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Survey of South Carolina Tradition Bearers

(l to r) Roffie Griggs and Linwood Turner, Sumter County

The Survey of South Carolina’s Tradition Bearers is a documentation project of traditional artists in all forty-six counties of the Palmetto State. The survey provides a contemporary perspective on the wealth of traditional arts in South Carolina, and the living traditions they practice. It is a snapshot that seeks to present, celebrate, and educate about the richness of folklife in our state.

The Survey of South Carolina’s Tradition Bearers was initiated in 2009 by Julianne Carroll, then the Folklife Program Coordinator at the South Carolina Arts Commission. New to South Carolina at the time, Carroll designed this Survey to better understand the breadth of traditional arts in the state, connect the South Carolina Arts Commission with new individuals working in previously documented traditions, and identify the traditional arts of ethnic and refugee communities. Saddler Taylor, Chief Curator of Folklife and Fieldwork at McKissick Museum, became a partner for administrative support and documentation at the project’s inception. Thus, the Survey of South Carolina Tradition Bearers was born.

At this writing, three contracted fieldworkers are embarking on the fifth, and final, year of the Tradition Bearers Survey, focusing on the Upstate and Pee Dee regions of the state. By July 2015, the fieldworkers will have identified 174 tradition bearers in all counties of the Palmetto State. These artists represent a wide variety of traditional arts – each with its own history, techniques, and community-defined aesthetics. Yet, the thing that all of these documented traditions share is that they are alive in South Carolina.

We would like to thank the many tradition bearers and their families documented through this survey. You welcomed our fieldworkers into your homes, churches, and community centers, and were kind enough to share your artistry with strangers. Your work inspires us and is an important piece of the artistic mosaic of the Palmetto State. Thanks, too, is due to the many friends of the project who shared contacts, ideas, and local knowledge to facilitate our work. The project would not be the same without you.

We salute the contracted fieldworkers for this project: Sarah Bryan, Maria Arroyo, Tim Prizer, Whitney Brown, Norma Smith, Laura Von Harten, James Gardner, and Ervena Faulker. Your efforts have given us a better understanding of what it means to live in South Carolina. Our appreciation also goes to the Humanities CouncilSC and the National Endowment for the Arts for funding this important work.

Finally, we thank you, the reader, for your interest in the traditional arts of South Carolina. May these songs, foodways, baskets, quilts, and stories help you better understand South Carolina and the artists who call it home.

For more information about the Survey, contact Doug Peach at (803) 777-7707 or Saddler Taylor at (803) 777-3714.

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