Art of Community – Rural SC
Creating a way to support new leadership, generate energy, and motivate action in South Carolina’s rural communities.
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 and in 2019 expanded to a total of 15:
- York/Catawba Indian Nation
* Original six counties
Small teams in each county reimagine their communities through an arts and culture lens. Each team creates demonstration projects to grapple with a current community development issue. These projects focus on how arts and culture can address local issues that may include economic, community or workforce development, healthcare, education, public safety, housing or capital.
The South Carolina 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)
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.
- To create pride of place
- To build new relationships with South Carolinians living in rural communities
- To inspire new community building using arts and culture
- To fuel local action with new resources
- To learn together
With considerations answered and primary objectives set, it was time for work to begin.
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.
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).
S.C. Office of Rural Health
Art of the Rural
Dr. J. Herman Blake
Center for a Better South
Dr. Ann Carmichael
S.C. Arts Commission Board
Smithsonian Museum on Main Street
USDA-Rural Development (Ret.)
Rural Policy Research Institute
Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation
Sara June Goldstein
S.C. Arts Commission (Ret.)
The Riley Institute at Furman University
Write to Change Foundation, Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English
S.C. Arts Commission
S.C. Association for Community Economic Development
Lower Savannah Council of Governments
University of Indiana, Ph.D. graduate student
Consumer Affairs Director, South Carolina and Georgia (Ret.)
UofSC McKissick Museum
S.C. Arts Alliance Board
Dean Van Pelt
Savannah River Nuclear Site
Leonardo Vazquez, AICP
The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking
Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) (Ret.)
Art of Community – Rural SC is a first-of-its-kind program that is receiving a steady stream of attention at the national level.
These are some recent appearances by Program Director Susan DuPlessis and other program representatives.
- National Association of Counties* (Washington)
- Hazho’o Holne Writing Conference (Window Rock, Arizona)
- South + Appalachia Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit* (Columbia)
- ArtPLace America Annual Summit (Jackson, Mississippi)
- Rural Generation 2019 Summit* (Jackson, Mississippi)
- Smithsonian Museum on Main Street annual planning meeting* (Washington)
*Presenter (and planning committee for South + Appalachia and Rural Generation Summit)
Creative Placemaking Public Resources Guide
Among its case studies, the Creative Placemaking Public Resources Guide lists The Art of Community: Rural SC.
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.
CHQ Productions: “What is CREATE: Rural SC?” (4:54)
Over a six month period in 2018, over 250 new contacts were made with artists, entrepreneurs, and makers throughout South Carolina’s six Promise Zone Counties. Through networking and engagement, supported by CREATE: Rural SC, a program of the South Carolina Arts Commission, our understanding of the rural creative economy in the Promise Zone area has been deepened.
OTR Media Group: “Meet the Mavens” (11:20)
The Art of Community: Rural SC initiative began in 2015-16 with the identification of six mavens who agreed to be part of a learning community from a lowcountry region of South Carolina. For more than three years, this cohort learned together and supported one another. Together, they considered and shared local assets, stories, traditions and folk life. They began a new path when they stepped into leadership roles to build teams and demonstrate the use of arts and culture that address local challenges and build community. In 2019, the group of Mavens expanded from six to 15 community leaders, representing 14 counties and the Catawba Indian Nation in South Carolina. Meet the mavens and hear their voices and enthusiasm for this network and way of working. Sept. 2019, St. Helena Island, SC.
Carl Heyward & Sherard Duvall/OTR Media Group: “From Allendale to Tamaqua” (11:29)
As part of The Art of Community: Rural SC initiative of the South Carolina Arts Commission, the Allendale Rural Arts Team met in 2019 with the Tamaqua (Pennsylvania) Area Community Partnership, a partner of national community development intermediary, Rural LISC, and shared new ideas for community building that help transcend local challenges and demonstrate the value of ‘creative placemaking.’ Learn how the team was inspired and what happened next in Allendale.
CHQ Productions: “A Tale of 2 Cities” (3:35)
This film showcases the work of visiting artist, Markus Tracy of Nevada, when he spent a month in Blackville and another month in Estill, S.C. in 2019, working with mavens, Evelyn Coker and Audrey Hopkins-Williams, respectively. Creating more engagement within local communities, bridging divides and advancing a new sense of place were several outcomes of these two projects happening in rural South Carolina. March 30, 2020. Blackville & Estill, SC.