By Susan Martin
When Julie Keys first heard about the new arts center in Williamston, she imagined outstanding opportunities.
“I was very excited,” she said. “This is going to be great for Williamston and all the residents. To have the opportunity to experience different kinds of arts right here in our home town is amazing.”
The Palmetto Area Cultural Arts Center (PACAC), located in the Artory (former armory) in Williamston, will be open during the Springwater Festival allowing the public to visit and experience various arts while learning about fall programs.
On Friday there will be a reception for local artist Joel Yates, who will have an exhibit of art of the Saluda River area on display in the Artory.
Food Network Teen “Chopped” Tournament winner Tommie Rae Fowler will be at the center on Saturday. She will prepare food and sign autographs on the hour at 10, 11, 12, and 1. Limited seating. $5 per person.
A complete list of PACAC Open House activities is published in the Spring Water Festival Program Tab in this week’s Journal.
“We are excited to open our doors and show everyone the revitalized space,” said Thomas Addison, PACAC Board Chairman and Visual Arts Director.
The idea for an arts center started showing up in conversations two years ago.
“In 2012, we put together an area planning group to discuss possible economic development strategies,” said Mayor Mack Durham. “That group, called the Palmetto Area Economic Development group, was commissioned by the towns of Williamston, West Pelzer, and Pelzer.”
Mayor Durham said many interesting ideas were discussed and important downtown elements were identified.
“One of the missing pieces in our Williamston Downtown was a cultural arts opportunity. It was a real blessing to find out that our National Guard Armory was going to become vacant. After a long and proud history in our community we would now see a change in use of this facility.”
Through the efforts of Mayor Durham, Representative Anne Thayer, Senator Billy O’Dell, and Tony McAlister, the town was able to obtain the armory building and the attached property.
The facility provides space for visual, musical, and theatrical arts as well as private events and social gatherings. This summer over 100 children attended visual and musical art camps.
“A cultural arts center is a unique and important part of realizing the vision of a revitalized and vibrant downtown,” Mayor Durham said. “The potential economic impact of artistic events is epic. The arts have brought new vibrancy to cities and towns of all sizes across our nation. It multiplies the success potential of any revitalization effort. The idea of an arts center had unanimous support within our economic development group. When an idea has shown such broad success and far reaching potential, like cultural arts, it’s really not a difficult decision to include it in development plans.”
An extensive arts program will allow the arts center to become self-sustaining while benefitting the community.
“Every citizen and every visitor will have an opportunity to benefit from our arts programs,” Mayor Durham said. “Our Board has a broad inclusive vision that will make the enjoyment of the arts available to everyone. But our citizens will benefit in other ways. With the economic impact potential of a downtown cultural arts program it will also help push other downtown investment that will provide more downtown business opportunities with walkable access.”
A board of 13 community representatives guides the PACAC.
“We have outstanding board members who are very dedicated to the success of our program,” Mayor Durham said. “The depth of talent on our Board is truly remarkable. An intentional effort was made to install artistic leadership as a majority of our board members. We wanted artists creating a program for artists. We also have some great organizational members who will focus on making a sustainable organization that can grow to become a self-sustaining asset to our community.”
With a balance of creativity and organizational function the board leads an extensive program.
“We also have an excellent Executive Director in Michael Del Priore,” Mayor Durham said. “Michael has a lifetime invested in the arts and is a treasured part of our program. He is nationally and internationally known as one of the premiere portrait artists of our time. The department directors are engaging and talented people as well.”
“My hopes are that we can look back in ten years and see that the addition of a downtown cultural arts center was one of the foundational initiatives that revitalized our downtown. I can envision a wonderful evening in our downtown where we can go see a play or visit an artistic display or demonstration and then walk through the park to one of our favorite downtown restaurants. After dinner we could take a stroll through the park ending our evening with a short walk back home. It is all within our reach.”
For more information about the PACAC, go to www.williamstonpacarts.com.
PACAC Board Members
PACAC Board members include:
Chairman – Thomas Addison, a former syndicated editorial cartoonist with the Associated Feature Syndicate and a former staff cartoonist with the Williamston Journal, Anderson Independent, and the Greenville News/Piedmont. For 35 years, he has been the art teacher at Palmetto Middle School in Williamston, SC.
Secretary – Boyd Greene, Financial Consultant
Treasurer – Adrienne Cole, Assistant Purchasing Manager, Anderson County.
Mayor Mack Durham – Chiropractic Physician for 22 years
Joan Ragsdale – Human Resources Director II, Fluor Corporation and owner of The Pink House Antiques in Williamston, SC.
Debbie Chapman – Owner of Something Unique in Williamston, SC.
Louise Ochart – Production Manager for Carolina Ballet Theatre, Greenville’s Professional Ballet Company.
Michael Del Priore – Award winning artist who is in the front ranks of American portrait painting.
Jimmy Cox – Attorney at Cox and Cole, Attorneys at Law in Williamston, SC.
Candace Henry – Musical Arts Director and Orchestra Instructor for Anderson One public schools.
Susan Martin – Freelance writer and communications director
Sawyer Martin – Student representative, Senior at Palmetto High School.
Lee Gray – Owner of Gray Mortuary in Pelzer, SC.