Banner border by Amiri Farris, banner adaptation by Abigail Rawl
FY22/Vol. 4
The Art of Community: Rural SC Newsletter
April 29, 2022

A shared economy?

"Since time immemorial, communities have been developing creative practices and culturally-specific traditions that are deeply intertwined with the way they produce, manage,exchange, and steward resources. What a society values, how it creates those valuable objects or practices, and who has access to them is indicative of a culture’s core beliefs."
- from Building Community Wealth

At what point should we begin in talking about the economy of South Carolina? When Native Americans lived by hunting, fishing, growing and trading? Or, when this land became a colony of Great Britain and subsequently the powerhouse of rice and indigo production built upon the labor of enslaved people? Perhaps, when cotton and tobacco overtook the agricultural story of our state and led to the establishment of textile mills? Or later, when subsistence farmers left their fields to work in the mills?

The twentieth century is the story of rapid change, modernization, electrification and automation. An interstate highway system fostered business growth and personal travel--and divided neighborhoods; civil rights legislation and desegregation of public schools brought communities closer together--and further apart. Manufacturing became a central and stabilizing element of urban South Carolina, but faded significantly over time from rural areas. Today, while populations are growing in urban areas, more possibilities have opened for workers in the gig economy to use rural communities as their base--IF they have access to broadband! For some, the last fifty years tells the story of a boom economy; for others, it's the tale of a widening gap between those with access to tools and systems that enable participation in the twenty-first century economy, and those who do not.

We are grateful to the three grassroots leaders, i.e. Mavens, who share their stories in this issue. As participants in the initiative called The Art of Community: Rural SC, they, along with their local teams, have chosen 'economic development' as a central theme in projects they are leading in rural Allendale, Fort Lawn, and Walterboro. These Mavens and their teams are building new connections, deepening local relationships and developing strategic partnerships. They are creating friendly entry points for citizens to recognize their local assets as points of pride and tools to open doors for new engagement and opportunities. Through them, their communities are emitting a new vibrancy and story; and they are putting out the welcome mat saying 'come see what we've got!'
The Art of Community: Rural SC initiative is rooted in the belief that our rural communities matter and are essential to an environment where all South Carolinians can thrive. Our network is grounded in the work of the larger field of creative community development. As such, this issue points to a resource called Building Community Wealth, a 2020 ArtPlace America field scan; The Eight Capitals, a frame of reference for community wealth; and new broadband developments for rural South Carolina. Through it all, we celebrate our partners, teams, advisors and colleagues across sectors using Creativity + to advance their communities.

Susan DuPlessis

Community Arts Development Director
Quick reality check...
Click the graphic above to stay updated on COVID-19 in your community. Let's keep each other safe.
New York Times Map Showing COVID-19 Hot Spots as of April 29, 2022
A world view...

The Art of Community: Rural SC initiative leans into a larger view of challenges and how we, as humans who are parts of systems, face them. Check out the United Nations 17 Sustainability Goals here.

For this particular newsletter we highlight the eighth sustainability goal,
Thinking of poetry and war....and the people of Ukraine,
from another time
Building Community Wealth: The Role of Arts and Culture in Equitable Economic Development
“Arts and cultural traditions and practices have sustained communities for generations through
inherited wisdom, spiritual development, and creative expression. Communities with strong
traditions, such as rural communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities, have
survived despite oppression and disinvestment, in part because of these traditions. Investing
and sustaining in arts and culture can thus help to sustain a community in material and non-
material ways. Arts and culture can be sources of financial development through food-based
cooperatives and locally-owned creative businesses, small and mid-size arts institutions that
anchor the development of a cultural community, and events or festivals that help draw attention to what makes a culture or community unique and distinctive.”
Consider these ways arts and culture are useful within an economic development frame. They provide the following benefits:

  • Facilitate collaboration
  • Access imagination to bring new economic structures into being
  • Build power to strengthen movements
  • Heal individuals and communities
  • Make the case for holistic, people-centered financing
  • Create new and sustain existing forms of resource generation

Crossing sectors
...and sharing our stories:
arts + economic development
While it may be tempting to think of ‘the economy’ as a thing operating outside of anyone’s control, with its own rules and behaviors, we can look no further than our definitions of wealth, who has access to it, and how it is produced to understand who we are. Culture--and the creative practices that make it up, including the arts -- has and will always be a critical way to understand an economy and work to shift it."
From the Introduction to Building Community Wealth: The Role of Arts and Culture in Equitable Economic Development. Dec. 2020
Looking deeper in rural S.C.
As we continue to learn together in this cross-sector initiative called The Art of Community: Rural SC, we are ever grateful to the Mavens for their leadership in collaborative efforts with their teams and partners. Their cross-sector projects combine arts and culture as ways forward inside complex community issues. They demonstrate a process of consideration, learning, flexibility and sharing. They question and learn together as a team and as partners interested in the greater economic health of their communities.

