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SC Arts Commission 40th Anniversary

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Significant events in the history of the South Carolina Arts Commission


  • Congress passed the law that led to creation of the National Endowment for the Arts. The legislation included funding for the states to conduct arts surveys, which became the catalyst for state governmental interest in the arts.
  • Gov. Robert E. McNair issued executive order creating the S.C. Inter-Agency Council on Arts and Humanities.



  • First Governor’s Council on the Arts held.


June 7, 1967

  • Gov. McNair signed law creating the S.C. Arts Commission



  • David Sennema hired as first executive director.
  • SCAC begins to function on Aug. 16, 1967.
  • “Arts Letters,” the first SCAC newsletter is born.
  • State Art Collection is established.
  • Grants awarded: $38,770



  • First strategic plan is undertaken.
  • Arts Organization Personnel Development Program launched.
  • Grants awarded: $58,147



  • Arts Calendar created
  • Arts Supervisor post created in State Department of Education (with SCAC support).
  • Grants awarded: $48,712



  • Grants awarded: $90,279



  • Wesley Brustad hired as executive director.
  • In-Residence Performing Arts Program started.
  • S.C. Arts Foundation established to support the work of SCAC.
  • Grants awarded: $158,453



  • Gov. John West presents first Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts.
  • Programs launched include: Poets-In-Residence, Film Production Grants, and Historic Arts Restoration and Preservation.
  • Film Equipment Loan Program established (would become the SCAC Regional Media Arts Center).
  • Grants awarded: $232,832



  • Rick George becomes SCAC executive director.
  • TAP (Total Arts Program), and intensive arts-in-education project, established for Lancaster County, Chester and Fort Mill.
  • ARTS (Arts Resource Transit Service), a mobile artists’ studio, visits 24 communities and draws more than 100,000 visitors.
  • SCORE (S.C. Open Road Ensemble), SCAC’s touring theatre company (later known as State South) opens its first season.
  • Grants awarded: $138,000



  • Arts in Motion program, a long-term artists-in-residence program designed to promote inter-racial communication, established in Greenwood and Saluda counties.
  • First SCAC Invitational Exhibition, which became the Annual Exhibition.
  • Grants awarded: $112,459



  • State Art Collection tops 100 works.
  • Project TAP engages more than 18,000 students and teachers in 33 schools
  • Grants awarded: $147,180



  • Spoleto USA held for first time in Charleston (with support from SCAC).
  • Crafts Development Program established to preserve such traditional crafts as Catawba pottery and sweet grass baskets.
  • Arts-in-Motion program moves to Sumter and Lee counties.
  • First Individual Artist Fellowships awarded.
  • “Stop the Butterfly,” anthology of student poetry, published.
  • Grants awarded: $138,588



  • Grants awarded: $156,618



  • “Artifacts,” The agency’s tabloid news publication, debuts
  • Grants awarded: $117,592



  • Scott Sanders becomes SCAC executive director.
  • First Performing Arts Showcase held.
  • First “Canvas of the People” conducted.
  • The Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Awards designated as Governor’s Award for the Arts by Gov. Richard Riley.
  • Grants awarded: $307,284



  • Regional arts coordinators system established
  • Stage South touring theatre company closed.
  • Grants awarded: $345,931



  • First Artists in Education Conference presented.
  • Rural Arts Program (established 1980-81) expanded from four to 11 sites.
  • “Artifacts” doubles in circulation.
  • Grants awarded: $280,901



  • The State Film Office transferred from SCETV to the SCAC
  • “Chiefs,” made for TV movie, filmed in Chester, and “Big Chill” shot in Beaufort.
  • Grants awarded: $318,400



  • Canvas of the People updated.
  • S.C. Film Office transferred to Department of Commerce.
  • Grants awarded: $604,520



  • Dan Wagoner “Dual Home” Dance Residency established.
  • “Faces of the South” exhibit features artists from the Carolinas and Georgia, presented in Rome, Italy.
  • “Arts in the Mansion” introduces children to noted S.C. artists, hosted at Governor’s mansion.
  • Grants awarded: $755,193



  • S.C. Arts Foundation reactivated to encourage business support of the arts.
  • SCAC Annual Exhibition held in conjunction with Columbia’s Bicentennial.
  • Task force on Media Arts convened.
  • Grants awarded: $1,162,935



  • Another Canvas of the People held.  A key outcome is a strong call for better arts education in S.C.
  • New five-year plan (based on the Canvas) adopted by SCAC.
  • NEA funds grants for Local Government Challenge ($195,000) and Arts in Schools Basic Education Planning ($20,000).
  • Five S.C. communities participate in Tri-State Design Arts Project.
  • Grants awarded: $1,296,003



  • SCAC observes its 20th anniversary year with first Statewide Conference on the Arts.
  • Grant-in-Aid program revised to focus on professional arts industry and artists.
  • SCAC leads statewide coalition in development of the Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) Plan.
  • Grants awarded: $1,262,657



  • SCAC receives three-year NEA grant for Arts in Schools Basic Education Implementation.
  • “Carolina Connections: A National Literary Festival for Writers and Readers” held in Charleston.
  • SCAC exhibits entire State Art Collection during opening of S.C. State Museum and publishes 20-year retrospective catalog.
  • Grants awarded: $1,496,676



  • SCAC establishes Hugo Art Fund and receives $100,000 NEA grant to assist artists and arts organizations affected by hurricane.  More than $200,000 is eventually raised and distributed.
  • Eleven ABC model sites (schools and school districts) established.
  • Under Target 2000 education reform legislation, S.C. Department of Education funds 56 arts education projects.
  • Visual Arts & Crafts Fellowship Retrospective held.
  • Grants awarded: $1,773,536



