Posts Tagged ‘701 Contemporary Center for Arts’

What is it About 701 Whaley Street in Columbia, SC

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

Take the same location, some of the same supporters, the shield of being a non-profit, and what do you get? Another close-knit group of well connected people doing something that doesn’t seem to be available to others – mixing and matching the commercial sector and the non-profit sectors together.

Let’s take the old group:
701 Whaley Street (non-profit project)
Jack Gerstner – charlatan
BlueCross BlueShield – fat cats with money to give
SC Arts Commission – state arts agency
Jeffrey Day – arts writer for The State
City of Columbia (Mayor)

Here’s the new group:
701 Whaley Street (commercial project)
Wim Roefs – commercial gallery owner & freelance curator
BlueCross BlueShield – fat cats with money to give
SC Arts Commission – state arts agency
Jeffrey Day – arts writer for The State
plus people formerly connected with Columbia’s City Council and board of the Columbia Museum of Art

The building at 701 Whaley Street has vastly improved now in the hands of commercial developers.

Jack Gerstner is out of the picture I hope – still dealing with the IRS, I hope when he’s not being described as an arts angel by a local Columbia magazine.

Wim Roefs replaces Gerstner as the third of the mighty art triangle in Columbia. Roefs as the organizer, Jeffrey Day as the promotional agent, and the SC Arts Commission for official sanction and funding.

BlueCross BlueShield seems to be always waiting in the wings with funding. Have your rates gone up lately?

Gerstner seemed to have had the ear of Columbia’s Mayor until things got out of hand and the new group has the support of those well connected to Columbia’s City Council and the Columbia Museum of Art.

What more do you need to be successful? Maybe they could get the Pope’s blessings.

What burns me is that the SC Arts Commission is always telling most of the people in the commercial side of the arts that there is no room at the inn for them when it comes to funding and assistance – but this project – this new Arts Center – this new non-profit – will do nothing but benefit commercial developers and a commercial gallery owner – even with a one-year promise to not promote the artists he represents.

And, when you’ve got the support and blessings of The State newspaper – who is going to cry foul? People in Columbia have read negative things about themselves in print when they oppose the dealings of the powerful and well connected – under the protection of the local newspaper.

This is another example of a project that gets overwhelming support – because of who is behind it – while others are rebuffed on technicalities. And the current track record is mixed at best. Just take the Columbia Festival of the Arts – under the leadership of Marvin Chernoff and many of the same players; or a collaboration between the Columbia City Ballet and Jonathan Green (another Chernoff project) or the first Gallery 701 project – all highly praised and supported projects – all financial disasters.

Don’t get me wrong. This new 701 Center for Contemporary Art will probably be a good thing for the overall visual art community in Columbia and for South Carolina – at least let’s hope it will, but wouldn’t it be nice if the playing field was equal so that anyone could come with such a proposal and get the same support – or even half the support – this project is getting.

But isn’t it amazing how this new project has already received $45,000 from city accommodations and hospitality taxes, from a group that just formed – with no record of accomplishments as a group – except who they can get behind them.

That’s what’s wrong with the way the arts are supported and funded in South Carolina. It’s not what you can do – it’s who you know.

And, those people – when things fall apart – they seem to disappear into the gray areas of responsibility where they didn’t know what was going on or better yet – they didn’t know they were still being listed as a supporter. It’s one of the wonderful things about being involved with a non-profit in South Carolina – you can take all the credit for the good and have no responsibility for the bad.