Posts Tagged ‘SC Arts Foundation’

SC Arts Commission Saved Again, But Just Barely – the 2012 Version

Monday, July 30th, 2012


I think the first paragraph of the article written by Otis R. Taylor, Jr. in The State newspaper after the big rally says it all.

“The State House was under an umbrella of creativity Monday evening as hundreds of arts supporters met on the grounds to oppose Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of the South Carolina Arts Commission budget.”

You can read the whole article at this link (

Even Columbia’s Free Times newspaper reported that only “hundreds flocked to the State House for a colorful pro-arts rally”.

A Facebook event page was created, Rally for the Arts – Support the SC Arts Commission, which invited 13,327 Facebook members (people involved with the arts in SC) to join in, yet only 1,688 “claimed” they would show up at the rally, while 578 others said – maybe. Yet only hundreds showed up.

Some will say the weather kept people away, but if I was the Arts Commission I wouldn’t want to count on my fair-weather friends to save me again and again, as this battle over the Arts Commission’s future isn’t over.

The main point here is – the SC Arts Commission was never in real danger of being eliminated – it was all a bunch of political show.

Our Tea-Bagger Governor wants to eliminate the Arts Commission altogether, which is wrong, but the Legislature has other plans. The House lawmakers approved a bill that would have moved the Arts Commission into the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, much like the way North Carolina handles its arts agency, but the Senate did not vote on the bill. Hopefully that will happen this next session and the Arts Commission will be reorganized with a different mission, some different staff members, and hopefully not many of the Commission’s “rubber stamp” board members – if any.

The Governor claims that the Arts Commission’s overhead is too high and I hate to have to agree with her on that point. I couldn’t begin to explain what 20 staff members do on a daily basis at the Arts Commission. And, their expenses do seem to be out of whack for an agency with such a small budget – under $4 million this year. They even had to move the agency into cheaper digs this year to stay under the 30 percent overhead mandated last year by the Legislature. And, the Governor is not happy about the executive director, Ken May’s salary – $91,664 a year. Which does seem high for an agency with such a small budget.

I looked at some other SC State agency’s budgets and pay their executives get and I was a little surprised. Take the Sea Grant Consortium, which was also on the Gov’s chopping block. They have a $6 million budget, but their executive director is only making $83,408. This agency has the same number of employees, a bigger budget, but the top person makes less money.

The head of the Budget and Control Board makes $173,380, but that agency deals with almost $1/2 billion and the head of the Department of Transportation which deals in billions only makes $146,000. Wouldn’t you think an executive’s salary would have some relationship to their budget?

I’d say Ken May’s salary is a big part of the Arts Commission’s overhead – in relation to it’s budget. Is it too much? I know a smaller salary would mean more funding for arts projects.

I’ve heard some talk that the Legislature is thinking about an audit of the Arts Commission which may revel more about where the money is going. That might clear the air some, but I would prefer they get on with the business of re-organizing state government before our Governor comes up with some new ideas about pleasing her Tea Bag supporters. She might start giving the Arts Commission’s board the Darla Moore treatment.

So who showed up at the big rally? Mostly people from Columbia. And, I’m not surprised about that. They are close to the Arts Commission – a centralized agency based in Columbia with no branches in other areas of the state. These were the people who see the Arts Commission staff at their performances, their exhibits, and in the grocery stores and restaurants of Columbia.

Here’s an example of how Columbia oriented the control of the arts are in South Carolina. Take a look at the SC Arts Foundation who the Arts Commission is in “partnership” with – sharing address, staff and phone numbers, but are totally separate – so they say.

