COVID-19 has hit the arts community hard, particularly performance venues. They were the first to close, as large gatherings are essential to what they do, and will likely be the last to open as well.
The tourism draw of the arts community has a huge economic impact: one million attendees of concerts and festivals statewide, $12 million loss in SC
95% of arts organizations have had to cancel events, and that means loss of income
Organizations have done online streaming events, but people don’t pay for that, so there’s no revenue
Federal advocacy/sharing: many artists and nonprofits have not been eligible to access loans and unemployment before, so there’s a lot of educating to do—webinars have been helpful to get information out
No representation in AccelerateSC, but in constant contact with them
The public’s willingness to gather is a large factor in how reopening will go
Abbeville & Greenwood: Ben Calhoun, Small Business Development Center
For both counties, the initial response was to assess the damage
Pivoted to reopening guides
Short term, helping to reopen businesses
Long term, making sure that the task forces were inclusive of necessary people
Anderson: Pam Christopher, Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce
Working on summer school feeding program and how school will look in the fall.
United Way providing funds for food, more housing now.
27 days with no COVID related deaths.
Thank you to Anmed, government, health workers.
Anderson University back August 19.
Tri-County Tech starting in August.
PPP $125B left to fund. Thanks to Rick Atkins.
Businesses rules changing with extension on deadlines on numbers of employees coming back and have extended June to December, and fully staffed from 2 years to 5 years. Some staff furloughed may not be coming back to previous counts.
Many EIDL loans have been processed.
Safe Harbor committee considering protection program for business community.
Cherokee, Union, and Spartanburg: Hannah Jarrett, United Way of the Piedmont
Have financially assisted over 700 people through 211, majority new to safety net system
400 households provided financial assistance, most in Spartanburg, some in Cherokee, Union not heard from much but trying to let them know of benefits through radio, news, libraries, non-profits.
Covering more housing and utility, transportation bills.
United for All fund running out except in Union. EFSP Cares funding just dispersed. Past this week no funding!
Chamber Spartanburg shared significant rise in unemployment, 70-80% still tethered to job, so hopefully re-starting. $600 additional unemployment payments ending July 31. Working on transitioning people back to employment successfully.
Greenville: Brandy Amidon, City of Travelers Rest
Cautiously optimistic about budget going forward.
Working on placemaking options, outdoor options for dining and parks.
Events in June and July postponed, farmers’ market reopened.
Businesses for most part doing well, 1-2 might not come back or come back differently
Campaigns have encouraged take-out.
Continuing improvements to Poinsett Highway.
Laurens: Jonathan Irick, Main Street Laurens
Most businesses have opened back up
Grills grant used for tech audit, self assessment businesses, potential website
Board approved converting $15K facade grant to utililty grants, 20 businesses will get $750 each.
Working with SC festivals and events on guidelines.
Won community vibrancy grant for Blues festival, which has been pushed back until next May.
Clinton Rhythm on the Rails moved to June.
Trying to determine special events to help businesses.
Community survey about readiness, having sanitizer available, how to find supplies.
New restaurant opening next week. Some restaurants did rehab while shut down.
Oconee: Annie Caggiano, Oconee Economic Alliance
Tornado relief response has been tremendous
Economic development activity continuing, beginning to pick up
Pickens: Jeremy Price, United Way of Pickens County
Takeaway: over $100K disbursed from OneUnited fund in Pickens.
People in Pickens County were already hurting.
One SC Fund went to front line agencies.
EFSP piggybacked to bring $80K for rent, utilities, food, shelter.
Mid March huge demand for food, now high need for utilities and shelter.
Pickens County communicates well due to small size.
Working on wi-fi hot spots.
On March 16 shut down volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) because libraries shut down, cancelled 400 appointments. Glad to announce drive-in tax prep service has started.
