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Monday, October 22, 2018

Library looks to purchase property to replace Pelham Road branch

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More than six months after opening a long-awaited branch in the Five Forks area of Simpsonville and a month into work to expand its Greer branch, the Greenville County Library System is now turning its attention to Pelham Road.

The Pelham Road branch opened in 1990 and is the library system’s oldest facility. It is also too small for the area it serves, is at capacity for programming, and doesn’t have room on the site to accommodate the significant expansion it needs.

“Pelham Road is the branch that has the greatest current and future need for expansion,” said Beverly James, the library system’s executive director.

The library system is considering buying property 1.5 miles from the current Pelham Road location. It is performing due diligence now and should know by mid-November whether the $4.85 million purchase will go through, James said. The library has enough money in its capital fund to cover the purchase, but would have to save money for a couple of years before any construction could begin, she said. But James noted that several potential sites for the recently opened Five Forks branch fell through before the library system bought the Sunnydale Drive and Woodruff Road property in 2013, two decades after a Woodruff Road branch was first talked about. Construction of that branch didn’t start until 2016, and the facility opened in March.

When the Pelham Road branch was built, it had no computers, said Greg Hester, the library’s operations manager. In addition, the branch’s collection could be enlarged if there were more space, he said.

The new Pelham Road branch would include additional conference and study space, separate space for teens, additional space for programs, and quiet rooms.

“Once upon a time, libraries were quiet places, but they’ve become noisy, busy, active places,” James said.

James said that while systemwide demand for print has declined over the last several years because of an increase in online availability, there is still a need for more library space.

The library fills a need for free meeting space for nonprofits; computers and computer classes; programming for children from babies to teenagers; adult classes; and access to the internet and free Wi-Fi, James said.

“We fill the gap between the digital haves and the digital have-nots,” she said.

The rise of digital probably has helped the library system with its space needs, Hester said. “If everything was still in print, we couldn’t fit it all in the building,” he said.

For those who doubt the need for more library space, James said she invites them to visit the children’s area of the Five Forks branch.

“We can’t keep books on the shelves in the children’s room,” she said. “To help meet the demand, instead of storing the children’s books from Greer during construction, we’ve put them in Five Forks.”

Library officials knew the Five Forks branch would be popular, but usage has exceeded their expectations, James said. The branch averages 4,400 visits per week and an average of 17,282 items borrowed per week.

The $4.99 million Greer branch expansion should be completed in fall 2019.

Greenville Library System by the numbers

1990

Year the Pelham Road branch opened, making it the oldest of the Greenville Library System’s facilities.

194,661

Visits to the Pelham Road branch during fiscal year 2018.

279,626

Items borrowed from the Pelham Road branch during fiscal year 2018.

483,913

Items borrowed from the Five Forks branch in the Simpsonville area since it opened on March 25.

44 percent

Increase in items borrowed from the Taylors branch each week since the Jean M. Smith branch in Greer closed in late July for renovation and expansion.

12,053

Square footage of the Pelham Road branch, about half the size it needs to be, according to a 2011 master library facilities study by Craig Gaulden Davis.

245

Average number of adult and children’s programs offered in library facilities per month.

Source: Greenville County Library System

‘Anastasia’ shares message of strength, perseverance

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Christy Altomare, Derek Klena and the original Broadway Cast of Anastasia, Photo by Matthew Murphy.

“Anastasia,” the Broadway musical based on the 1997 film, will premiere in Greenville on Oct. 23. As the show comes to the Upstate, one of its producers will come full circle and back to her roots.

Anderson native Sally Cade Holmes, one of the producers, remembers well her first experience with theater in the Peace Center.

“I distinctly remember one moment when the set moved, a ship came out over the audience, and I thought it was the most magical experience that I had ever had,” she recalls. “I don’t even remember how old I was, but it was so spectacular.”

It was a South Carolina Children’s Theatre production of “The Little Mermaid,” and she says it sparked for her what would become a lifelong interest in theater.

She became active in the Anderson community theater scene and her passion for theater grew. She then went to St. Joseph’s Catholic School where she was encouraged to pursue a path in the arts.

“I became really involved in the theater department there and also at SCCT,” Holmes says. “From there I started looking at colleges for theater because my school theater program was supportive and made it seem like a viable field of study and something that I could actually make a career of.”

Holmes says she is excited to bring the story of “Anastasia” to Greenville because it resonates with her personally. “Anastasia” tells the story of a Russian orphan, Anya, who travels across Russia and Europe to Paris in hopes of uncovering the secrets of her past. Anya is unlike the Disney princesses and damsels in distress of many other stories.

“What is so amazing to me is that she [Anya] changes everyone she comes into contact with and makes them a better person, while still charting her own path,” Holmes says. “She’s a heroine; she’s not just a princess, she’s a badass princess.

“I am just thrilled to be able to share a story that I’m so passionate about with my home community and the people I grew up with,” she continues. “And the fact that it’s a story about a strong woman in particular and I know so many strong women in the South, it’s so exciting for me to share this story in particular.”

Holmes says the audience can expect to hear songs from the beloved films and a story that is similar, but can also expect surprises and twists.

“The show is different than the film,” Holmes says. “I like to say that the musical grew up with the audiences of the film.”

She explains they have breathed new life into the show so it feels like a new story in many ways.

“What I really appreciate about what this creative team has done, they have kind of placed it in reality,” Holmes says. “They don’t shy away from the historical element. But it still thrives on that really fun, exciting, comedic, big music numbers, and dance. It has some of the most exciting production elements that I’ve ever seen. The set is spectacular, our costumes are beyond amazing. It’s everything you loved about the films and then some.”

Audiences can expect to see amazing costumes in settings from imperial Russia to the roaring ’20s in Paris.

“I think our audiences can expect to be wildly entertained, visually stimulated in a way that no other show has done,” Holmes says.

The show utilizes projectors and screens in a unique way and brings the set to life.