The South Carolina Arts Foundation Board of Directors 2011-2012

Michel G. Moore, Columbia, President
Debra Timmerman, Charlotte, Vice President
Childs Cantey Thrasher, Columbia, Vice President
Jeffry C. Caswell, Columbia, Treasurer
Victoria Hollins, Columbia, Secretary
Patrick R. Van Huss, Columbia, Immediate Past President
Miller G. Bannister, Columbia
Gloria M. Bell, Charleston
Maryanne Belser, Columbia
Jerelyn “Jeri” Boysia, Columbia
Eric Brown, Greenville
J. Ashley Cooper, Charleston
Fannie I. “Judy” Cromwell, Greenville
Beryl Dakers, Columbia
James M. Dedman, IV, Greenville
Chandra Foster, Fort Mill
Shani Gilchrist, Columbia
Sarah Lynn Hayes, Rock Hill – Ex Officio
Robert Hoak, Greenville
Pamela L. Jenkins, Columbia
Robin Leverton, Beaufort
Ken May, Columbia – Ex Officio (Non-Voting)
J. Michael McCabe, Columbia
Rhett Outten, Mt. Pleasant
Donna Pullen, West Columbia
Ruth Rast, Columbia
Peggy Reynolds, Beaufort
Elizabeth Sowards, Chapin – Ex Officio
Linda C. Stern, Columbia
Leo F. Twiggs, Orangeburg
Bhavna Vasudeva, Columbia
John Whitehead, Columbia

All but one officer is from Columbia. Out of 32 members, 18 are from Columbia (more than half the board), 4 are from Greenville, 3 from the Charleston area, 2 from the Rock Hill area, 2 from Beaufort, 1 from Orangeburg, 1 from Chapin, and 1 from Charlotte, NC (?). I’d like to hear the story of why one of the members lives in Charlotte, NC.

There are no members from North Charleston (3rd largest city in SC), Spartanburg, Aiken, Florence, Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach, Sumter or any of the smaller communities in the state – other than Chapin, which is just outside of Columbia. Why are so many from Columbia?

Of course many of these same folks jump back and forth from the board of the Arts Commission to the board of the SC Arts Foundation – and back again. I can’t remember when a few of these folks haven’t been on one or the other of the boards.

It’s no wonder there weren’t rallies all over the state to save the Arts Commission or people traveling from far ends of the state to the rally in Columbia. The representation isn’t there for the whole state. And, for many around the state like me – we didn’t notice a thing different when the Arts Commission was shut down and won’t notice a thing now that their doors are open again. The Arts Commission isn’t there for us – they’re only there for non-profits and a few individuals.

South Carolina needs to continue to support the arts with our tax dollars, but we also need to shake things up and re-organize the arts structure in the state and change some of the faces in control. We are way behind our neighbor to the North in making the arts a productive part of our state’s economy (at the bank – not just on paper) – and not just thought of as a burden.

Let’s hope the Legislature does something soon.

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.

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.

South Carolina Arts Commission Update

Monday, January 19th, 2009

An e-mail is floating around that is trying to build support for the SC Arts Commission. Its author – Betty Plumb of the South Carolina Arts Alliance – what a surprise. The Arts Alliance is a non-profit created by the Arts Commission to lobby for them in the SC State Legislature. The Alliance is kind of like the SC Arts Foundation – created by the Arts Commission to shelter funds from State oversight.

What’s the big hub-bub about? Why the call for manufactured outrage and action?

A SC State Representative, Dan Cooper (R-Anderson), and Chair of the SC House Ways and Means Committee (the budget writing committee) made the statement – “We could at some point look at zeroing out agencies”, citing higher education, arts and social programs. Then an editorial in The State included the words, “we can’t afford to operate an agency that hands out grants to arts organizations”. These are fightin’ words to South Carolina’s non-profit arts groups. The only thing is, neither were actually suggesting that the State close up the SC Arts Commission. Too bad.

In my opinion, the State could save money by closing down the Arts Commission and taking the money they do give to these arts organizations and give it directly to the States’ counties to distribute to the arts organizations they see fit to get funding. Let local people decide who gets money locally and cut out the middle man. The counties are already distributing funding to these groups. It would just give them a little more to spread around. The State might even be able to give the arts even more money than the Arts Commission does. After all, they are one of the largest state arts agencies in the US. There is a lot of fat overhead in that agency.

So the Arts Alliance is calling on the faithful to write Representative Cooper to tell him he has it all wrong and to write letters to the editors of newspapers to explain how vital the Arts Commission is to the well-being of the South Carolina art community and its citizens.

