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Op-Ed: GHS is a valued community partner

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I’ve been on the board of Baptist Easley hospital now for six years. I’ve had the distinct honor of being the board chairman for the last two years. During that time, I’ve come to know and love the people of the hospital and also the people of our two parent companies: Palmetto Health and Greenville Health System (GHS).

The regional approach that GHS has taken to grow in the Upstate has had multiple benefits. The public is better served by a community-oriented and very caring health provider. Another benefit is that GHS has provided the financial and medical support infrastructure to keep both Oconee Memorial and Baptist Easley open for business and improving community health every day.

I have been amazed and very proud of the progress that I’ve seen GHS make in the last six years. The concept of maintaining healthy communities has been wholly embraced by GHS and demonstrated to be effective in various trials.

The innovation and leadership associated with GHS is amazing. From allying ourselves with Clemson University’s biomedical engineering program and nursing school to growing our medical education programs with USC in the Upstate to teach the next generation of physicians, we are now a major source of innovative, well-educated, and experienced doctors for our region and the state of South Carolina.

The list goes on and on. The Swamp Rabbit Trail would not be what it is without the support and leadership of GHS. The Cancer Society of Greenville and the new Pickens County Cancer Association would not be sustainable without support from GHS. We are truly blessed in the Upstate to have such a good corporate citizen.

I have followed the discussions of the GHS merger with Palmetto Health, and I am truly amazed that some in the legislature would have a problem with that. I do not think that the sale of GHS would benefit anyone. Of great concern is that the money from the sale is already being promised to various projects. This amounts to vote-buying in my opinion. Of course, people want “free stuff,” but I don’t think they realize that trading the high-quality healthcare provider we have for lower taxes and infrastructure improvements to the area doesn’t make sense.

I cannot understand why anyone in the state legislature or the county would have a problem with creating a larger regional health system for all of the people in South Carolina. How can that be bad?

Now contrast that with the idea of selling GHS to some foreign entity. Foreign –  meaning either out-of-state or perhaps out of this country. I do not believe that a corporate owner in another state would be as interested in the health of the community as GHS has been. I can’t imagine that owner putting the kind of money and support into our community that GHS has.

The benefit of having the corporate headquarters here, the economic development opportunities, the recruiting and educating of quality medical professionals to the Upstate – also the sheer number of employees at GHS – provide huge benefits to the Greenville area and to the Upstate. I can’t imagine some distant owner caring that much about our community. I can’t imagine some distant owner not trying to cut costs to the minimum – and in doing so, cutting care quality to the minimum – because they simply aren’t here and don’t have “heart and soul” in this area. The owners of said corporation would not be as interested or care as much for our communities.

I ask that all of you think hard about this. We don’t need to trade the “goose that lays the golden egg” for a couple of quick fixes to our tax or infrastructure issues. The long-term devastating effect of losing our region’s main healthcare system would be a disaster. It would be a decision regretted for years to come, long after the politicians have had their say.

In closing, I urge everyone to let your elected officials know how you feel. We need to keep our quality healthcare provider, GHS, in Greenville. The merger with Palmetto Health will benefit the entire state. The financial details can all be worked out. God bless this great opportunity.

 

Tom O’Hanlan

Board Chairman, Baptist Easley Hospital

CEO, Sealevel Systems Inc.

Tom O'Hanlan headshot
Tom O’Hanlan
Board Chairman, Baptist Easley Hospital
CEO, Sealevel Systems Inc.

GHS withdraws application for new psychiatric hospital

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Greenville Health System has withdrawn its application for a new psychiatric hospital.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control had denied in December the hospital’s certificate of need application for a new 120-bed facility on the site of the old Blood Connection building. The facility was to replace Marshal I. Pickens Hospital and be built in partnership with Acadia Healthcare, a national health care giant that has 579 facilities in 39 states, the United Kingdom and Puerto Rico. Acadia would manage the day-to-day operations of the hospital, while GHS would provide clinical oversight.

The hospital had asked the agency to reconsider but decided to withdraw the application.

“While we withdrew this application, we are by no means giving up on this important issue. Our patients, our community, and our team members who deliver outstanding care deserve a modern facility with expanded services,” said Dr. Karen Lommel, behavioral health chief medical officer for GHS.

The hospital’s certificate of need application drew opposition from those concerned the move could further strain a state system that already struggles to provide timely access to inpatient psychiatric care to some adults.

Because the new facility would be a freestanding hospital, it would be unable to bill Medicaid for any care provided to eligible adult patients between the ages of 22 and 64. Currently, Marshall Pickens may bill Medicaid for treatment of eligible adults because it is part of the Greenville Health System. GHS had said the new hospital would provide inpatient and outpatient services to adult Medicaid patients even though it won’t receive reimbursement for those services.

State mental health hospitals have had significant decreases in the number of adult inpatient psychiatric beds over the past 18 years, although the number of beds has been stable for several years, Mark W. Binkley, deputy director of the division of administrative services at the state Department of Mental Health, wrote in a letter to Louis Eubank, director of DHEC’s certificate of need program, in opposition of the original application. At the same time, the state’s population has continued to increase, making timely access to adult inpatient psychiatric care a “significant problem” in some areas of the state, he said. Some state lawmakers from Greenville County voiced similar concerns.

In addition, Springbrook Behavioral Health and the Carolina Center for Behavioral Health, psychiatric hospitals in Greenville County, said the new hospital would unnecessarily duplicate their services because they both rely on Marshall Pickens’ ability to accept adult Medicaid patients that they cannot.

DHEC denied the application because it determined that medically underserved groups could lose access to psychiatric care and that other providers in the area could be adversely impacted by the new hospital.

Lommel said GHS “remains committed to finding a solution to meet the mental health needs of our community.”

“We are formulating a plan we hope will receive CON approval and invite those with questions or concerns to engage with us to address the underserved mental-health needs in our community,” she said.

February 2018 Greenville County Schools Class Acts: TEAMS

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Fountain Inn Elementary
Jr. Beta Club
First Place, Scrap Book, Banner
– SC Jr. Beta Club

 

Greenville High
Jr. Beta Club
Girls Tennis Team
State Champions
– SC High School League

 

 

Greenville High
Girls Swim Relay Team
State Champions
– SC High School League

 

 

Lakeview Middle
Youth in Government Team
Premier Delegation and First Year Delegation Awards
SC Youth in Government

 

Riverside High
Girls Cross Country Team
AAAAA State Champions
SC Track and Cross Country Coaches      Association

 

 


Southside High
Academic Team
– National Academic Quiz Tournament
5th Place in Nation

– PACE National Scholastic Championship
  19th Place in Nation

 

Sterling School
Quiz Bowl Team
State Champions
– SC Jr. Beta Club

 

 

Woodland Elementary
Jr. Beta Club
First Place, Living Literature; Spotlight; Drawing; Fibers; Woodworking; Poetry
– SC Jr. Beta Club

Mill Town Players announces 2018-19 season

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By Neil Shurley 

For their 2018-19 season, Mill Town Players are going big.

