Archive for the ‘SC Arts’ Category

SC Arts Commission’s Canvas of the People Grand Tour is Over – Now What?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

OK, the seven public gatherings of the Canvas of the People 2010 have taken place – plus one special, unannounced, gathering at the recent Arts Alliance Board meeting, and the private gatherings held with community and business leaders in several, if not all the original seven locations – before the general public gathered. Why some folks couldn’t participate like the rest of us in a public forum – I don’t know, but it fits the pattern of secrecy conducted by the Arts Commission. It’s always about not telling the whole story – holding back information.

1209artscommlogo1

We’ve had our say on what’s working in the arts, what our challenges are, and what opportunities lie ahead, but what now?

Of course if you didn’t show up, you can probably still participate by doing the online Canvas survey. Here’s the link (http://www.southcarolinaarts.com/canvas2010/index.shtml). You can also see what others said throughout SC at this link as well – see listings on the left of the page. Of course you won’t see any comments from the private gathering.

We’re not told much about what happens now, but my guess is someone will sort through all the comments in the three categories and pull them together in some kind of report and then distribute that report or at least make it available as a download on the Arts Commission’s website. There you go – problems solved.

Of course we were told at each of the gatherings that this plan for the next ten years was a plan for us – not the Arts Commission – they’ll be doing that later, on their own – behind closed doors.

My guess is that this plan will look a lot like the previous plans – except for the pleas for more funding from somewhere – which doesn’t exist.

So all the calls for working together will fade and the dog eat dog scramble for a bigger slice of the funding pie will resume amongst the non-profits and not much will change.

We’re already seeing the “too big to fail” factor being floated by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and its supporters (a shrinking number), which has been in financial trouble for ten years, and continues to rob funding from the greater Charleston art community. Giving money to the Orchestra is like stealing funding from the fiscally responsible to give it to the fiscally irresponsible. But the cry to save the “artistic soul of Charleston” drones on at the expense of the other worthy art groups.

From all my years of experience and attending the Canvas of the People process – my advice to the people who attended these meetings is to forget about having the Arts Commission lead you around by the nose and schedule more gatherings of the art community in your area, on a regular basis, for a longer period of time, and work on your own challenges and opportunities. Follow through on what you come up with and you’ll get a lot further along than worrying about the size of the pie you’ll get from the Arts Commission. Who knows your community and its resources better than you?

In my opinion, more would be accomplished if members of the art community gathered at a local watering hole on a regular basis and discussed issues over a few drinks than attending these Canvas gatherings – there will be more pressure to monitor the follow-through on ideas and plans – more accountability. Our art communities don’t need more art walks – they need art talks once a month.

I went to a few of the Canvas gatherings to observe and make a plea for the non-profits to work with the commercial side of the art community – not just look at us as a source for funding and handouts. I also asked why commercial businesses in the arts, who support individual artists, help build audiences, promote the arts, and support the community with taxes – can’t share in applying for funding from the Arts Commission. Some of our ideas might be better that those proposed by some non-profits and might pay off better for the overall art community and community in general. Most of us live in a world where if you can’t pay your bills, you’re out of business – not begging the community for another chance to get your act together. Reality for us is the bottom line and we don’t enter into risky ventures, knowing there is always another funding cycle around the corner. Yet, in our case, when Carolina Arts got into financial troubles when the economy collapsed, we made cuts to the bone, took on personal debt, and we reached out to followers and people responded and helped us survive, but there was no chance for public support – none at all.

So, I hope there are not a lot of folks out there waiting for this final report from the Canvas of the People 2010 to solve their problems. There will be a few who do that, but they are going to be disappointed. Waiting for funding, much less more funding from the SC Arts Commission is futile as long as the State of South Carolina continues to have budget shortfalls. At some point, someone in the SC Legislature is going to be asking – do we need to pay for this big fat bureaucracy of a state agency – why don’t we give our money directly to the counties to decide where it should go in their art communities? At that point, non-profits will discover a pie that is not already half eaten by the time they get to it.

SC Arts Commission Announces Verner Awards & McNair Award Winner

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

I still have no idea as to how the SC Arts Commission or the SC Arts Foundation has come up with money to put on the Verner Awards and their Gala – when they didn’t have any money to do them last year and there is less money out there this year. I guess it’s magic!

This isn’t exactly the press release they sent us at Carolina Arts. Since we’re located in the Lowcountry they sent us one custom made to just announce winners from the Lowcountry area. I don’t know if it’s their idea to do that or based on experience that the media only is interested in news about their own area, but I think it’s a bad idea.

Here’s the news – all the news and some:

1209artscommlogo1

The SC Arts Commission Board has announced the recipients of this year’s Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards for the Arts.

This year’s recipients are:
Lifetime Achievement – Pat Conroy, Fripp Island
Lifetime Achievement – Jonathan Green, Daniel Island
Individual Artist – Julian Wiles, Charleston
Arts in Education – Larry Barnfield, Summerville
Government – City of Rock Hill, with special recognition for its public/private partnership with Comporium, Rock Hill
Individual – Robert (Bob) E. Howard, Greenville
Organization – Newberry Opera House, Newberry
Business – Williams & Fudge, Inc., Rock Hill

They will receive their awards during a Statehouse ceremony on May 6, 2010, and will be honored again that evening during the SC Arts Gala.

You can find out more about the awards and the recipients in a press release found on the Arts Commission’s website at this link.

Extra! Extra! We just received this info from the Arts Commission.Well, it’s a little old now, but new to most of you.

The SC Arts Foundation is recognizing former SC Governor Richard W. Riley’s leadership and dedication to the arts and arts education in SC by presenting him with the McNair Award at the South Carolina Arts Gala May 6 at the Columbia Museum of Art. You can find the complete press release at this link (www.southcarolinaarts.com/press/031810.shtml).

Established in 2007, the McNair Award is named for the late Governor Robert E. McNair, who signed legislation to create the Arts Commission in 1967 to “ensure that the arts continue to grow and play an ever more significant part in the welfare and educational experiences of our citizens.”

Funny thing, I can’t find any reference to this award being established (before this press release made in 2010) on the Arts Commission’s website, in any of their history descriptions, in searches on the Internet and their website using the name of the award – with the Arts Commission or Arts Foundation. You would think that establishing an award in McNair’s honor would have been mentioned sometime, somewhere, in the public, but I can’t find it – not even on Wikipedia. All I could find is that the SC Arts Foundation honored Gov. McNair at the Verner Awards in May 2008, but there is no mention of anyone establishing an award in his name that would later be given to other deserving individuals. Have you ever seen a call for nominations? I haven’t. So I guess this is just another secret of the Arts Foundation, perhaps mentioned only at the 2008 awards party. They seem to have lots of them – like where their money comes from.

I don’t know why public non-profits get to keep so many secrets, but they do. Try telling the IRS that you don’t want to tell them where you got your money.

