Dolly Patton was not meant to be an arts administrator. But somehow the arts have found it.
Although she spent a summer as a tour guide at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center, Patton was majoring in math at Francis Marion University and taught math at Irmo High School before moving to coordinate the education outreach with Keep America Beautiful, where she said she taught statewide teacher workshops and coordinated conferences on waste and recycling.
âThis is where my fundraising started,â she told Free Times via email.
Her journey through other nonprofits now sees her serving as the executive director of the Kershaw County Center for the Arts, three years before the institution’s 50th anniversary.
Founded in 1974 by music, visual art and theater enthusiasts, the non-profit center is the county’s arts center. Support comes from individual and corporate donors, grants and limited funding from local governments, including accommodation and hospitality taxes when available, and funding from the South Carolina Arts Commission.
The complex located near downtown Camden includes a historic house, an educational building, the Bassett Building, which contains both an art gallery and a theater, the Wood Auditorium. Classes for children and adults in the visual and performing arts are offered, including a summer camp partnership with the school district called Arts Arising.
Reopening last month after an extended shutdown due to COVID-19, the center managed without an executive director during the pandemic with the help of Kristin Cobb, who holds the post at the Harbison Theater at Midlands Technical College and previously had the same title to Kershaw. She stepped in as a “consultant, counselor and cheerleader” in October, according to the centre’s Facebook page.
Cobb has been at the center for 10 years, but after leaving in 2017, the institution has gone through two leaders in quick succession.
In his new role in Kershaw County, Patton will be in known territory, as a leader and fundraiser.
âThe staff will manage the programming and ticketing,â she noted. âI am the resource person for decisions and relationships with people in the community. “
Patton was hired in her last position as Director of the Saluda Shoals Foundation in 2005. As part of this work, she sought to establish Irmo’s Saluda Shoals Park, overseen by the Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission. and endowed with money for maintenance and improvements by the foundation. , as a destination for art.
âOur goal was to restart the non-profit branch of the park and eventually build an incredible outdoor amphitheater,â she said.
âOur Board of Directors and I have taken on the challenge of creating multiple musical, theatrical and artistic events,â Patton recalled. The coolest was created by artists and called ‘unearth’, a celebration of naturally inspired art. We had 30-50 artists on the trails creating art – not selling – and people talked and were allowed to create art as well.Musicians played on the trails to lead you from one artist to another.
The South Carolina Shakespeare Company and the Lake Murray Symphony both performed at this event in 2010.
Patton has also worked with the Musician and Songwriters’ Guild to book artists for an annual barbecue, collaborated with the Jam Room Music Festival at the unique Saluda Shoals MusicFest in 2015, and hosted performances from everything from the South Carolina Philharmonic and local jazz. musicians at the Trustus Theater, Columbia Children’s Theater and the Chapin Theater Company.
However, she left the foundation with the dream of an unrealized amphitheater.
âSaluda Shoals uses the deck at the back of the environmental center for performances,â Patton proposed. âWe’ve made it bigger over the years and put on some cafe lights. It’s a nice space for 100-150 people. The jazz series has done very well there this year.
In addition to filling fundraising coffers, his mid-range priorities in Camden include increased use of the Watts Performing Arts Wing, which was added in 2012. The adaptable space at the rear of the Bassett Building includes changing rooms, a 756 square foot mezzanine for costumes and props, an air-conditioned storage room for the center Steinway grand piano, a black box theater and the outdoor performance area of ââthe Shull Pavilion, which seats 500-700 people for events such as the recurring free concert series Finally Friday.
As with the program Patton established at Saluda Shoals, she will seek to host appearances from a diverse roster of artists from Colombia, as the center has already done. Previous visitors include the NiA Theater Company, Columbia City Ballet, Columbia Children’s Theater, Trustus Theater, South Carolina Philharmonic, Dick Goodwin’s Big Band, and cellist Claire Bryant. The centre’s annual Carolina Downhome Blues Festival draws blues artists from across the country and the world to venues across town.
Overall, Patton is keen to continue the centre’s mission of reaching out to the community and making the arts accessible.
âEngaging more people all over the county – Lugoff, Elgin, Bethune, etc.,â she said, âand possibly all over the Midlands.â