“This year we’re doing six shows in our mainstage series, and we’re adding an additional show in the fall that’s intended for the South Carolina Theatre Association’s Community Theatre Festival,” says Will Ragland, executive artistic director of Mill Town Players. “And we are adding a youth show in the spring as we try to expand our educational offerings and dedicate a production to young people and for young audiences. And then we’re doing three concerts, spread throughout the year. So that’s a total of 11 shows next year, which is one reason why, after 15 years of teaching theater in public schools, I’m going to stop teaching and work here full time!”

Here are the shows coming to Mill Town Players for their 2018-19 season, with commentary from Will Ragland.


“The Marvelous Wonderettes”

Sept 14-16, 20-23, 27-30, 2018

The ’50s Pop Hit Musical Comedy!

This smash off-Broadway hit takes you to a 1958 high school prom where we meet four girls with hopes and dreams as big as their crinoline skirts. As we learn about their lives and loves, the girls serenade us with classic ‘50s hits including “Lollipop,” “Dream Lover,” “Stupid Cupid,” and “Lipstick on Your Collar.”  In Act 2, the Wonderettes reunite to take the stage and perform at their 10-year reunion. It’s a musical trip down memory lane.

Ragland: “It is such a charming show and really fits in with the types of shows our audiences love. They take these songs from the ’50s and ’60s and weave them very creatively into a storyline that fits just right, where you’re actually invested in these four girls.”

“Romeo and Juliet”

Oct 26-28, Nov 1-4, 2018 (school day matinees available)

Shakespeare’s Classic Love Story Set in Appalachia

This unique production of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy is inspired by the Hatfield-McCoy feud of the late 1800s. Featuring Shakespeare’s language, stage combat, live bluegrass music, and Appalachian dialects, this is “Romeo and Juliet” like you’ve never experienced it before. The production will also be featured in the SC Theatre Association Community Theatre Festival state competition in November at Anderson University.

Ragland: “For the competition, it has to be cut down to an hour, and it’s a traveling show, so the set has to fit within a 10-by-10 box. We’re going to reintroduce this classic to high schools in a fun, fresh, new, and different way. I think it’s going to be really neat and really special.”

“Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings”

Nov 30-Dec 2, 6-9, 13-16, 2018

The Funny, Feel Good Holiday Musical

The Plaids are back to do their Christmas Special! At first, Francis, Jinx, Smudge, and Sparky aren’t sure why they’ve returned to Earth for another posthumous performance, but a phone call from the heavenly Rosemary Clooney lets them know that they’re needed to put a little harmony into a discordant world.

Ragland: “Everybody loved ‘Forever Plaid’ last time we did it, so we knew we were going to do this show. Kimberlee Ferreira is back doing the directing and choreography, and we’re trying to get all four of our original guys back because they had such great chemistry together. It’s a very similar show, just Christmas themed. It’s got a lot of great songs in it and the same sweet characters.”

“Crimes of the Heart”

Jan 18-20, 24-27, 31–Feb 3, 2019

A Play by Beth Henley

The Pulitzer Prize-winning classic follows the grave yet somehow hilarious reunion of three sisters in Hazlehurst, Miss., as they gather to await news of the family patriarch, who is living out his last hours in the local hospital.

Ragland: “It’s not been done around here in a while, and Jay Briggs is going to direct it. It’s going to be a good one.”

“Seussical Jr.”

Feb 22-24, 28–Mar 3, 2019 (school day matinees available)

Youth Musical Featuring Dr. Seuss’s Best Loved Characters

Horton the Elephant, the Cat in the Hat, and all of your favorite Dr. Seuss characters spring to life onstage in “Seussical Jr.,” a fantastical musical extravaganza!

Ragland: “This show coincides with the annual Read Across America initiative, during Dr. Seuss’ birthday, as schools across the country celebrate reading and celebrate Dr. Seuss’ work. We’re going to have school matinees for elementary and middle school kids to come and see it. What better way to connect and try to build up an educational program?”

“Pump Boys and Dinettes”

Mar 29-31, Apr 4-7, 11-14, 2019

A Country-Western Musical Comedy

The “Pump Boys” sell high octane on Highway 57 in Grand Ole Opry country and the “Dinettes,” Prudie and Rhetta Cupp, run the Double Cupp diner next door. Together they fashion an evening of country-western songs that received unanimous raves on and off-Broadway.

Ragland: “It’s a country-western musical comedy. The unique thing about this show is that the actors also play instruments. We’ve been looking at this show for a long time, and it’s not been done in the Upstate for a long time. In choosing a season, I like to choose things that are tried and true and things that are brand new, and this is a mixture.”

“A Pelzer Gospel Homecoming”

May 10-12, 2019

An Evening of Old-Time Gospel Songs and Hymns

An annual tradition at the Pelzer Auditorium, “A Pelzer Gospel Homecoming” features local musicians and singers who will offer an uplifting, spirit-filled concert of glory and praise.

Ragland: “We’ve done this every single year and people just love it, so we’re going to keep doing it until folks get tired of it.”

“First Baptist of Ivy Gap”

May 24-26, 30-Jun 2, 6-9, 2019

A Poignant Southern Comedy

During WWII, six women gather at the church to roll bandages and plan the church’s 75th anniversary. Then, 25 years later, our “First Baptist Six” reunite as the war in Vietnam impacts their world. With humor and pathos, these six very different women find comfort, forgiveness, and redemption in each other.

Ragland: “It’s sad and it’s funny and it involves some singing of traditional hymns and songs by the cast members. It’s not a musical, but the music enhances the story. It’s basically about these women who support each other through times of hardship, through times of war. And it’s full of that great Southern humor.”

“Classic Country: A Country Music Concert”

Jun 14-16, 2019

Country Standards You Know and Love

One weekend only! Classic Country will feature a live band and local singers performing hits from Hank Williams Sr., Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and many more.

Ragland: “It features music from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s — country music that people know and love. I didn’t feel like we had enough pure country music in our season, so I wanted to offer this.”

“Annie Get Your Gun”

July 19-21, 25-28, Aug. 1-4, 2019

Irving Berlin’s Classic American Musical

When backwoods sharpshooter Annie Oakley joins Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, she falls head over heels for dashing shooting ace Frank Butler and learns that “There’s No Business Like Show Business!”