Anne Craig, Executive Director of the Greenwood Arts Center, retired in March
by Anne Craig, Executive Director, Greenwood Arts Center, Retired
The Arts Center in Greenwood sits patiently in the Uptown awaiting reopening and return to some of our wonderful programs. Although the facility has been closed since mid-March, the staff has remained active with planning, corresponding, and social media outreach. The virus has caused this organization to look at all programs and readjust our calendar of events and classes. With the Governor’s directive in place, the Arts Center will reopen on June 8. Normally, the Center would present the Festival of Flowers Juried Exhibit during this time. The Festival has been canceled for this year; however, the 30+ topiaries will be on display in the uptown and the Center would like to be part of that visitor experience. So as our visitors stroll through uptown, they can also view amazing art. We moved our local exhibit to this June time slot to facilitate delivery of art and ease of organization. Finally we feel it is important to focus on our community of artists and explore the rich talents that they have to offer. This exhibit will also be available online for all to see. To encourage engagement, we will have peoples’ choice awards for the exhibit with voting onsite or online. We plan to offer our summer camps on a limited basis, 10 students with social distance in a large classroom. We feel it is important to ease back into our role of providing enriching arts education experiences to this community.
There are two more exciting exhibits planned for the end of 2020. First a Lego exhibit, The Art of the Brick, featuring artist Jonathan Lopes will open mid July and run to first of October. This exhibit features large scale representations of famous New Your landmarks. A Common Thread, Textiles Past and Present, will open in October in partnership with The Museum and focus on the rich textile history of this area. The exhibit at the Arts Center will feature modern textile artists. This exhibit is supported in part by a grant from the Elevate Upstate program.
Our online presence has been strengthened by website updates, Facebook posts, constant contact updates, and Instagram posts. The education staff has posted art activities to do at home as well as an interactive gallery tour of the current youth art exhibit. During this time, our annual report for 2019 was posted online and mailed to our supporters. The Center wants to stay involved in this community and offer educational activities to all.
Intro by Jennifer Evins, Executive Director, Chapman Cultural Center
Chapman Cultural Center’s mission is to provide cultural leadership for all of Spartanburg County. We are the leading local arts agency and we own and operate the Chapman Cultural Center in downtown Spartanburg.
In addition to our own programs in arts education, public art projects, and providing operational funding to local artists and non-profits, CCC serves as a cultural and entertainment destination with the co-location of 8 local nonprofit arts, science, and humanities organizations that manage their own staff and programs. A term we often use to describe our facility is that we are like a shopping mall for the arts. Because inside CCC, you’ll find classrooms, art and dance studios, a performing arts theater, and exhibit galleries!
Through these unprecedented times, we’ve had to increase our leadership role in responding to COVID-19 and setting the policies and procedures for how our campus operates and determine timing and protocol on how we reopen and serve our community.
For a century, Spartanburg has enjoyed a very strong cultural sector in our community. We believe that arts and culture are critical for quality of life, wellbeing, education, and economic development. That is why we are committed to pushing through these unprecedented times as our community wants the arts to be strong and vibrant when we reopen our communities.
Below is a “Q&A” with a few of the organizations that we fund through General Operating Support Grants, some of which are also located on our campus.
Artists’ Guild of Spartanburg, Carrie Caldwell, Executive Director
The Artists Guild of Spartanburg
What are you most looking forward to in the future when things start to open up?
We cannot wait to see everyone’s smiling faces in the gallery again! The Artists’ Guild has a wonderful line up of shows for the remainder of the year (beginning June 3rd) and we are looking forward to seeing our artists, patrons, and the public as they visit the gallery. If a Guild representative is not there, please be sure to sign our guestbook and leave a comment so that we know we had visitors! To ensure everyone’s safety, we will be installing clear markings in the gallery to help with social distancing, and hand sanitizer will be available at the door.
What kinds of permanent changes, for good or ill, do you think may come to your organization or to the arts in general from the after-effects of COVID-19?
