Archive for the ‘SC Arts Commission’ Category

The Story of the SC Arts Commission’s Failure to Develop a Major Artisan Center in SC Just Won’t Go Away

Monday, September 20th, 2010

I never intended for this to be a continuing issue, but others just won’t leave it alone. My first blog entry about the Kentucky Artisan Center got a lot of attention and then a regular reader pointed out to me that the State of West Virginia was first to create this artisan center concept on major interstate highways.

I knew when I wrote the story nothing would ever happen in South Carolina – it’s just too logical – especially since we have one of the best locations for it – the intersection of I-95 and I-26. Logic doesn’t stand well in our state – at least at the state level.

Now SC is strapped for money, but these states had their vision when times were good. I guess the SC Arts Commission doesn’t really keep up with what their neighbors are doing. And, our art community is left behind – way behind.

Now we introduce you to TAMARACK: The Best of West Virginia.

I haven’t been there yet, but I will go and check it out someday. But here’s some information I found on their website.

TAMARACK: The Best of West Virginia


Tamarack’s striking, peaked red roof and attractively landscaped grounds draw half a million visitors annually off I-77 and I-64 (Exit 45 at Beckley, WV) into a welcome respite of visual beauty, Appalachian sounds, and distinctive aromas.

A one-stop-shop for West Virginia culture, heritage, handcrafts, fine art, regional cuisine and music, Tamarack employs a rigorous jurying process to ensure product quality and authenticity.

Resident artisans work daily in observation studios to demonstrate textiles, metal, wood and pottery. Throughout the year artisan demonstrations and food tastings engage visitors in new experiences. The fine arts gallery offers a glimpse of the current art scene. Live musical, theatre, dance and storytelling performances, as well as West Virginia films, are scheduled in the intimate 178-seat theater.

Tamarack is not only a well-known tourist attraction but a major economic contributor. The Tamarack System, as a statewide economic impact component, affects all 55 counties to the tune of nearly $51 million in goods and services purchased to date. Craft sales have totaled $61 million.

Tamarack’s world-renowned partner, The Greenbrier, manages dining services, offering Tamarack guests delectable cuisine in the food court, during dinner theatre, at special events, and for meetings and special occasions in the Tamarack Conference Center.

Hospitable, accessible, accommodating and memorable—Tamarack is truly a showcase for The Best of West Virginia.

The Tamarack Vision for West Virginia

We envision a vibrant cottage industry in West Virginia where jobs, market opportunities, training, and educational resources abound for West Virginia’s artists, artisans, craftspersons, and food producers, and our rich cultural heritage and artisan skills and traditions are preserved and strengthened for future generations of West Virginians.


The Tamarack System will be recognized globally as a dynamic catalyst and premiere showcase for all aspects of advancing West Virginia arts, crafts and food products and those who produce or perform them.

History of Tamarack

TAMARACK: The Best of West Virginia is the nation’s first showcase of handcrafts, fine art and regional cuisine. It comprises a warmly decorated retail store, working studios for resident artisans, a fine art gallery, a theater, and A Taste of West Virginia food court, managed by The Greenbrier Resort.  Additional meeting space is available in the Tamarack Conference Center.

A visionary governor, Gaston Caperton, set the stage for Tamarack’s conception, and in October 1989, the Parkways Authority issued a $143 million bond; a small percentage was set aside to upgrade rest areas along the turnpike, and concession revenues from these – not toll revenues or tax dollars – were to fund tourism and economic development projects.

The Road

As the new director of Economic Development and Tourism, Cela Burge had an idea to connect West Virginia craftspeople with turnpike travelers.  When Cela suggested to the Authority’s Board of Directors that West Virginia products be sold in the new service plazas, the board agreed to the idea.  Nobody expected much to come of it. But, the crafts were a big hit. During the grand opening of the Princeton Center, complete with musicians and a big pot of apple butter cooking, Governor Caperton told David Dickirson, a member of the Parkways Authority’s  Board of Directors, that it would be wonderful to have a place with that type of atmosphere every day of the year.  Thus, the idea for Tamarack was born.