SC Arts Commission’s 2010 Canvas of the People – Should You Participate?

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

This entry is posted in reaction to the notice I posted on Feb. 10, 2010.

Yes, you should – whether you’re an artist, an arts administrator, or just a South Carolinian who enjoys the arts – especially if you are not happy with what the SC Arts Commission is doing or not doing. You can be sure they will get all their fans gathered together to be there to sing their praises. Mostly these are folks who have gotten money in the past, are getting money and assistance from them now, and hope to get money in the future. They’ll be called on to show up or they may have seen their last dollar from the Commission. They don’t play softball at the Arts Commission – so don’t count on them to say anything bad about the people they get money from – if they want to continue to receive money.

1209artscommlogo1

I know I’m going to show up to as many as I can to get my two cents in. And, I’ll have my copy of the last Canvas of the People report. Most people won’t bother – they’ve long ago written off the SC Arts Commission as an agency that would assist them in their creative pursuits. They see no reason to spend time making input where they have seen no results. That’s too bad and in some ways they are counting on that factor. If you’re not happy with them – they surely don’t want to hear from you for one hour and 15 minutes.

One hour and 15 minutes – that’s all the time it takes to come up with a plan for the next ten years. That’s how long the forums will take place – each runs from 6:45 to 8pm. Man, I’ve spent more time than that on some entries to this blog. This should tell you how much they think the public’s opinions are worth. They will give the good citizens of South Carolina 8 hours and 45 minutes to voice their opinions on policy that the Arts Commission will use for the next ten years. How crazy is that?

Just think of two years ago and how different things are today.

Making a ten year plan is just stupid – especially when you are never graded on how well you did with the goals of the previous ten year plan.

This process should happen every two years, and at the end of two years a public review should take place to grade their progress, determine what goals should be scrapped or kept until accomplished – if the goal is still needed. There are too many changes that take place in the span of ten years to make most of the goals relevant. And, if you can’t make something happen in two years – it may never happen. But, ten years – the art community’s needs will change over and over again before ten years goes by.

Here’s one goal of the last Canvas:

Marketing and Advocacy

“In order to build an environment in which the arts can thrive, we must deliberately raise the profile of arts providers and supporters in South Carolina. We must increase the public’s understanding and appreciation of the artistic process and gain more and better coverage and criticism of the arts through all media outlets. We must build understanding of the relationship between community development and the arts until the arts are regarded as a vital resource for prosperity and health by the businesses, citizens, and government leaders of South Carolina. We must keep the arts on the public agenda at the local, state and national levels and influence public policy in favor of the arts.”

I don’t want to go over this whole ten year plan – so I will cherry-pick one of the objectives they came up with to accomplish this goal.

Objective # 2. Train artists and arts organizations in professional marketing techniques, and build skills throughout the arts community in obtaining press and media coverage.

I have some first hand experience with this. And, I’ll just provide a little slice of my world on how well they are doing.

Up until two months ago the Arts Commission wasn’t sending me press releases at all because I’m a vocal critic of their agency. Many major and small arts organizations in SC can’t get press releases to Carolina Arts by our deadline – just three weeks before our paper hits the streets – while others can do it every month. And, many more don’t do any press on their events beyond expecting their local paper to cover their event. How does that “keep the arts on the public agenda at the local, state and national levels”? Many of the art groups in SC don’t even use the Arts Commission’s source of arts info – Arts Daily. The Arts Commission is using Twitter to spread news, but anyone following up on it won’t find much useful info.

Example: Here’s a Tweet posted on the  the Arts Commission’s Twitter page with the date stamp – 9:22am on Feb. 4, 2010 – “Hartsville happening! RT @blackcreekarts: Nine Exhibits Opening Tonight at BCAC. Meet the artists 5:30 to 7 p.m. Free. http://bit.ly/be29A8″.

This is the morning of the event – I guess it’s for people who don’t plan things until the last minute. And, if you follow Tweets – I guess that means you.

When you click the link in the Tweet you are taken to a blog of the Black Creek Arts Center in Hartsville, SC, which lists the date and hours for the reception for nine exhibits being presented. No info was offered as to how long these exhibits would be on display beyond the hour and a half of the reception. A phone number and e-mail address is offered – I guess for further info. The blog entry is dated Jan. 30, 2010.

When I click on the links of each of the nine exhibits listed to find more info, I’m again just given the date and times for the reception. Funny thing, each individual link says that this is one of eight exhibits being offered, yet nine are listed on the blog.

Fifteen minutes into one Tweet, a trip to a blog and nine links offering info about each exhibit – I don’t know if these exhibits will be on view for longer than 5:30-7pm on Feb. 4, 2010. I’d have to make a call or send an e-mail for that – at this point. And, doing that is no guarantee of further info.

Next, I click the heading to go to the top of the blog page to find a link to the Black Creek Arts Center’s website – if they have one –  and it takes forever for it to come up – loading a slide show. I see no link so I click the profile link which has the words “Black Creek Arts Center” which I think might be a link, but it takes me back to the front page of the blog.

Next, I go to the Red Hot Links page of Carolina Arts and no website link for that group is there – which tells me something. Next stop Google. I find the website and look for info about exhibits. I click a link for Upcoming Events and I get the blog again. I click a link for The Jean & James Fort Gallery and get less info than the blog offers. I click a link for the Cultural Calendar and it only lists the date and time for the reception of one of the nine exhibits. I’m getting nowhere on this website.

I go back to the Red Hot Links and click on the Arts Commission’s Arts Daily link to see if they offer any info on these nine exhibits. I go through the search process and find no exhibit listed for Feb, 4, 2010, in Hartsville. I go to the Browse selection to search through 275 entries. No mention of any exhibits by the Black Creek Arts Center. And, not many other exhibit listings are found there either. I’d say 250 of the listings are performances. But that’s not the Arts Commission’s fault that people don’t use their site – except that they could require people they give funding to to use it.

From one Tweet on the Arts Commission’s site to the BCAC’s blog and website and back to the Arts Commission’s art calendar – I can’t find if these nine exhibits will be on view longer than 1 1/2 hours and I spent the same amount of time looking through all this modern technology and writing this entry that you will get to tell the Arts Commission about what you think they should do in the next ten years. I didn’t bother looking at their Facebook page. I have no expectations of finding any further info there.

I’m saying lets look back first to see where we are now before we try and plan the next ten years. And, in my opinion we are not very far in 2010 from the last Canvas’ goals made ten years ago.

You ask – Tom, why not just call the Arts Center and ask them about the dates of the exhibit? But, that’s so 20th century. They are using modern day technologies to reach the public to offer information – but not much information.

Is this the results of the last ten years of work on the part of the Arts Commission on Objective # 2 – “Train artists and arts organizations in professional marketing techniques, and build skills throughout the arts community in obtaining press and media coverage.”