Holmes says she is proud of the show in every way, and bringing it to the place that cultivated her love of theater is icing on the cake. Bringing it home, and sharing the message of strength and perseverance with audiences, especially girls, is what Holmes is most looking forward to about the tour, and particularly its time in Greenville.

“I truly believe the fact that this show is about a young woman who chooses her own destiny, and watching audiences and especially young women leave the theater feeling that same excitement and energy about blazing their own path — I think that has been the most exciting and rewarding thing about working on this show,” Holmes says.


If you go

  • What: “Anastasia”
  • When: Oct. 23-28
  • Where: The Peace Center
  • Tickets: Starting at $35
  • Info: www.peacecenter.org

Greenville County Schools re-evaluating IB programs at 3 high schools

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Source: iStock.

Administrators with Greenville County Schools are working to determine whether to keep Woodmont High School’s International Baccalaureate program, and in a year, they’ll evaluate the IB programs at Greer and Travelers Rest high schools as well.

The IB program uses a set of standards in its courses accepted at participating schools across the globe, and IB courses in high school are generally accepted as college credits at higher education institutions.

The program was introduced in Greenville County Schools at Southside High School in 1987. Woodmont High was the second school to get approval from the district for the program in 2002, followed by Greer High School and Traveler’s Rest High School in 2003. The district is not considering axing Southside’s IB program.

Teri Brinkman, executive director of strategic communications and engagement, said all three schools’ programs were planned to be evaluated next year, but since Woodmont High has a new principal this year, it made sense to move the evaluation up.

“The process with Woodmont High School was moved a year earlier because we had a principal change and the new principal would need to go through IB certification, which is a process that takes time and money,” Brinkman said. “We saw no reason to do that if there was a chance that the IB program would be discontinued and their focus would be moved to something else.”

But Brinkman wanted to make one thing clear — the district has no plans of discontinuing the IB programs and pulling those resources. If the IB program gets pulled, it will be because the community and administration express interest in another program, she said.

Enrollment in the IB programs at the three schools has fluctuated year-over-year. Currently, Woodmont has 10 students enrolled in the full diploma program, Greer High has 14, Traveler’s Rest has four, and Southside has seven.

But the schools have a higher number of students enrolled in at least one IB class who are not in the full diploma program.

The district allocates about $249,000 to Woodmont for the IB program for two full-time positions, dues, supplies, testing, and professional development — though not all of the professional development funds are used every year, Brinkman said.

Lisa Wells, Greenville County Schools board member who represents the Woodmont High area, said she’s heard people from the community on both sides of the argument — some want to keep the program while others want the school to take a different focus.

Valerie Sandoval, a 2016 graduate of Woodmont’s IB program, said it helped prepare her for Emory University, where she’s currently a junior.

“This school has people from all over, not just in the U.S., but internationally,” Sandoval said. “So originally I was a little worried my public school education from South Carolina wouldn’t be up to par with some of these private schools that a lot of these students here went to, but saying that I took IB kind of put me on the same level.”

For Sandoval, having IB differentiates Woodmont from other high schools — taking classes where the emphasis was not on one final exam at the end of the year, but on projects throughout the year, made her feel like she was on a level playing field with her peers in college.

“AP is great, but they only test you with the one exam at the end of the year,” Sandoval said. “[IB] helps you to learn it in a more holistic way than just taking an exam at the end, because writing all those long, internal assessments helps with your writing skills, and it helps with your speaking skills.”

Wells said she’s been an advocate of the IB program for years — her own children have been enrolled in the classes — but she wants the high school to have a strong focus the community can get behind with ideally higher enrollment, whether that’s IB or something else.

“I know these guys aren’t trying to cut something away from the community that the community needs, it’s just trying to make sure we recalibrate and align to the community needs, to the high academic rigor, and the options the students want,” Wells said.

The district has already had a community meeting at the high school, received faculty input, and administered a survey about the program. The next steps will be to look at the data, discuss the results with the community in November — tentatively planned for Nov. 15 — and make a recommendation to the board sometime in December or January.

Unearthing the past: Furman reckons with its early leadership

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Senior Chelsea McKelvey (left) is one of the students on Furman University's Task Force on Slavery and Justice, which was started by Provost George Shields (right).

It was Dec. 19, 1860, when a young student at Furman University gathered with a group of friends who called themselves “The Invisibles” to torment a Jewish man before running him out of town.

As he wept, they shaved his head, cut his ear, and told him to leave Greenville.

“He cried like a baby the whole time, and the whole recurrence was quite amusing,” the student later wrote about the incident.

Photocopies of a few of the tattered, yellowing pages of the student’s diary sit encased at Furman University’s Special Collections and Archives.

Scrawled in wispy handwriting, the diary described its owner’s days while a student at the school — how much his uncle’s slave sold for, and how his professor, James C. Furman, let his class out early so they could witness a hanging.

The macabre text sits in Furman’s archives in a collection of documents and photographs that reveal much about the university’s beginnings and the role slaves played in it, as well as some hard truths about the school’s early leadership.

Furman’s introspection is intentional — it started two years ago when a rising senior wrote an op-ed in the student newspaper with the headline “Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation: What is the Furman Legacy?” calling on the school to acknowledge its past use of slaves and the blemished aspects of the founder and first president’s legacy.

An 1890 photo of James C. Furman’s Cherrydale House. Abraham Sims can be seen standing between the bushes at the side of the porch. Photo provided by Furman University.

George Shields, who had just been named provost four months prior, read the op-ed and within a year, the school formed its Task Force on Slavery and Justice.

Reflection is a large part of the purpose of the task force — to magnify segments of the university’s past that were once overlooked.

“My philosophy is we should be as transparent as possible,” Shields said. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

“Kicking and screaming”

Chelsea McKelvey, a senior at Furman who is on the school’s task force, said she’s proud of the university for exposing its history and making an effort to provide some semblance of justice for past wrongs.