During the next six months, Burge and her helpers met with craftspeople far and wide; outlined a strategic marketing plan for developing the new center; began searching for architects; expanded warehouse facilities; and planned fact-finding visits to art and craft centers in several states. Dickirson approached Rod Stoner, director of food and beverage services at The Greenbrier, about providing their expertise.

A Design and A Name

In May 1993 Clint Bryan and his associates, Doug Bastian and John Harris, won the project. Their proposed design was arresting, innovative and eminently functional.  A Beckley firm, Radford and Radford, won the construction contract.

Tamarack was named in the late spring of 1993 by The Arnold Agency in Charleston, WV.  Linda Arnold, a Beckley native, and her creative team of Dick Allowatt and Carrie Stollings proposed the name of a tree, also called the American larch, known for its qualities of strength, beauty and versatility.

Organizing Artisans


Meanwhile, Cela Burge and her associates were meeting and learning from another group of people who were integral to the project – the artisans.  The jury process to select products sold at Tamarack, has been in place since the beginning to insure quality and authenticity of WV-made items.

Artisans were also involved in the construction of Tamarack.  West Virginia artisans created structural elements – and were paid by contract – a year before visitors ever touched Tamarack’s handcrafted door pulls.

The Challenge

From the first, Tamarack – both the building and the concept of a centralized marketing system – aroused strong reactions. Governor Caperton consistently voiced high hopes for Tamarack.  And in October 1994, The Crafts Report devoted its cover feature to “West Virginia’s Bold Experiment.” A few months later, the national publication honored the Parkways Authority with its Crafts Consciousness Award.

Building a Dream

At the official groundbreaking on August 8, 1994, visitors sampled food from The Greenbrier, including the fried green tomatoes that have become a signature of Tamarack.

Behind the scenes, Tamarack’s staff and jurors continued their work. Artisans who passed the jurying process then received an initial order. For some, it was the largest order they had ever received. By June 1995, Tamarack had placed orders with more than 900 artisans. By the end of 1996, more than 1,300 West Virginia artisans were selling their wares at Tamarack, over 450,000 people had visited, and sales had topped $3.3 million.

Tamarack’s David L. Dickirson Gallery represents over 500 juried West Virginia artists. Exhibitions rotate every six to eight weeks showcasing the best of West Virginia fine art.

Tamarack’s popularity as a gathering place and the more than fruitful partnership with The Greenbrier sparked the idea of adding a conference center. The grand opening for the Tamarack Conference Center was held on June 20, 2003.

Tamarack has continued to grow.  Over 2,800 artisans from all fifty-five counties have become part of the Tamarack family.  Gross revenues have topped $78 million and purchases for goods and services have exceeded $65 million.  And as of June 30, 2007, Tamarack had enjoyed almost 5.2 million visitors.

This history was created from excerpts of Tamarack at Ten by Colleen Anderson.

TAMARACK: The Best of West Virginia is located at: One Tamarack Park, Beckley, WV  25801. Admission and parking are free. Retail hours are: Jan. 5 – Mar. 1, 10am-7pm and Mar. 2 – Jan. 4, 8am-8pm. Food Court hours are: Breakfast – 8am-10:45am; lunch and dinner – 11am-closing.

For further information call the Center at 304/256-6843; 1-88-TAMARACK; or visit (

OK – It sounds like this kind of project is not only a cultural boon to a state, but an economic one too. I can envision one of Charleston, SC’s finest restaurants providing the food end of things and the thousands of people who travel those interstate highways the support. All we have to do as a state is to build it, but if the powers that be ever come to that conclusion – I hope they leave the SC Arts Commission out of the picture. They never had such vision – why should they change their color now. It will take the vision of people who know about tourism matters – the artists of SC will contribute the artistic end of things.

SC Arts Commission May have Dodged a Bullet – But More Cuts Are Coming for SC’s Non-Profit Arts Groups

Monday, June 28th, 2010


Yes, the SC State Legislature may have stopped Governor Mark Sanford’s veto of the SC Arts Commission’s budget cut, but more cuts will come to the SC Arts Commission’s budget as our state adjust to shortfalls in revenue that legislators just ignored (after Tue. June 29,2010, that is). It’s easy to override a veto, it makes you look like you’re a friend of the arts to some folks back home, but those legislators know the State will be doing their dirty work for them when adjustments have to be made throughout next year’s budget cycle as projected revenues fall short. It’s SC’s official dance – pass the buck and pass the responsibility.

