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Sandy Tecklenburg on art, justice and social reform

Sandy Tecklenburg, born and raised in Charleston, has worked in wholesale and retail, and has "raised a heap of amazing kids, dogs and PRAISE in our home."

"My life has been a wild, adventurous ride, and I’m thankful for every tear, every laugh, every hug, every storm and every moment that has taken my breath away. And yes, my husband (my soulmate and best friend) is the mayor of our great city, Charleston."

She's also a regular presence at public meetings, art shows, ribbon cuttings and concerts. It is not uncommon for her to use social media to promote a favorite painter or photographer, or a good idea that might improve the civic life of our city. Tecklenburg says she is committed to public service and community building.

Matisse is her favorite visual artist after her son John Henry. And she likes the music of Jackson Brown almost as much as her husband John's jazzy piano ramblings. What she want's more of is hours in the day to do it all.

Q: You are a longtime arts patron who takes pride in Charleston’s many high-quality offerings. What should be different? What could be better? 

A: I would like to see our City Gallery transformed into an active gathering place. We could have workshops, art lessons and music. I’d like to have programming there to get kids and young adults involved. It would be great if we could have artists working outside in order to draw people in.

I’d like to see collaboration between the Heritage Arts Festival and MOJA, giving the festivals both a national and international perspective.

(And) I would like to see more opportunities for artwork in the public realm.

Q: Now that your public profile has been elevated, what is your agenda? What do you hope to accomplish in the next few years?

A: I’d like to see our city and county housing facilities improved so they become places where anyone would want to live, with flower and vegetable gardens, community buildings and diverse groups of people.

Q: You are a strong advocate of social reforms that, for example, ameliorate homelessness and improve race relations. What should the city do more of or better to advance these causes? What should individual Charlestonians do?

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A: The city should be data-driven on addressing homelessness. With the closing of Tent City, an emergency shelter was set up that could be replicated as a facility offering housing and services to help homeless people transition to housing.

We need an additional emergency shelter in our region.

Homelessness ends when we all do our part. Individuals can build relationships one person at a time. There is a movie coming out in Feb. 2017, “Same Kind of Different as Me,” which everyone should go see. It is life-changing!

The way to improve race relations is for all citizens to get involved and to learn more about our Illumination Project and the impact it will have in our community. If you want a seat at the table, this is a good start.

Q: How can the arts make a positive impact on social and economic justice?

A: The arts breathe life into us! The data on how arts help to improve school attendance and students’ grades is amazing. It makes our children hit the floor running to school. It tells our story for many of us. We should never cut funding for arts in our schools.

Q: What’s the best way to ensure the children of Charleston are exposed to the arts and have an opportunity to pursue an artistic discipline?

A: We should have a plan to make sure every child is exposed to different art forms — exposure to the arts is good!

Also, we could bring more arts to the children. Our schools and recreation centers could be used as places to teach arts after hours and weekends.

(And we should) identify children with great talent and match them up with a mentor, especially from our Title 1 schools.

Contact Adam Parker at or 843-937-5902.

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