Are they asking people to lie? Well, I’m sure from the perspective of people who do receive funding from the Arts Commission – their elimination might be a disaster, but I wonder what they would say if the State said – if we close down the Arts Commission you will get the same level of funding you have been getting and maybe a little more. Then what would their opinions be? It’s all about money – loyalty is about money. I know I’ve heard a lot of unflattering talk about the Arts Commission from these same people – when it’s a private conversation. In public – everything is just fine – as long as the money keeps flowing.

So what’s the opinion from the rest of the folks in the art community who never see any funding from the Arts Commission, no service, or not even a kind word of encouragement? We may never know. These people are the silent majority in this case – well, in all cases. But you can change all that by letting Representative Cooper hear from the other side. The Arts Alliance provided all the Representative’s contacts in their e-mail.

The Honorable Dan Cooper
P. O. Box 11867; Columbia, SC 29211
PH: 803-734-3144
HWM Committee Fax: 803-734-3144
S.C. House Fax: 803-734-2826
Rep. Cooper’s E-mail: (
Home: 361 Browning Road, Piedmont, SC 29673;
PH: Red: 864-947-1230; Bus: 864-260-4025

Now is a good time to speak up and tell someone what your really think of the Arts Commission. I have. I’m all for public funding of the arts, but not for funding fat State agencies.

SC Arts Commission – SC Arts Foundation – Who is Whom?

Friday, December 26th, 2008

I know I touched on this subject before in this blog and I mentioned it in my commentary in the Jan. 09 issue of Carolina Arts, but I’m going into this puzzling situation in some detail, and that takes more space than I’ll ever have in the paper.

Now, the claim from these two entities is that they are both separate organizations. The SC Arts Commission is a SC State arts agency and the SC Arts Foundation is a separate arts non-profit – independent of each other.

But here’s part of the picture of reality. The SC Arts Foundation has a separate board – made up of members – some of whom are SC Arts Commission board members, past board members, and staff members of the Arts Commission. The Arts Foundation’s only known contact is an employee of the SC Arts Commission – Rusty Sox. And, if you want to call the Arts Foundation, you have to call the SC Arts Commission.

That’s what they call being totally independent – while at the same time they are dependent on the Arts Commission for almost everything I can find out about them. I’m sure their records are kept at the Arts Commission’s office in Columbia, SC. In fact, pretty much the only information you can find about the SC Arts Foundation is posted on the SC Arts Commission’s website. So when the Arts Foundation says it has forged a strategic partnership with the Arts Commission – you can bank on that.

This is what is posted on the SC Arts Commission’s website.

The SCAF has forged a strategic partnership with the S.C. Arts Commission, the state’s government arts agency, linking its mission to the Arts Commission’s goals of :

* Artist development
* Arts education
* Community development through the arts

While operating independently of one another, the partnership between these two key statewide organizations allows them to maximize resources and realize the greatest impact from programming and financial support statewide. Working with the S.C. Arts Commission, the SCAF has helped advance the arts in South Carolina in some significant ways:

* Funding artist training and development through Artist Fellowships.
* Designating proceeds from Driven by the Arts license plate sales to benefit in-school artist residencies and other arts education programs in schools and communities across the state.
* Purchasing new work for the State Art Collection – the state’s growing collection of contemporary South Carolina visual art.
* Recognizing outstanding achievement in the arts through its support of the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner/Governor’s Awards for the Arts.
* Providing exhibition and sales opportunities for South Carolina’s visual artists with the Verner Art Sale.
* Giving the private and business communities an opportunity to support the statewide growth of the arts through tax-deductible contributions.


This is what the SC Arts Foundation’s stated purpose is. But due to State budget cuts, the SC Arts Commission announced that it would suspend adding to the State Art Collection this year and cancel the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner/Governor’s Awards for the Arts, the awards luncheon and the Verner Art Sale. That’s three of the Arts Foundation’s six functions. Leaving – funding the Artist Fellowships, deciding where funds go from license plate sales to arts education and taking in donations from the private and business community.

Let’s take the license plate sales out of the picture. I have no problem with this program – arts education needs all the funding it can get, but this program can’t put a lot of burden on the Arts Foundation.

Then there is the Artist Fellowships – six a year at $5,000 a pop – unless that has been cut this year too – which amounts to $30,000. Again, not a big burden for the Art Foundation (more about that later).