What does this process look like?
Consider the following three South Carolina rural stories: Allendale, Fort Lawn and Walterboro.
Allendale County
A is for...
"We have everything we need right here--we just have to use it creatively," according to Maven Lottie Lewis. Calling 2022 as a year that marks a turning point for her community of Allendale, she fondly remembers a vibrant, bustling town with shops lining the streets and people coming to town. Today, she and the grassroots team called Allendale Rural Arts Team are important agents to engage the community in the spirit of 'Home, Health and Hope,' their theme for community building 2021-22. Gathering all the ingredients to amplify this message, she and her team recognize this as a time of opportunity. Along with other community partners, they are collaborating and seizing the day.
Carpe Diem!
Photos courtesy of Lottie Lewis, Laura McKenzie, and Allendale Rural Arts Team.
Chester County
A New Way Forward
As Maven Libby Sweatt-Lambert tells it, the story of a new way forward for the Town of Fort Lawn and surrounding area began in 2017 when she and 38 residents gathered to write a grant application that would support in-depth community engagement, listening sessions and documentation--all designed to learn what people felt the community needed. The grant application was successful, and The Fort Lawn Community Center became part of the Orton Family Foundation’s Heart & Soul program (

Through an intensive series of listening sessions in 2017-18 with 648 people, Maven Libby explains, “We learned the community wanted a focus on arts AND on economic development. After getting a plan in place, we had to figure out what that meant and how to make it work.” 
Photos courtesy of Libby Sweatt-Lambert and local Art of Community Team.
Colleton County
WHAM! Festival
WHAM! 2022 was a roaring success despite the freezing cold, finale night where temps got down into the 20s. Despite this, we still grew compared to 2021 where we held a lot of virtual programming. During this time our grant funding enabled us to put on 36 events by 10 different organizations involved in the arts including non-profits, government agencies, school and private businesses. In the museum and Wildlife Center programming along we supported 68 artists, 4 musicians and numerous food businesses and crafters. We also attracted out of town guests some who stayed in local hotels.
Photos credit: SC Lowcountry Tourism
Young artists Mariah and Daniyah Cunningham indulged in their own creativity at the ‘WHAM! Creation Station.’
Advisor and friends' updates
Congrats, Bernie Mazyck and SCACED team
Congrats, Bernie Mazyck and Team at the SC Association for Community Economic Development as they move their offices into The Opportunity Center!

Pictured: Maven Luis Rodriguez of Santee Lynches Affordable Housing join Bernie at the SC State House for Advocacy Day!
Co-Chair Bob Reeder

Called "a giant in the field of community development" by Local Investment Support Corporation (LISC), Bob Reeder retired in December 2021 after 16 years of service with Rural LISC; and a community development career spanning the country over 35+ years.
Bob also continues to serve as the Co-Chair of the Art of Community: Rural SC Advisory Board as he has since its inception.

Congrats, Bob!

Bob Reeder & Associates
Advisor Graham Adams is awarded 'Order of the Palmetto'... Graham Adams, PhD, chief executive officer for the South Carolina Office of Rural Health (SCORH), has been awarded the Order of the Palmetto. The Order of the Palmetto is South Carolina’s highest civilian honor presented in recognition of a lifetime of extraordinary achievement, service and contributions on a national or statewide scale. The first Order of the Palmetto was presented in 1971 by then-Gov. John C. West.
Congrats to our colleague and friend across the country, Ashley Hanson and The YES! House in Granite Falls, Minnesota.