We believe that going through COVID-19 has strengthened the arts community as a whole. We have seen our artists try new ways to work like socially distanced porch portraits, participating in Virtual Art Walk, selling their art online, and providing porch pick up for customers. We have witnessed artists pledging to buy art from another if one of their pieces sells- a kind of pay it forward that is heartwarming to see. We have also come together as an organization. Our board has been in contact regularly to discuss the trials facing the Artists’ Guild and at the core each member just wants to see the organization thrive. We would also like to give a big shoutout to the Chapman Cultural Center. The leadership they have provided at this time has been phenomenal – thank you to the entire Chapman family for all you have done to keep the arts alive during this time!
Ballet Spartanburg, Teresa Hough, Executive Director
What have you been surprised by in terms of community support?
Ballet Spartanburg has been overwhelmed with the kindness of our community and beyond. We had and continue to have so many parents of our Center for Dance Education who understand the hard financial impact we faced when we had to close March 13th. The sense of Ballet Spartanburg family never faded. Our patrons and tickets holders who generously donated the money they had spent of tickets rather than asking for refunds for the last two ballets we had to postpone; we simply did not expect the gifts and donations. We felt such an enormous amount of love from our ballet patrons, families, businesses, and community.
What are you most looking forward to in the future when things start to open up?
I think we are looking forward to the same thing everyone wants…. communicating face to face with the people we haven’t see in months even if it is at a distance, seeing smiling and laughing children, watching parents who are happy to see some sense of a routine outside of the home, dancers back in the studio, our audiences, just human connection with new modifications and tweaks, of course, to keep everyone safe. It will be strange with new adjustments, but we are ready and prepared to make those adjustments to dance again!
Spartanburg Science Center, Mary Levens, Interim Executive Director
Mary Levens, Interim Executive Director, Spartanburg Science Center
What creative ways have you found to reach your audiences? Have you found people to be responsive to virtual events?
The Spartanburg Science Center was fortunate to have our new Educational Director, Jesseca Kusher, on board when Covid-19 reared its head, and she was a master at developing virtual programming and delivering wonderfully fun lessons to the community. We realize that kids love to learn, and they love Jess! We received reviews from as far as Maine and Minnesota!
That alone showed the power of the Internet and the wonderful capability of delivering fun and exciting science to kids of all ages. It was obvious that humans relate to animals and some of the animals housed at the SSC have become instant “internet stars”! We also noticed that the animals seemed to miss having folks visit and interact with them. I guess you could say it was really too quiet around here—we were in every day to feed and they seemed searching for the kids!
I think too much of anything can be overload, and the virtual events were plentiful, but I think we will have visitors coming once we open to see these great animals in person. The good thing about virtual events is that parents can choose when to view them, some saving them and some watching live! The part we really miss is watching kids and adults marvel at the wonderful animals we have when they meet face to face. We are hoping to see folks soon in the science center! We will be holding summer camps virtually as well as face to face beginning June 8th. I cannot wait to see our kids again!
What have you been surprised by in terms of community support?
We have enjoyed support by the Spartanburg Community for over 40 years! We were frankly hoping for continued support during this crisis and we were not disappointed! Most of our work is done in the schools and after school programming. Birthday parties on the weekends help provide the budget to feed our animals. All of those sources stopped on March 13, 2020! We put out the call for leftovers of vegetables and fruits and the call was answered! Restaurants like The Deli Korner and Willy Taco’s jumped to our aid! The food leftovers we received from private citizens and these restaurants were enough to get us through to this point. We are now back buying food and hoping to generate funds through our summer camps to make sure everything continues normally. We have received some private donations, which was most surprising, as the economic situation affected everyone!
I really cannot say THANK YOU! enough or loud enough to the community for remembering us! We always strive to deliver a top program wherever we go and Spartanburg remembered and is thinking of us during this time! We are anxiously waiting for our regular clients to return and new folks to come and see the science center that is still here! THANK YOU SPARTANBURG COMMUNITY!
Hub City Writers Project, Rebecca Arrowsmith, Bookshop Events and Marketing Manager
Rebecca Arrowsmith, Hub City Bookshop Events and Marketing Manager
What collaborations have you formed that you hadn’t thought to do before this?
