On my best day, at my most talented, I am an oil painter – a portrait artist to be exact. I am not a musician, I am not an actor, God help me I am not a singer, but I AM a painter. In my soul, I am an artist. I discovered this talent as a child when, in art camps and classes, I had the unique ability to very naturally look at things and draw them realistically. During this process, I would enter a separate time and space in my mind, and all else disappeared until my little art creation was complete. This talent was nurtured through excellent art teachers at my high school and even some institutions here locally that foster arts education – you probably know them – the Fine Arts Center and the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities.
Now, as I say all of this and proclaim my artistic talent, I should disclose – I don’t really paint anymore! I have a little studio in my garage, and when I have the time, which is rare between raising children, going to work, paying bills, and life, I will on occasion, carve out a little sacred space for this precious activity. While I didn’t choose this as my career, it is still the thing that most feeds my soul, and the simple thought that I could have an inkling of talent, keeps me holding on to that art studio, even if I only enter it and pick up the brush a few times a year.
I have been blessed to grow up around so many artists and art lovers, and now as an adult here in Greenville, the town continues to burst with the energy of the arts in so many areas: plays at various local theatres, an amazing art museum that is well known nationally for its collections of Jasper Johns and Andrew Wyeth, a gallery and visual arts scene that is having enormous economic impact on West Greenville, the Open Studios event that showcases the vast number of visual artists we have living in our area, a nationally ranked spring arts festival, and a local music scene that just seems to be spreading like wild-fire. Whether you are one of these artists or not, you live in Greenville partly because you love the energy and spirit that the arts add to our growing, small town. Do you have a secret talent that you only pick up a few times a year, but when you do it feeds your soul? Maybe you love hiding behind that camera on occasion and sorting through your best pictures in a quiet darkroom or computer. Perhaps when you listen to the choir and ensemble at church on Sunday, you think back to the piano or guitar lessons you took as a child and for a moment, you are in a separate space, a peaceful space, that brings a passion and a fullness to your being, to the rest of the work that you do in your life – paying the bills, raising your kids. Maybe this interweaving of art into life is truly what provides our community of people with a sense of richness where other communities may fall flat. Something you can’t quite put your finger on, but you know it’s there.
This is how I view the arts and its importance in our culture, in our person, in our community. This is also why I believe I work at one of the most important places in town – the South Carolina Children’s Theatre. I get to watch daily as children from ages 3 to high school have magical moments of their own. Where art, singing, memorization of lines, teamwork, collaboration, frustration, and awe come together to create just as many soul full-filling spaces in these children. After all, what could be more impactful than creating a spark in the spirit of a child, than helping them find that voice that is their own, their passion, and essentially their motivator to claim a stake in their own life? Art does this for kids. I watch it happen literally every single day. Theatre education builds confidence, teamwork, creativity, perseverance, and focus. It helps them look at the world differently and see things from another perspective. It fosters literacy development, and for kids with developmental or emotional issues, it offers a unique outlet to engage in a different way, producing better results. Whether the child is an actor in the next play, a tech student learning the back-stage work, or a child in the audience wide-eyed watching a story they know come to life on the stage… make no mistake, magic is happening in their being. They may or may not grow up to become an actor on Broadway (as some of our students have in fact gone on to do), but they will take this spark of passion they found here at SCCT into their life no matter what career they choose. They will continue to be arts patrons and supporters as adults. They will carry creative, problem-solving, and teamwork skills, not to mention passion, into their future life paths and careers.
SCCT serves over 43,000 children each year with passion-inducing theatre arts, including: 5 Main Stage shows totaling 60 performances at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre, 82 2nd Stage performances at our headquarters space on Augusta Street, 1,600 children attending 160 theatre classes, over 6,000 Greenville County school children attending 32 shows on bully prevention, and a number of theatre residency programs in schools across the Upstate. Last year, we developed a new program called Wee Play Theatre – interactive theatre for the very young, a trend that is happening in children’s theatres across the country, and a rapidly growing program here at SCCT with our current production of Go to Bed, Little Raccoon! We have special events throughout the year such as The Princess Academy in November, The Character Breakfast in March, and of course, our annual fundraiser The Caribbean Crush in May. We host Parents’ Night Out, birthday parties, and provide character visits. We even have adult acting classes for you grown up kids who can’t stay away!
Now if this wasn’t enough… did you know that of these 43,000 people served, almost 15,000 of them are outreach students – children who get to participate free of charge through our partnerships with local hospitals, child-centered agencies, and Title I schools? SCCT brings programs to The Meyer Center for Special Children, The Wonder Center at GHS, Marshall I. Pickens, Camp Courage, and YouthBASE, among many more. These are not just the children of privilege that get to have magical, soul-inspiring moments – though it’s good for their little souls too! But, at SCCT, we believe that ALL children benefit from exposure to the arts. We understand how powerful the arts are to our beings as humans, and want to bring that to children across our community, no matter their economic standing.
Why am I telling you all this? If you are still reading, then you too have related to my message and believe in the power of the arts to transform lives, especially children’s lives. We cannot do this work alone and hope to gain your support to “pay it forward” for children in our community. As we enter into this season of giving, we hope you will consider SCCT when making your year-end donations and help support the soul-inspiring work we do with children across our community. Help us give every child a chance to shine and light that spark inside of them.
As for me… I’ll be taking my 5 and 7 year olds to SCCT’s next play, Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! And don’t tell anyone… but I’ll secretly be just as wide-eyed as they are, perhaps even shedding a tear at the beautiful message for the season, sharing in the magic with them. Who knows, maybe I’ll even make it into my art studio this weekend and pick up the paintbrush for a few hours of my own artistic struggle and bliss.
South Carolina Children’s Theatre
To learn more about SCCT’s programs, please visit www.southcarolinachildrenstheatre.org. To donate to SCCT, please contact Mary at email@example.com or 864-235-2885 x 106 or simply go to SCCT’s website at www.scchildrenstheatre.org/giving.