Artwork detail by Amiri Farris, illustration adaptation by Abigail Rawl
FY22/Vol. 3
The Art of Community: Rural SC Newsletter
Dec. 17, 2021

Healthy people, healthy places?

We find ourselves near the end of another extraordinary year of learning, trying, failing and succeeding. Toward the idea of healthier communities, we ask, What is a healthy community? Are arts, culture and traditions a way there? And what does 'cross-sector collaboration' even mean?

In this issue, we take a closer look at three grassroots leaders, i.e. Mavens, and their stories within rural South Carolina. These Mavens and their local teams have each chosen 'health and wellbeing' as their focus area for projects with arts and culture activities baked-in. They are building new connections, deepening local relationships, developing strategic partnerships and creating friendly entry points for local engagement.
We also take a closer look at the report, Creating Healthy Communities through Collaboration, and use it to shine more light on the value and benefits of using arts and culture as strategies within public health efforts. In addition, we celebrate some of our advisors and colleagues in the field of Arts +, Health+, Community +, Creativity +.

In South Carolina, and as part of The Art of Community: Rural SC initiative, we continue to operate as a learning network that engages sites in 14 counties and one tribal nation. In addition to Mavens, their local teams, creative connectors and mentors, we celebrate and thank our advisors and strategic partners on the ground in each community as well at the state and national level. 

Within the largest and smallest contexts, we live in a world full and complicated. We move within the ongoing developments of a pandemic we thought would be over by now. A new level of gun violence threatens communities everywhere and adds to mental health issues and despair in our students and teachers. Racism and social isolation keep us apart. We live the results of climate change and pending natural disasters. Struggling amidst these realities, we are hard-pressed to find the thing that threatens our health and the health of our communities most.

Joy, Peace and Hope?

In this season of reflection, we ask you to pause to consider who is making your community healthier, vibrant and connected. Who inspires you and why? In this season of giving, perhaps a word to that person or entity would be an unexpected gift of the heart. A small act of kindness.

We continue to be grateful for this initiative and you, and we wish you joy, health and meaningful connection this holiday season.

From The Art of Community: Rural SC Team,
Susan DuPlessis

Community Arts Development Director
Laura Marcus Green, Ph.D.

Folklife & Traditional Arts Director
Abigail Rawl

Art of Community Coordinator
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 December 17, 2021.
A world view...

Check out the United Nations 17 Sustainability Goals here.

For this particular newsletter we want to highlight the third sustainability goal,
Crossing sectors
...and sharing our stories:
arts + health and wellbeing
The Art of Community: Rural SC is a vital part of ensuring our rural communities are living up to their fullest potential. The arts can be just as vital to the health of these communities as healthcare, and provide an opportunity for these communities to showcase their strengths to the rest of the state.” - Dr. Kevin Bennett The Center for Rural and Primary Care at the UofSC Medical School
Featured in many national and state presentations over the last five years, The Art of Community: Rural SC initiative has become a valued component of the creative placemaking field, and in the last few months, it has been included in health and other conferences.
'Working in the Public Sector: Why Grassroots Leadership & Local Voice Matter,' was one of a three-part presentation on 'Innovation in Rural Healthcare' at the National Rural Health Association Annual Conference in May 2021. Organized by The Office for Rural and Primary Healthcare at the University of South Carolina Medical School, this session included three stories—on rural libraries, food solutions and arts and culture initiatives. Susan DuPlessis, Community Arts Development Director at the South Carolina Arts Commission, presented the innovative model of community engagement in rural South Carolina featuring The Art of Community: Rural SC initiative and features the voices of six Mavens:
  • Lottie Lewis/Allendale;
  • Audrey Hopkins-Williams/Hampton;
  • Johnny Davis/Jasper;
  • Yvette McDaniel/Bamberg;
  • and Dr. Brooke Bauer/Catawba Nation. 

