IMG_5779Another year gone, another on its way.  This is a great time to look back at the highlights from the past 365 days, and look into the future to prepare for upcoming changes and progress.  The arts industry has had its fair share of changes in 2014, and here in South Carolina especially, those changes have been great steps forward.  Here’s a quick look back at the top three moments in the SC arts industry in 2014 plus what needs to be done further in 2015, and the top three trends to look for in 2015.  Some of these moments/trends may be national, but each has had, or will have, a big impact on South Carolina artists, arts organizations, and communities.

2014 Review

1) National Endowment for the Arts gets a new Chair.

What Happened in 2014:  It took a year and a half, but the NEA finally got a new Chair in 2014.  Jane Chu served as the President & CEO of the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri for almost eight years before being selected as the new Chair.  After a long period of being named Chair, but not yet confirmed, Chu was confirmed by the US Senate in June of 2014.

Having a confirmed Chair gives the NEA much needed stability and gives them the ability to set their priorities for the upcoming years, and provide leadership to states like South Carolina.  Without a Chair, the NEA had been in a holding pattern during a time where state and local arts groups were moving quickly on new initiatives and itching for federal progress.  With Jane Chu confirmed and currently spending her first six months criss-crossing the country getting an idea of the arts landscape in America, the NEA can now act during the new Congress and work on making the arts stronger in our country.

What Needs to Happen in 2015:  The downside to Jane Chu’s confirmation is that it took a long time to come to fruition.  Past Chair Rocco Landesman retired in December of 2012 and the NEA was stagnant for 18 months.  But more importantly, since the NEA Chairmanship lives and dies with each presidential term, Jane Chu now only has a little over two years to build a vision, deliver that vision, and leave a legacy.  It takes a long time to move anything in the federal government, so Chu and her staff will have to work tirelessly, and with much state and local collaboration, to accomplish their goals.

2) South Carolina Arts Commission Settles In

What Happened in 2014: At June of 2013, the South Carolina Arts Commission had received the final report from the SC Legislative Audit Council, which looked at areas in which the SCAC may be able to improve services and become more efficient as an agency.  The SCAC welcomed the report and spent the remaining 6 months of 2013 implementing pretty much all of the recommendations made by the LAC. In 2014, Gov. Nikki Haley’s executive budget proposal left the SC Arts Commission’s budget fully intact – for the first time since Haley had taken office.  Additionally, state legislators took delight in the changes at the SCAC and the agency’s ability to adjust to changes.

The 2014 legislative year had one major initiative on it from the SCAC, and this year it did not include any additional funding (in 2013 the SCAC was given a $1m increase in recurring funds for grants).  Instead, the SCAC proposed changing their agency’s legislative language to allow them the ability to create a Cultural Districts Designation Program for the state.  This new program, which rolled out in final quarter of 2014, provides local community leaders with a formal process to designate an area in their city/town as a “cultural district”.  Cultural Districts that have a formal designation have historically become hubs of economic activity for local communities.  SC is the 14th state to develop such a program.

What Has to Happen in 2015: Local communities and arts organizations need to take the lead on really looking at if a “cultural district” designation works for their cities/towns.  Municipalities need to look at this designation program as way to fold the arts into their longterm planning and create policies, design standards, and programs that enhance those designations.  Additionally, the SCAC will need to push for real reform to arts education, but more on that in a bit.

3) Elections

What Happened in 2014: A Governor’s race, a State Superintendent of Education race, House and Senate races, and a plethora of ballot initiatives dominated the fall of 2014.  The results?  Gov. Nikki Haley was elected to a second term, Molly Spearman was elected State Superintendent of Education, all of our US Senate and House seats stayed the same, and one statewide ballot measure that affects arts groups, making chartable raffles legal in SC, passed with flying colors.  And in the realm of statehouse committee appointments, Rep. Rita Allison was appointed as chair of the House Education Committee.

Gov. Haley left the SCAC funding intact in 2014 and her executive budget proposal typically comes out at the start of the year. Molly Spearman was a music teacher and a past chair of the Arts in Basic Curriculum Project.  Four Attorney Generals have ruled that, technically, raffles are a form of lottery and therefore illegal in SC.  But in the 2014 election, 83% of South Carolinians voted to change the state constitution to allow raffles for charitable purposes.  Rep. Rita Allison (R-Spartanburg) was appointed Chair of the House Education Committee and is currently a co-Chair of the House Arts Caucus (Rep. Leon Stavrinikas [D-Charleston] is the other co-Chair).

What Needs to Happen in 2015: Once Molly Spearman officially takes office, the SCAC, ABC Project, and Rep. Allison will have to sit down and hammer out some concrete arts education initiatives to work on in the upcoming legislative year when all interested parties, including Gov. Haley, will be looking for big wins in education.  For charitable raffles, state legislators will need to ratify the ballot results (which can take two weeks or two years, hopefully the first), and then the proper agency will issue the exact rules and regulations for charitable raffles.

2015 Preview

1) Arts Education

South Carolina will see a huge push for arts education growth and innovation.  Look for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Education to become a household name, and programs to pop up in arts organizations and schools across the state.  A drive for stronger arts education in rural areas will mirror the 2014 State Supreme Court ruling highlighting legislators’ shortfalls in educating students in rural communities.  The SC Arts Commission will ask for support from the statehouse to bolster their arts education opportunities.  This state-level focus on innovative and new arts education initiatives will force local arts organizations to broaden the scope fo their education programs to include more integration strategies.

2) Community Development

The trend of knowingly and willingly using the arts as a tool for economic development that has been widely used by mid-size to larger cities (>30,000 people) will migrate to smaller towns.  Particular focus will be given to using the arts to stimulate growth in under-developed areas.  Use of the Cultural Districts Designation Program will start to grow and local municipalities will learn how to capitalize on this kind of program and incorporate it into their long-range plans.

On a different level, artist-driven establishments and developments (co-ops, studio clusters, arts-based businesses) will grow in their number around the state in all sizes of communities.  Look for more programs in business training for artists to spike as well.

3) Awareness

The combination of growth in arts education and community development will give the entire arts industry in South Carolina much more public awareness.  Their message will reach farther and stronger, and to a more diverse audience than in years past.  Corporations, local governments, and state officials will get a larger picture of the role the arts play in our state and use that vision to really set the arts industry on a very positive path for the future in our state.