That leaves taking in donations from the private and business communities.

If I was an arts group in the non-profit arts community in South Carolina – I’d have a problem with this part of the SC Arts Foundation. You’re in competition with an organization and its twin agency, the SC Arts Commission, to secure money from the only other group – other than government agencies. And they’re the ones giving out awards to those who support the arts (business and private sector). To whom would you rather give money – a group who will give you their unending thanks, until next year – or the group who can give you statewide recognition in the form of a major award – even though no one is getting an award this year. Frankly, with all the non-profit arts groups in SC, I think there are plenty of opportunities for businesses and private individuals to support the statewide growth of the arts through tax-deductible contributions – who needs another one to do it for them?

So here’s a couple of big questions to wonder about. Why is the SC Arts Commission cutting from its budget three of the six functions of the SC Arts Foundation and what will the Arts Foundation be doing with half of its purpose for being – shut down this year? I mean what are they going to be spending their time doing – concentrating on collecting more donations?

Well, I know they now have set up a way to take electronic donations on – the SC Arts Commission’s website. I would wonder if there is some State law about that???

So what kind of money are we talking about anyway? Not sure. I’m sure there is someplace where the SC Arts Foundation has to register an Annual Report as a non-profit, but it’s not offered with all the other info about them that exist on the Arts Commission’s website. But this is what I found on the website of the Office of the Secretary of State for SC.

South Carolina Arts Foundation, 1989 (that’s the year they registered with the Secretary of State)
Patrick Van Huss, CEO
c/o South Carolina Arts Commission
1800 Gervais St.
Columbia, SC 29201

Exemption Status: Registered: Information from this organization’s annual financial report is listed below.

The following is financial information that has been provided to the Office of the Secretary of State by the above-named organization. Figures are for the organization’s fiscal year 7/1/2007 – 6/30/2008.

TOTAL REVENUE: $271,688.00
TOTAL EXPENSES: $211,209.00

According to the financial information filed with this office, this organization devoted 97.2% of its total expenses to program services during the year reported.


That’s the info they provided to the Secretary of State.

First off I want to take exception to the statement made above where the Arts Foundation says in their own description – “these two key statewide organizations” – spending $200,000 doesn’t make you a “key” statewide organization – even in this small state. That’s way, way under expense levels of many of SC’s nonprofit arts organizations – even some artist guilds. What makes them so key with so little money? Maybe it’s who they are attached to?

You’ll notice that there was a $5,908 difference between the Foundation’s program expenses and total expenses. Can this be a fee paid to the Arts Commission or to Rusty Sox? Don’t know. You should also notice that for that fiscal year the Arts Foundation had a left over amount of $60,479.

Now if we subtract the $30,000 for the Artists Fellowships ($5,000 each for six awards) for this year (the only financial obligation left them this year) – even if the Arts Foundation didn’t take in any donations this year – that leaves a remaining $30,000 plus some change.

Like I said before, we’re not counting money taken in for license plates – that is going to art education projects anyway, so there is no need to factor that money into anything. It should already be factored into their programing expenses.

They are not putting any money into purchasing works for the State Art Collection – so the only other expense left was the Verner Awards. And of course the big awards luncheon – a.k.a. – the big party.

The Verner Awards amount to seven awards a year and not knowing how much those statues cost, you have to wonder if the real problem this year was that there wasn’t enough money left for the big party. Could this be why these awards were cut? ($30,000 divided by 7 = $4,285. Do you think they are paying that much for those statues? Don’t know. But, I’m not really sure why these awards were cut – again from the Arts Commission’s budget – when the Arts Foundation says it pays for this program.

Besides seven entities not getting the recognition this year – artists, art administrators, business supporters, etc. – the other victims here are the artists who used to sell works at the luncheon. And, of course the Governor of SC – since these are supposed to be his awards. Maybe there is more to this cut than money. After all the Governor did call for the cuts to the Commission’s budget. Of course he could have given them an exemption to budget cut, so maybe this is payback. Who knows? It’s just something to think about.