The Black Creek Arts Center in Hartsville is one of the locations for the Canvas of the People on Mar. 22, 2010. I hope the Arts Commission spends some time with them about communicating useful information before the Canvas – at least a couple hours.

So why go to these forums – their description of the meetings, not mine, as I wouldn’t call the format of the last Canvas an open forum. I felt more like a cow being herded into a slaughter house. They controlled the whole process and there was no possibility of stepping out of their box.

The reason you should go is to show your discontent – if you are not a happy camper, to put in your two cents worth, offer an opposing voice to the fans and to see the process. They’re going to march through it anyway and make a plan no matter what – I’m sure because some funding depends on it. Whether it ends up being their plan or the people’s plan – my bet is on past history. After all, it’s the same folks who did the last one and the one before that.

By the way, I’ll add the Black Creek Arts Center’s (www.blackcreekarts.org) website to the Red Hot Links pages when I  update – not that it will do anyone any good in its present state.

Arts Council of Beaufort County (SC) Ask Supporters to Stuff Ballot Box for Top Art Destination

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

We have reported in the past on the results of AmericanStyle Magazine’s (www.americanstyle.com) voting results to determine the Top Art Destinations – including cities in North Carolina and South Carolina. It was my understand that the voting was done by readers of the magazine, but I recently received an e-mail from the Arts Council of Beaufort County in Beaufort, SC, asking their supporters to vote for Beaufort to get them further up the list – and, giving them a link to the voting site.

Is this right or fair game for such polls?

In 2008, Beaufort was #14 on a list of 25 Top Art Destinations in the small town category and in 2009 they reached up to #12. Was this a lift by actual readers of the magazine or by supporters in the Beaufort area? Who’s to know now that we know the arts council is asking folks to stuff the ballot. Not much was added to the community during that year to make it a better art community.

In 2009, in the small town category, Asheville, NC, was #2, Beaufort, SC, #12 and Chapel Hill, NC, #13. I’d have some problem comparing Beaufort over Chapel Hill in any arts category. It is a great small art town, but ranking over Chapel Hill – home of the University of North Carolina and all its art offerings – come on.

I don’t hold much stock in these kinds of rankings – mostly because we never know any details about the voting process or the final totals the rankings are based on. Like many of these kind of rankings by publications – for all we know – 10 votes could make you a “Best of” in some town and we never know if you get extra credit for advertising with the publication.

Like most announcements presented these days stating that drinking wine is good for your heart and drinking milk is good for your diet – without knowing who is presenting the report, who paid for it, and seeing the full details of the report – we can’t be sure what to make of the headlines. And, I don’t think a lot of people want you to go beyond the headlines.

I agree that Beaufort, SC, is a great small town arts destination, I have compared it as a mini Charleston at times, but on a national ranking, #12 might be stretching it some – without knowing more facts and who participated in the process.

I guess we’ll see how successful their campaign was when the 2010 rankings come out.

I think these polls are designed more to generate something people can advertise in the publications that host the polls. Why not just sell them to the highest bidders? For all we know – that might be what’s going on now.

Some Information about SC’s Verner Awards and its Gala Event

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

After my first posting about the opportunity for SC’s visual artists to participate in an art auction during the Gala for the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards – I got some inquiries, comments and it started me thinking. That can’t be good!

110verneraward
The Verner Award

So here is some info I found on the pages for the SC Arts Foundation on the SC Arts Commission’s website. Hopefully this will give folks some more info about this Award and the events associated with it.

The Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Awards

To recognize outstanding achievement and contributions to the arts in South Carolina, the Arts Commission annually presents the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Awards, the highest honor the state gives in the arts. These awards honor South Carolina arts organizations, patrons, artists, members of the business community, and government entities who maximize their roles as innovators, supporters and advocates of the arts. In 1980, the Verner Awards took on a special significance with their designation as the official “Governor’s Awards for the Arts.”

The symbol of the awards is a hand-crafted bronze statue, designed by Columbia-based artist Jean McWhorter, and presented to each recipient.

A diverse committee, appointed by the SCAC Board of Commissioners and made up of members of the South Carolina community at large, reviews all nominations and makes recommendations to the Board for final approval.

Elizabeth O’Neill Verner

Elizabeth O’Neill Verner achieved an international reputation for her etchings and pastels, many of which capture the spirit of the South Carolina Low Country. She was also a teacher, writer and historian. Throughout her 96 years, Mrs. Verner traveled extensively through Europe and the Orient. Drawings of South Carolina residences, churches and street-life portraits are Verner trademarks recognized throughout the world for their artistic merit and unique color hues. Mrs. Verner’s studio, located on Tradd Street in Charleston, is open to visitors as a living memorial to this outstanding South Carolinian.

South Carolina Arts Gala

Join the South Carolina Arts Foundation May 6 to celebrate the pillars of South Carolina’s arts community with celebrity artists, a fabulous art auction, delicious food and more!

Special guests will include Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Pat Conroy and Jonathan Green.

Best-selling author Pat Conroy has published five novels, including his most recent, “South of Broad,” named for his favorite city, Charleston. Celebrated artist Jonathan Green is best known for depicting the people and landscapes of the Lowcountry. His work has been exhibited in major venues throughout the nation and abroad.

The gala will include an art auction featuring works by some of South Carolina’s finest artists. A wide range of original one-of-a-kind artworks, including functional and non-functional craft, paintings and sculpture provide many choices for both seasoned and beginning collectors. A list of artists will be available at a later date.

Tickets are $50 per person and may be reserved online with a credit card or check. Reserve tickets at this link (https://events.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07e2nrdmbbe7b02002&oseq=).

The South Carolina Arts Gala
Date: Thursday, May 6
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: The Columbia Museum of Art
Dress: Business attire
Tickets: $50 per person

Proceeds from this event benefit the South Carolina Arts Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting the education and arts development programs of the South Carolina Arts Commission.

OK – that’s the end of the info found on the SC Arts Commission’s website– which has pages of info for the SC Arts Foundation – two groups I have a hard time keeping separate due to the fact that the address, phone, website and staff for the SC Arts Foundation – are found at the SC Arts Commission – including using SCAC staff members to send out their e-mails.

1209artscommlogo1

Even in the info offered about the Verner Awards – which is supposed to be a program of the SC Arts Foundation – the Arts Commission and its Board is all over it. By what I read I guess the Foundation handles the South Carolina Arts Gala. It’s their words not mine that adds to this confusion.

Also, in the info offered about Elizabeth O’Neill Verner – the Verner Studio on Tradd Street in Charleston hasn’t been open to the public for several years. But, I guess they didn’t know that. I don’t know everything either. Plus folks in Charleston like to call it the Lowcountry not Low Country. They used the word Lowcountry when describing Jonathan Green’s work.

