There’s nothing like a steady and experienced hand during turbulent times.
The Arts Center of Kershaw County, like venues everywhere, was forced to close its doors to the public during the COVID-19 shutdown, and only recently returned to hosting live performances, hosting artists such as Camden natives Patrick Davis and Joel Rush in May.
Now veteran administrator Dolly Patton steps in as the organization’s new executive director, the center revealed on June 9.
“I am thrilled to be joining the Arts Center of Kershaw County as its Executive Director and am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be part of an organization which serves as the cultural center for the community,” Patton is quoted in a press release. “The Arts Center has a long history of inspiring a culture of creativity. I look forward to working with the Board of Directors, staff, and members of the community to provide outstanding art exhibitions, educational programs, musical events, dance programs, and theatrical performances.”
A Florence native and graduate of Francis Marion University, she brings decades of similar experience to the job, including stints with Keep America Beautiful of SC , Harvest Hope Food Bank (where she raised nearly $4 million for hunger programs) and Sandlapper Magazine, where she served as executive director. Since 2005, Patton has been director of the Saluda Shoals Foundation, where she developed annual and capital fundraising campaigns that enabled the completion of Leo’s Landing, a universally inclusive playground.
“We are so thrilled to have Dolly Patton join us at the Arts Center of Kershaw County as our new executive director,” board president Mary Ellen Green is quoted in the release. “She has the experience and drive to help us remain a viable organization in Kershaw County while also helping us grow. We are excited for the community to meet her because we are certain that will be very impressed with her.”
The Arts Center is a multi-disciplinary complex in Camden that includes an art gallery, an auditorium, studios and the historic Douglas Reed House. The organization strives, per its website, “to serve as a center for education, production and entertainment in the arts, to promote life-long learning, and to provide opportunities to experience and participate in the arts.”
The center hosts an array of visiting performers, from classical and contemporary arts to participants in the annual Carolina Downhome Blues Festival, as well as homegrown theatrical productions and visiting productions from groups such as the NiA Company.
In addition to outdoor and recreational activities, the Saluda Shoals Foundation has also incorporated cultural programming in recent years, with outdoor performances by such groups as the South Carolina Shakespeare Company, Trustus Theatre and the May premiere of a new commedia dell’arte piece from the Columbia Children’s Theatre.
Kristen Wood Cobb, the Arts Center’s executive director for more than a decade before leaving in 2017 to take charge of the Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College, told Free Times, “Dolly is the perfect fit.”
Jami Steele Sprankle, the center’s director of theater and education, also expressed excitement over Patton’s appointment.
“We can’t wait to see where we will go under her leadership,” she said.
Post and Courier Columbia/Free Times arts coverage is supported by a grant from the Knight Foundation Fund at Central Carolina Community Foundation.