S.C. Artisan Center looking to the future | News | The Press and Standard

by | August 4, 2017 5:00 pm

Last Updated: August 2, 2017 at 11:23 am

The South Carolina Artisan Center’s board of directors is in the midst of determining what the future holds.
“The big question we are still trying to answer is what we want to be when we grow up,” board chairperson Chris Bickley suggests. The artisan center has been a focal point on Wichman Street for 22 years.
“We want to be doing a better job for downtown Walterboro, for the center itself, for the community and for the artisans from around the state,” Bickley said.
“We see ourselves as part of the Walterboro experience,” Bickley said. The artisan center, he suggested, has historically been one of the strongest elements in bringing people into the community.
Others have recognized that the artisan center’s ability to draw people to Walterboro “has been good for other businesses, other attractions and other venues in the community,” Bickley said.
Last fiscal year’s state budget contained a $500,000 allocation to the South Carolina Artisan Center. “We certainly appreciate all the efforts that our legislators in Columbia made on our behalf to make that happen,” Bickley said.
In addition to the Colleton County Legislative Delegation’s work in support of the allocation, Bickley said former St. Rep. Chip Limehouse played a significant role in having the allocation make its way into the budget.
Although Limehouse represented a portion of Charleston County in the state house, Bickley explained, his mother’s family is from Colleton County. “He has always been interested in Colleton County and in the South Carolina Artisan Center.
Because Limehouse was a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee and chaired Ways and Means’ subcommittee for the arts, Bickley said, “He was in a position to be of significant assistance with that funding. We appreciated that.”
However, the money coming from Columbia was one-time funding; “The board does not expect it to happen again anytime soon,” Bickley explained.
The board members recognized that the funding “gives us an opportunity to look to the future: to determine what we need to be and what we need to do to get there.”
The formation of a strategic marketing and branding program is one of the first things the money is providing.
A Port Royal-based firm, Printology, received a consulting contract to handle the strategic planning. Primarily a graphics firm, Printology brought in other people who specialize in other areas of the planning.
“We are about half way through the process. It seems like it is working well,” Bickley said. He and Artisan Center Director Gale Doggette have been in regular contact with the consulting team, but a July 13 board meeting was the first time the full board had an opportunity to sit down with the consultants for a full update on the work.
The consultants are still in the data gathering stage — they have been conducting surveys of customers, the artisans and visitors to Walterboro and this area of South Carolina. “They are trying to touch base with anyone involved in the center in any way,” Bickley said.
After the data is collected, the consultants will assess the information and then provide the board members with recommendations on how the artisan center should approach the future. That should come in the fall.
Although the center resides in Walterboro, Bickley said, over two decades ago state officials designated it as the official folk art and craft center for South Carolina.
“All of our artists are juried,” Bickley said. “They have to apply (to have their work available for sale at the center) and they have to go through a judging process.”
“All the art is handmade, and all the artists are hand picked,” Bickley said.

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