Nominations for award winners in five other categories are also being taken (well, not any more) including: Arts in Education, Organization, Government, Business/Foundation, Individual, and Individual Artist. They don’t have a category for Gadfly – so I guess I’ll never get a Verner Award, but then again I don’t think Elizabeth O’Neill Verner would have either – they just used her reputation to give this award some standing.

The big question I have about this event and the gala is – What’s different about this year? Last year the awards and the gala was cancelled due to state budget cuts – cuts are still going on, and more are coming, but here we are again giving awards and having a party. I’m not even going to go into the art auction thing – that would take too long and it’s meaningless to me – I’m not an artist being asked to help support this event.

Art auctions are the problem of artists – if they don’t like them they don’t have to participate, but can they live with the phrase found in the info about the South Carolina Arts Gala – “The gala will include an art auction featuring works by some of South Carolina’s finest artists.” There’s the rub.

But, again – where has the money come from to do the Verner Awards and the Gala – that wasn’t there last year? And, how can it be there this year with even more cuts over the past year and more coming?

In the journalistic investigating world – the best plan is to follow the money, but good luck to anyone interested in doing that with these two groups. I’m wondering if the difference between last year and this year lies with the new art auction at the Gala, the Gala itself, or a SC business who wants to receive a Verner Award and is willing or has made a donation to the SC Arts Foundation to make it possible. I don’t know, but it makes me wonder where the money is coming from.

And, this is what the South Carolina Arts Foundation says they are on the SC Arts Commission’s website.

“Established in 1972, the S.C. Arts Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to recognizing, encouraging and supporting the art and artists of the Palmetto State. Throughout its history, the SCAF has pursued creative ways to help the business community and private citizens contribute to a thriving arts community in South Carolina. The organization is led by a diverse board of directors comprised of statewide business and civic leaders, artists, educators and others interested in supporting the rich variety of artistic expression found in the Palmetto State.”

I’m not sure another art auction falls into the – recognizing, encouraging and supporting – categories – nor is it a very creative way for the business community and private citizens to contribute to the arts.

Charleston County Public Library Offers Another Interesting Exhibit with Works by Jerry Comstock

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Once again, an exhibit in the Saul Alexander Foundation Gallery at the Main Branch of the Charleston County Public Library in downtown Charleston, SC, has caught my attention. I was delivering the Nov. 09 issue of Carolina Arts to the Library when I got the chance to see an exhibit of mixed media works by Jerry Comstock – on view through Nov. 30, 2009.

1109jcomflowers-340x450
Flowers

Here were works of a type that I have not often seen in Charleston. It seems the Library’s exhibit selection committee has really selected a wide variety of work to be presented this year. And, this time I had my camera with me so I can show more of the work without trying to stretch my limited vocabulary in describing them. I don’t speak “art speak” – good thing – it’s hard enough to read it at times while editing some articles for Carolina Arts.

Comstock did not offer much info about himself as an artist – as far as the kind of info you would find on an resume. He didn’t even offer any info as to where he is from, except that his phone number had an 843 area code – which could be anywhere in lower SC. And, you just can’t assume he’s from the Charleston area as the Library has been presenting exhibits by artists from all over South Carolina. Does it matter where he is from? I don’t think so, but it’s always nice to know. I could call – but he didn’t offer this info and it could have been a deliberate decision on his part for some reason.

Comstock did offer an artist’s statement which told about how he was creative early on as a child. And, it said that he is primarily a carpenter and cabinet builder who doesn’t get much time for his creative endeavors – like those shown in the exhibit, but for most of us – anyone who can do carpentry and make cabinets (with doors that align) – is pretty creative. The works on the wall proved that too.

Like some visionary and outsider artists, Comstock uses leftover materials in making art. In this case, various sheets of wood for his canvases. He also uses other materials found in his work area like Liquid Nail – a bonding glue which Comstock uses to add texture and designs to his works. All the works in this exhibit are on a wood background, except one which is painted on glass. That work is untitled and may have been a late minute addition to fill space in the gallery.

The reason I say that is that Comstock offered some unusual tags to identify each individual work – except the one on glass. He made small glass frames with white lettering printed on the glass. They may have looked good in his studio or work area, but because of the tight lighting in the Saul Alexander Foundation Gallery, a shadow was cast along the top half of most of the frames making them hard to read. A different take on titles, but not the best for this venue.

1109jcomtitle-450x300

It’s no big deal – just an observation. You have to give Comstock credit for trying something different and in another venue they may have worked fine. The good thing is – they didn’t distract me from the main attraction, but it’s worth mentioning so that artists don’t go overboard in making fancy titles that could distract the eye from the artworks. It’s like the problem too many artists have with putting artwork in frames that are more interesting than the artwork. And, sometimes two to three times the size of the artwork. I may be getting in trouble with some framers, but come on – it’s just supposed to be a frame – not a statement of one’s wealth.

What about the work?

1109jcomdevil1-255x450
Devil’s Daydream

The piece, Devil’s Daydream, was the most elaborate work of the exhibit, with many things going on in the image. The work is on fiber board (compressed wood chips) which can still be seen through the layers of paint and textured designs. In some places there are layers of colored cartoons or comic strips embedded behind the designs. The two main images offered tell two different stories – in fact the helter skelter designs may indicate that the devil has dreams like the rest of us – bits and pieces of our life being linked together to tell a tale – out of time and out of place. The close-up photo gives a hint of the what is hidden, but cannot show what the human eye can see when peering close into the images details.

1109jcomdevildetail-447x450
Detail of Devil’s Daydream

1109jcomjacobs-191x449
Jacob’s Ladder

The work, Jacob’s Ladder is also very detailed but more organized with a lot of wood grain being offered as part of the overall image. This work will keep you busy trying to figure out all the meanings behind the images and symbols offered.

1109jcomgalleryview-450x274
Duet to the right

This wide shot of the gallery space is the only way I could get a decent image of the work entitled, Duet. The overall size, its backwards angle and shiny surface prevented me from getting a good close-up image – believe me I tried. Here again, there are patterns and designs layered behind the surface colors and the Liquid Nail glue. The idea of two together comes across plainly, but are the two – unborn, trapped in time and space, or encased in cocoons? It’s the largest work in the exhibit and you can see how it dominates the space. So, I can only assume this image has greater meaning to Comstock than perhaps the message I was receiving.

There was no price sheet offered, so I assume – like most people will, that the works are not for sale, but that could be wrong. I was there early on in this exhibit’s life – perhaps more materials have shown up to provide more info.

I hope you find enough interest here to spark a trip to the main branch of the Charleston County Public Library. You should be going to a library near you on a regular basis anyway – and not just for DVD’s of Star Trek or Sex in the City.

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate!

