Posts Tagged ‘SC State Art Collection’

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.

SC Arts Commission Budget Cuts – Have You Heard?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

On Oct. 14, 2008, I posted comments wondering how the SC Arts Commission would make cuts to its budget as the State of SC was facing an almost half a billion dollar shortfall. At that time people were thinking 10% cuts were in line. In my comments, I doubted that the Commission would take much of the brunt of the cuts on themselves and made suggestions where some cuts could be made. But, I expected the real cuts to come in services to the arts and the public.

By Oct. 22, 2008, Jeffrey Day in The State newspaper in Columbia, SC, our capital city, offered an article where he used the 10% figure and offered quotes from a commission staff member that this figure might just represent the start of cuts. There wasn’t much offered in the article about any cuts the Arts Commission would make on itself.

Day often runs blocking plays for the Arts Commission so I expected as much from his article. Let’s see if he has a follow-up story on the real cuts.

Well, now I’ve heard from a source that those individuals and groups who received grants from the Arts Commission had their funds cut by 25% – 14.2% is an immediate cut and the other half will be held by the Commission – in case of further cuts down the road. If you don’t know – grantees never get all the money up front when they receive funding from the Arts Commission – so the Arts Commission always has control of the money.

This is kind of like a temporary tax issued to raise funds for a project and once the project is finished the tax is dropped, but the tax never seems to get dropped. The house never loses – they’re holding all the cards.

This same source said that the Commission for its part would be cutting its administrative budget 14.2% through a number of measures, including 4-day furloughs by all of their employees, reduction in leased vehicles, and staff reduction through attrition. They’re also going to suspend the Verner Awards for this year – one of my recommendations. More about that later.

I don’t like making comments on third party info – although I appreciate the heads up. I like to comment on public record – directly offered or in newspaper reports. So I had to wait to see if this info would become public – which isn’t always the case when it comes to the SC Arts Commission. Finally the information about the cuts was posted on the Arts Commission’s website. You can read the full details here (

So let’s take a look at the cuts the Commission is making to itself.

Do you feel their pain? Four days off work without pay, but you still have your job and all the benefits that come with it. Let’s see that’s less than one week out of 52. That’s a 2% cut in salary – what a sacrifice. The length of the furloughs is not mentioned in the Arts Commission’s press release – probably for the calculation I just made, but I’ll go with my source on this one.

The Commission will reduce its leased vehicles from three to one. This means the staff will be sitting in Columbia most of the time – a plus for Columbia’s art community – not so good for the rest of the art community in SC. Of course they could drive their own cars to meet with people in the hinterlands, but we’ll see about that one. They say they are reducing most travel plans and will hold all commission meetings in Columbia. Oh no – no Commission board meeting in Charleston during the Spoleto Festival. Now there’s some real pain. So, the results here are further costs for others who have to deal with the Commission by traveling to Columbia.

They will outright cancel planned publications, other printing and mailings – meaning even less communications with the art community and public. This has to be seen as a benefit of the call for budget cuts by the Arts Commission, but didn’t their leader just win a national award from her peers for her communicating skills? Timing is everything.

And, if someone leaves their job – they won’t rehire to fill the position, but if no one leaves, they don’t do anything. Some temporary staff positions will be reduced. Who knows who they are – most people don’t know who all works for the Arts Commission to begin with. What do they all do? Remember, SC has one of the largest arts agency staffs in the region and nation.

The Commission will suspend State Art Collection purchases. That’s a big cut – I haven’t heard of any additions to the collection in years. And no Verner Awards this year! Another big sacrifice for the Commission board members.

Wait a minute – isn’t the funding for the Art Collection and the Verner Awards functions of the SC Arts Foundation – a totally separate group from the Arts Commission? What would cuts to the State agency have to do with those programs? Or are they really one in the same? What gives here? Did they fall for my little trap – trying to make people mad at me for recommending this cut, and by making it so – expose that there is no difference between the two. Why would they have to make this cut? Is the cost of the award statues and a press release posted on their website that much? Or is this a way to make the artists feel the Arts Commission’s pain. Announce the awards and give them the statue – without your party. Is the award just a product of the party?

In other words – the Arts Commission won’t be making much of a sacrifice itself, while all the people they serve will take a 25% cut – 14.2 right away and more to come if needed. I’m betting it will be needed to protect the Arts Commission from further sacrifices.

What they are doing is settling into their offices in Columbia and waiting for retirement – services be dammed.

A Slice of the Arts Commission’s Ten Year Plan

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Back on Aug. 20, 2008, I posted my opinion on the future of the SC Arts Commission’s Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC) program. I wasn’t too optimistic – based on my experience. In that posting I mentioned the Canvas of the People process. Some readers didn’t know what I was talking about. Surprise! Here’s a little sample.

