Nonprofit of the Month: The Arts Center of Clemson

Jul 7, 2015 | 0 comments

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Earlier this month, the Foundation’s intern, Emily DeCoursey, met with Tommye Hurst the Executive Director of The Arts Center of Clemson. We wanted to share the interview with you as part of our Nonprofit Spotlight of the month series.

Emily: What does The Arts Center of Clemson do?

Tommye: Our mission is to provide exceptional art education and also to make art exciting and accessible to the community. In doing that we have art classes in a lot of different disciplines for all ages, starting at preschool-age two all the way up to 92. It is a wide generational thing, so that is pretty neat.

To make the art accessible to the public, we have the Festival of the Arts, and we have satellite galleries in City Hall, the Clemson Area Chamber of Commerce, and the CAT Bus headquarters. We also have a satellite gallery in Cox Hall in Pendleton, which is the Pendleton Playhouse. We have visual arts shows in the Pendleton Playhouse during their performance weeks. We also have about six exhibits here at the Art Center, for which we invite regional artists. I would say we showcase many regional artists and we try to support them.

Our byline is explore, create, exhibit, and this year we added advocate because the board really feels like it’s important for us to help artists show and sell their work. We want to help the community feel like they have a better quality of life because they have access to an art center and a source of cultural enrichment right here in Clemson.

Emily: Who are some of the people the Art Center works with or serves?

Tommye: We have a good relationship with the University, so we have grad students, they are a good resource for us. Each one of the program directors is a professional artist and our classes go beyond just crafts, it is real fine art.

We do two events a year that we share. One is Trio, with the Clemson Free Clinic. It is a fundraiser for both of us, Trio means art, food, and spirits, and we do a wine and beer tasting.

The other is Passport for the Arts in March with the Clemson University Center for Visual Arts Lee Gallery. We partner with CAT Bus and we have exhibits in different places, here at the Art Center, at the CAT Bus headquarters, and at several rotating places around Clemson. People ride the bus to all the different locations and there is food and drinks and an art exhibit at each location. We have entertainment on the buses, so people are getting exposure to many artistic expressions throughout the event. It is really a great outreach to the community.

Working in collaboration with other agencies is really important to us because that’s one way we can support the community as well as getting more people to think about art in Clemson. We are really working on showcasing artists and artwork so that Clemson can become an art destination. There is a big movement towards creativity, economy, and how much art and culture can enrich our community. The City is working on a public art plan right now and we are helping them with that. The summer art camp for youth is really popular. But we also have an active art afterschool program with Clemson Elementary and Central Elementary.

Emily: How is The Art Center of Clemson operated? 

Tommye: It is operated as a nonprofit, 501(c)(3). We have an executive director, and then we have two other staff members who handle the business office and volunteers. We have over 125 volunteers during the year so we do most of what we do with volunteers-we could not do it without them. That is how the Art Center is run; it takes a lot of people!

Emily: Can you share one of your favorite stories of experiences with the Art Center?

Tommye: I have so many of them. My favorite story is about the summer art camp. The kids pretty much age out of camp at about 14. what we have found is that the 14 year olds, will sign up to be volunteers, and because they have been in camp they know the program. Last year we had two girls sign up to be volunteers and they pretty much ran the whole place. I was so proud of them. It really shows how much art camp means to these kids. It is not competitive, it’s open-minded and it allows them to be creative. So they get to do a lot of things that they wouldn’t normally get to do at home. It’s great because it gives them opportunities to think outside of what they normally would think. It really is an inspiration to see how these kids have grown up and are now helping inspire the younger kids. So I think my favorite time of the year is during summer camp because we can watch that whole age group as a dynamic.

Emily: What would you say are the biggest needs of the Art Center?

Tommye: The Art Center provides the infrastructure for the art programs; namely the studios and the equipment. But as the equipment gets used overtime it will need to be replaced or there may be an interest in new programs that would need new equipment. Technology and practices also change and new and more effective equipment is developed and available. So our biggest need is to be able to keep our studios’ equipment up to date and fully operational.

Emily: Is there anything you want people to know about the Art Center that they might not know?

Tommye: We have the art classes for all ages. Where we are located, we are in kind of an out of the way place, but being in an old school building really suits us very well. We feel that we are an asset to the neighborhood, as well as helping revitalize the neighborhood. I think the opportunity for education in the arts is our biggest draw, and of course we have local artwork on display all the time.

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About this Nonprofit

The ARTS Center of Clemson is a not-for-profit community arts center located in Clemson established for the purpose of bringing the arts to all members of the community through educational programming, an Artists Guild for emerging artists, exhibits and sale opportunities featuring local, regional, national and international artists, children’s art programs and community art development.

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