“Reflection is what this entire report is based upon,” McKelvey said. “And since we have the collaboration of the faculty and the staff and the students and the administration, I think we’re all getting a chance to reflect on what the university was about then, what it’s about now, and what it will be about in the future.”

Chelsea McKelvey is a senior at Furman University who was on the school’s Task Force on Slavery and Justice.

In contrast to Furman’s initiative, a nearly commonplace pattern has emerged in academia — students and occasionally faculty decry a controversial figure memorialized on campus, the institution’s officials seem to turn a blind eye publicly, and students continue to protest until the school takes action. Sometimes, students take matters into their own hands.

Two recent examples include the student-led toppling of Silent Sam at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in August, and Yale University’s decision last year to drop the name “Calhoun College” in favor of “Hopper College” after years of broken stained-glass windows and clashes with its student body.

John C. Calhoun and Silent Sam are just two figures linked to periods of strife in the nation — Calhoun a staunch supporter of slavery who died a decade before the Civil War, and Silent Sam a bronze representation of a Confederate soldier.

“I’ve always thought we do a terrible job of teaching history in this country,” Shields said. “In middle school, in social studies, they gloss over the fact that we exterminated most of the Native American Indians, and we gloss over slavery and the consequences of that long period after slavery ended before the Civil Rights Movement.”

Those two stains on American history are important to understanding the world today, Shields said.

“If we don’t address them and think hard about them, we could end up making the same kind of mistakes later on,” he said.

According to Shields, the biggest mistake school officials can make when students start looking into an institution’s tarnished past is to dig their heels in.

“They’re protesting, and they’re dragging the administration kicking and screaming into dealing with their past,” Shields said.

“A false opinion”

While Richard Furman, the university’s namesake, is a controversial figure in the school’s history — he wrote a moral defense of slavery for the Southern Baptist Convention in 1823 — perhaps more cloaked in racist rhetoric was his son, James C. Furman.

A stained glass window portrays James C. Furman, Furman University’s first president, in the Administration Building.

James C. Furman was a student at the college and later a professor before becoming its first president. He and the school’s board, along with the Southern Baptist Convention, were a big part of the decision to move Furman from Winnsboro to Greenville in 1851, a year after U.S. census data shows he owned 56 slaves.

Richard Furman’s moral justification for slavery in the early 1800s was a reversal of his original anti-slavery views, and it was the main defense religious leaders pointed to in their arguments against abolition. In his letter on behalf of the convention, he said slavery was justified in the Bible and that it was in the “religious interests of Negroes.”

Letters written by James C. Furman just before South Carolina seceded showed harsher, more jarring views on black lives and slavery.

“A false opinion, that contradicts common sense, contradicts all history, contradicts the Bible, has rooted itself into the Northern mind,” James C. Furman wrote in a letter to Greenville residents on Nov. 22, 1860. “That false opinion is, that every man is born free and equal.”

James C. warned that abolishing slavery would lead to “the marriage of your daughters to black husbands,” “hordes of marauders,” and scenes of “brutal lust.”

Early financial records show the school’s leadership relied on slaves — not only to build many of its facilities and pick cotton to increase its earnings, but also to keep watch over its women’s college.

Hidden figures

The cover of the task force’s report is a grainy photo of Abraham Sims, who was once a slave at James C. Furman’s Cherrydale House.

The cover of the report done by Furman University’s Task Force on Slavery and Justice.

Sims was tucked in the background of the original photo of the Cherrydale House and blown up as the focal point for the task force’s report.

There are few records not only of Sims’ life, but of any of the slaves who were fundamental to the school’s existence.

This semester, the task force’s report has become a presence across the campus — student and faculty forums have been held to discuss its findings, and one of the university’s freshman writing seminar classes has chosen to use it for archival research.

The students have started uncovering more about Sims’ life than even the report unveiled.

Emily Little, a freshman in the writing seminar class, discovered his death certificate and definitive birth year — which was five years off in the task force’s report.

“It makes you want to find out more,” Little said. “I want to find out more about Abraham, but to find out more about him, I have to go through his kids.”

The purpose of the class isn’t to fact check the report, but to examine aspects of the school’s shrouded history and search for any information on its once-hidden figures.

Righting wrongs

In the university’s quest to reflect and atone for its early leadership’s injustices, the task force came up with 19 recommendations to “reckon with the past, repair the harm, and create increasing justice in each generation.”

There are four primary types of recommendations in the report — ones to change the physical landscape, such as a statue of the first black student; financial investments, such as scholarships for minority students; educational practices, such as implementing the report in classrooms; and community awareness, such as events promoting the erased history of the school’s former slaves.

Joseph Vaughn, Furman University’s first black student, walks on campus in 1965. Photo provided by Furman University.

Shields said the university is on board with the recommendations — if all of them aren’t accomplished, he’s certain the spirit of them will be met.

“Now that we have the report, I don’t want this to be a document that just goes on a shelf,” Shields said. “I want us to keep using it.”

Adding more money to minority scholarships in place of a physical plaque would be an example, Shields said, of honoring the spirit of the requests, if not the letter.

But ultimately, it’s up to Furman’s board of trustees to determine if most of the recommendations will be implemented.

It’s not lost on administrators that the report comes from a university with historically low enrollment for black students. Last fall, 8.1 percent of the university’s 703 freshmen students were black. This fall, the rate dropped to 6.3 percent of 711 freshmen students.

“When we desegregated in 1965, we haven’t really made the campus look like it’s a diverse campus. So we have no statues of black people,” Shields said. “So reckoning with this is saying, how do we make sure we’re more inclusive as a community?”

Diversifying the university’s students and faculty is a priority, Shields said — although the college’s African-American enrollment has remained relatively low, its total nonwhite enrollment has jumped in recent years to more than 21 percent.

“We’re making good strides there, trying to have what we call ‘inclusive excellence,’ where we welcome everybody and try to be the best place we can be and give the support that everybody needs to be successful,” Shields said.

