South Carolina Arts Commission

South Carolina Arts Commission

Art of Community – Rural SC

Creating a way to support new leadership, generate energy, and motivate action in a rural region of South Carolina.

Art of Community – Rural SC advances the South Carolina Arts Commission’s commitment to rural development through arts, culture and creative placemaking. The initial pilot project was launched in 2016 in six rural South Carolina counties:

  • Allendale,
  • Bamberg,
  • Barnwell,
  • Colleton,
  • Hampton
  • and Jasper.

Small teams in each county began reimagining their communities through an arts and culture lens. Each team created demonstration projects to grapple with a current community development issue. These projects focused on how the arts can address local issues that may include economic, community or workforce development, healthcare, education, public safety, housing or capital. The Arts Commission provided small grants to assist with these projects. Art of Community – Rural SC is managed by Program Director Susan DuPlessis (email | 803.734.8693)

Next meeting/event

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How the program works

Explore the sections below for more details on the program, and we invite you to also read the program brochure PDF here.

To approach our work on this pilot project’s work, we began by looking through these lenses.

  • What makes rural places unique?
  • What characteristics define each place?
  • How can those positive characteristics serve as the basis for new ideas and ways to celebrate six small communities in South Carolina’s Promise Zone?
  • Who leads change in each rural community, and how can “the table” be enlarged for more voices to be heard?

Answering the questions in our considerations guided us to these primary objectives for the original six counties in Art of Community – Rural SC.

  1. To create pride of place
  2. To build new relationships with South Carolinians living in rural communities
  3. To inspire new community building using arts and culture
  4. To fuel local action with new resources
  5. To learn together

With considerations answered and primary objectives set, it was time for work to begin.

County Leadership

Small teams in each county began reimagining their communities through an arts and culture lens. Each team created demonstration projects to grapple with a current community development issue. These projects focused on how the arts can address local issues that may include economic, community or workforce development, healthcare, education, public safety, housing or capital. The Arts Commission provided small grants to assist with these projects. The six teams are lead by mavens who work closely with the Arts Commission to drive and sustain the initiative.

Mavens and the communities they represent are Lottie Lewis, Allendale; Dr. Yvette McDaniel, Denmark (Bamberg County); Evelyn Coker, Blackville (Barnwell County); Matt Mardell, maven, and Gary Brightwell, maven emeritus, Walterboro (Colleton County); Audrey Hopkins-Williams, Estill (Hampton County); and Johnny Davis, Jasper County.


Program Leadership

State and national leaders representing expansive thinking in the world of arts, culture and community development serve as an Advisory Council. The council is co-chaired by Pam Breaux, president and CEO of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, and J. Robert ‘Bob’ Reeder, program director for Rural LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation).

Graham Adams
S.C. Office of Rural Health

Savannah Barrett
Art of the Rural

Dr. J. Herman Blake
Humanities Scholar

Andy Brack
Center for a Better South

Dr. Ann Carmichael
Co-chair emeritus
UofSC-Salkehatchie (Ret.)

Dee Crawford
S.C. Arts Commission Board

Robbie Davis
Smithsonian Museum on Main Street

Vernita Dore
USDA-Rural Development (Ret.)

Charles Fluharty
Rural Policy Research Institute

Kerri Forrest
Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation

Sara June Goldstein
S.C. Arts Commission (Ret.)

Don Gordon
The Riley Institute at Furman University

Dixie Goswami
Write to Change Foundation, Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English

Ken May
S.C. Arts Commission

Bernie Mazyck
S.C. Association for Community Economic Development

Bill Molnar
Lower Savannah Council of Governments

Doug Peach
University of Indiana, Ph.D. graduate student

Brandolyn Pinkston
Consumer Affairs Director, South Carolina and Georgia (Ret.)

Jane Przybysz
UofSC McKissick Museum

Lillian Reeves
UofSC Aiken

David Smalls
S.C. Arts Alliance Board

Susie Surkamer
SouthArts

Leila Tamari
ArtPlace America

Javier Torres
SURDNA Foundation

Dean Van Pelt
Savannah River Nuclear Site

Leonardo Vazquez, AICP
The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking

Chris Walker
Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) (Ret.)

The Art of Community is supported in part by funds from:

CHQ Productions: Rural SC Ride-A-Long (6:11)
This film takes a look at the sixth of six meetings, held June 22, 2017, in Estill. Each maven presented a recap of their creative placemaking project that examined a community issue using arts and culture to address or amplify that issue.

Public Transformation  Ashley Hanson and Nik Nerburn (10:10)
Filmmaker and theatre artist Ashley Hanson stops by Denmark on her trip across America visiting rural communities in January and February, 2017.  She interviews maven Dr. Yvette McDaniel and Ashley ‘Glyshae’ Jordan, a member of the Young Voices and of the local team.

Cook Productions Colleton kitchen (2:31)
A closer look at the Colleton County Museum, Farmers Market and Commercial Kitchen in Walterboro from January 2018, site of multiple meetings for The Art of Community: Rural SC.

Cook Productions Walterboro project (11:52)
A first look at the ingredients that form the basis of the arts and the cultural and historical landscape in Walterboro.

Cook Productions: Young Voices (5:46)
Hear the voices of young professionals who live and work in a rural region of South Carolina as they share their considerations of home and possibility.

Cook Productions: Young Voices (11:34)
Hear the voices of high school students and young professionals who live and work in a rural region of South Carolina as they share their considerations of home and possibility.

Cook Productions: Advisors meeting (29:11)
The Art of Community: Rural SC Advisory Council met in March 2017 to hear from  six community mavens, their team members and special guests as well as consider the early accomplishments of  this community arts development initiative in South Carolina.

CHQ Productions: Rural SC Ride-A-Long (5:13)
Building on the assets of place, community and grassroots leaders consider folk and traditional arts as ways to tell the stories of home. May 2017, Blackville, SC.

CHQ Productions: “Where I’m From” (3:18)
Valuing the role of arts in education, the South Carolina Arts Commission provided grant funding for Denmark-Olar High School to host the internationally known music organization, DECODA, and Claire Bryant, native of South Carolina, for a five day songwriting workshop. March 2018, Denmark, SC.

The S.C. Arts Commission’s work in the first six counties served by Art of Community – Rural SC led to a new venture. Create: Rural SC was launched in summer 2018 with a newly formed team of creative professionals discovered through the work in those counties and it is an extension of Art of Community. To fuel local connection and discovery, the Arts Commission enlisted the help of 12 “creative connectors” who sought creative contacts across Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper counties. 

Amber Westbrook manages the program from the Arts Commission office, and visual artist Ment Nelson of Hampton County serves as the local coordinator and liaison for the following ‘creative connectors:’

  • Marcus Johnson (Allendale)
  • Shakora Bamberg (Bamberg)
  • Naviree Johnson (Bamberg)
  • James Wilson (Bamberg)
  • Terrance Washington (Barnwell)
  • Bobby Harley (regional)
  • Ian Dillinger (Colleton)
  • Tamara Herring (Jasper)
  • Joanna Brailey (Jasper)
  • Amanda Whiteaker (regional)
  • Ashley Jordan (regional)

Together, they built a network of young creatives making names for themselves in their rural communities instead of leaving for larger, urban locales. The program is funded in part by grants from USDA-Rural Development as well as from a Neighborworks America grant won by Center for a Better South.