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Artisans Center gets $500,000 grant | News | The Press and Standard

by | June 23, 2016 5:00 am

Last Updated: June 22, 2016 at 11:53 am

A number of months ago, S.C. Artisans Center Director Gale Doggette talked with Rep. Chip Limehouse about getting some additional funding for the center. He said he’d be glad to help.
Last week, Doggette said she got a very pleasant surprise when she found out the Artisans Center had been awarded $500,000 for capital improvements from the state.
“I knew he asked for the money, but that was the last I heard from him,” she said. The last state funding was for $50,000, so she assumed the amount would be in the same range.
“Chip deserves the lion’s share of the credit,” she said. “Without him, we wouldn’t have gotten a dime.” She also extended her appreciation to Sen. Wes Hayes of Rock Hill, Sen. Margie Bright-Matthews of Walterboro, Rep. Robert Brown and Sen. Larry Grooms, all of whom helped push the funding through.
“One person doesn’t do this. It takes a lot of people to make it happen. We are so thankful and appreciative of all of them,” Artisans Center Board President Chris Bickley said. “I want to thank all the legislators who voted for it in the budget originally and then voted to override Gov. Haley’s veto. Chip Limehouse started it in the House. He’s been a longtime advocate and supporter of the center. On the Senate side, Margie Bright-Matthews was a new and strong supporter for us. I think we’re seeing that having a resident legislator in Columbia has its benefits. We’re thankful that Larry Grooms always has our back in the Senate.
“Robert Brown in the house has been a big supporter of the center. He helped out last time we got an appropriation. And Sen. Wes Hayes of Rock Hill spoke very supportively of us during the Senate’s override,” Bickley said.
So what do you do with a $500,000 windfall? That’s up to the center’s board of directors. “I’m just a paid employee. I don’t get a single vote. I can interject what I think, but the decision is up to the board and the board hasn’t met yet,” Doggette said.
The board hasn’t made any decisions and probably won’t until they’ve had time to consider all the options.  “My thoughts are this will allow us to dream and implement parts of the Artisans Center dream,” Bickley said. “The board will look at this as an investment in the center’s long-term growth and development.” Among the projects he wants to consider are the education mission and improvements to the center’s campus that were part of the original plans but were unable to be completed due to lack of funding.
One recent topic of discussion has been improving the “curb appeal” of the two historic buildings that are home to the Artisans Center and the Colleton County Arts Council. “They way it is now, it doesn’t look like a retail center. It just looks like two historic homes,” Doggette said. So improved signage, as well as the lack of parking, are two things she thinks the board will discuss.
But whatever the board decides, Doggette is thrilled with the opportunities the additional money presents.
“The uniqueness of the center is that it is a non-profit that is the facilitator for 300-plus small businesses — a lot (of the artists) are just starting out and are small businesses and would not have the opportunity to have their works viewed by this many people if we didn’t have this facility for them,” she said. In the last three months, the center had visitors from 41 states and nine countries.
“The possibilities are just tremendous. I’m really excited about them. I hope to see us in a positive place that will just grow and grow. I’d love to see it move to the next level,” Doggette said.
This will not be a one-meeting decision, Bickley said. “We feel a responsibility to show the state that this is a good investment in downtown Walterboro and Colleton County. The center does bring in a lot of out-of-town traffic off the interstate that is important not only for us, but for downtown Walterboro. We want to remain a magnet for that.”

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