History of the South Carolina Arts Alliance

In 1979, the South Carolina Arts Commission’s (SCAC) Director, Rick George, and staff coordinator, Jay Williams, arranged a meeting with several arts council directors from various areas of the state.  A group of eight met at Table Rock State Park to discuss how an alliance could be formed with the South Carolina Arts Commission, which could help local arts councils.  In late 1979, an organization was formed and named the South Carolina Alliance of Community Arts Agencies.  By-laws were ratified in 1982, stating the purpose of the corporation to be the promotion and development of cultural activities in South Carolina.  In 1984, the South Carolina Alliance of Community Arts Agencies was renamed The South Carolina Arts Alliance, Inc. (SCAA).

Originally designed as a vehicle for networking among a small group of arts council administrators, the Alliance developed over the years into a much more broadly-based organization whose members are arts administration professionals, artists, educators, business and community leaders.  The mission of the Arts Alliance is “to advance and promote the arts for all South Carolinians through advocacy, leadership development, and public awareness”, assuring that the arts have a voice in our communities, state, and nation.

The SCAA has a strong history of working in partnership with the S.C. Arts Commission and supports funding of its programs and services.  The Alliance plays a leadership role in promoting the Commission’s Arts in Basic Curriculum Project (ABC), as well as working with its “sister agency” the S.C. Alliance for Arts Education and many other partners in support of arts education. The Alliance offers leadership and advocacy workshops, consultancies, retreats, forums, for the professional development of arts administrators, artists, and educators.  The SCAA has built an Advocacy Network in support of the Arts, sponsors the annual S.C. Arts Advocacy Day at the Statehouse, and the accompanying Legislative Appreciation Luncheon, and an Arts Advocacy Handbook.  Public awareness of the arts is an on-going part of the work of the SCAA, beginning with the “Put Your Heart in the Arts” media blitz, the ABC’s “In S.C. Arts Education Means Business”, and the current “Art Works in South Carolina”. The SCAA also participates at the national level through advocacy and service, including leading a “team” of arts leaders to the National Arts Advocacy activities each year in Washington DC.

During the FY of 1995-96, the Arts Alliance received it’s first direct grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in the amount of $17,000 (over two years) for a new technical assistance initiative called the “Outreach Network Technical Assistance Program” (ON-TAP).  The project was to establish a “Peer Advisory Network” of outstanding arts administrators who have been trained as consultants to their peers across the state, and continues today.  The SCAA has since received other direct grants from the NEA, various foundations – including a continuing partnership with the Frederick S. Upton Foundation, and contractual administrative work from the Arts Commission regarding Very Special Arts and the Wallace Participation projects.

In 1996, the SCAA received the official Governor’s Award for the Arts in the category of Outstanding Arts Organization, the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award.  The Alliance continues to distinguish itself as the recipient of advocacy and leadership awards from the: S.C. Dance Association, S.C. Art Education Association, Americans for the Arts, and Winthrop University.  The Arts Alliance works hard every day to be an effective voice for all the arts and arts education in South Carolina.

The first SCAA President was Ellen Dressler, former executive director of the Office of Cultural Affairs with the City of Charleston.  She was followed by:

  • Bobbi Wheless – Greenville
  • Buddy Johnson – Chapin
  • Diane Abbey – Charleston
  • Aubrey Bowie – Camden
  • Nancy Howell – Lancaster
  • Vicki Cook – Rock Hill
  • Cassandra Baker – Spartanburg (was not able to take office due to illness)
  • Diane Abbey – interim
  • Ernst Hesterberg – Salem
  • Susan Harper – Camden (1994-1996)
  • Dr. Roy Fluhrer – Greenville (1996-98)
  • Everett G. Powers – Spartanburg (1998-00)
  • Charles (Charlie) W. Boswell – Orangeburg (2000 – 2002)
  • Kimberly H. Spears – Anderson (2002-2004)
  • Michael W. Haga – Charleston (2004-2006)
  • Ray Doughty – Fort Mill (2006-2008)
  • Scott Shanklin-Peterson – Charleston – (2008-2010)
  • Dr. Mac Arthur Goodwin – Columbia – (2010-2012)
  • Kathleen Bateson – Hilton Head Island – (2012-2014)
  • Rose Sheheen – Camden (2014-2016)
  • Karen Brosius – Columbia (2016 – present)

In 1985, the Alliance hired a part-time coordinator, and a full-time director.  Due to a lack of funding, the position was discontinued after six months.  In 1987, Kay Teer was hired as a paid, part-time project coordinator through a grant from the SCAC and its “Arts in Basic Curriculum” Project (ABC) until her resignation.  In October 1989, Betty Plumb was contracted through the Alliance to build, maintain and coordinate the arts education advocacy network as well as a network for state arts funding on a half-time paid position. In September 1991, she was contracted as project coordinator of a technical assistance initiative to rural, underserved local arts agencies through a second grant from the SCAC on a half-time paid basis.  On February 24. 1994, the SCAA Board of Directors voted to change her title to Executive Director.

Betty retired in 2016 after 27 years and George Patrick “GP” McLeer Jr. became Executive Director beginning July 1, 2016.