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Mayor presents SCAA president with key to the city

Posted: March 11, 2014 3:43 p.m.
Updated: March 12, 2014 5:00 a.m.

A recent festival in Camden provided the mayor with the chance to recognize an arts organization. That organization, in turn, recognized a local patron of the arts.

The Wateree Outdoor Life Festival, nicknamed WOLF, took place Friday through Sunday at the Fine Arts Center (FAC) of Kershaw County. The festival included a meeting of the S.C. Arts Alliance (SCAA) board of directors in the FAC’s Douglas Reed House.

The SCAA is a private, non-profit statewide coalition of arts organizations, educators, administrators, artists, business and community leaders, that serves as the state’s leading arts policy and advocacy organization. The organization generates support for public funding of the arts and arts education and recently began its 35th year of service to the arts in South Carolina.

The SCAA meeting, in turn, gave Camden Mayor Tony Scully the opportunity to present Kathy Bateson with a key to the city. Bateson is president of the SCAA board and president and CEO of the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head. As part of his comments, Scully addressed the SCAA and the role that the arts play in South Carolina.

“We say it loud and say it proud: South Carolina, home of the arts,” Scully said. “We have produced artists with an international reach:  Eartha Kitt, James Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Donen -- he directed Singin’ in the Rain, a Columbia boy. Jasper Johns. Columbia’s own Laura Spong. In every city in South Carolina, certainly in the Midlands, we have the greatest variety of music in the country: bluegrass, blues, jazz, country-western, Broadway, gospel, classical, twelve tone, rock ’n’ roll, rap, hip hop. Our music culture is part of the Southern Music explosion, mostly African-American, that in the 20th century transformed world music forever.”

In discussing arts funding, Scully noted that, at one time, South Carolina did not support public education.

“It was once proclaimed -- in the mid-1800s -- that the state should not be supporting public education; that public education was socialistic and communistic,” he said. “In Europe today, unlike us, many countries support their symphony orchestras.  Austria has 23 state-supported symphony orchestras. The British government supports their national theatre. Not us. The USA is the only developed country without a comprehensive system of public arts funding. We don’t want to be socialists. Our theatre is entertainment. If it fails from lack of popular support, then so be it.  That’s show business.”

Scully also said that artists’ fame endure the passing of time, whereas athletes’ and businessmen’s fame do not, though those are the very figures our society tends to idolize.

“Do we judge a civilization by its athletes? What about its businessmen?” Scully asked. “Name one businessman in the 18th century. The Italians talk about Michelangelo as if he were still alive, and he is. To this day, Shakespeare is the most important person in England. Austria has Mozart. Ireland, with half the population of New York City has Yeats and Joyce and Beckett and Bernard Shaw.”

Finally, Scully spoke of what he said is the “crucial and benevolent function” art plays in communities and how it must continue to be taught in schools.

“The artist leads us back to the heaven out of which we were born … the teacher must understand that art is not arts and crafts, art is not decoration, art is not an add-on to the curriculum.  Art is the ground of being, or at least of civilization,” he said.

During its meeting, the SCAA recognized FAC patron Sibby Wood for her contributions to the arts in South Carolina.

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