Ragland: “We had a big success with ‘Oklahoma’ a couple of years ago, and we’ve been wanting to do this one for awhile. And you can’t beat Irving Berlin’s music. This was actually the first show I was ever in as a kid, in high school, and I’ve never done it since. So I’m very excited about it, and I think it’ll be a huge hit. It’s a great American classic.”

“A Broadway Cabaret”

Aug. 9-11, 2019

An Evening of Songs from Broadway

A special concert event featuring some of your favorite Upstate performers singing some of their favorite Broadway tunes.

Ragland: “People love the music and they come out to see it, and we’re going to give it to them every chance we get.”

“Five musicals, three concerts, and three plays. And somehow,” he adds with a hearty laugh, “we’re going to pull all of this off.”


Mill Town Players performances are held in historic Pelzer auditorium at 214 Lebby St. in Pelzer. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for seniors/military/students. For more information, visit milltownplayers.org.

Remembering Billy Graham, 1918-2018

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Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows recording "The Hour of Decision" for the radio in 1959. Photo courtesy of billygraham.com.

In a country, and a world, more divided than ever along lines of faith, race, and politics, the number is staggering: The voice of the Rev. Billy Graham, who passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at the age of 99, is estimated to have been heard by 2.2 billion people during his lifetime.

To ignore that that voice sometimes courted controversy while preaching the gospel is to leave out a crucial part of the story. Graham, perhaps as passionate and persuasive a speaker about the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ as any evangelist who ever lived, spoke ill of Jews, same-sex marriage, and feminism. That can’t simply be swept under the rug, even if he expressed contrition for those views as he grew older.

But there is also no doubt that Graham, seemingly alone among his kind, was untouched by the scandals that seemed to envelop the other, lesser televangelists that followed in his wake. There is no doubt that Graham was a mesmerizing speaker with a fervent faith in the power of Christianity. There is no doubt that even nonbelievers could be taken with his compassion, his intelligence, and the sheer belief of his message.

It’s hard to imagine now, but Graham was a preacher who could fill stadiums; who had the ear of every United States president from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama; who invited Martin Luther King Jr. to preach at one of his revivals in a time (1957) when that idea seemed ludicrous; who, through his endless series of sermons, crusades, and books (over 30 of them), was undeniably one of the towering figures of the Christian faith in the 20th and 21st centuries. Just like those controversial views, his legacy, his effectiveness, and his faith cannot be ignored.

Graham once said, “Someday, you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

Who can doubt he believed in that heavenly kingdom with every fiber of his brilliant, flawed, inspired being?

Upon hearing of his passing, several of the Upstate’s religious leaders spoke about Graham’s influence on Christianity, and on them personally. Here’s what they said:

“I would say that Billy Graham was among the top five most influential people of the 20th century. Though he was entirely respectful of the church, he blasted through its walls, reaching millions of people in his crusades and in his writings, who may not have ever entered a sanctuary. In many ways, he was ahead of his time — in his insistence on racial diversity at his crusades, a care to avoid compromising sexual situations, and a public apology for getting too cozy with presidential power. I honestly believe that he was a man of God — and I don’t throw that term around lightly.” –Rev. Deb Richardson-Moore, Pastor of Triune Mercy Center

“When Billy Graham spoke, Christians listened; presidents listened; secular people listened. The wonder of his ministry was not his oratory skill, but his integrity. I grew up watching his crusades on television. His message was simple, Jesus-centered salvation. For his life and his ministry, I am grateful. To God be the glory.” –Dr. Rev. Bob Howell, senior pastor, Buncombe Street United Methodist Church

“Mr. Graham was taken by God’s angels and given a ‘royal escort’ into heaven this morning. We are all obviously grieving because we all loved him so very much. This moment in time is the fulfillment of Mr. Graham’s lifetime ministry centered around the eternal life we have in the Lord Jesus Christ.” –Rev. Don Wilton, senior pastor at First Baptist Spartanburg and Graham’s personal pastor

“Bob Jones University extends its sympathy to the family and associates of Billy Graham at this time of loss and trust they will experience God’s comfort and strength. As an evangelist, Dr. Graham desired that men and women hear the Gospel and come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We rejoice for all of those who accepted Christ’s free gift of salvation through his ministry.” –Steve Pettit, Bob Jones University President

February 2018 Greenville County Schools Class Acts: Students

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Bryson Middle School
Collin Stevens
First Place Pencil Sketch
– SC Jr. Beta Club

 

 

Fine Arts Center
Anna Burkhardt
Merit Award in in Classical Music/Violin
– Young Arts

 

 

Fine Arts Center 
Sam Parrini
Merit Award in Visual Arts
– Young Arts

 

 

Fine Arts Center 
Asha Marie
Two Gold Awards; Two Silver Awards
– Art and Writing Awards for Poetry and Flash Fiction

 

 

Greenville High
Anna Havens Rice
AAAA Co-Swimmer of the Year; Individual State Champion in 200 IM and 100 Breast
-SC Coaches Association of Women’s Sports; SC High School League

 

Hughes Middle Academy
Cameron Barnhardt
SC Jr. Beta Club President
– SC Coaches Association of Women’s Sports; SC High School League

 

Hughes Middle Academy
Gabrielle Carpenter
First Place in Sin Poetry
– SC Jr. Beta Club

 

 

Lakeview Middle
Brandon Zlakeimerman-Patricio

Outstanding Statesman Award
– SC Youth in 
Government

 


Lakeview Middle
Segio Rojas-Tenorio
Outstanding Statesman Award
– SC Youth in Government

 

 

Lakeview Middle
Andrea Ruiz & Emily Miguel-Ceron
Outstanding Bill Award
– SC Youth in Government

 

 

Riverside
Vincent Cicino

20th Highest Scorer
– National Academic Quiz Tournament

 

 

Southside High
Henry Lear
Delegate, Senate Youth Program
– U. S. Senate Youth Program

 

 

Sterling School
Charlie Sanderson
First Place 8th Grade Science
– SC Jr. Beta Club

Soundbites: Brooks Dixon Band, Rodriguez w/ Victory Boyd, Chunx…

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Saturday, Feb. 24
Brooks Dixon Band
Smiley’s Acoustic Café
111 Augusta St.
10 p.m.
Free

If you’re a fan of Greenville singer-songwriter Brooks Dixon, you probably know that none of his single or EP releases have sounded quite the same as the others. He’s moved from acoustic folk to gentle rock and even to danceable R&B, but he’s never sounded quite as comfortable as he does on his new EP, “White Roses.”