Ashley joined us as a presenter at Insights 2, a meeting held in November 2018 in Barnwell, SC.
Pictured: Ashley Hanson and Ashley 'Glyshae' Jordan at INSIGHTS2 at Barnwell State Park in Nov. 2018
Leila Tamari began a new business called
"This Place Works is a creative consultancy that builds the liberated futures we dream of."
A few years ago...
Leila Tamari joined us in South Carolina in November 2018 for the meeting called Insights 2. It was held at the Barnwell State Park and brought together Mavens, team members, Creatives and Advisors from around the country. She joined us in celebrating the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street's Crossroads: Change in Rural America exhibit at Voorhees University.
Shown, l to r, Ment Nelson, Susan DuPlessis, Sara June Goldstein, Laura Marcus Green, Leila Tamari, Bob Reeder, Ashley Hanson.
Advocacy Award for
Advisor Sara June Goldstein
"For the 2021 Frances Mims-Paul Talmadge Literary Advocacy Award, we recognize an individual for her tireless and unparalleled contributions to the literary community and the citizens of South Carolina. An individual who has been dear to the hearts of South Carolinians for several decades, a true champion for bringing the literary arts to the under-represented communities of our state, and a dear, dear friend to so many writers, poets, and playwrights who have benefited from her direction, advice and counsel. We could not think of a more deserving recipient of the 2021 Frances Mims-Paul Talmadge Literary Advocacy Award, the first recipient of this award, than Sara June Goldstein, for whom we all owe a tremendous amount of gratitude, appreciation, and the most earnest affection."--Charles Israel, Academy of Authors
Congratulations, Sara June!
High Notes
'Modern Day Black History' event in Hampton County
Maven Audrey and Ms. DeAira Bryant, a robotics scientist and native of Hampton County
U.S. Representative Jim Clyburn attended and spoke at the successful event.
Congrats Maven Audrey Hopkins-Williams and team on a successful 'Modern Day Black History' event in Hampton County on February 27!

"I am well pleased with our turnout in spite of the in-climate weather. Well over 300 visitors and guests attended!" Audrey said.

'A Month and Some Days' film tours the state!
A documentary that tells the stories of first and/or second-generation Latino immigrant youth in the tri-county area is the project of Art Pot this year. It was created by Student filmmakers Corin Wiggins and Abril with Artist Mentor Maribel Acosta.

Maven Lydia Cotton and Artist and Director Maribel Acosta

Find a screening near you at the link below!

Special thanks to Gabi Kuenzli, USC History Department, for coordinating the April 13 screening.
SCAC staff, Amber Westbrook, Abby Rawl, and Susan DuPlessis attend 'A Month and Some Days' screening at UofSC in April 2022. Pictured: Maribel Acosta, Amber Westbrook, Abby Rawl
Maven Johnny Davis goes fishin'!
Congrats, Maven Johnny Davis on retirement as Director of Jasper County Parks and Recreation; and launch of your next chapter with Barr's Recreation.

Maven Johnny is one of the six original Mavens for The Art of Community: Rural SC. Starting with a field trip to Kentucky, he then attended all regional SC meetings, many conferences and themed roundtable discussions as he and his team considered literacy as a pressing issue in Jasper County. He also became a Riley Fellow through the Twiggs Scholar partnership program with Furman University. Through his leadership and persistence (and with a great team and The Morris Center for Lowcountry Heritage), a new arts council for Jasper County has been formed! A first!

Thank you, Maven Johnny, for your dedication, willingness and sense of humor as you stepped into a new role using arts and culture as an important element in community building in Jasper County! We look forward to fish tales and more in the future.
From the field...
Welcome to South Carolina!

Markus Tracy, socially-engaged artist is visiting all 15 sites for The Art of Community: Rural SC initiative March 10-May 15, 2022 in an artist residency called 'Vision Forward.' Strategic planning meetings are happening all over the state!
In Allendale, it wasn't an actual red carpet that was rolled out, but a red banner that welcomed him to Emma's House, a local safe haven for kids and community.
Creative Moments
A moment from the past

From Insights 2 in Barnwell, SC

Amber Westbrook and Bobby Harley bring down the house with their rendition of 'Killing Me Softly' ...mavens, creative connectors, SCAC staff and advisors attended this important meeting in November 2018. Insights 3 was planned for March 2020 in Jasper County but canceled due to Covid-19 safety and health concerns.
Michael Dantzler
Richland County Maven
22 South Carolinians, an exhibit at The Columbia Museum of Art
Through May 22, 2022

Maven Michael Dantzler and SC Arts Commission very own Ce Scott-Fitts currently has work in the Columbia Museum of Art in the 22 South Carolinians exhibition. This exhibition highlights some of many amazing Black artists in SC. Photo shown right is Michael's mother checking out Michael's photo in the exhibit.

Check out it out!
Ericka Brown
Owner/Founder of Be Kind Be Great
Submitted by Maven Michael Dantzler

Ericka Brown is the founder of the nonprofit organization Be Kind Be Great (BKBG). BKBG has been in existence since 2017 and provides resources for the unhoused community of Columbia, surrounding areas, and even throughout the country. Ericka, a mentor and motivational speaker, is also a domestic violence coach and a domestic violence survivor.

In one program of BKBG called 'I am,' she mentors girls aged 5 to 17. This program focuses on interpersonal skills, self-esteem, crafting and more. It has been held throughout the Eastover community including the Division of Juvenile Justice Center, King Park, and the Eastover branch of Richland Library.