Thanks to Dr. Kevin Bennett and his team for including The Art of Community: Rural SC in this presentation.
'Mending and Tending our Rural Places,' a session presented as part of the South Carolina Office of Rural Health’s annual conference Sept. 28-30, 2021, amplified the voices of four Mavens for The Art of Community: Rural SC as they discuss issues and assets related to health and well being in their rural and tribal communities. Featuring Mavens Lottie Lewis of Allendale; Lydia Cotton of Berkeley County; Laney Buckley of the Catawba Nation; and Audrey Hopkins-Williams of Hampton County, SC. The conversation was facilitated by Susan DuPlessis, Community Arts Development Director at the South Carolina Arts Commission

Thanks to Dr. Graham Adams and his team at SCORH for opportunities to explore cross-sector initiatives across rural South Carolina!
Rural Women Everywhere
Dr. Yvette McDaniel
Bamberg Maven
Dr. Yvette McDaniel, Maven for Bamberg County, joined five other national leaders via ZOOM to share their stories, challenges and sources of strength as part of a session called ‘Who does she think she is?’ at the Rural Women Everywhere Conference, Oct. 19-20, 2021. 

Brava, Yvette!  
Thanks to creative placemaking colleagues Ashley Hanson of Public Transformation and Whitney Kimball Cole of the National Rural Assembly for opportunities to share South Carolina leaders’ stories.

Check out episodes of the
'Growing Rural' Podcast featuring folks from
The Art of Community: Rural SC network

Thanks, Dr. Kevin Bennett!
This 4-part docuseries examines how South Carolinians prevent and manage pre-diabetes and diabetes. This film debuted in November which is National Diabetes Awarement Month.

Check out this educational and place-based film which includes a focus on Bamberg County, Catawba Nation and Berkeley/Charleston--three sites within The Art of Community: Rural SC network.
What Arts and Culture Can Do for Public Health
“…given how foundational health and well-being are to all sectors of community development practice, the authors of this paper set the bar even higher by outlining a framework for collaboration — lifting up collective trauma, racism, social exclusion and isolation, mental health, and chronic disease as all hands-on-deck priorities. This framework transcends disciplinary boundaries and offers a path forward for truly comprehensive, human-centered work."
-Jamie Hand, Director of Research Strategies, ArtPlace America 2019
Benefits of arts and culture...
  • Make ordinary moments extraordinary, notable, memorable
  • Provide direct health benefits
  • Improve health communication and education efforts
  • Increase participation
  • Facilitate dialogue
  • Connect services
  • Advance community-led, -generated, and -sustained health practices
  • Organize and mobilize
These five urgent public health issues are priorities for cross-sector work
Source: 'Creating Healthy Communities Through Cross-sector Collaboration'
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 health of their communities.

What does this process look like?
Consider the following three South Carolina rural stories: Bamberg, Beaufort and Hampton counties
Bamberg County
CRAWL ...Community Rural Arts Work League doesn't stop!
From small events on a cleared (but once rubble-filled) lot to traditional and performing arts activities inspired by juicy muscadine grapes, this Maven, team and partners show us the many dimensions of working within the theme of health and wellbeing--and prove there's no stopping CRAWL!
Photos courtesy of CRAWL team
Beaufort County
Gullah Geechee on da Green
In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, this Maven and her team designed a one-day festival that draws on Gullah Geechee culture to elicit joyful participation. All set within the context of an historic park on St. Helena Island within Beaufort County and the larger four-state Gullah Geechee Corridor, local residents and travelers stopped to check it out and picked up some health tips at the same time. Some even danced!

#CreatingWellnesstogether #GullahGeecheeOnDaGreen
Photos courtesy of Art of Community Beaufort team from 'Gullah Geechee on Da Green' event
Hampton County
Arts and culture with a dash of health and wellness...
Finding ways to program creative cross-sector events and activities in the Nature and Walking Trail Park has become the forte of Maven Audrey and her team in Estill, a small Hampton County town. What was once under-utilized by town and residents alike, this park has become central to local events, birthday parties and holiday festivities. What's that glow, people ask? It might be a 'Glow in the Park' event--or it may be the collective beam coming from the smiling faces of the Hampton County team.
Photos courtesy of Maven Audrey and team.
Insights on Health
Advisors & colleagues share inspirations and thoughts...
Graham Adams
Executive Director of the
South Carolina Office of Rural Health;
Art of Community Advisor
“I’m inspired by Dr. Atul Gawande. He is a physician, author and public health thought leader that clearly articulates complex theories in a very understandable way. He provides many in health care a clearer vision of where we need to go as an industry.”

