A Long Range Plan for the Arts in
South Carolina, 2001-2010
Believing that quality arts experiences are the birthright of all South Carolinians, we began to develop this long-range plan for our state with a survey of citizens conducted by the University of South Carolina's Institute of Public Affairs in the fall of 2000. The South Carolina State Survey is a random probability survey of citizens age eighteen and older living in South Carolina. The survey gives policy makers and researchers an opportunity to gather reliable data in a timely and cost-effective manner.
The Arts Commission conducted its first citizen survey, also through USC's Institute of Public Affairs, in 1991. By repeating the same questions with the same methodology, the agency is able to compare and identify changes in public opinion, support and participation over a ten-year period.
Among South Carolina adults, attendance at arts performances or exhibits has declined since 1991.
The percentage who had not attended an arts event in the past twelve months rose from 44.2% in 1991 to 57.3% in the 2000 survey. This decline in attendance was particularly notable among:
- black respondents
- people age 18 to 29
- people age 65 and olde
- residents of the midlands region
When asked why they do not attend, the answers most often given were:
- lack of awareness of events
- lack of time
- lack of interest
This decline in attendance at arts performances or exhibits has not led to a loss of support for the arts.
Residents continue to believe:
- it is important to have quality arts events available in their communities (90%)
- arts education is an important part of basic education for children in elementary through high school (95%)
- state and local government funding for arts activities should be maintained or increased (92%)
- funding to strengthen arts education programs in South Carolina's public schools should be increased (83%)
Where there has been any change in these responses since 1991, it has been in the direction of increased public support for the arts.
A significant percentage of the state's population engages in arts-related activities:
- 25.7% have donated time or money to the arts or cultural activities
- 17.9% have purchased original art work in the past 12 months
- 31.9% have done an arts-related activity such as playing a musical instrument, singing in a choir or vocal group, dancing, acting, arts and crafts, or creative writing
- 57% responded that someone in their
house-hold had participated in arts activities in the last 12 months
The complete survey and findings are available from the Arts Commission.
The Arts Commission engaged an independent consultant to conduct a series of one-on-one interviews with a wide range of South Carolina leaders, most of whom were not directly involved in the arts. The group included corporate executives, business people, legislators, state agency heads, superintendents, educators, retirees, college presidents, municipal officials and others. There were two common perceptions expressed in many of the interviews. The first was the need to work on the public image of the Arts Commission within the state. While the Arts Commission enjoys a sterling reputation on the national arts scene, many statewide leaders perceive there is a public awareness deficiency or visibility problem within the state. They believe that a higher profile for the SCAC's mission and programming would help the agency to be more effective in its work of supporting the arts throughout the state.
Almost 300 artists responded to the written survey that accompanied a mailing of Untitled, SCAC's artist opportunities newsletter. Although not thoroughly scientific, the responses were reflective of the diversity and range of artists in South Carolina. The answers sometimes varied widely. Some artists' concerns were repeated more often than others:
- the frustration of not being able to support themselves through their art
- the lack of sales, bookings and other opportunities to be paid for their work
- lack of understanding and support from some local arts councils
- the perception that college faculty have an unfair advantage
- lack of arts coverage by the news media
- exploitation of artists for fundraising
Almost universally, artists wanted more opportunities for their work to be experienced by others, including arenas outside of South Carolina, and to be paid a fair price for their work. Also, many noted the need for artist retreat space, low cost studios, and workshops.