Well it’s not hard to believe that this year it is harder for the Arts Foundation to pull in donations from SC’s private and business communities, but it is just as hard to believe that the Foundation hasn’t taken in any donations since July of 2008. But we won’t know that until the Arts Foundation files their 7/1/2008 – 6/30/2009 fiscal year financial info with the Secretary of State. And that won’t be until near the end of 2009 – if that. These non-profits don’t always file on time.

The point of all this is – what, if anything, does purchases for the State Art Collection and the Verner Awards have to do with reducing the SC Arts Commission’s budget – when funding for these programs are supposed to be provided by the SC Art Foundation? I can understand that if the Foundation’s revenues are down or nonexistent that their programs would have to be stopped, but how does cutting these two things reduce the Arts Commission’s budget – because they were listed by the Arts Commission as ways they were reducing their budget.

It’s a puzzle. A real puzzle.

Now, I don’t spend a lot of time pondering this puzzle, but I’m sure I spend more time on it then these two groups would like. But it makes you wonder what is going on here.

Did the Arts Commission just pad their list of where they would be making cuts to their budget? Don’t know. I do know we’ll never see a detailed flow of expenses by either organization.

It’s just another couple of items we’ll never know about the SC Arts Commission.

Like suspending purchases of art for the State Art Collection. Is this really a cut? I haven’t seen any info about these purchases for several years. I checked the Arts Commission’s archive of press release – back to Aug. 2005 and there was no mention of art purchases. Looking at the Arts Commission’s website where they post info about the collection – all 441 works – I couldn’t find but a couple of works with dates in 2006 and only one with a date of 2007. Of course they could have purchased a shipload of works that were produced in previous years, but you would think they would at least brag about it – they’re not usually shy about bragging about what they do or what they provide to the citizens of South Carolina.

Of course this is another responsibility of the Arts Commission’s busy Visual Arts Coordinator – unless the Arts Foundation really does have something to do with this program. But my guess is that this is a failing program the Arts Commission is trying to keep quiet about. That’s why it been under the radar of public information for some years now. There never was much public disclosure about the program anyway.

Let’s revisit those fiscal year 7/1/2007 – 6/30/2008 financial figures. The Arts Foundation reported that they spent $205,301 on programs. Take out the $30,000 for the Artists Fellowships – that leaves $175,301. The only other things the Arts Foundation says it funds is purchases for the State Art Collection, money from license plates to arts education, and the Verner Awards – and of course the luncheon – or what I like to call the big party.

If we divide the remaining funds by 3 that gives $58,433 to each of those three programs. But… $58,433 seems a little high as revenue coming in from license plates. If you buy a plate from the Arts Commission at $170 each – they only had 200, that equals $34,060) and the highway department sells them for $70 – that would equal 349 people buying license plates. There are not that many people who support the arts in SC and we’re a small state. I don’t think 349 people purchased Driven by the Arts license plates that year.

$58, 433 would purchase a very nice piece of art for the State Art Collection – if they did buy anything during that fiscal period. But, we don’t know.

And, $58,433 seems like it would buy seven Verner Awards and throw a very nice luncheon – which most people have to purchase an expensive ticket to attend.

If you take out any large purchase of art for the State Collection and say maybe 200 people purchased license plates – that would leave a lot of money for the Verner Awards. But, it’s hard to imagine that they were spending nearly $100,000 for those seven awards and that luncheon. Isn’t it – or is it?

Other than the $30,000 for the Artists Fellowships, speculating where the other $175,301 the Arts Foundation spent during that year is – well speculation. But we do know they spent the money on something. And, I guess we know that the Arts Foundation or the Arts Commission doesn’t have that money this year to spend on these programs.

We also know that the Arts Foundation has had 50 percent of its stated function reduced. Or do we – remember the Arts Commission is claiming these programs as reductions to their budget.

It’s so confusing.

The fact is we do know that those people and organizations who received funding support from the SC Arts Commission took a 25 percent cut – due to mandated State budget cuts – 14 percent right away and the remainder being held in reserve by the Arts Commission – just in case more cuts are called for – and they are being called for as I write this. But I, for one, am not really sure what kind of cuts the Arts Commission is really taking themselves. This business of listing cuts that are supposedly funding provided by the SC Arts Foundation leaves me wondering how up front the Arts Commission is being with us and the State. It’s not the first time I have had a lack of trust for info provide by the Arts Commission and I’m sure it’s not going to be the last.