The five songs on the EP are so unified stylistically that they almost come off like a suite. Using bassist Luis Espaillat (Trace Adkins), Nashville fiddle player Brenna Fitzgerald, and harmony vocalist Ira Well, Dixon has recast his songs in a rootsy alt-country style that suits them perfectly.

“I’d released versions of some of these songs before, but they’re a bit different here,” he says. “There were some songs I felt had more of an alt-country feel at the core, and I really wanted to hear what that sounded like. So it was almost like a concept EP, if you will.” –Vincent Harris

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uenJumLUotk

Tuesday, Feb. 27
Rodriguez w/ Victory Boyd
Peace Center
300 S. Main St.
7:30 p.m.
$35-$65

The story of Sixto Rodriguez, told more completely in the Oscar-winning documentary “Searching For Sugar Man,” is one of the more unusual in music history. The singer-songwriter recorded two albums of passionate, mildly psychedelic rock in 1970 and 1971: “Cold Fact” and “Coming From Reality.” The albums, marked by Rodriguez’s passionate, yearning voice and incisive lyrics, came and went with little notice in the U.S., but they gradually became iconic overseas, especially in South Africa.

The slow build allowed Rodriguez to successfully tour Australia in the late ’70s, but he faded into obscurity after that, to the extent that as his albums sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world, many thought he had committed suicide. In fact, he was working a day job in his native Detroit while his songs inspired the revolutionary spirit of South Africa during the struggle to end apartheid. Since being rediscovered in the last decade, Rodriguez’s music has returned to its homeland, and his albums finally made the Billboard charts in the wake of the 2012 documentary. –Vincent Harris

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPn7ZSmQEk8

Friday, Feb. 23
Chunx w/ Totally Slow, Irata, In Case Of Emergency, and Coffin Torture
Radio Room
110 Poinsett Highway

9 p.m.
$7

The way the members of Chunx see it, it’s not that surprising that they ended up forming a band. After all, the four of them loved to skate, loved punk music, and lived in Easley. “We all knew each other in the local skate scene either personally or through mutual friends,” says vocalist Clean Gene. “If you really think about it, in a small mill hill town like Easley, we were bound to get together and form a band.”

After they formed in 2013, there was little doubt what the foundation of their music would be. The band’s self-titled album is all speed, tight riffs, and sneering attitude, like the punk they grew up loving. “We get stoked on all kind of music at this point,” Gene says. “And why wouldn’t you? There’s all kinds of great music out there! As long as it gets us through the day in a positive way, we’re down. But regardless what riff we jam to, at the heart of it all there will be always be punk rock.” –Vincent Harris

https://chunx.bandcamp.com/releases

Spotlights: HUMONGOUS, Greenville Taco Crawl

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Feb. 25

COMEDY

HUMONGOUS: The Biggest Night of Comedy! 

Alchemy Comedy Theater is trying something completely new to them — creating a smorgasbord of all the different kinds of performances they produce in one single-night production. This huge event will include a mix of improv, stand-up, sketch, and musical comedy from a variety of the theater’s players and teams.

HUMONGOUS will take place at Greenville’s oldest comedy event space, Cafe and Then Some.

“This show is a perfect introduction for our first-time guests, a great way to experience the quality entertainment that Alchemy Comedy Theater produces every weekend of the year in one special night,” Alchemy Comedy executive producer Alrinthea Carter says. “HUMONGOUS is also fantastic for our regular audience members that may not realize the wide breadth of comedy that we produce!”

“The Greenville Comedy scene is thriving and growing, and Alchemy Comedy Theater is proud to be at the forefront of that growth,” Carter adds. –Melody Wright

When Sunday, Feb. 25, 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Where 101 College St., Greenville

Admission $16

Info alchemycomedy.com/shows/41568486462

 

March 3

FOOD & DRINK

Greenville Taco Crawl

Strolling around Greenville with a taco in one hand and a cold drink in another… now, that’s something to taco ‘bout. Greenville will have its first ever Taco Crawl on Saturday, March 3. The crawl gives participants a great venue to eat tacos, check out new bars, enjoy drink specials, and meet new friends.

Tickets for the event include four complimentary tacos tickets, a taco-themed koozie, exclusive drink specials at every stop, Taco Crawl map, additional taco specials with a bar crawl wristband, and more giveaways to come. Crawlers will also receive a survey to vote for their favorites as The Best-Tasting Taco and The Most Unique Taco.

VIP tickets also include a Taco Crawl T-shirt and an additional taco ticket.

Open rain or shine, this free-flowing event highlights 10+ restaurants including Gringos, Pour Taproom, DT’s Tavern, SIP Whiskey & Wine Bar, Ink N Ivy Greenville, Cantina 76 – Greenville, and Jack n’ Diane’s (more to come/subject to change).

Some stops on the map will be “party stops 21+ with drink specials only,” and there will be several registration locations to spread out the groups. Crawlers under the age of 21 must be accompanied by an adult. Some stops with drink specials only will be for ages 21+, while restaurants with taco specials will be ages 18+. –Melody Wright

 

When Saturday, March 3, 12-8 p.m.

Where Various locations around downtown Greenville

Admission $22.50-$36.50

Info http://bit.ly/2o9AcV1

A Q&A with assistant technical director and carpenter Zoe Shaye Sneed

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The Greenville Journal is excited to introduce a new recurring series in our culture section, Backstage. In an effort to bring the theater community and the community at-large closer together, we’ll be conducting Q&As with local actors, directors, and designers who are instrumental in shaping our performing arts scene.

 

The work that goes on behind the scenes before a show opens can often go unnoticed by the audience. After the set designer submits their designs for the show, that’s where Zoe Sneed comes in. As master carpenter and assistant technical director of GLOW Lyric Theatre and assistant technical director at the Warehouse Theatre, Sneed assists in the creation of technical drawings based on the needs of the show and makes them come to life through her construction.

Sneed has worked as a carpenter on all of the Warehouse Theatre’s mainstage productions this season and is currently building for “The Flick” by Annie Baker at the Warehouse Theatre, which premieres March 9. She acted as technical director for GLOW Lyric Theatre’s Festival season last year, which included “Hair,” “The Crucible,” and “The Gondoliers.” She was recently master carpenter for Converse Opera Theatre’s spring production of “Summer and Smoke” by Lee Hoiby and stage manager for Ballet Spartanburg’s production of “The Nutcracker.” She does contracted work with stage tech staffing at the Peace Center and audio, video, and lighting solutions.

When did you first become involved in theater as a master carpenter (or were you involved in theater previously), and when did you know this was something you wanted to do long term? 

I started my journey through theater as an actress, as I believe most folks do. In the sixth grade, my chorus teacher told me that if I didn’t try out for the school play, she would fail me in choir, and being the naive 12-year-old that I was, [I] completely believed her and showed up to audition.