Friday, October 30th, 2009

For today’s posting or should I say – rant – I’m going to focus on the non-profit visual arts lack of communication skills. The commercial art galleries are scrambling for every inch of publicity they can get in these times. Example – I had already received more info about exhibits taking place at commercial galleries in November than we would have room for (under the current level of paid advertising) – before our deadline for the October issue. The commercial folks don’t have as big a problem with promoting their exhibitions. It’s the non-profits who have my goat lately. And, we can exclude a few of the major institutions – I have some of their press releases stored for as far in advance as March 2010.

Earlier in October and during the end of September (09) I was delivering our Oct. 09 issue of Carolina Arts and a tour booklet for the Greenville Open Studios tour – taking place Nov. 7 & 8, 2009, in and around the Greenville, SC, area. They pay me to do this so I give it my extra effort – going to places we don’t usually go to every month. It’s a reminder of what I used to do – how far I was traveling to spread the news about the visual arts in SC – between 1995 – 1997 when we were called South Carolina Arts. I was going everywhere – like I was an arts missionary. I gave up on that and for good reason. I was reminded of some of those reasons during the last couple of days while working on our massive gallery listings.

Since I had been reminded of some of the visual arts spaces spread throughout the hinterland of SC, I decided that I would do some extra research on the Internet this month and try to find out what these gallery spaces were presenting in November, so we could add them to our online version of the paper – which carries much more info than is found in the printed version of the paper. This was almost as frustrating as being a Carolina Panther fan.

I have to do this research online as these groups don’t send us info about their exhibits – some because they figure if they are not going to be in the printed paper – why bother, and some – because they haven’t figured out how to yet or just don’t send PR outside their town limits.

Some of these organization’s websites are not worth the space they take up on the Internet. Lucky for the rest of us, the info they provide doesn’t take up much cyber-space, as most can barely tell you what’s on exhibit – any day you pull their site up – much less tell you what they will be showing a month from now. Some can only tell you – in as few words as possible – that they are having an exhibit in a certain month. Some don’t even provide the beginning and ending dates of the exhibit. Without that info it’s totally useless to us and our readers. Who wants to travel any distance taking a chance that since one month has 31 days in it that the exhibit they want to see will really be available any day of that month – I know I won’t. I don’t have time and gas money to burn to do that.

In some cases you just can’t be sure of what year they are talking about since they don’t post the year anywhere on the site and since some sites haven’t been updated since the day they were launched – you can’t take a chance that the info is for this year or 2002.

Yet, in the year 2009 – this is how many non-profit organizations operate – with as little info provided to the public – the same public they are supposed to be serving or in some cases – too much unrelated info.

Arts Councils seem to be some of the worst at communicating info about their visual art offerings – mostly in my opinion – because they don’t make any money off of exhibits. These arts councils bombard me with info about art classes and programs targeting children, while at the same time they can’t make the effort to provide info about exhibits – which are offered for free. They seem to be more interested in baby-sitting children for a fee than anything else.

Yes, these classes and programs may be a needed source of income, for artists and the arts councils, but these same groups receive funding from taxpayer funded agencies for providing services to the public – including art exhibits. Any group that receives public funding should be required to provide the public with info about what and where that money is going. If you get money from the state – you should do statewide publicity. They should have to prove it in their application process. But then again, the SC’s Arts Commission is not that good at communicating themselves, so I’m not surprised at the condition the recipients of their funding are in – as far as their communication skills go. We seem to have fallen off the list of who gets press release from the Arts Commission. Is Carolina Arts now considered an affiliate of FOX News?

Another factor is that many of these arts councils are run by – at best – one or two paid staff people with help from volunteers – if they are lucky. Many are overburdened with the task of running a multi-cultural organization and some are under-qualified to do the job to begin with. Most board members of these organizations just think their duty is making decisions – not performing tasks.

Artists’ Guilds present a different problem – with the same results. They have a very bad habit of changing all its organization’s officers – every year. By the time most learn how to do their duties – the year is over and they just hand it off to the next person and the circle continues. Every time a good publicity person comes along – it just makes things worse when their term is over – it’s a crash and burn situation and you have to get someone used to the process all over again. If you get a good publicity person – you should do whatever you can to keep them in that position – even if you have to pay them. And, before they retire from that position they should train their replacement for six months – so there is not a fall off when the transition is made.

City run arts agencies are some of the worst at communicating. The City of Charleston (SC) Office of Cultural Affairs has just discovered the Internet and up to a few years ago – wouldn’t, couldn’t (not sure which it was) – send info by e-mail. They were still mailing (snail mail) info to people and most of the time it arrived late – if it arrived at all – because it was mailed with non-profit postage – which doesn’t even have to be delivered. The postman can just dump it if they feel like it.

The other day I received a postcard from the City of Raleigh Arts Commission in Raleigh, NC. The front of the card says “Celebrate Downtown Raleigh Public Art” and it shows four windows naming what I guess is four programs (Art-On-The-Move, Art on City Plaza, Horizon Line, and Zoom Raleigh). At the bottom of the card it says, “Transforming our City of Oaks into a City of the Arts!”.

On the back of the card it has a mailing address for the Raleigh Art Commission, an invitation to a reception on the eve for something called Raleigh Wide Open (no explanation of what that is) to celebrate four public art programs – the date and time – the location of the event – a list of supporters – a phone number and a web address. Not a lot of information about what this is about, but then who doesn’t like being invited to a reception – if you have the time?

1009raleigharts

I checked the website. I don’t want to make a long-distance call and explain to several people what info I’m looking for – racking up the charges or using cell time. The website doesn’t really offer any further info, but I did learn something about this organization’s communicating skills. The phrase on the postcard I received doesn’t match the phrase on the city’s website – “Transforming the City of Oaks into the Creative Capital of the South!”. The card says, “Transforming the City of Oaks into the Arts!” – which doesn’t make sense – so it might be that the official phrase is too long for the card or too long to remember. But then again, Winston-Salem, NC, claims to be the City of the Arts.

On Oct. 18th – weeks after I received the postcard from the Raleigh Arts Commission, I found this story by Craig Jarvis of the Raleigh News & Observer, which explained Raleigh Wide Open and the four public art projects.

Although I would applaud any city for putting money into art projects and works that will remain on display – it really didn’t sound that exciting, unusual, or like something that would transform the city of oaks into the arts or the creative capital of the South.

The fact that I had to come across this article about Raleigh Wide Open in random searches for info about the visual arts taking place in the Carolinas – shows a lack of communication skills by this city organization.

You ask if the burden shouldn’t be on the media to keep up with such information? Stick with that line of thinking and you’ll always be left out. The media is getting barraged by arts organizations with requests for coverage – not just in the visual arts. And, the visual arts is way behind the performing arts in capturing most media attention. So the burden is on the presenters to reach out as much as they can and in an effective way.

A small postcard in this case might have fit into the Raleigh Arts Commission’s budget, but an informative e-mail would have been more effective, timely, and free.

