City will explore another avenue to economic development
Georgetown has formed an Arts and Culture Commission to find ways, including events and displays, to attract visitors to the city.
But don’t expect to see a transformation in the next few weeks.
“I see it slowly evolving. I don’t see murals on every building or alligators on every corner. That’s not what I envision,” Mayor Carol Jayroe said. “I envision a slow, evolving process to keep our historical nature and get it right.”
Al Joseph, a former City Council member who is now its Main Street coordinator, thinks the commission is the “single biggest asset” to the city he’s seen in years.
“I really don’t see anything else that can have an impact on Georgetown bigger than this, I really don’t, because it’s so far-reaching – performance arts, figurative arts, culinary arts,” said Joseph, who is a member of the commission.
The S.C. Arts Commission has nine “cultural districts,” but none in this region. Joseph told the committee that he would like Georgetown to be the first.
The goals of cultural districts are to:
• attract artists, creative entrepreneurs and cultural enterprises to communities;
• encourage economic development;
• foster local cultural development;
• and provide a focal point for celebrating and strengthening local cultural identity.
“We found in our research that history is the No. 2 driver for tourism in Georgetown behind the water,” Joseph said. “We can’t do it without culture.”
The city will have to apply to the Arts Commission for the designation.
Joseph brought news to the city commission’s first meeting last week that Brookgreen Gardens is giving the city a Front Street streetscape that was displayed for years during its popular Nights of a Thousand Candles event.
The wooden streetscape, which measures 13 feet by 5 feet, features the buildings in the 700 block of Front Street that were destroyed by fire in September 2013. The buildings were never rebuilt.
The model needs some restoration after being outside in the elements, Joseph said, but is otherwise in good shape.
Committee members will work with representatives from the city’s museums to find a home for the piece.
Other ideas for partnerships with Brookgreen Gardens include borrowing sculptures to display along Front Street, and teaming up to find an artist and secure funding for a sculpture of Joseph Rainey, the first Black member of the U.S. House, to be placed in Rainey Park.
One of the upcoming cultural events already on the schedule is “Harriet Tubman: Journey to Freedom,” a sculpture that will be on display in Rainey Park from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31.
Officials are also working with Varna International Music Academy to bring a performance to the city sometime in June as part of its Muzika! festival. The Bulgaria-based company, which counts Columbia as its U.S. base, will be performing along the South Carolina coast from June 27 through July 21.
City Administrator Sandra Yúdice was an administrator in Greenville County for 20 years.
She told the committee that she witnessed how the arts fueled the transformation of the City of Greenvile.
One of the projects that is expected to enhance the city’s cultural identity is the installation of the Charters of Freedom display at Rainey Park.
“What a perfect setting to have this monument in,” Jayroe said.
The display is a gift from the Foundation Forward nonprofit and will feature copies of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and Civil Rights amendments engraved on bronze tablets, encased in brick pedestals and covered with shatter-proof glass.
At a groundbreaking on Tuesday, both Jayroe and Joseph said they expect the display to attract students from all across the state to Georgetown.
“Where students go, parents follow,” Joseph added.
Jayroe expects to see a school bus parked on Front Street every day.
Joseph is working with Foundation Forward representatives on a construction schedule. It’s possible the installation will be finished by June.
At the latest, the work needs to completed before the Harriet Tubman statue arrives for its debut on Aug. 1, Joseph said.