Eye in the sky: Greenville police could soon add a drone

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The Greenville Police Department could join a growing number of law enforcement agencies that use drones to help catch criminals, find missing persons, and even help in accident investigations.

“It’s a helicopter without a pilot,” police Chief Ken Miller said.

Miller said the unmanned aircraft systems could be used by other city departments such as the fire department and public works for inspecting hard-to-access areas or for structural inspections.

He wants to use $34,796 from the U.S. Department of Justice Edward Byrne Justice Assistance grant to help purchase unmanned aircraft systems and the required peripheral equipment.

Miller said the equipment wouldn’t be purchased until a policy is in place for its use citywide and within the police department, probably by late winter or early spring.

The drone would be outfitted with heat-detection equipment that would help authorities canvass areas when there’s a search, he said. Miller said a drone with a forward-looking infrared camera would have helped the department when it was looking for a child who ran away in the Augusta Circle area and hid. He said that although the child was found in the containment zone the department had set up, it took multiple hours because the child was hiding.

Miller said anybody who pilots the unmanned aircraft system would have to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. He said every mission would be recorded and documentation would note who operated the drone, how long it was flown, and what the result was.

The chief said the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office’s unmanned aircraft system was flown during protests in front of the Confederate soldier monument at Springwood Cemetery in August 2017.

Miller said the U.S. Supreme Court has clear restrictions on how drones can be used by law enforcement. He said that except in public spaces such as parks and streets, police couldn’t use unmanned aircraft systems to further an investigation without obtaining a search warrant.

Public safety drones by the numbers

910

State and local public safety agencies in the U.S. that have drones.

2x

More law enforcement agencies in U.S. own drones than manned aircraft.

28

States that have at least one statewide public safety agency with drones.

17

South Carolina public safety agencies that own drones.

1

Public safety agency in Greenville County that owns a drone (Greenville County Sheriff’s Office).

Source: Bard College Center for the Study of the Drone

Mill Town Players brings unique twist to ‘Romeo and Juliet’

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Kat Bates is portraying Juliet. Photo by Will Crooks

Mill Town Players, based in Pelzer, will put an Appalachian twist on the classic love story of “Romeo and Juliet” in its 2018-19 season.

The Mill Town Players version of “Romeo and Juliet” is inspired by the Hatfield and McCoy feud of 1880s Appalachia, where the son and daughter from two feuding families similarly fell in love. Though the two eras might seem different, they actually have a number of striking connections within the stories.

According to director Christopher Rose, “Linguists say that the Appalachian dialect is the closest remaining dialect to the sounds that would have been spoken in Shakespeare’s England; the rhythm of the speech is very close to the Appalachian ballads.”

These little-known similarities made the connection between Renaissance Italy and 1880s Appalachia achievable for the cast and crew. Rose has been involved in the Upstate theater scene since 1995. This will be his third time directing for Mill Town Players, the others being “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Of Mice and Men.”

Rose knows that “Romeo and Juliet” is a huge part of culture around the world, and arguably the most famous love story of all time, so breathing new life into it is both a challenge and an opportunity.

The two worlds are inherently different. Verona is a place of wealth and indulgence in Renaissance Italy, while Appalachia faces issues of spousal abuse and alcoholism, Rose says.

“Moving something by 300 years and a different continent is always going to bring challenges,” Rose says. “You have two very rich lords and their families in Verona; that doesn’t translate to Appalachia, so sometimes you use sarcasm to take the text and make it something different.”

Because this show will be featured in the South Carolina Theatre Association Community Theatre Festival state competition in November, the show must be under 60 minutes, which meant speeding up the action of the play to be more succinct. Other creative changes include turning the character of Mercutio into a female.

“We have cast Mercutio as a female character rather than a male to kind of build a different kind of relationship between Romeo, Mercutio, and Juliet than is typical,” Rose says. “There’s a little bit more of a love triangle. There’s some fun to be had there.”

Additionally, the roles of Friar Lawrence and the prince have been merged into one, based on an actual Hatfield and McCoy storyline Rose found through research.

“During that time in Appalachia, typically the magistrates [leaders] in these little townships were the pastors of the churches, and there was a particular case where the McCoys had sued the Hatfields over something, but the magistrate was a Hatfield; however, he found the case in favor of the McCoy family,” Rose explains. “It caused a huge disturbance among them and so we got the idea that we have these two characters in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ — we have Friar Lawrence who is kind of the spiritual leader of these families, and then we have the political leader in the prince — and so we thought we would merge these two characters into one. He passes judgment but also has to fulfill the needs as leader and mentor to these kids.”

With every change comes a deep respect for the original text, as well.

“I feel very strongly that I need to commit to the text; however, taking that text and being creative with it and breathing some life into it that may not have been there before, that is such an amazing opportunity, and I dive into that with a fierce kind of creative excitement,” Rose says.


If you go

  • What: “Romeo and Juliet”
  • When: Oct. 26-Nov. 2
  • Where: The Pelzer Auditorium, 214 Lebby St., Pelzer
  • Tickets: Starting at $10
  • Info: milltownplayers.org

‘Bluegrass and Big Band’: Greenville Chorale heads into uncharted musical waters for season opener

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The Chuck Nation Band will perform with the chorale during the fall concert | photo provided

In its 57-year history, the Greenville Chorale, an Upstate group of singers created to promote and celebrate choral music, has lent its voice to a lot of different material.

It’s taken on Beethoven and Verdi alongside Rodgers and Hammerstein, and chorale members have performed material by contemporary composers commissioned specifically for them. But for the season-opening Oct. 20 performance at the Peace Center, the Greenville Chorale is headed into some uncharted musical waters: It’s taking on bluegrass.

