Support the ARTS in South Carolina and Beaufort County

By Wendy Pollitzer

Featured in The Island News

March 24, 2011

Peggy Reynolds

Robin Leverton

Robin Leverton and Peggy Reynolds, Board Members of the South Carolina Arts Foundation and Beaufort County residents, recently hosted a party to raise awareness of the South Carolina Arts Commission and all that it does for the State of South Carolina. Not insignificant is the fact that it is the largest financial supporter to Spoleto Festival, USA, which brings in more tourist dollars to SC than any other event in the State.

Harriet Green, Director of Visual Arts for the South Carolina Arts Commission spoke about the recent recommendation by The House Ways and Means Committee to cut to the Arts Commission’s state appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year by 6%. This comes on the heels of Governor Nikki Haley’s proposal to eliminate all state funding for the South Carolina Arts Commission, the state agency responsible for ensuring that all citizens have equal access to and benefit from the arts.

In response to inquiries and discussions about the Arts Commission’s role in the state of South Carolina, the following talking points are provided to help you answer your own questions and those of others. The information below briefly addresses the most common issues; for more detail about each item, please visit

Why are the arts important to South Carolina citizens?

  • Cultural industries generate 3% of the state’s economy: 78,000 jobs and over $9.2 billion annually, with potential for more.
  • Industries want to locate where there are educated, creative workers. Those workers gravitate toward communities with a thriving cultural life.
  • Becoming an educated, creative worker requires the skills developed by exposure to and participation in the arts.
  • An education that includes the arts produces higher achievement, especially among disadvantaged students.
  • Tourism is South Carolina’s largest industry, and people who come for the arts stay longer and spend more.
  • The arts revitalize communities, large and small.
  • People interested in the arts vote more, and do more for their communities.
  • A majority of South Carolinians are already frequent arts participants.
  • The state’s identity is tied to, represented by, and sustained through the arts.
  • Residents are worried about how the state looks to the rest of the world. The arts in South Carolina are a source of pride they want outsiders to know about.

Why do we need the Arts Commission?

  • Because it’s the only way many citizens have any access or exposure to the arts and the benefits they provide.
  • Because someone has to lead, organize, unite, and provide resources for the contributions the arts make to education, quality of life, and economic development across the state.
  • Because someone has to be a voice for South Carolina on the national and international stage.
  • Because grants from the Arts Commission result in thousands of jobs, over 100,000 students served, and over 6 million individual arts experiences across the state each year.
  • Because private sector funding stays local, and in many communities, there is none. And, because private sector funding has no mandate for equality or transparency.
  • Because the citizens of the state say we do: 92% say the arts should be state-funded, almost 40% want funding increased, and almost 80% want more spent on arts education in schools.

What do we get for our investment?

  • Return on investment: 38 to 1. Last year’s state allocation of just over $2.4 million generated over $91 million in local communities.
  • The knowledge and experience of arts professionals who are available to every citizen of the state for advisement and assistance, continuing over 43 years of service in spite of the recent 47% reduction in state funding and 35% reduction in staff.
  • Rigorous, equitable, public review of state-funded activities, administered with transparency and accountability.
  • Leverage for attracting additional investment from public, private, national, and local sources.
  • $900,000 in federal funding that will only be awarded to a state arts agency that meets strict criteria for governance, inclusion, vision, fairness, excellence, and accountability.

Can we afford it?

  • The Arts Commission’s current share of the state budget is four one-hundredths of one percent (0.04%).
  • Elimination of the Arts Commission from the state budget would reduce the expected $1 billion shortfall by two tenths of one percent (0.2%). Forfeiture of all the benefits provided by a state arts agency would have no significant impact on the budget crisis.
  • Every state currently has a publicly funded, officially designated arts agency. Without the Arts Commission, South Carolina would be the only state not providing access to the arts for its citizens.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How can we afford to support the arts in hard economic times?

It is when times are bad that every resource must be allocated carefully to get the best results with the smallest investment. The arts are a proven recovery asset that supports jobs, stimulates commerce, revitalizes communities, attracts tourists and provides other economic benefits.

  • The current allocation for the Arts Commission is 0.04% (four one- hundredths of one percent) of the state budget. Eliminating that small public investment in the arts will not save enough to provide significant relief. However, elimination will threaten the state’s capacity to provide sustained, strategic leadership on issues like education, quality of life and our economy, all of which impact citizens statewide. 
Read about some of what’s already been accomplished >>
  • The state’s small public investment helps stimulate South Carolina’s creative industries, which generate 3% of the state’s total economy and account for 78,000 jobs.
  • Last year, South Carolina’s investment in the arts of a little more than $2.4 million helped to generate more than $91 million in local matching funds. That’s a great return on investment—almost 38 to 1.

Why can’t the private sector take over funding of the arts?

Private donations already provide support for many local arts organizations and efforts. In fact, private giving is one way for Arts Commission grantees to leverage additional support from other sources. So why can’t that private support just be increased to make up for the loss of government funds?

  • Private support tends to stay local, and in many communities, there is no source of private support. This is especially true in many rural areas with little or no industry, as well as communities challenged by low incomes and high unemployment. In many parts of the state, publicly funded efforts are the only available resource for participation in the arts, and sometimes one of the few low- or no-cost options for family activities and community involvement.
  • Private support does not have the same mandate for equitabilty and accountability that is mandatory for government funding. The Arts Commission is charged with making sure that the benefits of the arts reach all areas of the state, and that the public funds that support that mission are spent responsibly.
  • A government agency working at the state level can accurately assess the state’s cultural needs and assets, then organize efforts to help the state achieve goals that are relevant to its priorities. There is no private equivalent to that kind of strategic planning and implementation.

Why do we need arts in education when so few kids will grow up to be professional artists?

The goals of arts education are not limited to training future artists any more than school sports programs exist solely to produce future professional athletes. In both cases, the benefits extend far beyond a possible career track.

  • Both sports and the arts encourage discipline, teamwork, endurance, critical thinking, and leadership. The arts also help develop communication and social skills, creativity, cultural awareness, and innovative thinking.
  • Both sports and the arts provide students with a chance to excel, which is especially valuable to a child who feels inept or out of place in other areas of study.
  • Research shows that students involved in arts education perform better, have better attendance records, and have parents who are more engaged in the education process.

Councils Supported by the South Carolina Arts Commission in Beaufort County:

Arts Center of Coastal Carolina

14 Shelter Cove Lane
Hilton Head Island, SC 29928-3543


President & CEO: Kathleen P. Bateson

Arts Council of Beaufort County

PO Box 482
Beaufort, SC 29901-0482


Executive Director: J. W.Rone

About Wendy

Wendy Pollitzer is a versatile writer living in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

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