Arts program gains backers to nurture young talent – Coastal Observer


Arts program gains backers to nurture young talent

Charles Williams with Christie Weaver, left, and Debra McNeese at a storefront promoting the collaborative.

A new art program for students in middle and high school is on track to open its doors in Georgetown in the fall of 2024.

The C.E.W. Collaborative is the brainchild of Charles Williams, a world-renowned artist and Georgetown County native.

The school “is an elite program for me to take under my wing these students and provide them access and opportunities … to get into an accredited college or to utilize those artistic skills within the workforce,” Williams said. “Once that is done they would be able to come back to the community and give in the same light as I’m doing.”

One of Williams’ partners in the endeavor is Christie Weaver, the long-time art teacher at Waccamaw Intermediate School. She is the collaborative’s education director and recruiter.

Weaver taught Williams when he was a student at Kensington Elementary School. At the time, art was the only thing that kept Williams focused in school. Now he wants to give back by helping students who are unfocused, like he was.

Williams recently secured nonprofit status and a partnership with the Georgetown School of Arts and Sciences to share space in the old Winyah High School. 

Other partners include the Pawleys Island Festival of Music and Art and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.

“Everyone is coming together for the resurgence of the arts,” Williams said. “Georgetown’s art community is alive, but I say that it’s a resurgence because I and others are sensing the need for the collaboration and the need to come together. Just like what I experienced in high school.”

An unexpected partner is Williams’ alma mater, the Savannah College of Art and Design. The school’s founder, Paula Wallace, gave Williams a donation to help get the collaborative started.

“I was blown away by that,” he said.

The plan for admitting students is for local art teachers to recommend kids, who would then bring a portfolio to the collaborative board and explain why they want to join. The board would have the final say on admittance.

Williams plans to start with 16 students split into morning and afternoons classes on Saturdays starting next September. Twenty sessions will be spread over 10 months.

Cost will be $500 per student which will include all supplies and materials. Williams is looking for individual and business sponsors for scholarships.

Williams’ brother used to dance on Broadway and Williams has plans to have him give lessons at the school.

“Music and performing arts will be a part of it but I want to get the visual arts up and going first,” he said.

Williams and Weaver recently connected with Walter Atkins, who is in charge of the boat building program at Cape Fear (N.C.) Community College. Their tentative plan is for collaborative students to travel to the college to document the process of boat building in drawings. Williams likens it to drawings that would be seen in medical journals. 

Williams would like to see the S.C. Maritime Museum in Georgetown host an exhibition of the drawings.

Williams, who is the chairman of the arts department and professor of drawing and painting at North Carolina Central University, will host workshops with the Georgetown County School District’s art teachers to help them get their students to open up and be “curious” about the arts.

“I’ve been able to witness and see the various ways of how to engage with students, especially students that come from different backgrounds, and to connect with them,” he said.

Eventually Williams would like to add branches of the collaborative in Pawleys Island and Charleston County.

“When I say this school is going to be a staple within the Lowcountry, but also in the region, it will be,” Williams said.

Everything is coming together so well for the C.E.W. Collaborative that Williams thinks a higher power is involved.

“I’m a man of faith and I believe in God,” he said. “I think God has been in this from the very beginning.”

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Georgetown County Board of Education: First and third Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Beck Education Center. For details, go to Georgetown County Council: Second and fourth Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Council Chambers, 129 Screven St., Georgetown. For details, go to Pawleys Island Town Council: Second Mondays, 5 p.m. Town Hall, 323 Myrtle Ave. For details, go to   , .