That doesn’t mean that you’ll hear “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” or “Orange Blossom Special” at the concert, which is called “Bluegrass and Big Band.” What you will hear instead is a piece called “Come Away to the Skies: A High Lonesome Mass.” The piece, a collaboration between Tim Sharp (executive director of the American Choral Directors Association) and composer-arranger Wes Ramsay, is scored for a choir and bluegrass band with fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar, upright bass, and drums played with brushes.

Over that homespun musical backing, the chorale will perform a wide-ranging set of music that mixes traditional Southern hymns such as “Do Lord Remember Me,” “Brethren We Have Met to Worship,” and “Brightest and Best” with individual sections of the Mass like “Kyrie,” “Gloria,” “Sanctus,” “Benedictus,” and more. For their performance, the chorale will be joined by the Chuck Nation Band, an Atlanta bluegrass ensemble that has played “Come Away to the Skies” more than 20 times, including a performance at Carnegie Hall.

The idea of performing “Come Away to the Skies” is one that the Greenville Chorale’s conductor, Bingham Vick, has held on to for several years, after performing another bluegrass Mass called “The World Beloved” with the 22 Herring Chamber Ensemble, a smaller group of singers pulled from the main chorale.

“‘The World Beloved’ was a very, very popular show, and I wanted to follow up on that,” Vick says. “And when I began doing research on ‘Come Away to the Skies,’ I discovered this band that has played it all over the country. So when I called Chuck Nation and asked him about playing here with his band, he was excited about coming to Greenville and playing at the Peace Center. I’m not a real bluegrass aficionado, but as we’ve been working on it the chorale has really been enjoying it. It’s a different kind of singing style from what we’re used to.”

The second half of the “Bluegrass and Big Band” concert will feature works from legendary big-band composer and bandleader Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, a series of commissioned pieces that Ellington performed in the late 1960s and early 1970s at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York, and Westminster Abbey in London.

For that section of the concert, the chorale will be joined by the Greenville Jazz Collective Big Band.

“The Duke Ellington music is Ellington at his finest,” Vick says. “Over a period of 10 years or so, Ellington applied his finest jazz understanding to these sacred, spiritual texts that had meaning to him.”

Vick says he sees common ground between these two disparate musical styles because both of them are uniquely American.

“Putting together two really native American musical styles on one program seemed like an interesting project,” he says. “The bluegrass style grew out of Appalachia, and jazz grew out of New Orleans, and here are two great American musical traditions that are related in their impact but quite different in their sound.”

Vick is excited about the Ellington portion of the concert, but he sounds most intrigued by the bluegrass Mass section.

“I enjoyed doing something different,” he says. “We’re accustomed to doing great classical choral orchestral music, and for the bluegrass Mass we can sort of relax a bit. The style is a little less formal. I told the chorale that singing a bluegrass Mass is simply a different way of expressing a spiritual message.”


  • What: The Greenville Chorale presents “Bluegrass and Big Band”
  • When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20
  • Where: Peace Center, 300 S. Main St., Greenville
  • Tickets: $20, $40
  • Info: 864-467-3000; https://www.peacecenter.org/

When it’s all said and done, Unity Park cost could total nearly $73 million

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Unity Park is expected to span 60 acres. Rendering provided by City of Greenville / MKSK

If the city’s ultimate vision for Unity Park is realized, the signature project could have a total price tag of nearly $73 million.

Construction of the park could begin next October, a consultant working on the project told Greenville City Council members on Monday.

The park plan includes restoration of nearly a half mile of the Reedy River, a signature 10-story observation tower, a pedestrian bridge, a destination playground, a sprayground water feature, a great lawn and a boardwalk through a wetland. The plan also includes improvements to Hudson Street.

“The park is a major component but the infrastructure and river restoration is valuable independent of the park features,” said Darren Meyer, principal of MKSK, the landscape and urban planning firm working on the master plan for the park and the surrounding area.

And while the price tag sounds hefty, Mayor Knox White said the vast majority of the money will come from tourism-related taxes and private money, not property-tax dollars. The amount of private money raised will determine whether some amenities will be built, White said.

“There are elements of this park that we may never do,” he said.

The park’s green space, children’s play areas and river restoration would create a wow factor even if nothing else is built, White said.

Interim Assistant City Manager Matt Efird said the city has already spent about $10 million, most of it on land acquisition and planning.

Some of the park’s larger features — the closing off of Welborn Street to create a public square at $4.7 million, a visitor’s center for $3.8 million, a $3.9 million pedestrian bridge, a $3.1 million destination playground, a $2.03 million water feature, a great lawn and shelters at $1.92 million, improvements to the Swamp Rabbit Trail at nearly $1 million — would be paid for through hospitality tax money.

Kai Nelson, the city’s Office of Budget and Management director, said bonding the city’s hospitality tax would yield $27 million. But including $1.25 million in private funding already secured, funding for the projects falls about $2.8 million short. Mayor Knox White said he’s confident that gap can be closed by value engineering.

Private funds would pay for a 10-story observation tower that is expected to cost $6.9 million. Hughes Agency has received a verbal commitment of $1.5 million for the tower. The agency has verbal commitments for another $1.25 million for wetlands restoration, walking paths, and the playground.

Hughes has already secured $1.25 million in signed commitments, including a $250,000 gift from Synnex for the destination playground. Other commitments include $500,000 each for the splashground and the pedestrian bridge, but the donors’ identities have yet to be announced.

The city will use $2.3 million from its commercial undergrounding fund to bury utility lines on Nassau Street, Welborn Street and a part of Hudson Street. A second phase, which would be funded by fiscal year 2021, would bury utility lines on Hudson from the Reedy River to Markley Street.

Demolition of the former public works facility on Hudson Street, estimated to cost $2.45 million, and river restoration work, estimated at $2.8 million, will come from the city’s stormwater fund. The city also has a $260,000 grant.

Nelson said funding sources have not been identified for $3.54 million of streetscape improvements for Hudson Street and another $2.8 million to create a vehicular entrance to the park from Meadow and Trescott streets.

“Hudson Street has got to be a great street,” Meyer said.

