's self-imposed demise spread around the area a few people starting taking with me about reviving the arts council. Perhaps by converting it into an umbrella organization for the area's visual arts groups. These groups have been ignored by the arts council and state art agencies who are supposed to be helping the art community - all of the art community.

Since the Office of Cultural Affairs had become custodian of the arts councils records and had announced that it would take over the council's subgranting duties with the City of North Charleston, I called the director, Ellen Dressler Moryl, (the art Czar for the City of Charleston) about the possibility of taking over the council's non-profit status. Her first response was to ask me to call the old Board members to ask for their permission. There was no more Board - they all resigned. That didn't make sense and it was just a delaying tactic.

Next, I went to the Office of Cultural Affairs to ask again if she would open up access to the arts council's records. Again, Moryl delayed by talking about everything else but the subject at hand. Eventually I pressed the issue and she said she would check with the City's attorney to see if what I was asking would be possible or even legal. I asked for a time frame in which I could get an answer. Moryl said she was going to call the attorney that day and I would hear soon. That was a couple of months ago.

I guess the answer is no. I'm not surprised. No real Czar wants to give up control of their domain. I guess the old arts council can still serve the chosen few - even from the grave. And, I guess any group associated with me wouldn't be politically correct.

Again I ask - is this what the people in Columbia want? And, is it what the taxpayers want done with their money in the name of supporting the arts? Be careful what you ask for, but remember, this is just the case in Charleston. You don't have to travel too far north of Charleston to find more noble art leaders.

Now, instead of recycling the old arts council into a new group, the process will have to start all over again. We know what doesn't work - we'll have to try and invent something that will.

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Copyright© 1998 by PSMG, Inc., which published Charleston Arts from July 1987 - Dec. 1994 and South Carolina Arts from Jan. 1995 - Dec. 1996. It also publishes Carolina Arts Online, Copyright© 1998 by PSMG, Inc. All rights reserved by PSMG, Inc. or by the authors of articles. Reproduction or use without written permission is strictly prohibited. Carolina Arts is available throughout North & South Carolina.