This is one of the sections from the Ten Year Plan which deals with the part of the arts I’m involved in. Our paper, Carolina Arts, promotes the visual arts in North and South Carolina – in SC, in NC, and around the world on our website. So we’re into marketing the visual arts in the Carolinas.

As far as arts advocacy goes – many say I’m no advocate, but I dare to disagree. I wouldn’t be doing this – all that I do – if I didn’t love the arts and wanted others to love them too. But, I’m not the love em or leave em type. Not everything is good about the arts. Some people just don’t like you to draw attention to that – so when I do, they say I’m against the arts. Next they’ll question my patriotism.

So here’s one slice of that Ten Year Plan. I’m sure you can find the whole report somewhere on the Arts Commission’s website. My copy is from eight years ago.

Taken from the South Carolina Arts Commission’s Ten Year Plan – Canvas of the People 2001 – 2010 report.

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.


1. Develop marketing and information systems that help citizens easily identify and connect with arts resources that fit their needs and interests.

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

3. Build public understanding and appreciation of the “behind-the-scenes” creative process through which works of art are produced.

4. Monitor and communicate the public’s opinions and values regarding the importance of arts in the schools and communities and their desire for public funding to support the arts.

5. Understand and document the economic impact of the arts themselves and the influence of the arts on general economic development. Share this information with all potential partners, and publicize it broadly.

6. Develop ongoing relationships with local, state and federal legislators and legislative staff, and cultivate two-way communication that increases their understanding of the arts and the legitimate role of government in their support, while providing arts advocates with greater access to and better understanding of the legislative process.

7. Engage business leaders and other influential allies to advocate for arts and arts education.

8. Influence public policy at all levels including city, county, state, and federal, in support of the arts and public funding of the arts.

OK – so let’s take a look.

On the Marketing and Advocacy statement, I’ve seen none of this in the last eight years directed at me or our paper. We are the only publication covering the visual arts in both North and South Carolina. They may have spent a lot of time developing a relationship with other media outlets in SC, but not with us. But, I also haven’t seen any increase in arts coverage in the media. The Arts Commission no longer has a publication of their own so they have done little other than setting up Arts Daily, a website used by some arts groups throughout the region and artists around the country – because they make no effort to make it a SC only resource.

As far as making the arts regarded as a vital resource – even the media is cutting back on arts coverage while they try to keep their readers and viewers.

I love this statement, “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.” Have we not provided enough, if not the most criticism of the arts – mostly the SC Arts Commission – in South Carolina. I don’t know where they have done anything on this goal.

I have suggested in the past that they could have started a program where they would make funds available for art critics to write reviews of the visual arts that would appear in our paper. They would also have to pay for that space, but that was a none starter because it might benefit me or our paper (a commercial enterprise), but they had no problems doing that many years ago – paying a publication based in Chicago to include reviews of exhibits in SC. The problem there was that this national publication wasn’t available many places in SC. But they paid the money for years. And, have you ever seen an ad about any of the Arts Commission’s exhibits in our paper?

They don’t even send us press releases about exhibits they are involved with. We found one on the official SC Press site about an exhibit of ceramics from the State Art Collection taking place in Clemson, SC. We posted it on our website. Their idea of improving relations with the media and arts coverage is to have them go find it on their website or the State’s website. At least that’s the case with us. Again, I don’t know how they are treating others in the media. Well, I know they have a very good relationship with an arts reporter at The State newspaper in Columbia, SC.

On the part of the statement that says, “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.” They may be doing that in Columbia, SC, where they all live and work and by going to lots of national arts conventions and gathering, but they have little if any presence on the local level in SC – other than hanging arts grants over the heads of local arts groups. They don’t reward grassroots movements in South Carolina like they do in North Carolina.

What about the Objectives?

Under Number 1

They created Arts Daily and maintain a website. That’s it on this objective. The artists of SC don’t know what resources are available, nor does most of the public know what’s being offered – by their efforts.

Under Number 2

A few days ago I received a press release about an art exhibit from one of SC’s medium sized art museums, by snail mail – after our deadline. The press release had only the reception date (no ending date making the info unusable for our readers) and no phone number to call about further info. I was referred to a website address for press images.

The year is 2008, most of the information we receive is sent by e-mail so it can be received almost instantly. Images are sent with the press release so I don’t have to take time requesting them or searching for them on a website. Obviously this museum has fallen through the cracks of the Ten Year Plan. We received a press release about this same exhibit, a month earlier, from the commercial gallery who represents the artist presented in the exhibit.