 

 

Former Gov. Dick Riley statue to be located in Peace Center plaza

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Greenville native Dick Riley, a former S.C. governor and secretary of education under President Bill Clinton, will be honored with a sculpture in a very public place — the plaza in front of the Peace Center.

The statue, designed by Greenville artist Zan Wells, who created downtown’s Mice on Main as well as the bronze statues of Joel Poinsett and Charles Townes, shows Riley reading a book to two children. The statue will be installed on one of the plaza’s seat walls.

The design is meant to honor Riley’s commitment to quality education for all children.

Former South Carolina governor and U.S. education secretary Dick Riley will be honored with a sculpture in downtown Greenville. Greenville artist Zan Wells designed the sculpture.

Greenville City Council voted to accept the statue from the Friends of Dick Riley sculpture committee. Frank Holleman, Riley’s former deputy at the U.S. Education Department, and Erwin Maddrey, a Greenville business leader, led the committee.

Riley was Clinton’s education secretary from 1993 to 2001, and governor of South Carolina from 1979 to 1987.

He was South Carolina’s first two-term governor in modern times, the Legislature and the state’s residents having voted to amend the state Constitution to allow Riley to serve a second term. Riley, who was known as South Carolina’s “Education Governor,” pushed for the passage of the Education Improvement Act of 1984, which is considered one of the most comprehensive and successful education-reform packages in America.

The agreement suggests that three flags be placed behind the statue — one each to honor Riley’s service to Greenville, South Carolina, and the United States.

Dick Riley’s accomplishments

  • First modern governor of South Carolina to serve two consecutive terms.
  • Led the passage of the Education Improvement Act of 1984, considered one of the most comprehensive and successful education reform packages in America.
  • Only South Carolinian to serve as governor and as a president’s Cabinet member.
  • Longest-serving U.S. secretary of education (eight years).
  • Named one of the Top 10 Best Cabinet Members in U.S. History by Time magazine in 2009.
  • Member of the South Carolina Hall of Fame.
  • Partner in the law firm of Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough.

Finalist for Greenville city manager withdraws from consideration

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One of the three finalists for Greenville’s city manager position has withdrawn from consideration, Mayor Knox White said.

Greenville officials were notified Monday that Charlotte Assistant City Manager Debra D. Campbell withdrew her application to pursue another opportunity, White said.

Jill Silverboard, deputy city manager in Clearwater, Florida, and Bryan C. Woods, assistant city manager in New Braunfels, Texas, are the remaining finalists.

They will be back in Greenville on Thursday for final interviews, which will include elected officials, community stakeholders, and the city’s senior leadership team.

Asheville is also looking for a city manager, and the Asheville Citizen-Times reported Monday afternoon that the Asheville City Council decided to expedite its search by skipping a planned public meet-and-greet with finalists and voting on a contract for a candidate on Wednesday.

Silverboard has served as Clearwater deputy city manager for 11 years. She served as city manager of Madeira Beach, Florida from 2004 to 2007.

As assistant city manager for New Braunfels, Woods is responsible for service delivery to more than 80,000 residents, direct management of 170 employees, coordination of the New Braunfels Economic Development Corporation and management and oversight of all capital improvement projects in the city. He’s also is responsible for management of the city’s real estate.

 

Expert advice for preserving nature’s gifts in our landscape

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By —

How important are trees to a community? Very.

Not only do trees provide shade in the summer months and a multitude of color in the fall, but, most importantly, they take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the air. They also add a tremendous amount of beauty to the landscape.

Unfortunately, trees can’t entirely take care of themselves, especially in an urban environment, so we must be good stewards of them. We asked Scott Carlson of Schneider Tree Care just how to go about that task.  

Q: Are the trees on my property safe to leave for family and neighbors?

A: About 70 percent to 75 percent of tree failures occur from pre-existing conditions. Having a qualified arborist check annually for cracks, cavities, mushroom growth, and structural defects helps identify issues before they become serious. The remaining 25 percent to 30 percent occur from unforeseen events like excess rain and wind, as well as ice storms. 

Q: How can a homeowner tell whether trees are healthy? 

A: Trees growing in an urban environment often have stresses that forest trees do not have. Looking at the leaf crown can give an idea of the general health. Checking for dead wood, proper leaf size, and color — especially at the top of the canopy and ends of the branches — can tell us what is going on with the tree.  

Q: What should a homeowner consider when planting trees? 

A: Consider the mature size of the tree and the space it has to grow, including consideration for overhead service wires. What do you want the tree to do: provide shade, fall color, spring or summer flowering, or aesthetics? Also, research to make sure that no chronic insect or disease issues are associated with that species. 

Q: Which type of mulch is best to use around trees? 

A: In a forest, trees naturally mulch themselves by dropping leaves in the fall. This leaf layer recycles nutrients and organic material, and helps hold moisture. In a yard, this process is usually interrupted when leaves are cleaned up in the fall. Therefore, any decaying organic material works to help hold moisture and start the process of nutrient recycling. This can be leaves, pine straw, or wood mulch.  

Q: When and how often should trees be pruned? Why is pruning necessary? 

A: A general pruning cycle for a tree is every three to five years, and can be done about any time. Reasons for pruning will be to remove dead limbs for safety and tree health, clearance from a structure, thinning to promote proper structure, and to open up the canopy to reduce wind resistance during storms. Thinning can also help reduce insect and disease issues since most insects like protection from the elements. 

