Past Comments

August Issue 2002
by Tom Starland


I got plenty of feedback to my article last month about what I've learned in the last 15 years of publishing an arts newspaper in the Carolinas. So far, all positive, but then I never expect to hear from those who don't agree with what I say. I even received several request for the article to be reprinted in other publications, so you might see it again sometime.

Besides words of encouragement and support I received some made-up awards, a poem about public supported art (not reprintable in a public paper), and many comments about the material content of certain body parts. I even got one comment from an amazed reader that - I not only burn my bridges, but I make sure I cross over into the enemy's territory before I set it afire, leaving no retreat.

Well, here's number (11) All praise is great, but it doesn't change much. Don't get me wrong, I love talking with like-minded people, but what I like most is action for change - making things better. I even like talking with folks who are not like-minded. And, I don't mind having my ego stroked every once in a while, but I write these commentaries for the sake of change. And, sometimes change happens. Not that I'd get credit for it, but it does take place every once in a blue moon.

In this issue under the ART NEWS section, you will fine a notice for Fellowships from the SC Arts Commission. The rules have changed for these fellowships over time. They used to be available to artists who have just been in SC for only six months, making it a prize for art professors who have just taken untenured positions at local universities and colleges. They would get the fellowship and then be gone to some other area of the country in a year or so. What did that do for SC? Now you have to have been a resident of SC for two years. A change I advocated in the past.

Artists used to be able to get a fellowship over and over again. Some had received two or three in less than a ten or twelve year span, while other worthy artists were being passed over again and again. Now it's two and you're out of the pool. I think $10,000 of the taxpayer's money is enough for any artist, but there are some who will forever hate me for this change. I may have cost a few of the Arts Commission's favorite artists - $5,000 to $10,000. Not that I'm to be given credit for the change, but it was also a point I bitched about for years.

I also complained about the fact that the Arts Commission wouldn't tell us who was on the jury panel for these fellowships. They said it was for the protection of the panel members - as if some artists would try to influence the process. But, now the names are being offered after the process is over. I guess protecting the panel from bribes is more important than protecting them from retribution. Frankly I don't think the panel members need any protection. Their names should be given up front.

But all these points are small potatoes compared to the bigger picture. When I was complaining about these policies of the SC Arts Commission I was also asking that they expand the program as well. Giving one or two fellowships a year meant that many worthy artists, and we has a lot of worthy artists in SC, would be left out of this program of financial recognition. It seemed to be a special plum for just a few.

The SC Arts Commission likes to compare itself to its fellow agencies in neighboring states, but just across the border in NC, the NC Arts Council, the NC state arts agency receives less money per capita than SC, yet it gives 18 fellowships to visual artists of $8,000 each. Of course their program includes film & video, but no matter how you cut it, NC is serving more visual artists with less money.

Perhaps it's because the NC Arts Council is a leaner agency than the SC Arts Commission. In fact, the SC Arts Commission has one of the biggest staffs in the nation. With all the announcments about state layoffs - the SC Arts Commission has been silent.

A Few Kudos

As you will see in our Feature Articles, the SC Watercolor Society recently gave a Special Recognition Award to Wendyth Wells, (known to many as Wendy Thomas before a recent marriage) owner of City Art Gallery and Art Express, a nationwide art supply catalog business based in Coumbia, SC. The award was given in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the arts in South Carolina. I agree, and being a former recipient of such award, know how much it means to receive such recognition from your peers. It's much better than other awards given in recognition of how much money you've given to some people's pet organizations and projects.

I also want to give recognition and praise to the folks at EnPro in Charlotte, NC, including CEO Ernie Schwab, Human Resources Vice President, Dick Driscoll, and Executive Secretary, Cheryl Allaire. They were guided to one of Charlotte's gallery crawls by designer Gaines Brown of Gaines Brown Design Inc., where they discovered the gallery operated by the Charlotte Art League (also see our Feature Articles). EnPro eventually purchased 27 original works totaling $22,760 in the biggest single sale event in CAL's history. The private sector!!!

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