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Spartanburg Organizations (Still) Fostering Creative Ecology and Enterprise

August 06, 2020 | Features

Through unprecedented and challenging times, we thought we would revisit the success of Spartanburg's arts and cultural community. There are so many resilient organizations that are still making a difference in our community. We hope you will continue to support their work even as we all navigate this new normal. Although different in many ways, the creative ecology of Spartanburg is still progressing and we hope you will continue to support it. 

By Jennifer Clark Evins, 2018

The arts in Spartanburg are not only about education and quality of life, which are traditional outcomes of a thriving cultural sector, but they also contribute immensely to the vibrant economy that helps Spartanburg retain and attract creative people and foster creative enterprises.

The creative vibe in Spartanburg is becoming a key attraction and the creative sector is playing a large role in that vibe by fostering a dynamic creative ecology. It includes local artists, local creative businesses and local nonprofits that work each day to improve access to the arts and provide high-quality arts and cultural experiences. With over 321 creative enterprises (like LandArt Design Group, RJ Rockers, Whipp Advertising, Kindred Spirits along with nonprofits like Hub City Writers Project, West Main Artist Co-op and Chapman Cultural Center), Spartanburg is producing a diverse cultural product that attracts not only tourists but also creative enterprises that want to be a part of our thriving creative economy.

Creative Industries represent for-profit and nonprofit arts-centric businesses. This includes architects and designers like McMillan Pazdan Smith, filmmakers like White Elephant Enterprises, musicians, dance schools as well as fragrance and candle makers like Greenleaf of Grace Management which was founded in Spartanburg.

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Our most valuable creative asset is our creative people. For the last fifty years, Spartanburg has been working to improve opportunities for our local artists to thrive.   The more we can help our local creative people be successful, the more we will attract other creative talent. Responding to the growing demand for affordable artist studios in the Upstate, Chapman Cultural Center is developing an arts incubator on the Westside.  This new creative place will include 3D artist co-work space, nine music rehearsal and production studios, two dance studios as well as nine private artist studios for working creative professionals. (The now completed and open Mayfair Art Studios)

Spartanburg is home to the only professional Ballet Company and Contemporary Art Museum in the Upstate.  Spartanburg Art Museum and Ballet Spartanburg attract professional artists from around the world to exhibit and dance in our community.  The professional Symphony, Spartanburg Philharmonic, employs professional artists and presents over twelve concerts a year including Bluegrass, Chamber and Classical Music series.  The West Main Artist Co-op (now the Artists Collective - Spartanburg) and Artists’ Guild work to help local artists develop as professionals and to sell their work. We have thriving literary artists that are being published nationally who got their start at Hub City Writers Project, and Broadway actors who started on the stage at Spartanburg Little Theatre and Youth Theatre.  All of this adds up to a very unique, diverse and vibrant cultural product that not only attracts talented people to Spartanburg but is an ongoing tourism experience that can be used to help Spartanburg compete as a destination.

Maggie MacDonald Artist

Economic prosperity relies on cultural, entrepreneurial, civic, scientific and artistic creativity and Chapman Cultural Center represents all of these key factors.  As a world-class cultural destination with science, history and the visual and performing arts offered seven days a week, Chapman serves as not only a quality of place asset but also a major recruiting tool for employers and developers. Celebrating 10 years in 2017, Chapman Cultural Center campus employs over 40 people and welcomes over 200,000 people to our Downtown each year returning over $13.4 million to our local economy annually. Chapman Cultural Center provides county-wide cultural leadership and is strengthening, developing, and promoting our community’s dynamic cultural life.  

Tourists and locals alike are looking for unique experiences in destinations that are welcoming and convenient. Spartanburg is quickly developing a cultural tourism product that provides visitors with a daily experience from multiple entry points, whether it’s spontaneous interaction with public art and live street music to walking into a local gallery to experience the masters of southern art at The Johnson Collection.

The first to be designated in the Upstate, Spartanburg Downtown Cultural District signifies to others that Spartanburg has a walkable place with a concentration of ongoing cultural experiences and creative people.  This serves not only to attract additional creative enterprises and creative people, but it is a very important economic engine for tourism. Local hotels and restaurants count on the arts to offer their visitors unique experiences in our community. Live music is performed by our local musicians Wednesday through Sunday evenings throughout the Cultural District in the park, on the street, and pouring out of local businesses. (On hold, but hopeful to resume very soon). Spartanburg’s music scene is buzzing with every genre you can imagine. Chapman Cultural Center has registered over 180 musicians.

Seeing Spartanburg in A New Light - Benchmark

The Downtown Cultural District is a place that reflects a community where creative enterprises and artists can grow their companies and ideas and have them become an economic engine for themselves and for the greater community.  The District boundaries include the Grain District on the west, the Library on the south, Chapman Cultural Center on the East, and Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium on the North. With over 100 cultural assets to choose from, there is always something to experience in the heart of Downtown Spartanburg.

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If you would like to continue the support for Spartanburg's arts community and its artists, we asked that you please consider supporting Chapman Cultural Center with a financial donation

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Jennifer Clark Evins, President and CEO of Chapman Cultural Center

Jennifer Evins leads the day to day operations and management of Chapman Cultural Center, a local arts agency and $42 million dollar cultural facility in the heart of Downtown Spartanburg, SC. Most recently Evins authored and lead the winning Bloomberg Philanthropies $1 million Public Art Challenge “Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light” and helped the City of Spartanburg earn the Cultural District Designation for Downtown Spartanburg – the second in the state and the only SC official Cultural District in the Upstate.   

First published in the Summer 2018 Issue of BusinessView by the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

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