Scott Carlson is an ISA Certified Arborist with Schneider Tree Care. Visit https://www.schneidertree.com/

Sound Bites: The Wood Brothers, Empire Strikes Brass, Seven Year Witch

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Seven Year Witch will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Radio Room. Photo provided

The Wood Brothers, with Nicole Atkins

  • When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25
  • Where: The Spinning Jenny, 107 Cannon St., Greer
  • Tickets: $25 in advance, $30 at door

The new album by The Wood Brothers, “One Drop of Truth,” dunks their rustic roots-rock Americana in a fresh coat of paint. The trio (siblings Oliver and Chris Wood and their multi-instrumentalist friend Jano Rix) move through skeletal low-down gospel-funk (“River Takes the Town”), loose-limbed organ-fueled rock (“Happiness Jones”) and raw acoustic folk (“Strange As It All Seems”) without breaking a sweat. Oliver Wood says that part of the reason for the band’s new stylistic flexibility is that for the first time, they recorded and released an album entirely on their own, using their own studio and their own label. “We’d been wanting to do it that way, but it’s not something we’d have been able to do 10 years ago,” he says. “But having worked hard for the last 10 years and built up a fan base and been able to do well touring, that allowed us to fund our own albums, and with all of those years’ worth of experience making records, we learned how to be producers. It’s  empowering to do that by ourselves and not be beholden to a record label and someone else’s budget. We were able to do it the way we wanted to do it.”

Empire Strikes Brass

  • When: 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25
  • Where: Gottrocks, 200 Eisenhower Drive, Greenville
  • Tickets: $8-$20

With their seven-man horn section and general party-time atmosphere, Empire Strikes Brass made a huge impact at the 2017 edition of Fall for Greenville, blasting out a high-energy set and then turning the area in front of the Peace Center into a makeshift New Orleans second-line parade, moving out into the audience and playing the last few songs in the midst of the crowd. Their surface similarities to bands like the Dirty Dozen might make them seem like a typical New Orleans-style brass band, but a closer look at their latest album, “Theme for a Celebration,” reveals a much more expansive sound, incorporating funk, rock, and jazz just as liberally as the sounds of the Big Easy. No need to worry about stylistic quirks when they perform live, though: This is propulsive good-time music no matter what genre it pulls from, and the group was born to crank it out onstage. Or, as last year proved, smack in the middle of the audience.

Seven Year Witch album release show, with Black River Rebels and Two takes

  • When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20
  • Where: Radio Room, 110 Poinsett Highway, Greenville
  • Tickets: $10

If some of the members of Seven Year Witch look familiar, it’s probably because they spent several years playing shows in the Upstate under the name Doc Holiday. But the Pendleton-based group decided on a name change for a couple of reasons. One was that a new lead guitarist, Daniel Parker, led the band from Southern-style hard-rock into a more down-the-line classic rock sound reminiscent of The Black Crowes. The other was that their original name put them in a crowded field. “There were a lot of other ‘Doc Holidays’ out there and it was hard to distinguish ourselves,” says singer Aaron Langford. “So the name Seven Year Witch kind of popped in our heads and we haven’t looked back.” The band’s new album, “Songs Our Mothers Love,” is 10 tracks of meat-and-potatoes rock recorded with producer/engineer Matt Washburn at LedBelly Sound Studio in Dawsonville, Georgia, and Langford says that, for the first time, the band has found its sound. We finally figured out what direction we’re going in and Matt helped bring it to life,” he says. “The more you write, the more you learn about what to do and what not to do, and we wanted to write something that we as musicians could really be proud of.”

Turkuaz brings infectiously danceable funk rock to Greenville Wednesday

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Turkuaz will play at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24 at The Firmament. Photo provided.

There’s a lot of George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic in the music, and the image, of the Brooklyn, New York, nine-piece band Turkuaz. The band plays an infectiously danceable brand of funk rock, and onstage, it’s a multicolored perpetual motion machine.

Turkuaz is a musical collective that seems to flood the stage with people, and the music is loose, but it never seems to spill over into sloppiness or lose the groove, just like Parliament-Funkadelic in its prime. But Turkuaz is similar to P-Funk on its studio albums, as well. In the 1970s, Clinton guided Funkadelic and — especially — Parliament through a series of concept albums that found the bands exploring the cosmos (“Mothership Connection”), living beneath the sea (“Aqua Boogie”) and battling with a dance-phobic supervillain (“Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk”).

Turkuaz has similarly explored some seriously conceptual territory on its albums. The fourth release, 2015’s “Digitonium,” is a 24-track opus inspired by Disney’s 1963 animated film “The Sword in the Stone.”

The band’s new record, “Life in the City,” is shorter at nine songs, but it’s just as conceptual, even if the theme is a little more reality-based.

“In the end, it proved to be its own concept record,” says Turkuaz singer-guitarist Dave Brandwein, who co-founded the band in the mid-2000s with bassist Taylor Shell. “It’s about modern life and overstimulation and keeping your head about you. We looked at the world we saw around us and wanted to incorporate that.”

It would sound like a grim record if the band hadn’t couched the darker lyrical themes in synth-spiked, shimmering dance-rock, piling horns, backing vocals, and space-age keyboards over the funky rhythm section. You don’t have to follow along with the lyrical confusion of “Superstatic” to enjoy the track’s soulful bounce, or relate to the jaded cynicism of “Make You Famous” to get caught up in the song’s vintage 1999-era Prince groove.

Which begs the question: How do you balance being a conceptual band while still bringing the party? It’s a juxtaposition that Brandwein says he thinks about a lot.

“It can be tricky when writing for a band that’s a fun, party kind of band,” he says. “It’s interesting to try to fuse darker themes into these songs while still encouraging people to let loose a bit and forget what’s going on in their everyday lives.”

Brandwein says the best way to handle that potential contradiction is to remember what Turkuaz does best.

“Even when we have an album out that explores darker themes, at the end of the day it really is about having a good time and using the music as a release,” he says. “And I mean a release for the audience and the musicians. We like to absorb some of the crowd’s energy and let go a bit, ourselves. The idea is that there’s always a party going on onstage.”

He also says that Turkuaz, which will perform Wednesday at The Firmament in Greenville, had to learn that there’s a big difference between being in the studio and being onstage.

