Established in 2007, the McNair Award is named for the late Governor Robert E. McNair.
Gov. McNair (right) signed legislation to create the Arts Commission in 1967 to “ensure that the arts continue to grow and play an ever more significant part in the welfare and educational experiences of our citizens.” Originally presented posthumously to Gov. McNair, the award continues to honor outstanding leaders who have built on the legacy of the award’s namesake: working diligently to make South Carolina a place where the arts thrive for the benefit of all South Carolinians.
The South Carolina Arts Foundation presents the McNair Award as appropriate to honor outstanding leaders who have built on the legacy of the award’s namesake by working diligently to make South Carolina a place where the arts thrive for the benefit of all South Carolinians. A recipient is one who has demonstrated longstanding and exemplary commitment to advancing the arts in South Carolina, whose efforts give evidence of vision, skill and integrity, augmented by an investment of personal time, energy and responsibility in service as a true ambassador of the arts.
Gov. Richard W. Riley (2010)
Former S.C. governor and U.S. secretary of education
For leadership and dedication to the arts and arts education in South Carolina
Susie Surkamer (2011)
Former S.C. Arts Commission executive director
For her visionary leadership and advocacy for a strong arts community in the Palmetto State and her affirmation of public support to guarantee arts opportunities and accessibility for all South Carolinians
Patrick R. VanHuss (2013)
Former chairman, S.C. Arts Commission and S.C. Arts Foundation
In recognition of his leadership and advocacy for the arts and arts education as integral to the lives of every South Carolinian
Sen. Robert Wesley “Wes” Hayes (2015)
Former State Senator and founder and co-chair of the S.C. Senate Arts Caucus
For dedicating more than three decades to ensuring that the arts continue to play a vital role in our nation’s schools and communities
Mayor Joseph P. Riley (2017)
Mayor of the City of Charleston, founder of the Mayor’s Institute for City Design, and 2009 recipient of the National Medal of Arts – the highest award given to artists and patrons
For leadership and accomplishments in the arts which helped to secure a place for South Carolina on the national and international stages
Ken May (2019, shown above)
Retiring S.C. Arts Commission executive director
For agency leadership through difficult times to flourish afterward with regional and national acclaim