That singular production showed me the magic of theater and gave me a place in school where for the first time I felt I truly belonged. The foundation laid from involvement with this group not only gave me friendships that lasted for years to follow but also showed me that honest interpersonal connections are one of the greatest benefits of theatrical involvement.

I “officially” made the transition from onstage to backstage during my undergraduate years in the theater department at USC Upstate, but it was even before then that I was fascinated by the inner workings of theater from my involvement with the South Carolina Children’s Theatre. Early on, I believed every production I worked on … truly came together by magic, because I wasn’t exposed to the process of production. SCCT and [USC] Upstate allowed me forums to experience the technical elements of theater firsthand and taught me that theater is so much more than the sum of its parts. But I was a part of it, and I fell in love. I learned how to create the magic that I had spent so many years fascinated by from afar. Now everyday when I go to work I get to build this same illusion for others to experience, and that feels like magic to me.

 

What has been your most challenging set/project/play to design for and why? 

The most challenging set I have ever built was for GLOW Lyric Theatre’s 2017 Festival season. I have built plenty of sets in difficult places before, including black boxes, recital halls, outdoors, and venues great and small.

In all that time, however, I have never built a set that did not want to be built. During that summer, three table saws were broken; a staple gun up and walked away; I repainted the 32-by-36-foot floor three separate times with only a 4-inch chip brush and my own tears, and everything that could go wrong did. On top of all that, we dealt with extreme time constraints, as we were performing in a school district building during their summer hours. One night, one of my carpenters and I spent the evening painting outside by the glow of her Jeep’s headlights, because, as they say, the show must go on. In the end, we forced the set to life by the determined hands of four very, very, very tired carpenters and proudly lived to tell the tale.

 

What has been your most enjoyable project and why? 

Oh man … a parent isn’t supposed to have favorites. I can’t pick; I just can’t do it. Every single project I’ve worked on has brought me layers of joy, happiness, and pride. True, they’ve also brought me heartache, loss of sleep, and a stress-eating habit that QT really has got to stop feeding, but hey, that’s life, right? You take the good with the bad, and you keep on going.

 

What is your favorite play? 

I couldn’t pick even if I tried. I get invested in the play that I am working on and that is my world until the next one comes along.

 

What do you most enjoy about Greenville’s theater scene? 

Getting to work with my friends and watching them succeed. Having grown up in Greenville, I am fortunate enough to get to work professionally with people that I went to college and even high school with. As we grow, I get to watch them develop their talents and, if I’m lucky, even help them along.

 

How has Greenville’s theater scene changed since you first became involved? 

It’s definitely become more of its own respected entity. I can’t remember if someone told me this or I read it somewhere, but it used to be that when you said you were from Greenville, people would ask which one you meant. Nowadays, if you tell someone you’re from Greenville, they assume it’s ours. When I’m telling someone that I work in theater in Greenville, it now comes with a layer of recognition and respect that I don’t believe it always has.

 

What is your hope for the future of theater in Greenville?

That it continues down the path it’s on now, challenging Greenvillians in all the ways theater is designed to challenge us – mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Whole Health Nation seeks to teach people how to grow and use food for their health

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“Choose your farmer as your grocery store and your kitchen as your pharmacy” is the theme of visual artist and herbalist June Ellen Bradley’s brainchild — the first Whole Health Nation forum to be held March 3 at Zen in the West End.

According to the Whole Health mission statement, “We envision coming together as a community around plants and gardening, sourcing local farmers to supply fresh and sustainable produce that in turn nurtures the earth, connecting us all in a common unified purpose. We hope to increase our awareness, skill sets of resilience, and define our daily culinary choices in order support abundant life for all people.”

“Part of it is to try to reduce that fear and anxiety and replace it with wonder and awe and how exciting it is that we can grow our own food,” says Bradley, who has been a Greenville resident for about 18 months.

The vision for Whole Health Nation was cultivated from Bradley’s years of experience working with people, plants, agriculture, natural medicine, and other health-empowering practices. The mission is to expand the collective concept of health while supporting local connections in the community, and to educate and develop skills that empower people to live a vibrant, health-filled, and purposeful life.

Bradley’s background consists of serving as assistant to the director of Agricultural Economic Development in Polk County, N.C., for four years, interviewing more than 100 farmers, establishing an online database, installing an edible and medicinal demonstration garden, and teaching workshops at the Mill Springs Agricultural Center.

She also consulted clients in her herbal medicine practice for seven years while living in a community centered on health. The community grows produce for the on-site health food store, local CSAs, and the Polk County Farmers Market. Bradley managed the community’s farmers market booth for five years and served on the board of directors for the Farmers Market for three years, along with various other agriculture and environmental projects through the years.

She also grew up in the household of an anesthesiologist.

“I grew up steeped in the medical community,” she says. “I was dissecting frogs at 8 years old and all this other stuff, but I didn’t know that plantain, which is a common plant that you find everywhere, I didn’t know you put that on a bee sting and it will suck out the poison.”

Bradley hopes that through events like Whole Health Nation, it will start conversations that turn into actions, such as using empty lots for community gardens or growing edible plants as ground cover rather than grass.

Bradley says providing people with more information is key so that growing food and herbs doesn’t seem intimidating.

“We’ve gotten so far removed from it,” Bradley says. “There’s been an intergenerational failure to transfer information for the past generation or two. Since we don’t sit around and snap peas with grandma, it’s foreign.”

On the day of the event, registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and sessions begin at 9 a.m., with the last one at 4 p.m. Session topics during the day include Weeds: Friend or Foe?; Growing & Preparing Ginger and Turmeric; Seed Saving, Culinary Herbs for Healing Meals; Keynote – Emotions, Health, and Eating; Mushrooms for Immunity; Potato Gardening in Containers; The Art and Science of Herbal Tea; and What’s Healthful to Eat in 2018?

Many of the forums are geared toward not only learning how to grow food but also how to use it to fuel and heal the body rather than just for entertainment.

Additionally, Slow Food, a nonprofit organization that promotes local food and traditional cooking, will be holding a seed swap during the day.

“We’re hoping it will start inspiring people to do things like this,” Bradley says.

