NEWBERRY – The Newberry Arts Program has been selected as the recipient of the 2016 Programming Excellence Award for populations under 30,000.
The award was presented on Sept. 12 by the S.C. Recreation & Parks Association (SCRPA) Awards Committee at their State Conference awards luncheon at the Greenville Hyatt Regency.
Marquerite Palmer, arts program coordinator, and Scott Sawyer, director of parks, recreation and tourism for the city, accepted the award for the program.
Palmer said it really was a dream come true.
“The idea of an arts center in Newberry has floated around and been talked about since I came here in 1993 and each time it was attempted, it just seemed it wasn’t the right time,” Palmer said. “And this time, the stars aligned and everything fell into place. It was just the right time for it.”
The Programming Excellence Award could be given to each of two population categories, according to the SCRPA awards information page: those 30,000 and under and those over 30,000. An agency was able to submit for either Programming Excellence or Parks Excellence, but not both. The award pertains to any recreation program or special event that an agency offers.
Sawyer and Palmer spent several weeks putting together information to submit for the award, Sawyer said. The final application was submitted on July 7.
In the application, Sawyer and Palmer had to answer questions including a summary of the Newberry Arts Program, the mission of the program, its economic impact, any challenges the program has faced and what made the program unique.
While the Newberry Arts Program has faced several challenges, including a starting low budget and needing a place for classes, both Palmer and Sawyer agree it could not have been accomplished without the enormous support they received from City Manager Al Harvey.
Wanting to start a new program with no budget was a huge challenge, Sawyer said, but fortunately city management supported the notion that a quality visual arts program was a viable endeavor and a complimentary extension to the community’s arts experience that was established by the Newberry Opera House
In the less than two years that the Newberry Arts Program has hit the ground running, it has added a unique social element to a lot of people’s lives, Sawyer said.
Not only does the Newberry Arts Center have separate art and pottery studios, but it also includes outdoor space for classes and events.
The arts center has also attracted a nationally renowned watercolor artist, as artist-in-residence and a world renowned clay artist as a presenter and advisor for the SC Clay Conference which was established through the program from scratch.
“It is unique that strong community support includes varied partnerships and dedicated volunteers that have come together to help provide the arts experience to anyone in the community, young or old. And regardless of ability to pay,” Sawyer said.
Harvey said he commended the Parks, Recreation and Tourism department and Palmer for receiving the Programming Excellence Award.
“Such recognition at the state level reflects the tireless efforts put forth by Mrs. Palmer and the many volunteers that have contributed so much time and talent to develop a very high quality arts program that has been widely accepted and enjoyed by the Newberry community over the last two years,” Harvey said. “The future of the Newberry arts program is unlimited.”
Palmer said the creation of the Newberry arts program had created a community and she was excited to see what its future held.