During this hard time for all of us, there are a few positive things happening at the Hub City Writers Project and a big one is the opportunity to virtually meet amazing writers that we wouldn’t ordinarily connect with due to the distances between us. With the help of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, we’ve been able to bring bestselling authors right into our customer’s living rooms. Our patrons were even invited to an exclusive book club with National Book Award winner, Susan Choi! Writers need readers just as much as readers need writers. We are, and always have been, in this together.
What creative ways have you found to reach your audiences?
As an organization built on community narratives, we’ve leveraged the impact of COVID-19 to return to our roots and curate a new WPA-style blog series titled Sheltering in Spartanburg. The blog spotlights how local writers, artists, service workers, community centers, educators, and small businesses are experiencing our new normal. Through Sheltering in Spartanburg, we hope to archive the hopes, fears, frustrations, and celebrations of those living through COVID-19 in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Spartanburg Philharmonic, Kathryn Boucher, Executive Director
Tell us about how this has impacted your organization in terms of programming, the ability to carry out your mission.
In March, April, and May, we had to cancel three ticketed concerts and the associated “Classical Conversations” lectures that surrounded these concerts.
Additionally, in these months, we had to cancel our Youth Orchestra weekly rehearsals and their final concert in April. This is truly devastating as this concert featured solos by two of our seniors who had worked tirelessly to showcase their talents for their family and friends. The loss of these rehearsals has been a factor in the ensemble’s cohesiveness and full experience for the first year of our Youth Orchestra.
Our free bi-weekly concerts “Music Sandwiched In,” at the Spartanburg Downtown Library were canceled as well. These concerts provide an opportunity for students, seniors, businessmen and families to enjoy live performances of different genres of music.
The long-term impacts of COVID-19 are most concerning for the Spartanburg Philharmonic. With many data projections showing the desire and intent of audiences to return to the concert hall as very low, we will most likely have to cancel our season for 20–21. We will make these determinations in the next few months using the data that we have available to us.
What collaborations have you formed that you hadn’t thought to do before this? Will this lead to any future/lasting collaborations?
In the wake of government recommended closures and the mandated cancellation of all public events, performing arts organizations across the world have been forced to cancel concerts and shows, effectively limiting the community’s access to quality, live arts. Seeing the need for continued inspiration in this difficult time, the Spartanburg Philharmonic, Ballet Spartanburg, Spartanburg Art Museum and Spartanburg Little Theatre have banded together to form a new partnership—Together SpARTanburg, which seeks to give the community access to the performing arts with regularly scheduled programs available online through social media, and the organizations’ websites.
Each weekday at 10:00am, the Together SpARTanburg partners post episodes designed to engage and entertain viewers of all ages in a fun and meaningful arts experience. The Philharmonic episodes contain musicians at home educating audiences on their instruments, the history of classical music time periods and short performances. The Philharmonic pays our contributors for their time, knowledge and experience for the Together SpARTanburg episodes.
Sandy Staggs, Artistic Director, Proud Mary Theatre Company
by Sandy Staggs, Artistic Director, Proud Mary Theatre Company
The Curtains Up Coalition is a group of Upstate community theater artists creating innovative ways to keep curtains up and audiences inspired. During this challenging time when theater doors remain closed, Curtains Up will produce virtual theatrical content and be a unified front for theater advocacy and fundraising.
“Community theaters are completely shut down during this crazy time. We can’t entertain, engage, inspire, give back, employ artists, or fuel our economy like we normally do—so Curtains Up is here to find innovative ways to inspire, create, and advocate,” says Noah Taylor, Artistic Director of The Market Theatre Company in Anderson, who co-founded the Coalition with Ryan Hewitt, Artistic Director of Greenwood Community Theatre.
Six other organizations, including Foothills Playhouse (Easley), Clemson Little Theatre (Pendleton), Proud Mary Theatre Company (Spartanburg), Mill Town Players (Pelzer), Wild Hare Productions (Greenwood), Greer Cultural Center Arts Council (Greer) and more, have unified to demonstrate the impact and importance of the arts to the community.
