Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award
Artist Category | Traditional Indian Folk Arts | Lexington
From an early age, Jugnu Verma surrounded herself amongst a rich multitude of traditional Indian art forms. Growing up in the Indian state of Bihar, Jugnu Verma found herself surrounded by Madhubani artists, whose painting was characterized by distinctive geometric patterns and depicted people, nature, and scenes featuring Hindu deities. An early interest led to learning the art form from neighbors in the community, as well as rangoli from the neighbor’s grandmother. Rangoli involves the design of colorful patterns on the floor that encompass a wide variety of different styles and symbolism. From her mother, Verma learned the art of Henna, an integral part of Indian weddings and festivals where a plant-based dye is used to create temporary designs on the body. Verma is eager and enthusiastic about sharing her artistic traditions at various venues, which include her work as a Diwali (Indian Festival of Lights) Kick-off Party Organizer, workshops, and exhibitions at the Columbia Museum of Art, the rangoli educator at Overdue: Curated for the Creative, Richland County Main Library, and as a lead artist at Artista Vista in Columbia. Verma feels it is important for South Carolinians to know about India and its culture and she serves as a cultural ambassador through her work throughout the state. According to Verma, “Folk art enhances and enriches celebrations and rituals, and it tells people who others are.”
Robert W. Hill III
Advocacy Category | American Long Rifle & Accoutrements | Plantersville
From Plantersville, Robert W. Hill III grew up an avid outdoorsman with an interest in the skills to support his passion, which included decoy carving, forging knives, and carving gun stocks. With both grandfathers being accomplished blacksmiths, woodcarvers, and gun stockers, in 1985 Hill’s own desire to own a handmade muzzle-loading rifle drove him to learn more about the traditional crafts of blacksmithing, tool making, stock carving, inlaying, and engraving. While attending arts shows across the region and improving upon his work, Hill had the opportunity to watch and learn from master engraver Jack Spain, and developed a relationship with master gunsmith Frank Burton. After the untimely death of Burton, Hill continued in the art form, and after a year of studying and experimenting, completed his first rifle. Hill recognized the need to preserve the craft and continued his training by studying historic firearms from the Carolinas. Today, he is part of a thriving community of gunsmiths and is recognized by gunsmiths across the region as both an exemplary artist and an advocate. In 1994, Hill co-founded the South Carolina Artist Blacksmith Association, later to become the Phillip Simmons Artists Blacksmith Guild of South Carolina. Through demonstrations and lectures, he has educated people about gun makers from South Carolina to recognize and preserve the artists of the State’s past. Hill has been instrumental in passing his skills onto others, including his son and grandson, assuring a legacy of continued preservation, study, and celebration of the traditional craft of gunsmithing.