But, they are not the only arts organization unable to communicate to the media. I’m shocked at how much info I have to pry out of some of these groups. Most are lucky that their cultural offerings may be the only events taking place in their own hometowns and cities. So they get coverage in small hometown media, but they can’t compete in the wide-world of arts media coverage – which is in decline in the Carolinas. So you have to be very competitive to get coverage.

Over these last eight years, I haven’t seen the Arts Commission do much to improve this situation in SC. They have a hard time communicating themselves. That’s my experience.

On our website we offer opportunities to all in the visual arts in every part of North and South Carolina, but when some learn that some things won’t be included in our printed version of the paper – they lose interest in sending information. How short sighted can they be? Apparently the Arts Commission hasn’t gotten across how useful a website and the internet can be in spreading information – since that’s all they use for communications. But then again, many of the arts groups who don’t send us info, don’t send it to Arts Daily either. So how should we judge the Arts Commission on their plan to increase arts coverage and communication? Poorly in my opinion.

We have exhibit spaces in NC that never miss a month in sending us press releases about their exhibits – and some have never been printed in our paper. But they keep sending them and they take advantage of our worldwide readership. They appreciate our efforts in including them.

Under Number 3

I haven’t seen much done on this objective. The Arts Commission started an audience building program for some arts groups in Columbia, SC – their own backyard. But I don’t think it really covers the behind the scenes process of creating art. And, when will they get around to the rest of the state with this program?

Under Number 4

I wonder how they have been doing this monitoring of the public’s opinion and communicating it to anyone, but I bet you they tell everyone who matters that the public really is BIG on supporting the arts – especially on the issue of increasing the funding for the Arts Commission – so they can trickle it down to the artists.

Under Number 5

This one they work on all the time. They’re always releasing any report that claims to know the economic impact the arts have on the economy – national, regional and local. Unfortunately they tend to use formulas that are so outrageous that most people don’t believe them. They usually tell people that for every dollar put into the arts, it generates 3, 4, or 5 dollars into the economy. Sometimes it’s 6, 7 or 8 dollars. What they never tell you in these reports is that the dollar is being subtracted from the economy to begin with. That dollar is a tax dollar. Some taxpayers might feel that arts funding is having a negative effect on their economy.

The other thing that is very funny about these “economic impact of the arts” is that these reports always use money that is generated in the commercial sector of the arts, but these same commercial enterprises never get to benefit from public funding. Commercial money is good when it’s needed to pad the total figures, but they don’t want to give any money to those greedy commercial people. Nice!

Under Number 6

Here is another objective the Arts Commission spends a lot of time doing. Kissing up to and whispering in the ears of the people who control their funding.

Remember the 40 list – part of the Arts Commission’s 40th Anniversary celebration. Somehow State Legislators from most counties in SC got nominated to be on this list – even though there weren’t that many people participating from those counties contributing items for other lists. And, their names were just given – no one seemed to have any comments to offer about these supportive legislators. It’s like the names just appeared out of nowhere.

I bet you they spend more energy on this objective – more than all the others combined.

Under Number 7

How would we judge their efforts on this objective? Should we check out the list of Verner Awards winners? Or, try and find out how many consulting jobs they have done for businesses – helping them select art for their offices? Should we ask for a list of which businesses are donating to the SC Arts Foundation? Or, count up the number of press releases they have issued about partnerships with businesses in SC? How do we learn about how well they have done with this objective?

When it comes down to it – they don’t really like talking about this subject at all.

On Number 8

Well, we know they influence State policy on the arts, after all they are a state agency, but I don’t know of any dealings with city, county or federal policy – unless you’re talking about being involved with governments in the Columbia, SC, area again.

Actually, I’d like to see some disclosure on this issue. I’d like to know all the boards and committees staff members of the SC Arts Commission sit on.

So what can we say about the Arts Commission’s leadership in pulling off some of these Ten Year Plan objectives.


In my opinion the overall marketing of the arts in SC is substandard – especially when I compare it to what’s being done in NC. Artists and arts organizations know very little about marketing themselves. Of course the LINC programs will solve this – right.

When these people and groups get public funding from the state of SC – they should be required to do statewide marketing of their events – not just local promotions.


Well that’s kind of simple – has funding for the arts increased or decreased in the last eight years?

Most daily newspapers are cutting back on arts coverage – so they must think their readers are not interested in the arts – or why would they be making cuts there?

Of course I’m sure they would give themselves a higher grade on these objectives. And why not? Isn’t that what people do when they get to self-analyze their own efforts.

How about the idea of an outside audit or a public survey on the results of the Ten Year Plan. Of course you’d have to explain to most people who and what the Arts Commission is first.

Well, this leaves a lot of work that has to be done in the next two years. But remember – this is just one slice of the Ten Year Plan. There are a lot more objectives.

