Upstate Visual Arts starts fresh

New executive director Katie Screven wants to elevate understanding of visual arts in the community

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Katie Screven is the new executive director of Upstate Visual Arts. Greg Beckner / Staff

Upstate Visual Arts has had three executive directors in the past two years and three locations since April.

But the nonprofit arts organization’s newest executive director Katie Screven says there’s no doubt UVA should – and will – play an important part in elevating the stature and understanding of visual arts in the Upstate.

“There’s definitely a place for UVA in the arts community in the Upstate,” she said.

But finding that place in recent years has proven to be difficult for the organization founded in 1991.

“Sometimes finding your way is not pretty,” said UVA board member Belinda Jenkins.

UVA is occupying Studio 201 at Riverwalk beside the Reedy River in downtown Greenville.

Screven, who became UVA’s executive director in mid-August, said the organization will seek partnerships with other organizations, offer educational classes, hold themed and satellite location exhibitions, hold artist portfolio reviews, monthly group critiques and will revive its Art Speaks program.

Art Speaks, a monthly program, will be centered on artists talking about why they create the work they do or how they created it, Screven said. The first Art Speaks will be held in October, will cover domestic violence and feature artist Jennifer Lyons.

UVA is also looking at bringing back Art in the Park, the community arts festival that was the organization’s signature event for years.

“We’re looking at UVA’s roots and also innovative new programs to keep UVA fresh and relevant,” Jenkins said. “I know the previous administration was trying in earnest to find the best route for UVA. I don’t know that the vision was wrong. I do know it wasn’t working. The community knows UVA has struggled the past few years.”

Screven, an artist who works in mixed media, has a degree in visual arts from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.

She worked at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg in arts education. She also worked in the Monty Stabler Galleries, a commercial gallery in Birmingham, Ala., which featured contemporary and folk art.

Screven said her vision for UVA is to bring an art center to the Upstate.

She said when she worked at the Morean Arts Center, the center brought high-level art exhibits to town featuring Jasper Johns and Dale Chihuly.

She said she’d like to have an arts center with working studios for the community.

“The Morean Arts Center was very similar to UVA when UVA was in the Pendleton Street Arts District. Now, their center is huge,” she said. “And it’s been less than 10 years. The opportunity is extraordinary.”

Screven said the key is to have a realistic plan and to be able to work toward that and adjust when needed.

“It’s manageable. It’s reachable,” she said. “There’s an overwhelming need for such a center in the Upstate.”

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