So, what will we see from our saved Arts Commission under the leadership of Ken May – its newly named director?

Our old friend Jeffrey Day continues in his position as the unofficial press agent for the SC Arts Commission by offering heaps of praise on Ken May in an issue of Columbia, SC’s Freetimes.

According to Day, one of May’s positive attributes is that he can be seen at art events all around Columbia. I bet he can also be seen at Columbia grocery stores, movie theatres, and book stores, but what good does that do the rest of SC’s art community? Yes, the Charleston, SC, community might see him there during the Spoleto Festival, but that’s one of the things wrong with the Arts Commission – it is the poorest form of centralized government. The entire staff sits in Columbia most of the time. And, with more budget cuts – they won’t be going anywhere too soon.

As far as I know – until proven differently – May represents the same old, same old, from the Arts Commission – which is great for the sector of SC’s art community that has been living off the Arts Commission’s funding for decades. Not so good for those who have gotten nothing and not so good for new groups pulling up to the Arts Commission’s trough – only to find no room.

So what’s the future look like? Well with the prospects of a new governor on the way – one who looks like they could prove to be a Sanford style governor on steroids – not too secure.

Non-profit arts groups are going to have to deal with less public funding, the SC Arts Commission will have to deal with less funding and the list of groups who get it will get smaller and smaller. It actually could get very ugly – during the fight over who is more deserving or more connected to get that funding. In fact, I’d be concerned if I was an arts group outside of Columbia. It’s easier to cut funding of groups you don’t attend on a regular basis. Of course May doesn’t determine who gets funding and how much – the Arts Commission Board does that – at least they would if they were really leading the Arts Commission. But, we all know the staff really does.

Again, I haven’t noticed that this current crop of Board Members are less rubbery than former Board groups. It’s so easy to just go along with the staff recommendations – they know what’s best. They know the right people, the deserving – those who will praise them – they’re buddies.

The Who said we won’t get fooled again, but I think we just did.

News From the South Carolina Arts Commission

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Today we received two items of news at Carolina Arts from the SC Arts Commission – one right after the other.


First, we learned that the SC Arts Commission Board meeting previously planned for May 26, 2010, has been canceled. The next regularly scheduled meeting is June 22 at the Arts Commission’s office in Columbia, SC.

Usually, this time of year the Arts Commission Board meeting was held in Charleston, SC – days before the opening of the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, but not last year and not this year. Actually, I don’t know why they were going to Charleston when they didn’t have meetings in any other cities around SC – except Columbia. Well, I know why, but it’s not fair to the rest of the art community in SC.

Next, we received a press release that Ken May, acting director of the Arts Commission, was named Executive Director of the SC Arts Commission. This was a little confusing to me in that if the Commission Board had not met recently – how they came to today’s announcement. An announcement which took a year to name the number 2 guy – number 1 – after conducting a three-month national search and reviewing 230 applications. I will have more on this subject after some deliberation.

Here’s the press release we got today:

Columbia, SC – The South Carolina Arts Commission Board of Commissioners today announced that Ken May has been named executive director effective immediately.

Ken May

May joined the Arts Commission in 1985 as a regional arts coordinator and served as director of planning, research and grants and assistant deputy director before being named deputy director in 1995. May has served as acting director of the agency since former Executive Director Susie Surkamer retired in May 2009.

“We look forward to working with Ken in his new role as executive director,” said Board Chairman Bud Ferillo. “Ken has proven his ability to lead the Arts Commission through the difficulties of the current budget cutbacks while positioning the agency for the future. His leadership in the agency’s core work — arts education, community development through the arts and artist development — will be crucial as we develop a new long-range plan for the state’s wide-ranging and diverse arts community.”

The executive director serves as the agency’s chief executive officer and is responsible for organization and administration, program development, fiscal accountability and staff supervision. The agency’s nine-member board is appointed by the governor and works with the executive director to make policy, advocate for the arts and ensure public accountability.

The board’s executive search committee, led by Commission Vice Chairman Dr. Sarah Lynn Hayes, conducted a three-month national search and reviewed 230 applications.