 

Partners include

Mushroom Mountain

Wild Earth Botanicals

Red Moon Herbs

Natural Awakenings

Drift Float & Spa

Shecology

Adawehi

Gilberto

Slow Food

Emerald Moon Magic

Blue Ridge Brinery

Vdovichenko Bee Farms

Earthen Roots

Vicario Farms

O-CHA Tea

 

Sponsors

Langhorne T Webster

S.C. Herbal Society

Mushroom Mountain

Dahlia

Swamp Rabbit Café & Grocery

Pure on Main

Natural Awakenings magazine

Feast: Small Plates

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Basically an Oscar nomination

The Anchorage in the Village of West Greenville, 586 Perry Ave., has officially put Greenville as a restaurant destination on the map. Led by executive chef Greg McPhee, The Anchorage has been named a 2018 Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant (in the entire country) by the James Beard Foundation. “We could not be more excited for our staff with the news of our nomination,” McPhee says. “This validates all their hard work and growth over the past year. To be in such great company and bring attention not only to the restaurant but to Greenville is something we couldn’t be prouder of. We look forward to continuing to grow and provide a unique experience to our guests moving forward.” Finalists will be announced March 14, which will narrow down the field of 28 semifinalists. The winners will be announced May 7. The Anchorage is the only South Carolina restaurant to make the Best New Restaurant list for 2018, and this is the first time a Greenville restaurant has been a named a semifinalist in any category.

 

That name, though

Husk restaurant has collaborated with Blackberry Farm Brewery to offer a new, exclusive beer called Reezy Peezy, Red Bay Breezy (try to say that five times fast). The new, limited-edition beer will be available on draft at Husk restaurants in Greenville, Charleston, and Savannah. A group of Blackberry Farm and The Neighborhood Dining Group guys got together and asked chef Sean Brock which ingredient he was most excited about in the kitchen at the moment, and he said koji (fermented bean paste). Drawing inspiration from the koji, this beer was conceptualized and developed. (Now if only Brock had said Benton’s ham.) Let’s see what else these guys come up with.

 

Drumroll please…

Tacos and Tequila Festival, which was a smashing success in its inaugural year, has announced the participating restaurants and bars for its taco and cocktail contests for 2018. For the chef’s challenge we have Jorge “Papi” Barrales (Papi’s Tacos), Hector Batista (Tacos & Mas), Shane Clary (Good Life Catering), William Cribb (Willy Taco), Aaron Hobbs (Tin Lizzy’s), Melissa Plumbley (Farmhouse Tacos), and Team Bar Louie. The cocktail contest will have bartenders from Restaurant 17, Tin Lizzy’s, Sticky Fingers, Gringo’s, Encore Gastrolounge, Roost, Topside Pool Club, Bar Louie, TILT arcade bar, Wild Ace Pizza & Pub, and Willy Taco. Tickets are still available for the March 25 event at tacotequilafiesta.com.

 

Hot topic

Coffee sourcing, brewing, tasting, and the whole process have become a hot (pun intended) topic these days. Along with Ally Coffee Merchants and Due South Coffee Roasters, the Greenville County Library is offering coffee classes on a different topic each session on March 3, 10, and 17 at 10 a.m. and March 22 at 7 p.m. at a variety of locations. Topics include how coffee is grown and sourced, how a bean goes from green to dark and aromatic, how to prepare a stellar cup of joe, and the history behind it all. Email explore@greenvillelibrary.org or call 864-527-9258 to register.

 

Get your hands dirty

Definitely not for the squeamish but great for anyone wanting to know where exactly our food comes from: learn the art of whole-animal butchering at Greenbrier Farms’ upcoming Whole Hog Butcher Class, March 3, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at 766 Hester Store Road, Easley. The hands-on class will feature Greenbrier’s pastured heritage hogs and be instructed by Culinary Institute of the Carolinas chef Patrick Wagner. In addition, guests will enjoy a farm-to-table lunch and 100 percent of the finished product. Lunch will be provided in the barn during a Q&A session. The class is $125 per person. Email Amy@greenbrierfarms.com for more information.

Laura Leigh Morris’ ‘Jaws of Life’ spotlights the recent struggles of her home state of West Virginia

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They say you can’t go home again, and Laura Leigh Morris had to go pretty far away from her home — to Texas, to be exact — to finally write about West Virginia. Morris’ new book, “Jaws of Life,” is a series of short stories about the people, places, and issues facing her home.

Morris, an assistant professor of English at Furman University, found herself in Greenville from a simple job application, but she still has a deep respect for and connection to her home state.

She explains that in order to finally write about the place she grew up, she realized she had to get some space before she could do it justice. “Jaws of Life” originally started as a series of short stories for pleasure and practice. “I realized I was writing these stories, and I wasn’t thinking of them as a book, but then they all started coming together,” Morris explains. “I realized I have a collection here, and I realized that I could make it stronger, so I kept writing stories to accomplish that.”

Morris has long been a storyteller, earning her undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. in some form of creative writing. A much earlier version of “Jaws of Life” served as her dissertation for her Ph.D. “For me, it was about learning the craft,” Morris says. “This was my book where I learned how to put a story together, and a 200- to 300-page book is a lot harder to fix when you mess up, rather than scrapping a 15-page story and starting over. But it really just depends on the story.”

Though the stories are based on Morris’ home, she tries to stay away from specific people she knows in her writing. She prefers to focus on common issues that face the area and crafts stories that can be used to portray them.

“The first story in the book is about fracking (called “Frackers”), and I had wanted to write about fracking because it’s such a huge thing there now, but I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it,” Morris explains. “But driving one night with my parents, I passed a fracking site, and we were blinded by the lights so badly that we almost ran off the road. I thought, light pollution, which was something I had never thought of, and the story kind of came from that. And the story isn’t about my mom, but they come from these little moments sometimes and experiences I remember growing up.”

Morris considers herself to be a dark writer. A previous experience teaching creative writing in a Texas prison camp helped shape her writing to focus on the murkier side of life, and those themes are present throughout “Jaws of Life.”

“It definitely explores some of the issues that Appalachia confronts right now, and some of those issues are dark,” Morris says. “One thing that I think the stories do is to blow the lid off the stereotypes of the area, and they explore the realities of living in a place where resource extraction is everything. Coal mining, fracking, gas wells, and always stripping the resources from the land, and what happens when an entire populous relies on this ripping the land apart to live, and that definitely shows up in some of my stories. It’s heartbreaking for the area, and for my home.”

 

Laura Leigh Morris Launch Party

When: March 1, 6-8 p.m.
Where: Fiction Addiction, 1175 Woods Crossing Road #5
Tickets: Free
Info: www.fiction-addiction.com

On Jonny Lang’s carefully sequenced ‘Signs,’ the guitar remains the instrumental focal point

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When Jonny Lang, who will perform at the Peace Center in Greenville on Sunday, was preparing to release his new album, “Signs,” he remarked that the album was an effort to turn his searing, electrifying, bluesy guitar-playing back into a prominent role in his music. It was something of a confusing statement, seeing as how for many, that guitar never left.

