This week, the local arts community saw firsthand the importance of arts funding.

Sponsorship from Greenwood County Community Foundation made possible an annual local art exhibit that opened this week at the Arts Center of Greenwood, on view through Jan. 10.

Mary Woodiwiss, director of grants and projects, for Greenwood County Community Foundation, said the foundation’s granting process involves applications being reviewed by a broad group of community members.

“Community enhancement has broad applications,” Woodiwiss explained, regarding one of the focus areas of the foundation’s grants. “Any grant that comes from the foundation reflects input of community members, who recommend that it be funded, ultimately with the approval of our board.”

Additionally, representatives from the South Carolina Arts Commission visited Greenwood and the Arts Center Thursday to host a public forum as part of long-range planning for arts in South Carolina.

The forum — one of several across the state — part of the SC Arts Commission’s Canvass of the People 2020, also introduced people to the commission’s new executive director, David Platts.

Anne Craig, executive director of the Arts Center of Greenwood, said it’s encouraging that the SC Arts Commission is trying to “understand the needs” of the arts at the grassroots level.

“We benefit from the South Carolina Arts Commission’s funding,” Craig said. “They are the only organization that will give us a general support grant. Everyone else wants to support a program.”

General support grants, Craig said, help arts organizations cover the not-so-glamorous daily operating expenses such as utilities and stocking toilet paper.

“I’m so glad David Platts has the background that he has,” Craig said. “He’s kind of lived the local arts experience from teaching the arts and beyond.”

Platts said these public forums are a way for the people of South Carolina and the commission to have “a conversation, about what we want for the state of the arts in South Carolina.”

At Thursday’s public forum, attendees divided into small groups and discussed Greenwood’s art strengths, art challenges, art aspirations and hallmarks of a healthy community.

Of health communities, one thing mentioned repeatedly was “valuing education.”

Strengths cited included increasing collaboration between arts organizations and local government. Challenges mentioned included the “stigma that art isn’t for everybody” despite efforts to increase offerings and access to programs, funding and public engagement.

“As arts organizations, we’re all competing for the same piece of that funding pie,” pointed out Niki Hutto, a Greenwood city councilwoman and Arts Center of Greenwood development director.

Greenwood City Manager Julie Wilkie said she would like to see organizations within the cultural arts district consider a joint fundraising and membership opportunity.

Platts asked those in attendance to consider what the arts can do to “build a bridge” to meet arts goals within the community and to help the community thrive in terms of its overall health.

The South Carolina Arts Commission is an autonomous state agency charged with guiding development of the arts.

The commission’s primary source of funding is state tax dollars appropriated by the South Carolina General Assembly. Grants from the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts comprise the Commission’s secondary source of funding. Additional support for Arts Commission projects is provided by private foundations and community sponsors.

Many in attendance at the public forum Thursday at the Arts Center were also there Wednesday night for the opening reception of “A Local Look.”

This annual local art show attracted 150 entries. Sixty-eight pieces by 50 artists made it into the exhibition, juried by mixed-media artist Greyson Smith of Columbia.

“There were so many new names who came to us through this exhibit,” Craig said. “This exhibit also includes 10 pieces by the late Gerald Dorn, a founding member of the woodworkers’ guild.”

The show’s opening also recognized Greenwood Artist Guild member Karen Johnson, as recipient of the 2019 Guild Dedication Award, presented in memory of designer and clay artist Dohnna Boyajian.

“She’s been a member of the artist guild forever,” Craig said. “She has a studio here and she’s dedicated to sharing knowledge.”

After the award announcement, Johnson said she was stunned.

“When I was a student at Lander (University) we were invited to join the local artist guild and a bunch of us did,” Johnson recalled. “Everyone has always been really helpful and I’ve always felt that’s the way you should treat other people.”

Fellow artist Gene Shirley said all anyone has to do is “tap on the back window” of Johnson’s shared arts center studio space and Johnson will let you in and give feedback on works in progress.

One of Johnson’s works in “A Local Look,” titled “Reflections of Charlotte” appealed to Cody Barker, who was in attendance Wednesday from New York City.

“I’m from the city and it speaks to city life,” Barker said.

Contact St. Claire Donaghy at 864-943-2518