Sunday, July 8, 2012

Governor Nikki Haley; First, Not Necessarily Best

Governor Nikki Haley is the first female and first minority governor in the history of South Carolina. Both are significant accomplishments for the state that was also first with a European settlement-1526, first public library-1700, first professional female artist-1707, first opera performed-1735, first musical society-1762, and the first public museum-1773 (see list). 

But Governor Haley, supported and elected by the Tea Party, has waged an on-going battle with the Arts in South Carolina, and is determined to see the demise of the South Carolina Arts Commission, the autonomous state agency created by the state legislature in 1967 "to build a thriving arts environment for the benefit of all South Carolinians". Due to the Governor's actions this week the Arts Commission web page states, " The governor has vetoed all funding for the South Carolina Arts Commission. Due to the unprecedented timing of these vetoes the Arts Commission office will be closed pending legislative action on the vetoes. "

For this post I find it is necessary, once again, to speak out in favor of public arts support. I am posting an open letter I wrote Governor Haley last year when she vetoed funding for the SC Arts Commission and support for SC ETV, our arm of Public Television. Whether she saw my letter or not, I do not not know, but I did receive a form letter from her office that I will look for and include at the end of this post in the next day or so.

January 23, 2011

To Governor Nikki Haley,

Life without the arts and ETV will:

Leave bookshelves empty of scholarly literature that informs and entertains, it will close doors to museums, theatres and galleries where live performances of music, dance, drama and art move souls and inspire the next generation to use creative forms to interpret the human condition and make sense of our complexities, it will snuff-out creative after-school programs that offer young minds a chance to learn new skills for creative and critical thinking that can be used to move into higher education and toward productive careers and participants in community--(it will offer them a life and opportunity away from ignorance and poverty, prevalent in SC). 

What will it be like when the music is gone? The silence will spread like a deafening wave, a social tsunami that crosses the world through the instant access of social networking. The masses will gasp as they see South Carolina’s decision to disband and dissolve the arts and Educational Television that airs programs revered by viewers across the nation. 

In 1982 the National Endowment for the Arts established the NEA National Heritage Awards as a way of honoring American folk artists for their contributions to our national cultural mosaic and modeled after the Japanese "National Living Treasures" concept. In 2010 Mary Jackson, a native sweetgrass basket maker on John’s Island, South Carolina, received the award from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2008 Jackson received a United States Artists Fellowship, and that same year she was awarded the most coveted recognition in American Art, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant in the amount of $ 500,000.00. Mary Jackson’s work is included in collections worldwide including Empress Michiko of Japan, Prince Charles, Renwick Gallery, the American Craft Museum, White House Collection of Arts and Crafts, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Museum of African American History, Detroit. This single artist’s work is a jewel of grand PR in the coarse clay and gritty sand of the South Carolina terrain. Had she not received support from the South Carolina Arts Commission we could not celebrate this marvelous treasure.

                                   Artist, Mary Jackson, sweetgrass basket

UPDATE: July 18, 2012

The People of South Carolina have spoken. The legislators have heard their voices and restored funding originally cut by Governor Haley.

"House overrides vetoes; Money restored for arts, rape crisis centers, teacher raises

Arts Commission

After a statewide campaign and a rally in Columbia, arts advocates also won Tuesday as the House voted 110-5 to restore $1.9 million for the S.C. Arts Commission and voted 89-25 to restore $500,000 for the commission's grant money."
See details: The State