The coalition will offer cross-promotion of official Curtains Up events every Wednesday night with spotlights on individual theaters—including donation links for the theater in the spotlight—and multi-theater events such as “Curtains Up Cabaret” on June 10.
Recently, Wild Hare Productions presented an original musical play, Starfish Island, and Proud Mary Theatre Company unveiled their 2020–21 season with musical selections from future shows.
“Proud Mary Theatre is thrilled to be part of this unified presence, especially as a young theatre just in our third season” said Sandy Staggs, Artistic Director of Proud Mary Theatre Company, which also produces readings of new plays every other Tuesday on the company’s Facebook page, such as White Picket Wives, Blue Camp, The Little Pony and the upcoming murder mystery The Vultures.
On Wednesday, May 27, The Market Theatre Company took the spotlight with highlights from three of their musicals which have been postponed due to COVID-19. For the first time, the public will see cast members in action singing songs from Matilda, Mamma Mia!, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Hewitt describes the alliance as a way for Upstate community theaters to support each other, have a unified presence for advocating and fundraising, as well as a shared approach to creating unique virtual content for these unprecedented times. Starting now, during this challenging time when theater doors remain closed, Curtains Up will produce virtual theatrical content and be a unified front for theater advocacy and fundraising.
The vision of the Coalition is “Envisioning the future of community arts (theatre) planning to include best practices regarding the health and wellness of our communities while continuing to deliver excellent theatrical content to our supporters. Curtains Up Coalition focuses on collaborative efforts among community theatres by ensuring that the arts, arts organizations, and local artists feel continuing support via the creation of alternative performance and fundraising platforms. These unique and innovative opportunities will help support community theatres to be able to operate regardless of unforeseen blocks to live performance delivery. At the heart of this effort is a desire to explore how community theatres can come together and work in harmony and collaboratively to enhance future operations and programming for community theatres in our region, and thereby preserving both the integrity and importance of the arts for community enrichment.”
“We know that this moment won’t last forever. These plans aim to help community theaters during quarantine and isolation,” said Hewitt. “After this pandemic, the mission of the alliance will remain the same, but specific plans and programs will be reevaluated.”
Key acquisitions of tech companies expand JCI’s ability to respond quickly
Most applications are made to require very little retrofitting of existing HVAC, using three methods: filtering the air, ionizing the air, or cleaning the air using UV light
Most cost-effective method for a small company is to focus on the occupied part of the building, using a system made for the existing HVAC to disinfect the air
Landlords should be responsible for building air quality
Bringing Back the Burg – Allen Smith, Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce
Level of investment in Spartanburg County: 60% of investment in the region and 25% of the state is in Spartanburg County
$224 million from a penny tax will be used to build a new county courthouse as well as a joint city/county facility
$365 million economic impact from tourism, 21% growth of new hotel space—great momentum going when COVID-19 hit
“Bringing Back the Burg”—task force representing geographic, racial, and economic diversity
Very intentional about composition of the task force and making this a data-based approach
Looked at historical data back to 2017 to ensure there are hard numbers on metrics
Upcoming press conference:
Partnership with Spartanburg Regional
Businesses that are safe for customers and employees will be the ones that make it
Combating COVID-19 together: to ensure accountability for public health, businesses will display a poster listing health/safety measures
Back the Burg fund: Chamber contributed $100K, and other organizations and entities have stepped up as well, to aid small businesses that were not able to secure funding through federal programs such as PPP
Tourism is a big focus—sports tourism is a big driver, recently recruited NCAA softball tournament; tourism advertising is limited to drive time
Closing down Main Street to give space to outdoor dining for downtown restaurants has been a huge success—two restaurants would probably have closed without that
details coming soon for Abbeville and Pickens Counties
Upstate Food Access Map—in collaboration with Clemson University College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences and the United Way, Ten at the Top has created a map of food resources across the Upstate, including food pantries, agencies providing grocery assistance, hot meal and in-home meal providers
County Updates Sharon Purvis
Roy Costner, Pickens County Council:
Encouraging: I am encouraged by the spirit and desire of the people in our county to “get back to work” and to support local businesses.