Right: Atul Gawande
Photo provided by SCORH
Dr. Douglas 'Scutch' Scutchfield
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Appalachian Health
Colleges of Public Health and Medicine
University of Kentucky
I had a major role model who I emulated in my career, Dr. William Willard was dean of my medical school and I followed him to establish the new College of Community Health Sciences at the University of Alabama. He taught me much about academic administration, as I served as his Chair of Community and Family Medicine and later as his executive associate dean. He was an icon in both medical education and public health. He was a wise and thoughtful man who I have tried to emulate, poorly, through the years. He was responsible for the creation of the first departments of behavioral science family medicine and community medicine in our nation’s medical schools. He received awards from both the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges. He was quite senior to me, but took me under his wing, which I will always appreciate.

*Susan DuPlessis and Bob Reeder (Art of Community Co-chair)
UofSC School of Public Health
Melinda Merrell, Ph.D.

Colleague and friend of The Art of Community: Rural SC initiative, Melinda A. Merrell, shared her thoughts after a health meeting with The Art of COmmunity: Rural SC advisors, Pam Breaux, Bob Reeder, Chuck Fluharty, Graham Adams August 2021 as the pandemic continued to be the most pressing issue for healthy people and communities.

"This recent article highlighted the disparity that rural communities continue to face: Burnout among health care workers is also high and I fear staffing shortages in areas where it is already difficult to retain good people. I wish the update were better, and maybe it will be soon, but there is still much work to be done in abating and recovering from the pandemic," she said.

Melinda Merrell, PdD, MPH, is Research Assistant Professor with the Rural & Minority Health Research Center in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. In this role, she conducts policy-relevant research that informs state and national stakeholders regarding disparities in access to health care and public health services among rural and minority populations.

See this important report authored by Melinda and others:
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; and Chynna A. Phillips, MSW, MPH Donna Waites, MA Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina

Thank you, Melinda, for pointing us to The Nation's Health recent article,
High Notes
Creative Mentor Amiri Farris
was featured in MUSC's Hollings Cancer Center 'Hollings Horizons' Fall 2021 Newsletter.
"I continue to be inspired by the posters we created and using art to inspire health awareness!" Amiri said. The poster series is available for free download in both Spanish and English versions.
Amiri is one of seven Creative Mentors for The Art of Community: Rural SC initiative. He created a series of Arts + Public Health posters as part of The Art of Community: Rural SC's response to COVID-19 in 2020.

Creative Mentor EboniRamm
EboniRamm is serving as one of seven Creative Mentors for The Art of Community: Rural SC initiative. Eboni is the writing facilitator for Communal Pen, a program developed through Laura Marcus Green's leadership as Folklife and Traditional Arts Director.

Eboni's upcoming holiday performance:
'Tis the Season to be Jazzy
A Family Affair
Healing Waters

A new day begins as the sun sits
atop the mountains,
casting shadows over the valleys below.
Healing crystals in shades of green and blue glide endlessly,
weaving their way throughout time.
Many come to these waters,
cleansing, feeding, and resting their bodies,
finding their souls stirred by the waters
releasing the essence of nature as life.

Our experiences,
both mountain highs and valley lows,
house waters which ebb and flow
throughout every current in our lives.
Agitation loosens sedimentation
thus, exposing the gem inside.
A Month and Some Days...
CONGRATS Maven Lydia Cotton of Berkeley County and team on the production and launch of 'A Month and Some Days' film.

Next screening is
January 11th at Otranto Road Library in North Charleston at 5pm.