Of course the real fad these days is the use of Constant Contact – another “wonderful” product from Microsoft. It is the worst form of communicating to the media. It may be OK for your general mailing list, but not the media. For one thing – I have never received an answer to any reply I make after receiving one in time to make a difference or at all. It’s as if you were dropping flyers from a plane – you don’t care who gets the info or where it goes – you did your job by sending it – BS!

Constant Contact is just a prepackaged form of the old – let’s see how many different fonts I can use, in a variety of colors, and how many useless graphics I can throw in to fill the space.

It looks pretty – it looks almost professional – it looks like a family holiday newsletter. And, it is totally useless to people who just want the facts in a form that is easy for them to copy and paste into the format their media uses. Stop using it for the media.

Once again – if you are a PR person for an artist, a gallery, an arts council, artists guild, visual arts organization, art museum, university or college gallery – contact the person who processes the info you want to get in their media – ask them how they would like to receive it (not what’s the easiest for you) and when they would like to receive it for their deadlines. This is an individual thing – case by case – there is no one way to satisfy all the media’s needs.

And by the way – you might want to check out that media outlet to see if they might even use the info you are about to send. I spend a lot of my day deleting e-mail and tossing regular mail by folks who have sent us a press release about something we have never included in our paper – even from groups outside the Carolinas. I guess that Carolina Arts name just goes over their head.

One last point directed at artists. I don’t mind you letting me know you’re going to be in an exhibit (in the Carolinas) as a heads up, but we like to receive press releases about these exhibits from the folks hosting them. Nine times out of ten we find that press releases from individual artists tend to leave out the other artists showing works in that exhibit. They made it read like they were the only artist in the show – as if it was a solo show. We’re not going to let you leave them out, so don’t bother sending such incomplete information. Shame on you anyway. And, if you can’t get the name right of the institution you claim to have had an exhibit at in your listed credits – we’re taking it out – so make sure you give your gallery updated and correct info. It’s like all the local artists who claim to have had a show or be in a show during the Spoleto Festival, when they were in the Piccolo Spoleto Festival. Some local artists have been featured at Spoleto – but it’s just a few. It’s a big difference between the two festivals.

Why bother with all this? Yes, I’m trying to make my life a little better – OK maybe a whole lot better, but I’m also trying to make people and organizations better communicators too.

It is also a WARNING. I am at the point where I will no longer spend my time trying to get clarification on bad or incomplete info sent to us. Meaning it will just disappear and it will never be considered for inclusion in our paper or on our website. We will continue to help our advertisers get info to us – after all they make Carolina Arts possible, but no one else.

If you’re not seeing info you sent us in Carolina Arts or on Carolina Arts Online – there is probably a good reason for it. You didn’t communicate very well or you didn’t know that we only cover the visual arts, mainly exhibitions, taking place in North and South Carolina. Maybe you should send your info to the New Yorker – I’m sure they would be interested to receive it.

SC Arts Commission Board Meets in Columbia, SC – Aug. 18, 2009 – Sort Of

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

A notice was posted on the State of South Carolina’s official press release site on Aug. 4, 2009 of an upcoming Board meeting at the SC Arts Commission in Columbia, SC. Well, it’s sort of a meeting – a one hour meeting via conference call.

The notice stated that: “Interested parties can attend the meeting at the S.C. Arts Commission, located at 1800 Gervais Street, Columbia.”

Sounds like an event not to be missed.

Makes me wonder what kind of event this is – a one hour meeting by conference call – what kind of work could they get done that way? – in one hour? Of course this could be one of those new fancy conference calls with video terminals so everyone can actually see each other and materials presented by the staff of the Arts Commission, but in these cost cutting days it’s hard to see how that is more cost effective than these people just driving to Columbia. But then that may call for a lunch and travel expenses for the Commission members. It’s probably just a lot of voices in the room. But I wonder how they know it’s really a Commissioner on the line? It could be me in that room.

I guess a one hour conference call is an easy way to rubber-stamp some new policies the staff worked up. At least that’s the way one board member described their duties to me – “we just yay or nay what the staff proposes”.

Who needs to travel to Columbia in this heat to do that?

Of course you have to ask yourself – what difference does it make anyway? Some artists and art groups in the State seem to be happy with the way things are going and the others – well they just don’t care – the Arts Commission never had an impact on their lives anyway so what’s the difference what they do? They don’t know what it would be like to have a state agency that really offered help – so they don’t know what they are missing. Too bad.

I mean it – it’s really too bad.

I’ve Been Taking a Survey of Charleston, SC, for 35 Years

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

I came to the Charleston, SC, area from Michigan in November of 1974. I liked what I found here and have found no reason to leave since – although I eventually moved 45 miles away to Berkeley County – a place where I could afford to do an arts newspaper and own a home. And, maybe 35 more years or so from now – I might own that home one day, if I live that long.

I came, so many years ago, as an adult. And I only mention this in the context that when dealing with many people in the art community these days – I’ve lived and dealt with Charleston’s art community – long before most were born – some in Charleston – most from somewhere else.

I mention that last bit about coming from somewhere else because I’ve been and still consider myself part of Charleston’s working class. We’re the folks that do stuff – offer services, create new – well, everything. That’s the way it’s been in Charleston for the most part – the people that built up the community come from somewhere else – first from Europe, then Africa, and now from other parts of South Carolina, the South, and America. Most, not all, who were born here are connected to a heritage of leadership and consumers – they’re the deciders and users. Both are vital parts of any community.

That was most evident at a recent meeting of arts people gathered together for a mid-June lunch at the Gibbes Museum of Art in downtown Charleston – to get to know each other. Most were relatively new to Charleston, some were what I consider very young and a handful were seasoned veterans of the Charleston art community. I myself, carry my scars of past battles (culture wars) and am easily frustrated by the enthusiasm of these newbees – in that they are going to change Charleston. I find myself more interested in deeds, not words. In fact, it is very hard to get me to go to one of these gatherings anymore. I still make the effort if I can see reason or opportunity, but as I said, I’m not impressed by words. I make my living dealing with words and I know how easily they can be offered without anything to back them up.

I’m a realist, I play the devil’s advocate, I’m pessimistic at times, I’m what my high school German teacher called facetious, but I’m also an optimist – I have to be – I publish an arts newspaper in the Carolinas. I could have done a newspaper about NASCAR and probably made a lot of money by now. But I love the arts. I’m focused on the visual arts, but I like it all – well most of it.

What I don’t like is being asked from time to time to join other folks to step into a big hamster cage and take a spin on the big wheel. I’m too old to ride that wheel anymore – spinning around and around just makes me dizzy. And, I find I don’t get much work done when I’m dizzy.

And spinning in place is what has drawn me to my computer today. ThePost & Courier newspaper has just offered another – State of the Arts article subtitled, “How are Charleston arts organizations weathering the current financial drought?” in it’s Weekend section (7/16/09). It’s as if they don’t even read their own paper – what did they expect to find?

