The South Carolina arts community is breathing a sigh of relief and sending big thanks to their local elected officials following a vote to override various budget vetoes from Gov. Mark Sanford that would have affected the cultural future of the state. Art enthusiasts pleaded with their delegates this June to “Save the Arts,” and the government listened. One of those key votes from the state Legislature saved the funding of the S.C. Arts Commission and, in turn, several arts programs, educational opportunities and jobs.
Becky Pittman, a Spartanburg resident and longtime advocate of the arts, started the Facebook group “Save the SC Arts Commission NOW” to encourage South Carolina residents to contact their state delegates and urge them to override the veto.
Pittman, who has served in various arts-related leadership positions in Spartanburg, remembers when the S.C. Arts Commission began making strides in arts education. She recalled the beginning of her school’s band and chorus and being able to learn from a Poet Laureate in English class.
“All of these memories and opportunities resulted from the Arts Commission’s efforts to improve arts education,” Pittman said. “We can’t take a step backward nor do we want to hamper the economic future by having such a crippled arts scene.”
When the state government voted to override the veto of the S.C. Arts Commission funding, they sent a message to their constituents: “We believe in the arts,“ said JW Rone, executive director of the Arts Council of Beaufort County.
The success of local arts-infused programs can be attributed to more than 30 years of work by the S.C. Arts Commission, Rone said. The Arts Council continues that work by offering workshops, classes and programs that expose children and adults to the beauty and excitement of both visual and performing arts.
“It’s so important to keep arts education alive in the community,” Rone said.
When a child begins to think creatively through their involvement in the arts, Rone said, it helps them use that creativity in other aspects of their studies.
“Kids look at how to solve a problem differently when they’re exposed to arts programs,” he said.
Alana Adams, director of education for the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, agrees.
“Participating in the arts not only helps students to develop fine and gross motor skills, but encourages problem-solving skills and personal growth, helping to create a well-rounded individual,” she said.
Children and adults alike are able to experience the world more fully when they see it through an artist’s eye, which is why arts organizations like the Arts Council and Arts Center strive to infuse arts education into every program they create.
“Arts education doesn’t stop when you leave the classroom,” Rone said.
That continuing exploration of all things creative was a motivating factor behind the community’s rally for the arts and the S.C. Arts Commission. The advocacy work the Commission does in the community is important to the Arts Center beyond any funding they receive, said Tim Hager, director of marketing for the Arts Center.
And the battle over funding for the arts isn’t going away, Rone said. In fact, it could be tougher next year.
“The arts community must show support for the arts (and the S.C. Arts Commission) to avoid inequitable, culture-war-style (budget) cuts,” said Lisa Rentz, public relations coordinator for the Arts Council of Beaufort County. “When the Arts Council advocates for the S.C. Arts Commission, we are showing support for the arts in our own community and, more deeply, for the quality of life for everyone.”