Arts and Culture

Shani Gilchrist



S.C. Arts Gala and Verner Awards celebrate the best in the arts

Posted 5/17/2013 10:48:00 AM

After a month of music, theater, art festivals, openings, parties, galas, dancing,and eating, the S.C. Arts Gala and Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Awards seemed the perfect note to end on. The S.C. Arts Foundation hosted the gala earlier this month, which was packed with arts lovers and artists. We celebrated the eight recipients of the 2013 Verner Award, which is the state's highest award in the arts.

There was plenty to cheer for with these recipients:

Mary Whyte, Artist Award: Watercolor artist Mary Whyte is a teacher and author whose figurative paintings have earned national recognition. A resident of Johns Island since the early 1990s, Whyte garners much of her inspiration from the Gullah descendants of coastal Carolina slaves who number among her most prominent subjects. Her portraits are included in numerous corporate, private and university collections, as well as in the permanent collections of South Carolina’s Greenville County Museum of Art and the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. Her paintings have been featured in International Artist, American Artist, CBS Sunday Morning and many other forms of publication and media.

Mayo Mac Boggs, Arts In Education Award: Kentucky-born Mayo Mac Boggs was born into a family tradition of ironwork. As an adult, he took the materials and processes of that tradition and made it art. Over the years the Converse College professor has produced a wide range of artwork, from abstract paintings to steel sculptures and bronze work. His work can be found in the presidential libraries of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and collections around the world. Boggs was invited to present his September 11th World Trade Center memorial, “The Halo Project,” at the International Biennial of Contemporary Art exhibition in Italy. His teaching career has included serving as chair of the Department of Art and Design at Converse, where he has mentored and inspired generations of students since 1979. Thanks to his leadership and encouragement, many of those students have gained worldwide recognition for their accomplishments.

The City of Anderson, Government Award: Anderson has gained the attention of the region for the way it has embraced public art as a part of its downtown area. Through judicious use of resources and carefully cultivated partnerships, the City of Anderson sets a standard for public art in South Carolina. With a population of just over 25,000 residents, Anderson has made art accessible for all by forging partnerships with other organizations to enhance quality of life through art. This vision has culminated in 12 separate and distinct art installations to dot the city with 200 opportunities for exposure.

Charles Fox, Fox Music House; Business Award: Charles Fox’s grandparents founded Fox Music House in 1928. In 1993 he became the third generation of his family to lead the business. During his tenure, he and his staff have expanded the company’s commitment to the arts and, especially, to arts education in public and private schools. An active volunteer with numerous arts organizations, Fox has been a significant factor in the success of many of Charleston’s successful arts initiatives. Through his business, Fox has donated pianos to schools and offered store facilities for students to have a place to practice. He and his staff have provided pianos and tuning for the Charleston Symphony and the S.C. Music Educator’s Conference and have been active in the College of Charleston International Piano Series. Through his heavy involvement with many organizations benefitting the arts, Fox has made an impact that can be felt across South Carolina’s Lowcountry.

Ethel Brody, Individual Award: Ethel Brody has been an unwavering supporter of the South Carolina arts community as an artist, patron and advocate for many years. As an active volunteer and donor with the Columbia Museum of Art since the 1960s, she has personally donated more than 140 gifts of art to the museum’s collection. Brody has also been a major supporter of the 701 Center for Contemporary Art in Columbia since it opened in 2008. Each year she sponsors one of 701 CCA’s artist residencies, helping artists from outside the Midlands to work and exhibit at the center. An artist herself, Brody can often be found in her studio at Vista Studios in Columbia. She is a frequent participant in group shows and solo exhibitions, and has exhibited throughout the state and beyond.

Franklin G. Burroughs – Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum, Organization Award: Since opening in 1997, the Franklin G. Burroughs - Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum has pursued its mission to be one of the finest art institutions in the Carolinas. It offers a diverse array of programming for local residents and visitors to the Myrtle Beach area. The museum offers tours and hands-on learning experiences free of charge to school groups, daycare centers, Boys and Girls clubs, scout troops and other organizations to introduce children to the arts and culture of the region and state. Each year the museum holds a juried high school exhibition that celebrates young, emerging artists by awarding thousands of dollars in prizes and scholarships. These initiatives, combined with the museum’s free admission policy, have made it a beacon for the arts community of the coastal region.

John Ashbury Zeigler Jr., Lifetime Achievement Award: 101-year-old John Zeigler is a true renaissance man. He is an acclaimed author, poet, teacher, and a true lover of the arts. The author of two books of poetry, Zeigler has been published in a variety of literary journals and magazines including Harpers Bazaar, The Lyric, The New York Times, and the yearbooks of the Poetry Society of S.C. He was also the owner of the Book Basement, a bookstore that served the Charleston community for 20 years from the ground floor of his family home. In addition to acting as a beloved mentor to many emerging writers at the College of Charleston, Zeigler has given time and resources to the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Charleston Academy of Music, Spoleto Festival USA, and many other South Carolina arts organizations. In 2011 Gov. Nikki Haley recognized Zeigler’s impact on Charleston and South Carolina by awarding him the Order of the Silver Crescent.

Pearl Fryar, Special Award: Fryar was born in Clinton, N.C., the son of a sharecropper. Since the early 1980s, Fryar has been creating fantastic topiaries at his garden in Bishopville. Using a skilled hand and artistic temperament, he turns ordinary plants and shrubs into living sculptures, often using plants rescued from local compost piles. Fryar and his garden are now internationally recognized and have been the subject of numerous newspaper and magazine articles, television shows, and a documentary titled, A Man Named Pearl. Today, the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden draws visitors from around the globe.

701 Whaley Street was turned into an amazing art gallery for the event, with one room featuring a sale of works priced less than $1,000, and another featuring work available by silent auction. The artwork represented the best visual artists in the state. People drank wine, bid, drank some more wine, and bid some more. I was quickly outbid on the piece that I wanted, but went home happy to have seen so many artists get the notice and recognition that they deserve.

 The actual statuettes associated with the Verner Award were presented to the recipients the next day during a special ceremony in the rotunda of the S.C. State House. It was a banner day for each recipient, but more so for the state of South Carolina, which can be proud of the incredible ambassadors we have in the arts.