I’m not familiar with the author of the article, (I’m a daily subscriber to theP&C) but I can only guess that it was a young person, fairly new to Charleston’s art community. No veteran would have written what was offered. The article was about a page and a quarter of a regular newspaper page, so expectations were very low to begin with. It’s not like this was considered a major subject for a series.

And, I’m not coming down on the Post & Courier (this time) – many other newspapers have gotten around to offering this same, limited look (more like a peek) at the state of the arts in their community. I’ve seen them in the FreeTimes in Columbia, SC, and the Charlotte Observer in Charlotte, NC – they’re all the same – a cursory look at how bad things are in the arts during this economic downturn. Duh! At least in this latest look at the state of the arts no one from Charleston said they depend on making people feel guilty to support them – as one arts person said in Columbia, SC.

Most of these articles are just another plug for a few nonprofits hoping to gain a few more donations, some like this latest version by the P&C were based on national surveys – this one was a National Endowment for the Arts 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Guess what – it’s down.

Another darn survey of the arts!

Here’s a truth. No amount of survey results is going to change my thinking based on my own experience and I imagine that’s the way it is for most people. We are after all creatures of our environment and experience – knowledge based on anything else is hard to accept. We can do it, but it doesn’t come easily. Otherwise how would you explain that there are very large numbers of people in this country – educated under the same system that most people were in America, who believe the earth and the universe is only a few thousand years old. The rest, what most of us call history and science, is all made up by people who just can’t accept their way of thinking or their beliefs.

Surveys are not scientific – they’re just another form of advertising or wishful thinking on most people’s part. And, I’ve never seen one done about the arts that I could believe or that is anywhere close to my own experience – based on the last 35 years. And why is that so?

Most people in the arts don’t participate – that’s the truth. They don’t like the questions asked and they don’t see what difference the survey results will make. That’s even if you ever are offered a close up look at the survey results. Most of the time the only thing offered is someone’s interpretation of what those results mean. They don’t want you to see the raw data because it’s ugly, it might not show the organizers of the survey in a good light, and people who take the surveys plan their answers to project certain results. But the big problem is most people won’t participate. Surveys are no better than opinion polls. You can get any results you want by cooking the questions and selecting who you ask. Make people sign their names to a survey and tell them they are going to be made available for public viewing and I bet you would get entirely different results – if you could get them to take the survey under those standards.

Most of the public doesn’t care about survey results either – they’ve been offered survey results too many times that were just manufactured to project a favorable point of view by the folks paying for or organizing the survey. It’s unfortunate, but true. So, why do so many arts organization believe that doing a survey will change the public’s mind or at least the minds of people making decisions on who gets the money, on how valued the arts are to society? You got me. Look, they either get that point by now or they never will.

In today’s world, I think most people are like me – they want to see deeds, not hear or read words about what the arts are doing for them or how it can enlighten their lives. Show them the deeds and they’ll show you the money – if they have any to spare.

The Charleston Arts Coalition is conducting a survey. You can find it at on their website. The cut off day to participate is July 29, 2009.

Should people in Charleston’s art community take this survey in view of everything I’ve just said? Yes, but only if they are going to be honest and willing to work towards the goals that survey suggests – otherwise why bother? The Charleston Arts Coalition doesn’t just need your 2 cents worth, it needs your participation.

I first offered comments about this group at the very beginning of this blog on May 26, 2008, after going to one of those art community gatherings – this time it was about the lack of affordable space in Charleston for artists. Back then at the end of my blog entry I said, “Most things they want are possible and possible with the help of the community – once the artists – like commercial gallery owners – are willing to put their own money and futures on the bottom line. Money makes the world go round and it’s the mother’s milk of the arts. Once artists stop waving around pumped up economic surveys about the impact of the arts in front of the community and adopt a healthy respect for other people’s money, they will find that many are willing to become partners with them on sound projects. Don’t continue to delude yourselves or insult the intelligence of the public. The call for this movement – if there will be a movement, should be – get real, get serious and you might just get what you want. Carolina Arts will do its part – if presented with a sound proposal, but then we have to fight to survive everyday to keep what we have.”

Since then the Charleston Arts Coalition has been formed, they have a website, a blog and have created another website called Charleston Culture, launched May 14, 2009. The focus of the group seems to be on spreading information about the art community. The lack of space issue has faded into the background for some reason.

I have not found a lot of participation on any of these sites or the blog. Not many people are joining in or offering comments.

I’m still hopeful about this group, but somewhat frustrated with where they seem to be going and at this point – it seems to be the big wheel – in my opinion. Participation is the key and at this point I don’t see a lot of signs of it. A few folks are probably working a lot on this project, but they have yet to gain the attention of the greater Charleston art community. Time will tell and that’s always the case. I’ve seen so many efforts like this come and go – not just in Charleston. Getting the arts community together is like herding cats. I’m stealing that from Christopher Rico an artist and blogger in Clinton, SC.

Getting a large art community together – like Charleston is near impossible. Charleston is small and can’t support such a large art community, which makes for rough and tumble competition for funding and resources. Trust is low and based on past experience.

I’ve taken the survey, I’ve plugged the survey, and I’ve looked at the Charleston Culture and organization’s websites and am trying to figure where and if I fit in. I was trying to participate in a roundtable discussion, but the schedule was during my delivery time for Carolina Arts and that comes first. I don’t live in Charleston so I’m not in the social loop of this group.

I haven’t joined the organization because I’m not sure what I’m joining and where my membership dollars would go. Besides being part of the local media, I’m not sure you can be part of something and comment on it at the same time, and be honest. It’s not an easy thing to do. My best contributions my be as an observer from outside the group.

Either way, build or fade – this group’s efforts depend on the art community’s participation and past experience tells me – they’re not into it – right now at least. What will make them change their minds? I’m still working on that 35 year survey of trying to figure out Charleston’s art community. I’ll let you know when I have it figured out. I haven’t found a lot of logic at this point. But I do know they are not keen on participation, or working on goals where the payoff is in the future, and they have a hard time overlooking self interest for the good of all. This makes them not much different than art communities anywhere else or other people in general.

Now, one thing’s for sure about the Charleston Art Coalition – they have lit a fire under some other groups in Charleston that are supposed to be serving the public. Ever since the Coalition started talking about plans for a cultural website, the City of Charleston’s Office of Cultural Affairs has stepped up work on their efforts to promote Charleston’s cultural events. Even the Coastal Community Foundation suffered an uproar when it stepped in to just help a few groups suffering in the art community over the holiday season. They tried to promote a Charleston Art Alliance to make them look more inclusive, but they learned the art community is bigger than their usual myopic vision.

So if anything the Charleston Arts Coalition has stirred things up some, but time marches against them. People will lose interest – even those involved now, if they don’t see their time and efforts build on something – something not already being offered – something everyone in the art community can be a part of – whatever that is.