Known for her generous spirit, recently, Ericka hosted a major giveaway at the Town of Eastover’s 2021 Christmas Parade and Festival. Earlier in 2021, Ericka donated thousands of packs of seeds to the Eastover Community Garden, the Town of Eastover, and area organizations.

Images from Be Kind Be Great website.
Arts + Economic Development Resources
Rural Prosperity through the Arts & Creative Sector
" expanding body of research and practice showcases positive economic and quality-of-life outcomes associated with the rural creative sector."

Authors Melinda A. Merrell, PhD, MPH Allyson Malbouf, MPH Candidate Gabriel A. Benavidez, MPH Rural & Minority Health Research Center, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina Chynna A. Phillips, MSW, MPH Donna Waites, MA Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina
Without internet access, how is our community economically viable?
Friend and colleague Jim Stritzinger has been asking this question and working on solutions for much of the last five years. Check out his recent update and consider taking the speedtest wherever you are!
Coming soon!
Stay tuned!
  • In following newsletter issues, we will continue our cross-sector focus by exploring local project stories on community development; we will also look at our expressive and documentary efforts through Creativity + Ag, plus work being led by Folklife & Traditional Arts Director Laura Marcus Green that includes Communal Pen, the Folklife Field School and Creative Aging as well as a closer look at the artist residency with Markus Tracy called 'Vision Forward.'

Check out some of our recent newsletters:

Submit your good news to Abby Rawl at
Art of Community: Rural SC Newsletter Team
Susan DuPlessis, Community Arts Development Director

Laura Marcus Green, Ph.D., Folklife & Traditional Arts Director

Abigail Rawl, Art of Community Coordinator

Michael Dantzler, Newsletter Assistant

Sherard Duvall, Art of Community Media Manager
A big thanks to all the mavens!
Aiken County
Kayla Hostetler

Allendale County
Lottie Lewis

Bamberg County
Dr. Yvette McDaniel

Barnwell County
Evelyn Coker

Beaufort County
Victoria Smalls

Berkeley County
Lydia Cotton

Catawba Nation (in York County)
Brooke Bauer and Laney Buckley

Chester County
Libby Sweatt-Lambert
Colleton County
Matt Mardell

Hampton County
Audrey Hopkins-Williams

Jasper County
Johnny Davis

Marion County
Luis Rodriguez

Newberry County
Marquerite Palmer

Pickens County
Betty McDaniel

Richland County
Michael Dantzler
A big thanks to our advisors, supporters and funders!
Pam Breaux, Co-chair
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, Washington, D.C
J. Robert "Bob" Reeder, Co-chair
Reeder & Associates
Columbia, SC

(Retired) Rural LISC
Graham Adams,
South Carolina Office of Rural Health

Savannah Barrett,
Art of the Rural, Kentucky

Dr. J. Herman Blake, (Ret.)
Humanities Scholar, South Carolina

Andy Brack,
Charleston City Paper and State House Report, South Carolina

Dr. Ann Carmichael, (Ret.)
UofSC-Salkehatchie, Co-Chair Emerita

Dee Crawford,
South Carolina Arts Commission Board

Robbie Davis,
Smithsonian Museum on Main Street, Washington, D.C.

Vernita Dore, (Ret.)
USDA-Rural Development, Beaufort,
South Carolina

Charles Fluharty,
RUPRI & Rural Cultural Wealth Lab, Ohio

Ame Holcombe,
Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, South Carolina and Illinois

Sara June Goldstein,
Write to Change Foundation,
South Carolina

Don Gordon,
The Riley Institute at Furman,
South Carolina

Dixie Goswami,
Write to Change Foundation, (Ret.) Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English, South Carolina and Vermont
Ken May, (Ret.)
South Carolina Arts Commission

Bernie Mazyck,
South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development

Bill Molnar,
Lower Savannah Council of Governments, South Carolina

Doug Peach,
Sandy Spring Museum, Maryland

Brandolyn Pinkston, (Ret.)
Consumer Affairs Director, South Carolina and Georgia

Jane Przybysz,
UofSC McKissick Museum

Lillian Reeves,
Piedmont University, Demorest, Georgia

David Smalls,
Political Consultant, Walterboro,
South Carolina

Susie Surkamer,
SouthArts, Atlanta, Georgia

Leila Tamari,
This Place Works, California

Javier Torres,
SURDNA Foundation, New York

Dean Van Pelt,
Savannah River Nuclear Site, South Carolina

Leonardo Vazquez,
The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking, New Jersey

Chris Walker, (Ret.)
Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Washington, D.C.