Three contributors to the arts in Charleston are 2013 recipients of Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Awards, the most prestigious recognition given by the S.C. Arts Commission.
Mary Whyte of Johns Island, was honored for her art. She’s a watercolor artist whose figurative paintings have earned national recognition. A resident of the Lowcountry since the early 1990s, Whyte garners much of her inspiration from the Gullah descendants of coastal Carolina slaves who number among her most prominent subjects. Her portraits are included in numerous corporate, private and university collections, as well as in the permanent collections of South Carolina’s Greenville County Museum of Art and the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston.
“Down Bohicket Road,” Whyte’s most recent publication, includes two decades of watercolors and continues the story of her relationship with these extraordinary women against the backdrop of the ongoing commercial development of Johns Island.
Charles Fox, owner of Fox Music House in North Charleston and the founder of the Charleston Marathon, is the recipient of this year’s Business Award.
In 1993, Fox became president of the business started by his grandfather 65 years earlier. During his tenure, he has expanded the company’s commitment to the arts, especially arts education in public and private schools.
He has hosted meetings of the Charleston Music Teachers Association, and he helped start Creative Spark and the Charleston Arts Alliance. He is chairman of the Youth Endowment for the Arts.
The Charleston Marathon provides regular funding for arts programs in Charleston’s public schools. Since 2010, this race has generated $100,000.
Fox Music House has donated pianos to schools and offered students a place to practice. Pianos used by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the S.C. Music Educators Conference have been provided by Fox, who also has been an active supporter of the College of Charleston International Piano Series.
And John Zeigler was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. A true renaissance man at 101, Zeigler is an acclaimed author, poet, teacher and lover of the arts. The author of two books of poetry, Zeigler’s poems also have been published in a variety of literary journals and magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar, The Lyric, The New York Times, and the yearbooks of the Poetry Society of S.C.
He is also beloved by his many former customers of the Book Basement, his bookstore that served the Charleston community for 20 years. His philanthropy has supported the College of Charleston and its students, as he has endowed numerous scholarships and awards to assist young performing and creative artists.
He has supported many students through graduate school and in their professional careers, and is deeply committed to supporting emerging artists. Students who benefited from Zeigler’s gifts have become accomplished artists, musicians and writers, and some have launched successful arts-based businesses. Many of those former students now “pay it forward,” extending Zeigler’s reach into future generations.
Beyond the school, he has supported cultural organizations such as the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Academy of Music, Spoleto Festival USA, S.C. State Museum and others. Zeigler’s vision has contributed to the decades-long success of the Poetry Society of South Carolina, now in its 92nd year.
The Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Awards are named for the Charleston artist who achieved an international reputation for her etchings and pastels, many of which capture the spirit of the Lowcountry. She was also a teacher, writer and historian who lived to be 96.