Challenging: Our challenge is to continue to help our “at risk” population while doing all we can to work with our community leaders to strengthen our economy over the next several months.
Missy House, City Administrator, Inman (Spartaburg County):
Encouraging: We have been able to keep our whole staff and offer flex scheduling for some folks.
Challenging: We are in the midst of budget season. With a small budget and a lot of services we provide, it is hard to know how to plan for the future. We know our budget will be hit, it’s just a question of how much and the ability to deliver all of our current services.
Liz Seman, Greenville County Council:
Encouraging: My encouraging note would be that we are still seeing economic development opportunities coming through the pipeline – both expansions of existing companies and new companies wanted to locate in the county.
Challenging: The challenging note would be the balancing act all counties and municipalities as faced with as we work towards re-opening while maintaining community health. This applies to everything from opening our parks to little league to holding in-person council meetings again.
Tony Brown, Envision Williamston (Anderson County):
Encouraging: One thing that has been encouraging is that we have some 2 new entrepreneurial small businesses that have decided to open. One opened at the end of April, and one will open on May 30.
Challenging: One challenge is helping existing businesses transition to a new style of operating.
Kathy Jo Lancaster, Union County Development:
Encouraging: I’ve been very impressed by industrial companies—each had plans in place to provide a safe environment, made sure employees had access to resources for unemployment, etc. A lot of them changed product line to make PPE—Standard Textile, Kemper, Milliken. They’ve been very innovative, and they will continue to add those product lines. I’ve always said there’s power in partnerships, and I believe that now more than ever.
Challenging: Rural counties like ours have been hard hit, and a lot of that is limits to resources, healthcare, etc. A lot of business have closed their doors, but as we move forward, I think more of those businesses will reopen. We had some businesses that hung in there, kept their doors open, did curbside service.
Heather Jones, Greenwood Partnership Alliance:
Encouraging: We had over $40 million of projects on the Council’s agenda Tuesday night and have several other new projects moving through the process. Our organization has been impressed with the activity Greenwood County has seen over the past two months.
Challenging: We are seeing budget concerns at all levels-government, industry, small business, non-profits, etc. There is a trickle down associated with this, so there is anxiety about the coming FY for many organizations and businesses still.
Amanda Munyan, Laurens County Chamber:
Encouraging: A few Covid related task forces are developing to support collaborative efforts for recovery & the future success of Laurens County; the businesses, organizations, and residents. We are excited about the positive attitudes and outlooks and team driven efforts across various sectors. County leadership is ready to get back to business, taking necessary precautions for everyone’s safety.
Challenging: The fear of the unknown is a huge challenge in many areas. I feel confident we are in a good situation to tackle this through communication and education. We want businesses to feel confident serving their customers, shifting their business models where needed, and residents to feel comfortable patronizing these businesses.
Frannie Stockwell, Cherokee County Chamber:
Encouraging: One encouraging thing would be that we are starting to open back.
Challenging: One challenge is everything having to work around social distancing.
Mike Clary, City of Abbeville:
Encouraging: I have been encouraged by the resiliency of our local business community and by the efforts to support local small business. At this time, most all of our Small Businesses have either reopened or are planning to in the coming weeks. I am not aware of a single small business which has announced plans to permanently close. Also- In a very generous gesture, Abbeville First Bank announced yesterday that they are mailing a $20 “Square Dollars” gift card to all of their customers, as part of their back to work initiative, which can be redeemed at participating local businesses.
Challenging: A major challenge has been the speed at which the Federal Relief Programs have been administered. While they are certainly moving as quickly as possible given the circumstances, many businesses are still waiting for emergency loans and many laid off employees have yet to receive their benefits.
Paul Cain, Oconee County Council:
Encouraging: The Community’s response to the tornado has been incredible; so much debris has been cleaned up, and the outpouring of support has been inspiring.
Challenging: The biggest near-term challenge for Oconee County is sustaining the recovery from the tornado. Now that most of the outside relief organizations have departed, the local response is critical to finish the mission.