SC Arts Commission 40th Anniversary
Tell Your Story!
Individuals have submitted stories based on their experiences. The Arts Commission has not verified all facts.
Debbie R. Cooke
Photography Instructor, The Fine Arts Center
The Florence Museum
As a young girl growing up in a small Southern town in the 1950s and 1960s, my knowledge of the world was limited to a 1922 set of Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia, and this tiny museum.
Although very loving, my parents viewed art as an unsuitable pursuit for a young girl. The museum became my support and sanctuary. I would pack scrap paper gleaned from restroom paper towel dispensers, mount my bike, and ride the eight blocks to the museum to sit in front of artwork and draw. I whiled away the afternoons sketching Native American pottery, 4,000-year-old Egyptian oil vases, Civil War memorabilia, Japanese kimonos, tapestries, and an array of paintings and drawings. I became as much of a fixture in that museum as any of the objects in the display cases. Virginia Ravanel knew me by name and would often pull up a chair and chat as I questioned her about one artifact after another. My elementary teacher, Mrs. Pattillo, found out about my interest in the museum and brought me scraps of paper from her family's printing company. It would be years before I understood that my lifelong interest in history, culture and art was born at the Florence Museum.
I may have found my political voice during a Robert Mapplethorpe show at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and realized the power of an object standing in front of an ancient tea bowl in Kyoto, Japan, but I discovered my life's possibility on Spruce Street in Florence, S.C.
Submit your story by e-mailing Milly Hough.