  • Canvas of the People held.  First to include extensive research, including public polling (USC’s S.C. Survey)
  • “Statements of Heritage: Variant American Visions” exhibition held at State Museum.
  • S.C. is one of eight states to receive pilot funding from NEA for rural arts development, resulting in “Cultural Visions for Rural Communities” plan.
  • Grants awarded: $1,885,821



  • SCAC’s 25th anniversary year observances include First Triennial Exhibition and Statewide Conference on the Arts.
  • “Ten Year Plan for the Arts in South Carolina, 1992-2001” published (based on Canvas).
  • First statewide folk arts conference, “Drawing from the Well: Honoring South Carolina’s Folk Heritage,” held.
  • First Southeastern Media Institute hosted by Regional Media Arts Center.
  • Grants awarded: $1,791,529



  • “KY/SC Exchange,” an exhibition of Kentucky and S.C. artists, held at the State Museum.
  • SCAC receives NEA grant for Arts Resource Partnerships, supporting collaborations between arts institutions and local educators.
  • Grants awarded: $1,870,462



  • SCAC sponsors first statewide Design Arts Conference.
  • “In South Carolina, Arts Education Means Business” multi-media campaign launched.
  • SCAC hosts National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) annual meeting in Charleston.
  • “Craft of the Carolinas” exhibition held in conjunction with NASAA conference.
  • Suzette Surkamer named SCAC executive director.
  • Grants awarded: $1,749,255



  • First Cultural Visions Leadership Institute presented in partnership with the Strom Thurmond Institute.
  • S.C. Design Arts Partnership (SCAC, SC Downtown Development Association and Clemson School of Architecture) founded.
  • Grants awarded: $2,279,987



  • Thirty-four arts organizations acquire online communications capability via first round of SC ArtsNet grants.
  • SCAC Web site established, and first voice mail system implemented.
  • Grants awarded: $2,067,354


  • “KY/SCnyc” presented at the National Arts Club in New York City.
  • Arts for Better Schools Institute held, focusing on positive impact of arts education on general school improvement.
  • SCANA sponsors a "Celebrate the Arts" bus, honoring SCAC's 30th anniversary.
  • Grants awarded: $1,937,381



  • "QuickStart" grant program established to provide a fast-track, simplified access to artist residencies for un-served schools.
  • First S.C. Institute for Community Scholars in the Traditional Arts presented with support from NEA and the Humanities Council of S.C.
  • First “City Arts” exhibition series hosted at NationsBank Plaza in Columbia.
  • SCAC showcases S.C. arts as part of a Budget & Control Board mission to Mainz Trade Show in Germany.
  • SCAC contracts Dr. Michael Seaman of USC to conduct a comprehensive review of ABC Plan implementation.
  • Grants awarded: $2,025,608


  • “Arts Calendar” (now “Arts Daily”) launched, in partnership with SCETV Radio.
  • “Views from the Edge of the Century,” a two-year, statewide series of over 30 exhibitions, begins.
  • New shared staff position to support literary arts created in partnership with the State Library and the Humanities Council of S.C.
  • Grants awarded: $2,250,708



  • SCAC publishes “The Arts in Basic Curriculum Project: A Ten Year Evaluation.”
  • ABC Outreach Program begins, in response to findings of the ABC Ten Year Evaluation.
  • SCAC receives the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies' Innovation Award in recognition of its role in the ABC Project.
  • S.C. Design Arts Partnership presents its first Mayors' Institute for Community Design.
  • Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program launched.
  • Grants awarded: $3,035,846



  • Fifth Canvas of the People conducted.
  • The Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds award $800,000 for SCAC initiative to build public participation in the arts.
  • Legislative Arts Caucuses formed in General Assembly.
  • “Inheritance,” an anthology of selected stories from the S.C. Fiction Project, published in collaboration with Hub City Writers Project.
  • Grants awarded: $3,120,552



  • SCAC publishes “A Long Range Plan for the Arts in South Carolina 2001-2010” (based on Canvas).
  • Grants awarded: $2,529,503



  • SCAC-sponsored study, “Economic Impact of the Arts in South Carolina,” reports that the arts are a $1.9 billion industry in the Palmetto State.
  • SCAC hosts Statewide Symposium on Arts Participation and selects 10 arts organizations to join a statewide learning community on arts participation.
  • Grants awarded: $2,261,664



  • SCAC receives its second NASAA Innovation Award, in recognition of the S.C. Design Arts Partnership, at NASAA annual meeting, again in Charleston.
  • “Thresholds” exhibition opens in conjunction with NASAA conference, tours through 2006.
  • First “Toaster Filim Festival” video competition held.
  • Regional Media Arts Center closes.
  • Grants awarded: $2,007,900



  • Hub City Writers Project, in collaboration with SCAC, publishes “Twenty: South Carolina Poetry Fellows”
  • “Triennial 2004”—the last of the series—opens at the State Museum.
  • Grants awarded: $1,928,408



  • New grant programs launched: Cultural Tourism, Leadership and Organizational Development, and American Masterpieces.
  • First major exhibition of State Art Collection since 1988 held at Sumter Gallery of Art.
  • Grants awarded: $2,105,346



  • First “bricks and mortar” grants awarded by SCAC for 35 arts facility projects statewide.
  • SCAC unveils “Driven by the Arts” license plates.
  • SCAC invited to join national LINC (Leveraging Investments in Creativity) initiative to improve conditions for artists in all disciplines.
  • Grants awarded: $3,627,096

40th Anniversary background

For more information, contact Milly Hough, Communications Director (803-734-8698).