I had an experience recently that changed how I think about the intersection of the arts, business and economic development in our state, and I see that now, more than ever, that it is imperative to support the arts in South Carolina.
The Savvy Arts Venture Challenge, organized by USC Professor David Cutler, brings artists from all over the globe to Columbia and combines leadership, business and the arts. On top of that, it’s an economic development tool.
I was asked to serve as one of nine local leaders in the arts, entrepreneurship and economic development; one part of that role was to advise one of the teams. The best and brightest from all over the country brought their award-winning ideas to Columbia to compete and learn how to make an impact and generate income. I was blown away by what I witnessed.
This year’s winner, the Girls March summer camp, for girls who want to play traditionally male-dominated instruments such as percussion and brass, went from concept to actionable plan in five days. (The camp will be held at The Citadel thanks to connections made during the week at USC. That’s phenomenal.)
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The arts have an estimated $9 billion economic impact in our state. I may be a pharmaceutical manufacturer in a state where manufacturing is the top industry category, but even I can see that this isn’t exactly peanuts. I also understand how arts can be woven into the fabric of all of our businesses.
If we support these creative young people, they can build strong businesses and contribute to the economic growth of our region.
My family is musical, some are dancers, and I would say that we are all creative people. In my current life, however, I’m lucky if I make it to a concert at the Koger Center; my mindset is, “I don’t have time for the arts.” What a mistake.
How do I know that going to a ballet wouldn’t do the same thing for my creative energy as an afternoon on the beach? I intend to mix it up a little more, and if there are any other members of the business community who would like to join me, I’d like to work with them to support an increased focus on the arts in business.
As a board member at EngenuitySC, I already get to see the amazing things that are occurring in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics education, like the artist-in-residence program teaching geology via theatrical movement studies out at Southeast Middle School in Lower Richland. How cool is that?
Discipline and repetition are huge components of an arts education; bringing that to a science, technology, engineering and math environment makes sense, as repetition is crucial to what we do. We need to invest in arts education if we are going to foster a competitive workforce, particularly in manufacturing and science.
I want to see even more integration of the arts, sciences and business as we work to fill our talent pipeline with inspired, engaged workers. I’d like to encourage my fellow business leaders to get involved in next year’s Savvy Arts Venture Challenge as well as EngenuitySC’s K-12 STEAM initiatives. I’d also like to encourage anyone who doesn’t see the importance of funding the arts in South Carolina to get in touch. I’ve got some ideas I’d love to share.
Ms. Kennedy is CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals; contact her at LouKennedy@nephronpharm.com.