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A distinction is often made between creative artists and successful business entrepreneurs, but the efforts of multiple Columbia organizations and businesses may soon be bridging that gap.

According to the South Carolina Arts Commission, South Carolina creative industries bring in an annual sum of $9.2 billion of revenue.  That is why they have developed ArtsGrowSC, a program to aid the development of businesses rooted in the arts.  Qualifying artists in South Carolina can access resources such as a savings program, micro-loans, business venture loans, grants, personalized coaching and workshops.

This weekend, a group of Midlands artists participating in the ArtsGrowSC program displayed their work at a pop-up show organized by Woodforest National Bank.  Held at 3730 N. Main Street on Saturday, Dec. 2, the event featured live music from The Flat-Out Strangers, multiple food vendors, and swing dancers.

The Flat Out Strangers brought their brand of smooth, upbeat gypsy swing to Saturday’s event.

Andrew Rabuck, senior vice president of Woodforest National Bank, said the bank was eager to partner with the arts commission to support ArtsGrowSC, including by hosting more events like this weekend’s pop-up art show.  “This whole idea came out of a brainstorming session where we asked each other, ‘What can we do best for the community?'” Rabuck explained. “The ArtsGrowSC mission really spoke to what we want to do, which is help grow small, local businesses.”

According to Rabuck, ArtsGrowSC helps artists operate more like business owners.  “Most artists don’t think of themselves as entrepreneurs, but they really are,” said Rabuck.  “This program teaches them to be innovative and more financially savvy, and overall more successful at getting their art out in the community.”

Sabrina Jeffcoat of Royal African Company talks to event-goers this weekend. Jeffcoat said her photos “tell the story of people of the South. Me being African-American, and as I become older, learning about the people I came from and Native Americans, I find it really important to continue to share those stories however I can.”

Rabuck and his team at Woodforest National Bank decided to pick a North Columbia location because the neighborhood is similarly blooming, with several locally owned businesses starting up in recent years.  The North Columbia neighborhood hosts a growing entrepreneurial spirit and evolving identity that fit well into the atmosphere they wanted to create.

In fact, North Columbia actually inspired the name of one of the participating artist-owned businesses, men’s fashion accessories designer Titanic Alley.  “A lot of people ask how Titanic Alley got its name, and it’s actually not connected to the ship, but it’s connected to a part of Columbia that used to exist that has been lost to time,” said Rusty Sox, owner of Titanic Alley.  “It was a neighborhood in Columbia, South Carolina, in the North Main region…that was a thriving community that has now given way to car dealerships and other commercial enterprises.  But we were fascinated by the name and started learning a little bit about the neighborhood.”

Woodforest National Bank was pleased with this weekend’s turnout.  According to Rabuck, this was a pilot event that they intentionally kept small to gauge the response and reception they could receive; the event planners did minimal marketing but still exceeded their attendance goal of 50.  “This went so well, and now we’re thinking about how we can team up with the arts commission to do more events like this and really grow this program,” Rabuck said.

Saturday’s event brought out local artists to meet members of the community.

La Ruchala Murphy works as a grants coordinator for the arts commission.  “Our mission is to make art accessible to all citizens,” Murphy said.  “This event did just that.  And it also helped artists to see themselves as business people, to connect them with resources at the bank and learn how to build healthy, sustainable businesses of their own.”

Midlands Anchor has created a page for each artist who was showcased at this weekend’s event, including a full photo gallery of available pieces and video interviews that touch on the artists’ biographies and creative energies.  Check out the galleries for the artists here:

A video clip featuring some of the music, dancing, and art from this weekend is available here.

The South Carolina Arts Commission currently has a grant program called the Artists’ Venture Initiative.  This grant  encourages and enables the creation of new artist-driven, arts-based business ventures that will provide career satisfaction and sustainability for S.C. artists.  The grant program is open to artists (individuals and collaboratives) with a strong plan to launch a new arts-based business venture that will operate in an ongoing manner, to execute a temporary venture that will lead to increased audience and income, or significantly alter an existing venture. The grant program is a two-part process, with letters of intent due January 11, 2018. Selected applicants will be invited to develop a full grant proposal.

Interested artists can contact AVI program director Joy Young (803-734-8203) for questions or to discuss a proposal idea.

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