The South Carolina Arts Commission is the state agency charged with creating a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their location or circumstances. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission is celebrating 40 years of increasing public participation in the arts by providing services, grants and leadership initiatives in three areas: arts education, community arts development and artist development. Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the Arts Commission is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources.

For more information, visit ( or call (803) 734-8696.

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.


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 ( 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:


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 (

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.


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.″.

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 ( website to the Red Hot Links pages when I  update – not that it will do anyone any good in its present state.

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!

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 (

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.


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.

SC Arts Foundation in Columbia, SC, Seeks Artworks for 2010 SC Art Auction

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

I received this e-mail from the SC Arts Commission today about a call for artists to submit works for an “art auction” to be held during this year’s gala celebrating the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards. In the past, at least to my memory, there has been an art sale of selected works during the gala – with the idea of giving SC’s visual artists exposure to the high end audience attending this gala, but now SC’s artists are being presented with another auction opportunity. This is not quite the same opportunity as a sale – even though in the past – artists were asked to place a lower than normal price on their works.

I’m not making a judgment here – I’m just pointing out the difference from past opportunities compared to this one. We’re lucky a public call is being made at all, since that was not always the policy – select artists were just invited to participate in the past.

And, again, I appreciate the Art Commission sending me this notice (It’s nice to be back on the media list.) so I can turn it over to my readers, but I hope they don’t mind the extra historical info provided. It may be more than they get with other media outlets, but that’s what you get with Carolina Arts – a wealth of history about the region’s visual arts. You can see details about the auction at the link offered by the Foundation – they’re very up front about this opportunity.

Here’s the press release:


Verner Award

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Arts Foundation seeks excellent quality artwork to include in the South Carolina Art Auction, the centerpiece of the 2010 South Carolina Arts Gala, an evening celebration of the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards for the Arts on Thursday, May 6 at the Columbia Museum of Art. Interested artists should submit the following by Feb. 22 to Art Auction, S.C. Arts Foundation, 1800 Gervais Street, Columbia, S.C., 29201:

- DVD or CD-ROM containing up to 10 images in a jpeg format with a maximum resolution at or less than 1024 x 768 pixels of representative or available works.
– Checklist including title, date, medium, size and price
– Resume or bio
– Artist statement (not to exceed 250 words)
– Self-addressed stamped envelope for return of materials

Additional submission guidelines are available at ( or by calling 803/734-8696. A panel composed of members of the S.C. Arts Foundation and arts professionals will select the artwork for the auction. For more information, contact Harriett Green, 803/734-8762 or e-mail at (

About SCAF
Established in 1972, the S.C. Arts Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to recognizing, encouraging and supporting the art and artists of South Carolina. Throughout its history, the SCAF has pursued creative ways to help the business community and private citizens contribute to a thriving arts community across the state. 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. For more information, visit ( or call 803/734-8696.

Going Deep Down the Mine Shaft to Extract Info About SC Arts Commission Activities

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

I guess in South Carolina you can’t be critical of a State Agency like the SC Arts Commission without being cut off from the flow of information as to what they are doing on a regular basis.


Yes, I’ve been critical and yes, they have taken Carolina Arts off the list of media they send press releases to, but unless they decide to stop sending press release to anyone – I’ll still find them or someone will copy me – eventually. It’s a sad case, but normal operating procedure for the Arts Commission. You’re right with them or left out. That goes for the media, other art organizations and individual artists.

Information is critical in the arts and if you’re not playing ball the way some folks like – the flow of information is cut off or diverted to put you one step behind those who are informed first – even before the public knows what’s available. It’s nice to be on someone’s speed dial at the Arts Commission. I’m not.

When it comes to the visual arts, I don’t know if it’s Harriett Green, Visual Arts Director; Milly Hough, Communications Director; Ken May, Acting Executive Director; or Charles T. “Bud” Ferillo, Jr., the new Chair of the Commission Board – but someone doesn’t want me to know what’s going on in fear that I will criticize it – under the theory that – what you don’t know – you can’t criticize.

But I can tell you this – that policy isn’t working.

Sure, it’s been awhile since my last critical posting on the Arts Commission, but that’s not because of their – “don’t tell policy”, it’s because they haven’t been doing much – at least much to talk about. They, like the rest of us, are spending more time than they would like budget cutting, but in their case it’s usually funding to others that gets cut instead of their own overhead.