For more than 20 years and nine albums, Lang, who began his major-label career with the hit “Lie to Me” in 1997, slung out guitar solos like the second coming of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Equally adept at rock, blues, and soul, Lang was a stunningly skilled player and singer, all the more remarkable for the fact that he began his career in his mid-teens. Even when his music turned toward a more gospel-influenced sound on 2006’s “Turn Around,” he still took the opportunity to shoot sparks on guitar whenever he could. So how could he think that his six-string had taken a back seat?

“Actually, what I meant was that with the last couple of records, the guitar wasn’t really the centerpiece of the album as much as in the past,” Lang says. “I was listening to older stuff like Howlin’ Wolf when I was writing this album, and something clicked again with me, with the production style and how great these guitar riffs sounded. The song builds around the anchor of the riff, and that’s the centerpiece of the song. And it started me trying to write some songs like that.”

In that sense and several others, “Signs” is a definite artistic success. Kicking off with the largely acoustic stomper “Make It Move,” Lang’s playing, and his soulful rasp of a voice, are center stage, moving through roadhouse stompers (“Snakes”), thundering hard rock (“Last Man Standing”), and grinding blues swagger (the title track) before moving into soul and wide-screen ballads in the second half. The sound is raw and massive, and the album is a great example of proper song-sequencing, starting stripped-down and acoustic and ending with an epic showstopper (the near-six-minute “Singing Songs”).

“That’s actually one of the elements that I’m most concerned about, is the song order,” Lang says. “I don’t get too conscious of steering the other facets of making the record, but that’s one of the things I’m conscious of.”

Lang co-produced “Signs” with Drew Ramsey and Shannon Sanders (with an assist from Josh Kelly on “Bring Me Back Home”), the same group he’d worked with in “Turn Around.” Lang says the familiarity among the three men helped the music gel nicely.

“After so many years, you meet a lot of people who do what you do and who you feel like you would get along with for a particular project,” he says, “and I’ve been so lucky to meet amazing people and musicians and get to know a lot of them. Drew and Shannon, we’re friends, and with all the people I work with now, whether it’s on the road or in the studio, it’s more about the hang. It’s about the friendship and the sense of community. It’s a family thing, and then out of that, great music gets made from that.”

One of the surprising things about the “great music” is how much of it was built in the studio rather than planned out beforehand. In a video clip accompanying the release of “Signs,” Lang, Ramsey, Sanders, and the band often seem to be trying ideas on the spur of the moment, throwing different ideas at a song to see what works. As it turns out, that’s just how Lang works best.

“A long time ago, I remember the feeling of, ‘I’m scared to fail, and I’m scared to fail in front of people I respect,’” he says, “and it’s hard to let go of that. But one of the fun things is that I’ve learned to trust that. I just step off the cliff. And luckily, you’re not stepping off the edge of the cliff to your death; you can try it over and over again in the studio. You do that enough times you learn to trust your instincts and flow with it.”
Jonny Lang w/ Doyle Bramhall II

When: Sunday, Feb. 25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Peace Center, 300 S. Main St., Greenville
Tickets: $35-$55
Info: 864-467-3000, https://www.peacecenter.org/

Chris White’s ‘Electric Jesus’ screenplay is a love letter to 1980s Christian hair-metal

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Chris White’s screenplay might bear the potentially controversial title “Electric Jesus,” but the Greenville producer, actor, and writer has actually created an homage to an oft-maligned subgenre of an oft-maligned genre: the Christian hair-metal of the late 1980s, made most popular by bands like Stryper and Petra. The fictional teenage band at the center of the screenplay, which has been chosen as a finalist at this year’s Film Festival, is called 316, a group that piles on the hairspray and spandex while quoting Scripture.

The story is neither a parody like “This Is Spinal Tap,” nor a straight-ahead musical. White, who has developed the screenplay over four years with an eye on shooting the film this summer, calls it a “band movie.”

“Band movies tend to be about the joy of creation hitting a wall of disappointment or failure,” White says, “with the band ultimately either pushing through and succeeding or collapsing and realizing later that there was still intrinsic value in what they were doing.”

The story follows the band and its soundman Eric, the protagonist, as they leave a gig at a church one night in 1986 with an unexpected stowaway: the pastor’s daughter, Sarah.

“The movie starts, and we see the main character as an adult,” White says. “He’s just pulled up to a funeral and he’s about to go in, and he flashes back to the summer of ’86. We meet the band, and a girl sneaks off with the band. They’re playing at a church and they get down the road and discover that Sarah is in the van. And Eric falls for Sarah. And ultimately, we find that the story is actually about Sarah, about her life and career.”

In its fully realized form, “Electric Jesus” will feature cover songs by Stryper and original songs by Daniel Smith. “Like any kids that wanted to be a Christian hair-metal band, they have had some Stryper in their repertoire,” White says. “But there are spots in the movie for three original songs by Daniel, and I wrote lyrics. It’s not a parody, but the Christian theology of a 15-year-old writing a song in 1986 might be … sentimental and confused, let’s put it that way.”

White, who has more than 20 film and television credits as an actor, producer, director, and writer, got his inspiration from a childhood spent in a Southern Baptist church youth group in Columbia. “Part of being in that culture was listening to contemporary Christian music,” he says. “I’m not looking down on these characters, but at the same time there’s a kid with big hair with his makeup running and tight pants who’s reading Scripture, because it’s 1986.”

White’s ultimate goal is to make an independent film entirely in South Carolina, not just because it’s his home, but because he says the state’s tax incentives are tailor-made for indie films with a $2-$6 million budget.

“I’m a film artist that’s also a producer,” he says. “If you gave me a screenplay you wrote, my job is to try to figure out how to make the movie in a way that it makes money and we all get paid. And South Carolina has great film incentives. For me, for this project, the way the incentives work is perfect. You get cash rebates from the state to the tune of about 20 to 30 percent of what you spend. If your investors are from South Carolina, they get a tax credit. It’s the perfect place to make a $2-$6 million movie. And what surprises me is that the tax credit has been in existence for 10 years and no one’s ever used it. These are great incentives, and people aren’t taking advantage of them.”

White hopes that he can use the screenplay’s appearance in the Beaufort Film Festival, which began on Wednesday, Feb. 21, as part of his pitch to potential investors.

“It’s the best film festival in South Carolina, maybe in the region,” he says. “Just getting in and being a part of it is great. But if I’m doing meetings with investors and I want to persuade them that this is a viable project, this is something I want them to know about. The fact that we have the honor of being a finalist means that I can go to somebody who’s about to write a check and say, ‘This really awesome film festival thinks it’s great, too.’”

