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Arts Advocacy

Charleston Student Advocates for the Arts

ARTM students advocate for the arts


By: Margaret Ward

On February 8, 2011, I attended the South Carolina Arts Advocacy Day at the state capital in Columbia, SC, an event organized by the South Carolina Arts Alliance, a non-profit arts advocacy group based in Rock Hill, SC.  I initially learned about the event last semester when Betty Plumb, Executive Director of the South Carolina Arts Alliance, was a guest speaker in my Contemporary Perspectives on Arts Management course.  As a result of her motivating class lecture, when an email was sent to the College of Charleston’s arts community notifying us that the college was able to cover costs for a certain amount of both undergraduate and graduate students to attend the event, I immediately signed up.  The SC Arts Advocacy Day helped to raise awareness for the arts across the state, support that is desperately needed due to Governor Nikki Haley’s recent proposed cutting of the SC Arts Commission’s budget, and was also an influential learning experience as it demonstrated just how necessary legislators’ support for programs is in order to ensure their survival.

The event began with a rally in the lobby of the State House at 11:30 a.m., where advocates wore white hard hats and “Art Works” pins, as well as carried posters and signs to demonstrate their support for the arts.  The rally began downstairs, and the cloud clapped and cheered as legislators and lobbyists entered the room; afterwards, some of the group moved upstairs to continue showing their support as additional legislators left the chambers for their lunch breaks.  There were several news crews present from the major channels in Columbia, such as WLTX and WIS, and the overall energy was one of excitement and optimism.  However, a bit of criticism that I have for this aspect of the day is that it could have been organized better.  The lobby seemed chaotic, and unless you attended the event with a large group, you were left wandering about the room.  On the other hand, it was a rally of sorts, and having never attended a rally prior to this, maybe it is the norm for them to be slightly hectic.  Additionally, it seemed as if the date chosen to advocate for the arts could have been selected more wisely, as there was also a demonstration to show support for Women’s Heart Disease going on in the lobby simultaneously.  If SC Arts Advocacy Day had been the sole event occurring in the State House that morning, I believe the effectiveness and cohesion of the attendants would have been significantly more impactful.