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Nominations are open for top SC arts awards. Here's how hopefuls can stand out.

SC Governor's Award for the Arts (copy)

The South Carolina Governor's Award for the Arts is the state's highest honor for the arts. File/S.C. Arts Commission/Provided 

It's awards submission season in South Carolina for the arts community.

The good news is that the process is simple. With a bit of strategy and some letter-writing savvy, nominees can be positioned to optimal effect.

The S.C. Arts Commission recently announced nominations are open for two top awards: the South Carolina Governor's Award for the Arts and the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards.

According to the commission, which is the Columbia-based state agency that raises awareness for the arts throughout the state, the awards honor persons or organizations in South Carolina who exhibit the highest levels of achievement, influence or support of arts and folklife with the South Carolina Arts Awards.

The process is simple and online, requiring only one letter detailing the nominee's exemplary contributions to the arts in South Carolina in several categories: Artist, Individual, Arts in Education, Government, Business/Foundation and Organization. A nomination letter should address any characteristics included in the category descriptions.

“One thoughtful letter is the first step towards honoring South Carolina’s brightest lights in the arts," said David Platts, executive director of the commission. "Our team considers those and works with nominators individually to secure additional information as the process continues. ”

But a well-composed and considered letter is key in ensuring that a nominee is presented in the most compelling fashion. 

Karen Chandler, associate professor of arts management at the College of Charleston, has observed the process from up close. She coordinated the nomination for percussionist Quentin Baxter, a 2017 recipient, which she said was quite a robust process.

"My advice is to seek someone that knows your work well and deeply, and has experienced it over time and in different settings," she said.

Chandler also points out that it's not only about that list of bona fides: "It's important that they can speak to your growth as an artist and cultural creator and how your journey has impacted a range of different people and audiences. Where direct quotes or anecdotal stories can be inserted in nomination letters, that is always helpful."

For the statewide arts community, the effort is both manageable and well worth it. The awards not only raise the profile of individual recipients, but also help to elevate the arts sector in South Carolina. 

"These awards celebrate creative individuals who help contribute to the culture and expression of our state that residents and visitors alike enjoy across South Carolina," said GP McLeer Jr., executive director of SC Arts Alliance. "Individuals awarded these prestigious honors are not only leaders in our field, but also in our state."

The nomination letters are due Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at 11:59 p.m.

For complete nomination guidelines or more information about the S.C. Governor's Awards for the Arts, visit or contact Senior Deputy Director Milly Hough at or 803-734-8698.

Additionally, the arts commission joins forces with McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina to manage the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards, which honor the state’s exceptional folklife and traditional arts practitioners and advocates.

Created by the General Assembly in 1987, the annual awards recognize lifetime achievement in the traditional arts, honoring the work of stewarding and furthering the traditional arts that are significant to communities throughout the state.

McKissick Museum is collecting nominations until Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. For additional information and advisement, contact McKissick Museum Executive Director Jane Przybysz at or 803-777-7251.

Both the Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards will be presented at the South Carolina Arts Awards ceremony in the spring. For more information on the South Carolina Arts Commission, visit or call 803-734-8696.

Follow Maura Hogan on Twitter at @msmaurahogan.

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