Hold the presses. I’ve just discovered a press release which informs those who visit the SC Arts Commission’s website that Suzette Surkamer, Executive Director, South Carolina Arts Commission, has just been awarded the 2008 Gary Young Award at the latest NASAA gathering – by her peers – the 2008 Gary Young Task Force. Made up of other state art agency Executive Directors from Vermont, Maryland, Alabama, Ohio, and Washington State. I’m sure all are very well versed on what’s going on in South Carolina – by what they read in the report made by whom? SC Arts Commission staff?

NASAA is the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.

The Gary Young Award recognizes the individual who makes an extraordinary contribution to public support for the arts in his/her state or region. Ideal candidates exhibit exemplary leadership, innovative thinking and dedication to diverse artistic expression.

The press release notes that, “Guided by her vision, the Commission has achieved success and national recognition in areas such as arts education reform, arts advocacy, and public participation.”

Darn – I might be way off base in my comments about the lack of such things taking place in SC. This award proves it. I’m sure these objective observers from across the nation are more aware of what’s been going on here in South Carolina than I am. I mean come on. You don’t think a group of executive directors giving other executive directors awards is bogus – do you?

What’s that thing about putting lipstick on a pig?

Oh and please don’t try and accuse me of trying to smear the Governor of Alaska or Sen. John McCain. I’ll do that in another posting. I’m saying the SC Arts Commission, the 2008 Gary Young Task Force, and NASAA – are the pigs in a poke here.

We’re the suckers!

Keenan Fountain at the Columbia Museum of Art

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

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A few months back I stopped to take some early morning photographs of the new fountain in front of the Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC. Well, it’s not so new, but new enough.

I hope you enjoy some different views of this fountain, named Apollo’s Cascade. The fountain was created by Rodney Carroll in 2007.

While there checking out different views and angles, I stopped to read the plaque posted about the fountain and the people who gave money to make it possible. There were three groups of names (contributors) that made me start thinking. There were lots of other names – businesses, people I don’t know, and corporations.

One was – Mr. and Mrs. Guy Fleming Lipscomb. Here are truly some visual art patrons. The main art gallery space at the SC State Museum in Columbia is named the Lipscomb Gallery, as is the exhibit space at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, SC. There are also Lipscomb funded awards in juried exhibitions. You don’t get these kinds of honors without giving some money along the way.

Another name on the plaque was that of the Cultural Council of Richland & Lexington Counties. I was wondering if their contribution came from funds raised from the Palmetto Trees Project auction. Money raised from that effort was supposed to go to sculpture projects in Columbia. I hope this was one.

The third names were of Wendyth and Warner Wells. Wendy Wells is the owner of City Art, an art gallery located at 1224 Lincoln Street in Columbia. That is also the home of Art Express, an art supply store serving artists’ needs locally, regionally and nationally (there’s a plug). Wells is one of the owners of that business too.

My mind was flashing back to a photograph I had seen in one of the Mint Museum’s newsletters – from a year or so ago. It was a picture of Wells standing, looking at a painting by Amy Fichter, that she and her husband had donated to the Mint’s contemporary collection. Fichter earned her MFA in Drawing at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

I have to say I was a little surprised to see that picture in the Mint newsletter – not to say I was surprised in that I didn’t believe it – more like unexpected seeing someone from SC giving to the Mint collection. I’ve seen a lot of these newsletters and this was new. I’ve also learned that Wells and her husband have donated works by Fichter to the Columbia Museum of Art and to the Birmingham Museum in Alabama. The Birmingham Museum is a surprise too, but I didn’t ask the why question. It didn’t matter.

How interesting.

What am I getting at? Well here was another example of a commercial gallery owner giving back to non-profits. It happens all the time. It probably happens everyday somewhere in the Carolinas. Whether it’s donating artwork for a fundraiser, framing some work for free to be displayed, or making a major contribution for a fountain or a work for a museum collection – people in the commercial side of the art world are always giving, but are often treated as just greedy capitalists – by the same people they are giving to – or at least some of them.

You know, Guy Lipscomb is an artist too. I checked and I didn’t see his name included in the SC Arts Commission’s State Art Collection. Not that giving money to the arts qualifies you to be included in a state collection, but neither is a work by Elizabeth O’Neill Verner and the Arts Commission co-opted her name to be used as an award for SC’s top art award. She was a commercial artist. She sold postcards of her works to early Charleston tourists for pennies. Her artwork isn’t good enough for the State Art Collection, but her name is for an award. In fact, I bet the Arts Commission now wishes they could afford a Verner – just to say they had one.

It’s the double standard. Commercial people – good enough to give, but not worthy enough to receive.

This double standard almost – almost spoiled my viewing of this wonderful fountain. This is what can happen when you know too much about the arts. Your head is filled with the good, but the bad is lurking inside too.