Stay tuned for a screening near you!
From the field...
A trip to Allendale and Barnwell counties included a meeting with the Allendale Humanities Festival team, dropping off a thank-you gift to Lottie Lewis from the SC Office of Rural Health for participation in their annual conference, a lunch meeting at Miller's Bread Basket in Blackville with Mavens Audrey Hopkins-Williams and Evelyn Coker and the Hampton County team, Cindy Hurst, Rev. Delores Stanley and Creative Connector James Wilson.
(And icing on the cake? Creative Robert Matheson created the artwork that was used for SCORH's thank-you gifts!)
Creative Moments
featuring... Crystal Shaw
Creative Connector and team member of the Art of Community: Rural SC/Chester Team with Maven Libby Sweatt-Lambert

With an interest in textiles and basket making, Crystal is a founding member of the first arts cooperative in her community. It's called Fort Lawn Basket Cases. They have regular shows and a Facebook page.
Above: The healing power of art-making, Crystal stays busy at the bedside of a family member as she creates reindeers for Christmas.
Ashley 'Glyshae' Jordan
Bamberg County Creative Connector
South Carolina NeoSoul/R&B artist, Glyshae's (pronounced Gligh-shah) adaptation of the holiday classic, Jingle Bells with new words on holiday safety during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Listen to Glyshae's COVID-19 rendition of Jingle Bells

Ashley also serves on the CRAWL team for Bamberg County.
Colleton County
Maven Matt Mardell
takes to the streets as 'Grinch'
in Walterboro
SAVING CHRISTMAS. Deputies with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office arrest The Grinch on Friday night after he tried to steal Christmas throughout the City of Walterboro. The Grinch then promised to be good, and helped to introduce a feature holiday film being shown to a large crowd on Friday at the Colleton Museum. The event featured food trucks, a movie and holiday events. More than 250 people attended the event.

NOT A FAN. The Grinch was caught on Friday trying to steal Christmas cheer, as he did from young Walterboro resident Eva Clare. The Grinch ultimately was captured and then became a part of the family holiday fun at events sponsored on Dec. 3rd by The Colleton Museum.
Winter Wonderland
Denmark, Erhardt, & Blackville

Maven Dr. Yvette McDaniel and Creative Connector Ashley 'Glyshae' Jordan make their rounds to pick up Christmas trees to reach their goal of 100 fully decorated trees at Winter Wonderland Denmark.

Creative Connectors James Wilson in Erhardt and Terrance Washington and mother, Ethel Washington, in Blackville also organize their own local Winter Wonderlands. This has become quite the holiday tradition in the region since 2017!

Happening now through
Dec. 26th!
Arts + Public Health Resources
VIDEO: 'Grief, Loss, and Cultural Practice: A Traditional Arts Round Table'
Hosted by the Alliance for California Traditional Arts on December 9, 2021
Watch in English or Spanish.
Thank you, Betty Marin, from ACTA for sharing.
University of Florida College of the Arts presents:

"The significant health costs of racism present critical opportunities for place-based arts and culture initiatives. By naming and acting to eliminate all forms of racism, such initiatives can help advance progress towards better health outcomes for communities of color."
The CDC: How to Engage the Arts to Build COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence: Creative Approaches to COVID-19 Vaccination to Unite the Arts and Sciences

Click the image to the left to check out the entire guide to building creative programs and campaigns around vaccine confidence.

Coming soon!
Art of Community Meeting dates:
  • Art of Community check-in: January 13 at 2:00 pm
  • Creativity + Ag: January 27 at 5:30 pm, A closer look at 'Braiding Sweetgrass' by Robin Kimmerer
Stay tuned!
  • In following newsletter issues, we will continue our cross-sector focus by exploring local project stories on community and economic development; we will also look at our expressive and documentary efforts through Creativity + Ag, plus work being led by Program Specialist for Community Arts & Folklife Laura Marcus Green that includes Communal Pen, the Folklife Field School and Creative Aging.

Check out some of our recent newsletters

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

Laura Marcus Green, Ph.D., Program Specialist for Community Arts & Folklife

Abigail Rawl, Art of Community Coordinator

Michael Dantzler, Newsletter Assistant
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
Rural LISC, Columbia, SC and
Washington, D.C.
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.