A collection of Cuban art that has traveled to 14 cities lands in Greenville to kick off Upstate International Month

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Taken in together, the images are stunning. The 300-plus paintings in the Clyde Hensley Collection are kaleidoscopic in color and style, fitting for a collection created by 16 different artists. The artists, all Cuban, draw on surrealism, impressionism, and expressionism, styles that were popular in past decades but have only recently rippled into Cuba. They portray everyday scenes, like a couple holding each other close in a forest, or a busy group of fishermen knee-deep in the ocean, or two musicians playing guitar and maracas in a field. But the variations in style are numerous.

There are the hyperrealist individual portraits of Antonio Ferrer Cabello, an elder of the Santiago art community who passed away eight years ago. Then there are the more abstract works of Roel Caboverde Llacer, whose figures seem stretched and contracted as if in a fun-house mirror. Jeho Rodriguez’s acrylics seem almost like stained-glass windows, with fractured pieces of light shining through the depictions of a woman holding two doves close to her heart or a fisherman and his wife nearly buried in the day’s catch.

These paintings will all be on display at the Artists Guild Gallery on Main Street in Greenville starting on March 1, as part of an event called Caliente Cuba. The event is co-organized by Upstate International, a nonprofit started 20 years ago to help engage incoming international families in the Upstate, and the World Affairs Council, an independent, nonpartisan organization dedicated to engaging the public with information about America’s international role and policy choices. It’s the kickoff to a month of cultural, educational activities throughout the city.

In addition to the exhibit, Caliente Cuba will feature a performance of Afro-Cuban jazz music by the Greenville Jazz Collective and authentic Cuban cuisine provided by La Habana restaurant. But the focus will be on the dazzling array of artwork, and what’s perhaps most fascinating about the exhibit is that its debut in Greenville was something of a happy accident.

“We’d been wanting to do a Cuban event, and God and nature put Rob Rowen here,” says Tracie Frese, the executive director of Upstate International and the World Affairs Council’s Upstate chapter.

Rowen is both a member of the World Affairs Council and president of the Global Action Coalition, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) devoted to promoting world peace through humanitarian aid. He also recently moved to the Upstate from Florida, where he was an art gallery owner. In that capacity, Rowen came to own the Hensley Collection, which has traveled to 14 cities around the country. How he came to have this collection is a story unto itself.

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The story

Among other interests throughout his life, Clyde Hensley, born in Norfolk, Va., developed a passion for art. As part of a cultural exchange and humanitarian aid program, Hensley was allowed brief visits to Cuba, which began in the mid-1990s.

Hensley discovered a treasure trove of undiscovered artists in his travels, artists who were in desperate need of supplies. In fact, they were creating their work on scraps of cardboard and making their own paint.

To help these artists, Hensley created the Eastern Cuba Cultural Exchange Association. Now licensed through the government’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, Hensley was able to take in supplies and take out art, paying the artists for their work.

We’ll let Rob Rowen pick up the story from there.

“I was in the art business for 35 years, and I owned one of the largest galleries in the Tampa Bay area,” he says. “And about seven years ago I met a friend [Hensley] who had a collection of Cuban art. This was a man who was a fisherman, who would go to east Cuba, as this American who was allowed to go there, and he brought canvases and paints and did things to support these artists he found in east Cuba. Since he didn’t talk politics, and was checked out by the secret police, they let him go back and forth, and he amassed this huge collection of art.”

Rowen has noticed a growing interest in Cuba as the country’s relationship with the U.S. ebbed and flowed during the Obama and Trump administrations.

“Obviously in Florida, there’s a connection,” he says. “But I can’t tell you how many people have said, ‘I want to go there,’ or ‘I have been there.’ There’s this fascination that’s spurred the movement of people being interested in buying Cuban art.”

But any exhibit or sale of Cuban art would have to be nongovernment, because the administrations of the United States and Cuba have long been reluctant to work together. So Hensley had what amounted to a once-in-a-lifetime collection, especially as then-President Barack Obama’s more open approach to Cuba gave way to President Donald Trump’s more stringent policies. Trump left some of Obama’s loosened restrictions regarding travel and tourism in place, but significantly reduced the ability of American businesses to work with Cuban ones.

“He had this collection in 15 or 16 different styles,” Rowen says. “And it traveled the country for four years.”

Ultimately, rather than simply having the collection on loan, Rowen decided to make a move. “I ended up buying the whole collection, over 300 pieces,” he says. “I mentioned the collection to Tracie, and that’s how this all happened. Hopefully, this will help people move away from the politics of Cuba and see them as people.”

 

The origins of Upstate International Month

Frese says the collection and the kickoff itself are great introductions to what Upstate International’s role is today.

“We started out with language classes and relocation help and groups for traveling spouses,” she says, “and we still have all of that, but over the years we grew into more cultural programming and classes, and about five years ago we decided that we really needed to find a way to help South Carolinians engage in those global cultures that are now here. The question was, ‘How do we celebrate it?’”

That’s where the concept of Upstate International Month was born.

“It’s a community collaboration for the month of March where we go find businesses and civic groups and other organizations to do some sort of international activity,” Frese says. “That can be anything from bilingual story time at the libraries, cooking sessions at local restaurants, or the Peace Center bringing in international performances. This is going to be our sixth year in March. Last year we partnered with 60 different groups to do 116 different activities, things that people could taste, try, see, experience from all over the world, right here.”

Upstate International teamed with the World Affairs Council two years ago when Frese says they noticed a gap in their programming. “We were trying to get people to engage in foreign policy and global events and current issues,” she says, “so we started looking at the World Affairs Council of America. The WAC Upstate programming focuses on bringing international experts, distinguished speakers, events on hot topics like NAFTA, and bringing them to a broad public base. We’ll do a distinguished speaker one evening, and maybe take an expert to Clemson or Furman for discussions. These are events that wouldn’t normally be open to the public. So we are happy to be part of a system that’s dedicated to this type of educational programming.”

And much like the focus of the Hensley exhibit itself, Frese emphasizes that Upstate International serves no political purpose.

“We’re completely nonpolitical and nonpartisan,” she says. “It’s more about topics and ideas. In the case of Cuba, Rob and I were talking about how over the course of the political crisis, people have started learning more about Cuba’s rich history and are curious and there are lots of restrictions, so how do you learn more about it? And we think one way is to engage culturally through food, art, and music.”

 

Caliente Cuba: A Night of Hot Art and Cool Culture

When: March 1, 6-9 p.m.
Where: Artists Guild Gallery, 200 N. Main St.
Tickets: $30 for UI/WACU members, $40 for nonmembers
Info: https://upstateinternational.org/event/save-date-international-month-kickoff/

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