Forum explores arts, culture, and rice
Submitted by Dwight McInvaill, Georgetown County Library Director
From the 17th century to the 1920s, the cultivation of rice occurred in the South Carolina Lowcountry, a coastal region of marshes, estuaries, and rivers extending some forty miles inland. Rice here influenced the arts and culture of the area firstly through the antebellum creation in the Palmetto State of vast commercial wealth based substantially on the knowledge and labors of enslaved African Americans. Later, after the Civil War and up to the present, this agricultural legacy – due to the influences especially of an enduring and vibrant Gullah culture – has continued to stimulate creativity on local, regional, national, and global levels.
Thanks to the leadership of Gullah artist Jonathan Green, the Lowcountry Rice Culture Committee was formed, and it committed itself to asserting and exploring the importance of this key heritage. In 2013, the first Lowcountry Rice Culture Forum was held at the College of Charleston. From September 17-19, 2015, the next forum will occur at a variety of locations in Georgetown County thanks to the efforts of ten community partners and especially the Lowcountry Rice Culture Committee, the Athenaeum Press of Coastal Carolina University, and the Georgetown County Library.
Activities will include the free premiere of an original documentary – thanks to the support of the Humanities Council SC – exploring the creative forces behind nine local Gullah artists and cultural leaders. In addition, partners’ support and private donations will help underwrite much more such as:
- The performance at the Winyah Auditorium by the Columbia City Ballet of “Off the Wall and Onto the Stage: Dancing the Art of Jonathan Green,”
- A free concert on the Kaminski House lawn by the 60-member Freedom Readers Children’s Choir,
- A Gullah variety show by Ron and Natalie Daise entitled “God’s Trombones,”
- An exhibition and brunch at the Georgetown County Museum featuring the work of Jonathan Green,
- And a tour of Hobcaw Barony.
Panel discussions by nine scholars concerning the influences of rice culture on the visual arts of our state throughout the centuries will occur on Friday, September 18, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Waccamaw Neck Branch Library, 41 St. Paul Place, Pawleys Island. While there will be a $20 fee for this all-day event, it is certainly worth the price of admission due to this roster:
- Introduction by Jonathan Green and Dwight McInvaill: 10 to 10:30 a.m.
- Visual arts before the Civil War: 10:30 to noon
- Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art: “Painters and Patrons: Art in Pre-Civil War Charleston”
- Daniel Ackermann, Associate Curator, The MESDA Collection: “New Stories from Familiar Objects: Discovering the Hidden Legacy of African American Craftsmen in Antebellum Southern Decorative Arts”
- Patricia Williams-Lessane, Executive Director, Avery Research Center: “Antebellum Art and Rice Culture: Representations of Experiences of Enslaved African Americans who Cultivated Rice”
- Visual arts from Reconstruction through Mid-20th Century: 1:30 to 3 p.m.
- Dwight McInvaill – Director, Georgetown County Library: “The Artistic Fieldwork of Alice Ravenel Huger Smith: Rice Plantation Sketchbooks and Photographs”
- Laura Engel, Associate Professor, Duquesne University: “Amelia M. Watson’s Plantation Tourism: Documenting Fanny Kemble’s Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation (1863)”
- Stephen Motte, Curator of Collections and Interpretation, Florence County Museum: Topic to be Announced
- Contemporary visual arts: 3:30 to 5 p.m.
- Jonathan Green, Gullah Artist: “Use of Contemporary Narrative Art Capturing the Lowcountry Rice Culture”
- Victoria Smalls, Director of Development and Community Outreach, Penn Center: “Penn Center: Promoting and Preserving Gullah Geechee Culture and Art”
- Leslie King Hammond, Graduate Dean Emeritus, Maryland Institute of Art: “Re/FRACTURED MEMORIES: Visualizing Rice Culture in South Carolina”
As inspired by Jonathan Green, “The Rice Culture Project is meant to be ‘indiscriminately inclusive,’ to provide a clear frame of reference and safe environment in which such discussions can occur without fear of backlash or misunderstanding. By fostering open and informed dialogue, and by exposing participants to the many aspects and interconnections of Lowcountry culture, we hope to confront differences of opinion directly, resolve conflict, stimulate the local economy, and find common ground on which whites, blacks, Native Americans, immigrants and others can express mutual respect, dampen false debates, and celebrate a common heritage.”
Further details concerning listings and ticket prices can be found on the Georgetown County Library website at http://georgetowncountylibrary.sc.gov/programs/Pages/RiceForum2015.aspx, and reservations can be made by telephoning Georgetown County Digital Librarian Julie Warren at 843-545-3316 or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org about the Lowcountry Rice Culture Forum 2015.