I also don’t like the fact that a State employee is working for a private non-profit – strategic partnership or not. Is this the only case? I think not. There have been other instances where services have been rendered to a few that are not really being offered to all. Like helping law firms find art for their offices.

But, when you’re a small State agency (small in terms of total budget) you don’t get a lot of oversight. You just don’t concern State auditors or legislators. You’re pocket change in their view.

And, don’t even think about a newspaper like The State investigating these puzzling items. They’re being supportive of the arts and besides they’ve received a Verner Award for their support of the arts.

And, all I can do is deliver a little sting occasionally – like a no-see’um. You know, those little pesky bugs near the marsh. I’m just giving people something to think about. And, I hope they do.

P.S. We have now learned that the SC Budget and Control Board has issued a 7 percent across-the-board cut to state agencies in addition to cuts passed earlier this fiscal year.

Here’s what the SC Arts Commission’s answer is to this call for cuts. “To implement this most recent cut, the agency will: Increase the number of mandatory staff furlough (unpaid leave) days from four to seven; Reduce most current (FY09) grants by an additional 4 percent, bringing the total cumulative grant reduction for most grantees to 18.2 percent; and Continue to reserve 25 percent of original grant awards pending additional mid-year cuts. This latest cut brings the cumulative total cut to the agency’s budget for FY 2009 to 23.9 percent. The agency continues to do everything it can internally to reduce costs while maintaining service to constituents.”

I don’t care how you say it – if you are holding 25 percent of grant monies from organizations in reserve that’s a 25 percent cut. Three more days of unpaid leave still leaves all their staff members with a job and full benefits. SCETV, SC’s public TV and Radio network laid off 43 employees – now that’s an internal cut. Saying you’re taking a 23.9 percent cut while everyone else has taken a 25 percent cut doesn’t exactly make everyone think the agency is doing everything it can to reduce costs while maintaining service to constituents. I’m not buying that and I don’t think their constituents are either, and I know the people they don’t serve think it’s justice finally served, but they don’t see where the pain is. I can’t find it either.

How Will the SC Arts Commission Cut Its Budget By 10 Percent?

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

The State of South Carolina is in financial trouble due to a reduction in projected revenue. Who isn’t? The Governor of SC is calling for the heads of State agencies to come up with ideas to reduce their budgets by 10 percent – before the State Legislature has to do it. I’m wondering what Suzette Surkamer, Executive Director of the South Carolina Arts Commission will do.

Will Surkamer cut 10 percent of programs and services or 10 percent of administration overhead – like staff? My guess is cuts will be in programing, grants and services. But she will feel really bad about it.

I have a few suggestions. First Surkamer could retire. She’s been working for the Arts Commission for over 30 years. She could move on and others could move up the ladder and leave a vacancy at the bottom of the chain. Surkamer has been at the top long enough and that would put a big dent in that 10 percent figure.

Surkamer could cut the position of Visual Arts Coordinator. We’re not getting much out of that person anyway. I’m not sure too many would even notice the difference. A very few would, but not many.

Surkamer could cut the Arts Commission’s Regional Media Arts Center. The Center provides resource and network information for film/video exhibitions in ten southeastern states. Let a richer state handle this service. Our state has a separate film office anyway. She might argue that the center brings in revenue from those other states, but we are picking up the overhead.

Surkamer could also tell the SC Arts Foundation that they would have to get their own office, phone number and staff. But that wouldn’t really save much, since both organizations are one in the same. The Foundation is just a shadow organization which acts as a slush fund for the Arts Commission. If the Foundation is real – what a good time for them to get to work and bring in some money to make up for the loss of that 10 percent. The Foundation could cut the party surrounding the Verner Awards, but then without the party – why give awards?

Well it’s going to be a hard job. But she’ll probably just tell everyone to take a 10 percent cut across the board – as if that’s the fair thing to do – even though it’s not – staff salaries and benefits are probably protected by contracts, but programs, grants and services are not.

We’ll soon see what happens.