South Carolina Arts Commission

South Carolina Arts Commission

Governor’s Awards

The South Carolina Governor’s Awards for the Arts

To recognize outstanding achievement and contributions to the arts in South Carolina, the Arts Commission annually presents the Governor’s Awards for the Arts, the highest honor the state gives in the arts. These awards honor South Carolina arts organizations, patrons, artists, members of the business community, and government entities who maximize their roles as innovators, supporters and advocates of the arts. In 1980, the awards took on a special significance with their designation as the official “Governor’s Awards for the Arts.” The symbol of the awards is a hand-crafted bronze statue, designed by Columbia-based artist Jean McWhorter, and presented to each recipient. A diverse committee, appointed by the S.C. Arts Commission Board and made up of members of the South Carolina community at large, reviews all nominations and makes recommendations to the Board for final approval.

About the Governor's Awards

The nomination deadline for the 2021 South Carolina Governor’s Awards for the Arts is Friday, November 6, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

The nine appointed commissioners of the South Carolina Arts Commission may choose not to present an award in a particular category in a given year. In addition to the categories below, the S.C. Arts Commission may choose to give Special Awards for achievements falling outside the defined categories.

  • Commissioners and staff of the S.C. Arts Commission and members of their immediate families are not eligible for nomination;
  • Nominees must be living at the time of their nomination;
  • Past recipients of the Governor’s Awards are not eligible for nomination for 10 years following their award.



Open to S.C. individuals and institutions whose primary function is arts education. May include: arts educators (teachers, consultants, principals, administrators), schools, school districts, college/university arts departments, etc.


Open to S.C. organizations who contribute to the advancement and/or support of the arts. May include: arts discipline organizations, arts councils, arts advocacy groups, guilds, arts departments of organizations, educational institutions, etc.


Open to agencies and institutions generally described as units of state, county or municipal governments that have served their communities in outstanding ways through the arts, OR elected or appointed officials who, in their official capacities, have demonstrated notable support for the arts through leadership and public policy.


Open to S.C. individuals, or companies and foundations whose participation, support, and/or contributions have benefited the maintenance and growth of the arts.


Open to S.C. individuals who have demonstrated exceptional achievement and statewide impact through their leadership, support, and advancement of the arts. May include: arts professionals such as managers, administrators; arts supporters such as patrons, promoters, donors, etc.


Open to S.C. artists of exceptional talent and creativity, in any discipline, whose contribution to the arts has helped guide and influence directions, trends and aesthetic practices across the state or to national or international levels.

The S.C. Arts Commission annually releases a call for the South Carolina Governor’s Awards for the Arts nominations. The nomination guidelines are posted on the agency’s website and are also available in print upon request. The Board of Commissioners of the S.C. Arts Commission appoints a diverse selection committee to review the nominations and make recommendations to the board for final approval. Members of the selection committee may include artists, arts professionals, educators, members of the business community, state or local government, citizens at large and others. The composition of the selection committee changes each year.

Round One

Copies of the nomination letters are sent to each member of the selection committee for their review in advance of the committee’s meeting. After initial review of all the nominations received, the selection committee will narrow the selections in each category.

Round Two

The committee will request additional information and/or materials in support of the nominations in each category advanced to round two. Types of additional materials may include resumes, letters of support, work samples, media materials, publications or images. These materials should only be submitted if requested by the committee. The committee will meet again to review support materials and make final selections to recommend to the Board of the Commissioners of the S.C. Arts Commission, which has final approval. Notification of award recipients and those not selected should take place by March.

The online nomination is an easy process. Clicking the “Submit Nomination” button below will open the Submittable application where you will begin a nomination for the Governor’s Awards for the Arts. Create a user name and password, enter the requested information, and upload a nomination letter. Once you begin your online nomination, you may save it and access it by logging in with your user name and password.

Nomination Steps
  1. Click the Submit Nomination button below
  2. Create your account
  3. Check the nomination category
  4. Provide information about the nominee and the nominator
  5. Upload a letter of nomination
  6. Submit
Letter of Nomination

The nomination letter should describe the nominee’s exemplary contributions to the arts in South Carolina. It should be no more than three typed pages, using 12-point type, and should address any characteristics included in the Category Descriptions. It should include specific examples and relevant data wherever possible. The letter should be structured to answer the following questions:

  • What makes the nominee superior or extraordinary?
  • How has the nominee demonstrated leadership in the arts?
  • What exceptional achievements or contributions has the nominee made, and what has been their impact on the community, state or beyond?
  • What other information about the nominee is important to know as they are considered for the state’s highest award in the arts?




It's a new era for South Carolina's highest arts honor

The decision to make this change was prompted in summer 2020 when a constituent alerted South Carolina Arts Commission Executive Director David Platts to racially charged writings by Elizabeth O’Neill Verner. After reviewing the writings, the commission’s Executive Team and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) staff committee agreed that the writings do not align with the commission’s values and efforts to promote and increase inclusivity in our programs and services to all citizens of South Carolina.

Following discussion, the commission board unanimously approved a recommendation discontinuing the use of Mrs. Verner’s name in the annual arts awards title. This recommendation aligns with current practice by all other state arts agencies across the country, none of whom connect their awards with an individual person’s name.  

The awards program was established in 1972 as the Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts and have always had “Governor’s Awards” in their title. Following the death of Elizabeth O’Neill Verner in 1979, the board of commissioners voted to add her name to the awards program. In 1980, Gov. Richard Riley designated the awards as the official “Governor’s Awards” to re-confirm the state’s commitment to the arts.  In keeping with this tradition, and to signify the continued prestige of the awards, from this point forward they will be known officially as the South Carolina Governor’s Awards for the Arts.

The statues presented to recipients were designed and created before Mrs. Verner’s name was added to the awards title. In 1972, Columbia-based artist Jean McWhorter was commissioned to create the bronze statues still presented today. The statues are not a likeness of any one person, and there are no plans to alter their design.

Nominate an arts luminary (noun: a person who inspires or influences others, especially one prominent in a particular sphere). Make nominations for the South Carolina Governor's Awards for the Arts by Friday, November 6, 2020.

Governor's Award Recipients

Lifetime Achievement | Columbia

Artist | Mauldin

Individual | St. Helena Island

Arts in Education | Campobello

Business | Greenville

Organization | Charleston

View additional past recipients here.


  • Cecil Williams – Lifetime Achievement
  • Town Theatre – Special Award
  • Tyrone Geter – Artist
  • Kathleen P. Bateson – Individual
  • Simeon A. Warren – Arts in Education (Individual)
  • S.C. African American Heritage Commission – Arts in Education (Organization)
  • Hampton III Gallery – Business
  • Florence County Museum – Government
  • Gibbes Museum of Art – Organization


  • Tom Stanley – Artist
  • Alan Ethridge – Individual
  • Dr. Anne S. Richardson – Arts in Education
  • Bank of America – Business
  • Ballet Spartanburg – Organization


  • Laura Spong – Lifetime Achievement
  • Dr. Leo Twiggs – Lifetime Achievement
  • Quentin E. Baxter – Artist
  • Betsy Teter – Individual
  • Brenda P. McCutchen – Arts in Education
  • The Stringer & Rainey Foundations – Business/Foundation
  • The City of Beaufort/USC Beaufort Center for the Arts – Government
  • South Carolina Humanities – Organization

For additional information and advisement, please contact Victoria McCurry ( | 803.734.8315).