But who is this hurting – me? or the folks they partner with?

We received no press release about the exhibitions being presented at 701 Center for Contemporary Art in Columbia, SC, offering works from the Commission’s State Art Collection. We had to go mining for that info from third party sources – not 701 Center for Contemporary Art. No one there seems to know how to distribute info either. Funny thing – we seem to be able to be sent info about their paid events.

So here again, I find a press release about an exhibit involving the State Art Collection that was not sent to us.

The above rant is what I prepared after finding this press release, but I had also sent an e-mail to Charles T. “Bud” Ferillo, Jr asking him if this is the way the Arts Commission was going to be acting under his new leadership. As usual I expected no reply, but you know what? I got a surprise.

Ferillo answered my e-mail within hours asking for time to check this situation out with the Arts Commission and within the day he responded that I would be sent the press release when it goes out the first week in Jan. (That’s a whole other problem altogether, but we’ll deal with that at another time.) I thanked him for his quick response and told him I hoped this was a sign of change between our muddied relationship. (Second positive thing I’ve said about the Arts Commission in a month.) Not that we have a relationship with the Arts Commission, but I’ll look forward to the information tap to be flowing my way again and to you readers from us – if that’s what is taking place.

Here’s the press release I found on the Arts Commission’s website, apparently not planned for distribution to the public until the first week in Jan. Why so late before the event starts? Don’t know, but I know it’s going to miss a lot of deadlines for monthly and quarterly publications. Maybe not the daily and weekly publications, but many others.

Belton Center for the Arts in Belton, SC, Features Works by African-American Artists from State Art Collection

The Belton Center for the Arts in Belton, SC, will present the exhibit, The African-American Voice, featuring works by African-American artists who are among the state’s best-known and widely celebrated practitioners, on view from Jan. 16 through Feb. 26, 2010.

Coordinated by Harriett Green, visual arts director at the South Carolina Arts Commission, the exhibition includes 32 pieces of artwork in all media from the State Art Collection. The pieces are by 21 African-American artists who range from self-taught, outsider artists like Sam Doyle, Leroy Marshall and Dan Robert Miller, to academically trained artists with established careers such as Leo Twiggs, Arthur Rose and Tarleton Blackwell.

“A number of these artists are legendary as arts educators as well as artists. Their influences and contributions extend beyond image and object making,” said Green, who sees the show as an opportunity for area residents to learn more about the contribution of African-American artists in South Carolina.

The Belton Center for the Arts is hosting the exhibition in conjunction with the Anderson International Festival taking place in Anderson County, SC, from Jan. 15 – 31, 2010. “The African-American Voice traveling exhibition is a great addition to the activities we have planned for Anderson County,” said Betsy Chapman, executive director of the Belton Center for the Arts.

The State Art Collection is considered the most comprehensive public collection of works by contemporary South Carolina artists. Established in 1967 as one of the first programs of the South Carolina Arts Commission, the State Art Collection has grown to include 448 works in a variety of media and styles by 277 South Carolina contemporary artists. Small exhibitions featuring work from the collection are organized on a regular basis for rural and isolated areas inside and outside of the state. Works from the State Art Collection are available for loan to art museums, state agencies, and public and private organizations for the purpose of public exhibition or public display. The collection is supported in part by the South Carolina Arts Foundation and Kahn Development Company.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call Betsy Chapman at 864/338-8556 or visit (

Here’s some extra info.

The Anderson International Festival (AIF) is an organization of art, cultural, and civic groups dedicated to presenting an educational and entertaining biennial festival which celebrates the cultural traditions from around the world that have helped shape our local community. Each festival highlights a different area of the world.

The AIF is pleased to present West African Journeys, a celebration of West African culture and its contribution to life here in South Carolina, from Jan. 15 – 31, 2010.

Blogger’s Note: Good luck in mining for information about this festival – the website is one of the least informative I have come across – of course it’s still early – more info could be added later. The calendar of events they offer involves clicking every date from the 15 – 31 to see if anything is going on and then you may have to click again to go to another website for further info. It’s not very user friendly or inviting to people who might find out about this festival.