“I think some of our early albums attempted to capture our live arrangements in the studio,” Brandwein says. “In recent years we’ve learned what works for us is to try to treat each as its own experience. We make a very cool-sounding recording and when it comes time to play the songs live, we reinvent the songs; we’ll expand sections, we’ll change the instrumentation where need be, do whatever we can do to make it best fit the live show experience. You don’t want the shows and the records to be completely unlike each other, so people aren’t confused, but we’ve learned how to highlight our best aspects both in the studio and live.”


  • What: Turkuaz, with Butcher Brown
  • Where: The Firmament, 5 Market Point Drive, Greenville
  • When: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24
  • Tickets: $15-$20
  • Info: http://www.firmamentgvl.com/

atHome // LUSTER: Copper vessels are perfect in the kitchen, and on point for fall decorating

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Photo by Eli Warren

Photography by Eli Warren

There’s nothing quite as brilliantly pleasing as a gleaming copper vessel. Whether sitting on your stove, hanging from a pot hook, or used as a decorative accent for a favored plant, copper vessels — from antique to vintage to new — have a perfect place in the fall home.

They are useful in cooking your favorite fall recipes, serving your guests, and enhancing areas of your home with a sense of shining warmth.

Cooks have been using copper cookware for centuries because of its ability to warm quickly and stay warm, leading to an even distribution of heat and a uniform cooking of food. All copper is safe to cook in as long as it is lined in a nonreactive metal (as most copper cookware is). Most of these linings are made of nickel, tin, or stainless steel (after 1990). These lined pans can be used for almost any type of food.

Unlined copper cookware is a better choice for whipping egg whites or making jams. It’s the acid in some food ingredients that will make the difference in the type of vessel you choose.

If you’re looking to purchase your first copper vessel or wanting to add to your collection, we offer these inspiring finds from private collections, many of which were found at The Rock House Antiques.

Some copper lovers allow their pieces to achieve a beautiful aged patina on the exterior, even allowing them to show verdigris — a green or bluish patina. Others want them always to shine as if new. The one thing you never want to do with your copper is scrub it with an overly abrasive cleaner or cleaning pads.

In Our Community: Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network; Greenville Housing Fund; and more

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Greenville High School raised over $225,000 for Public Education Partners and the Make Summer Count program during its Spirit Week. Photo provided.

GRANT APPLICATION

Partnership for Tomorrow announces the Make Greer Great Grant

Accepting applications for funding until Nov. 2, the Partnership for Tomorrow’s Make Greer Great Grant program offers a maximum award of $3,000. Organizations, civic clubs, neighborhood associations, and community residents with innovative and creative projects are eligible to apply for funds. The projects seeking funding must help make Greer a better place to live, work, visit, and raise a family. 

“The generosity of our business and individual contributors in Greer provides a unique opportunity for PFT to turn the best of these ideas into new programs that will help Greer continue to be one of the most-outstanding communities in South Carolina and one that attracts proud new residents, frequent visitors, and world-class companies,” PFT chairman Jack Lucas said in a news release.

Grant applications may be submitted online at greerchamber.com/make-greer-great-grant.

“PFT has been an important catalyst for some of the more-interesting and innovative programs in Greer throughout the years,” Mayor Rick Danner said in the release. “Providing a forum for the city of Greer, the Greer Commission of Public Works, the Greer Chamber, the Greer Development Corporation, and our private sector partners to collaborate has not only helped to plan collectively, it has given us the resources to work together to implement great ideas.”

CONFERENCE

Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network to host inaugural Upstate Summit

Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network will host its first Upstate Summit on Nov. 9 at Furman University. The conference will feature specialized content and collaborative opportunities for Upstate business and nonprofit leaders, policymakers, advocates, and students. Focusing on women’s economic empowerment, the summit will provide networking, presentations by regional experts, panel discussions, and interactive development of solutions to improve the economic well-being of women. Institute for Women’s Policy Research and Center for American Progress will inform attendants of trends in South Carolina in comparison with national trends. Tickets and additional information can be found at scwren.org. Registration is $35.

FUNDRAISER

Public Education Partners is awarded over $225,000 by Greenville High School students

Greenville High School raised over $225,000 for Public Education Partners and the Make Summer Count program during its Spirit Week. “Because of what [GHS students] did this week, thousands of young children across Greenville will have access to books in their homes,” PEP president and CEO Ansel Sanders said in a news release. “Future Red Raiders will now have home libraries and engage in family reading to eliminate the summer reading slide.”

Greenville High has an annual fundraising competition with J.L. Mann High School during its Spirit Week, which brings the community together to support an organization. J.L. Mann raised $184,000 for the Meyer Center for Special Children. The two schools combined raised over $400,000 that will directly impact students and their educations. This year marks the first time since 2015 that Greenville High has won the event.

“I am amazed each year at what is done this week to bring awareness to a cause and how much money can be raised through students’ efforts,” Greenville High principal Jason Warren said in the release. “I am thankful for the opportunity it provides our students to develop the leadership skills they will need after high school.”

HOUSING FUND

Greenville Housing Fund announces over $800,000 in financing to three organizations

The Greenville Housing Fund awarded $863,000 in financing to Habitat for Humanity, Homes of Hope, and Bywater Development. The money will be used to build and restore over 100 homes in the city of Greenville for those in need. Homes of Hope plans to use the financing to develop nine rental homes in several neighborhoods. Habitat for Humanity will build six homes and develop seven rental homes with Homes of Hope on Jenkins Street in the Sterling neighborhood. With the financing, Bywater Development plans to rehabilitate Stratham Place to preserve 88 affordable rental homes. 

The city of Greenville gave a $2 million grant to help capitalize a revolving-loan fund to support the preservation and production of affordable and workforce housing in Greenville.

“The vision of the GHF is to enable thriving, diverse neighborhoods throughout Greenville. This would not be possible without the support we have received from the City,” GHF chair Bogue Wallin said in a news release. “This grant will help us achieve our goals and, ultimately, provide affordable housing options for those that need it most in our community.”

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