But, then again – I’m just one of the old farts of the Charleston art community who has grown tired of spinning in place and sees the negative side of things much more than those who seem to see only the positive future – unknown territory to most of us old veterans. Please, make me wrong folks. I want to be wrong on this subject. I won’t mind it at all.

Arts Whining – Not a Good Image for the Arts Community

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

While scanning the Internet for news about what’s going on in the Carolina visual art community I came across an interesting feature in Free Times a Columbia, SC, based publication (Issue #22.14 :: 04/08/2009 – 04/14/2009) entitled, Cutting the Arts – Midlands Groups Struggle Amid Declining Support, by Ron Aiken. As I read through the piece I had to cringe – it’s just the kind of publicity the art community doesn’t need – someone in the arts whining about the lack of public and private funding. You can find the full article here.

Wim Roefs, board chairman of the 701 Center for the Contemporary Arts (a non-profit) and owner of if ART Gallery (a for-profit) provided the bulk of the whining. For the purpose of keeping things straight I’ll be putting Roefs words in bold type – everything else will be me.

When asked how the local situation regarding corporate giving has effected the people assembled for this article Roefs offered the following:

Our situation (at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art) is a little different in the sense that we don’t have anything to compare ourselves to since we’re in our first year.

But when a bunch of us started this project in 2007 it was a much better climate. We couldn’t even think about what it would be like when we opened in 2008 — in the meantime it’s just all bottomed out. So when we were starting, we were really waiting for a few big — well, big for us — chunks of money. Our budget the first year is $187,000, so we were waiting for these few big ones and then making a big leap of faith.

The fact is this center may have been in the planning in 2007, but they didn’t open the doors until Oct. 2008 – well after the bottom dropped out of the economy. They had plenty of time to put a hold on this effort, but decided to ignore the climate because all the right people were behind their efforts and money was flowing to the group that had done nothing yet.

We did get, in 2007, money from (accommodations) tax and got money from (hospitality) tax, and then the decisive moment came when BlueCross came in and said we’re going to give you the rent for the gallery space. That gave us the money to say, all right, let’s make the jump. Then you have to start raising funds, both corporate and private. We don’t have ticket sales since we’re free. We’ve actually had good attendance. We’ve had 2,300 people come in through the first five months, which is pretty good for a contemporary arts center.

The opening of the center cost $100 a pop. It was also reported in The State that about 80 memberships to the center, ranging from $15 to $2,500, have been sold. That’s not exactly free to me. It was also reported in The State that so far it (the Center) has received $25,000 from BlueCross BlueShield (This is money from profits from people’s health care costs.) and $45,000 from city accommodations and hospitality taxes. (That’s money from taxpayers.) The building’s owners, Richard Burts and Robert Lewis, have donated $15,000 toward the annual rent of $40,000. (That’s a make believe donation of money that never existed.) How did these Columbia City leaders give so much money to a project which had not even opened? This building at 701 Whaley Street in Columbia has had a history of public funding going down the drain. When will these people learn?

We’ve had some other very unfortunate things that are related to the economic situation as well, one of which is that we cannot apply to the arts commission for operational funds because we didn’t exist — the arts commission came up with the decision that there would be no new projects funded — so we’re screwed there, because we’re new. The first year we couldn’t get any money from them because we hadn’t existed for a year yet, then by the time we qualified for money, the ruling came down for no new organizations.

I’m actually stunned here that the SC Arts Commission acted prudently in this situation by not giving funds to an unproven group and then putting a freeze on funding for new groups while their funding was being cut by the State. I’m really stunned, but I know it is really due to the fact – they just didn’t have the money to give “and” keep their staff on payroll. Hard choices had to be made.

And even though now there’s going to be some NEA stimulus money, we can’t get that money because they can only hand it out to previous grantees and what have you. We’re pissing beside a pot on all of this stuff, and it’s a bit of an issue. The city already has sent out a letter to everyone that next year you can expect a 25-percent decrease in H-tax revenue, so the $35,000 that we got last year, if we get $25,000 to $27,000 this year we’ll be lucky. So in the meantime we’re trying to make people feel bad about not giving. It’s all about guilt.

OMG – as the kids say these days – I can’t believe he said that – “we’re trying to make people feel bad about not giving. It’s all about guilt.” Apparently Roefs has no guilt for thrusting a new non-profit on the back of the Columbia and SC art community. If I was one of the city and county leaders in charge of handing out money I won’t be giving this ungrateful soul a penny. Much less the thought that since they got money one year it’s automatic that you’ll get money again. Once on the dole – always on the dole?

Now I’ll agree that it is stupid that the only people who can get a taste of that NEA stimulus money is only those who have received funding in the past, but I guess that was to prevent folks from just forming groups to get some of the money – I don’t know, but it does seem to add to the bad timing on the part of those who decided to take the leap in starting this new art center.

After we took the plunge, we had a bunch of people lined up, corporations and also private donors, that we were fairly certain would come through. Most of them tell you, “We’re looking at your sponsorship package,” and then, “We’re still looking at it,” and then you don’t hear anything anymore. And these are people we know who love this project, love the arts and love the people involved. So what happens is they just don’t show up; we don’t see them. They’re hesitant to even show their face lest they would be looked at with dollar signs in our eyes.

Can you imagine why these people are not showing up. And, how will they feel after reading or hearing about this article?

We’ve had some really nice surprises (with) people showing up and giving us money that were not even on our radar, and thank god for that. The ones that we thought of, not as the usual suspects, but somewhat low-hanging fruit, is hanging pretty high so far.

Unfortunately this is the statement Roefs should have made in response to the question – except for the low-hanging fruit and usual suspects part. I guess art donors are just considered fruit for the picking by Roefs or suspects. And, unfortunately Roefs’ statements will taint all non-profit groups looking for funding in tough economic times.

As someone who represents the commercial sector of the art community in SC and the Carolinas, it is hard to see how Roefs can’t see how lucky he is in even being able to receive public and private funding as a non-profit, but I can’t imagine ever making guilt my basis for why people should support my efforts.

I have asked our readers for financial support during these troubled times and have received support from people I know are trying to get by themselves. I view that support, like the support we receive from advertisers every month as a treasured gift. Hopefully a gift we have earned and a gift we will continue to earn and re-gift in the future. I don’t look at anyone with dollar signs in my eyes. And, I think most in the non-profit sector of the arts don’t either. There are some that do, but they are probably smart enough not to do it in public or make such public statements.

Some will ask why expose this underside of the arts when it might make everyone look bad in the eyes of the giving public?

All I can say is, I want that public to know that they have choices when they give their support and I would hope they pick organizations with people who are grateful for the money they receive – not folks who deal in guilt. I have said many times that we in the arts should wake up every day pinching ourselves over the fact that people give their hard earned money to support our efforts.

Unfortunately some artists and some in the arts industry think: I am, therefore you must support me.