Past Comments

October Issue 2006
by Tom Starland

Fellowships Finally Named

The South Carolina Arts Commission Board of Commissioners has finally approved the selections for the 2006-2007 Individual Artist Fellowship Awards - for Crafts and Visual Arts. Each Fellow will receive $2,500 in recognition of their superior artistic merit. Alternates have also been named in each category. This year's Fellows are:
Crafts - Peter Lenzo of Columbia, SC
Alternate - James D. Connell of Rock Hill, SC
Visual Arts - Patricia Lee Brady of Greenville, SC
Alternate - Janet Orselli or Columbia, SC

The Fellowship selection panel for Crafts and Visual Arts included: Larry Allen, crafts artist, from Leeds, AL; Georgine Clarke, Visual Arts Program Manager, from Montgomery, AL; and Rachel Wright, visual artist, from Mobile, AL.

Is "Alternate" really a better name for coming in second place? Don't worry, it's not that bad. Many times the folks who came in second one year get the top slot the next year.

Of course these are the results of the second round of Fellowship selections - so even the people who got the Fellowship - came in second.

If you remember the first call from Fellowship applications didn't attract enough artists to make a selection. Only four applications were received by deadline for the Crafts category and nine for the Visual Arts slot. The Arts Commission says they need five to make a selection. If that's the case I don't know why they didn't make a selection in the Visual Arts category. Maybe they didn't like the applications? But then again, they get to make the rules. And, the second call for applications wasn't much better - 18 for Crafts and 41 for Visual Arts.

Due to the lack of interest on the artists' parts or the lack of communication on the Arts Commission's part - changes have been made. A survey was conducted - online, and I add, by very few participants respective to the overall visual art community and decisions were made subject to the remarks of those few people. Only artists were allowed to respond.

Here's a brief rundown of the changes. Fellowship awards FY 2008 will increase to $5,000 each (at one time they were $7,500), two selections will be made in each category (every other year), and now artists can win a total of (3) Fellowships. So expect those artists who have already received two at the $7,500 level to be in the winner's circle again really soon. I suspect those people played a big part in the artists' survey.

So it all comes down to a doubling of the money - no net gain in Fellowship awards as they will now be selected every other year, but the big change is the opening of the vault to the repeat crowd -- those who can't ever seem to get enough of our taxpayers' money. And surprise!! - the deadline for FY 2008 is Oct. 1, 2006. Did you get a notice?

The Arts Commission is hoping with the selection of four artists in one year that they will also be able to organize - perhaps exhibit opportunities - but nothing is in stone.

Is this an improvement? Will these changes attract more artists to apply? Will the Arts Commission's communication skills improve? Will we see the printed results of the survey?

I guess that's up to the Arts Commission and the visual artists of SC.

It's hard for me to understand why after a massive recall for applications only 41 visual artists and 18 craft artists were interested in making an effort to receive a Fellowship award.

The real problem - in my opinion - is that the rank and file visual artists of South Carolina still feel that the Arts Commission is biased in their selection process - even though it is done by outside panels. The Arts Commission says they don't make the selections of the Fellowships, but they do select the people who do. And, we know little if nothing about these people. It is also my opinion that anyone can successfully predict the results of a selection by being very careful when selecting the people who make the selections.

It's like the Supreme Court making a decision on who wins an election. You don't select people who won't agree with you - not these days.

Artists have to believe that they really have a shot at being selected. With the current changes, I feel the only ones who will be once again attracted to the Fellowship awards will be those two-timers and the others who feel that $5,000 is now worthy of their attention, since if you win a Fellowship you can't apply or win any other grant from the Arts Commission in that same year period.

For most of the visual art community in SC, I don't think we have an improved Fellowship program and I don't think the changes were made with the entire community in mind. But, then again, I've learned not to expect much from the Arts Commission. I keep hoping, but find myself disappointed most of the time.

Who are these people?

Most of the time when I'm talking about the SC Arts Commission I'm talking about the state employees who run the agency. These are the folks who make the real decisions and then present them as the only alternatives to the Commission Board. I think it's time you should know who they are. They include: Linda C. Stern - Columbia, SC; Noble P. Cooper, Jr. - Columbia, SC; Carolyn McCoy Govan - Hartsville, SC; Virginia P. Self - Greenwood, SC; Charles T. "Bud" Ferillo, Jr., Columbia, SC; West Fraser - Charleston, SC; and Harry J. Love - Myrtle Beach, SC.

Do you know any of these folks?

State law says there are supposed to be nine commissioners on the board, but there have only been seven for some time now - leaving some areas of the state under-represented. Why has there not been a full commission?

And, since they make the final decisions on all matters - shouldn't these people be the ones catching the blame - when there is blame to go around? What do you think?



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