Last week’s Arts Matter Mayoral Summit at Woolfe Street Playhouse was a chance for local artists and arts organization leaders to get to know the mayoral candidates better and form their own opinions of who they would like to win the election this November. Immediately following Piccolo Spoleto, this was a perfect time for the candidates to share their hopes for the artistic community of Charleston. One of the candidates, John Tecklenburg, took the liberty of welcoming guests into the Woolfe Street Playhouse on the piano until the summit officially began.

The panel was made up of three arts leaders: Josh Silverman, Founder and CEO of Jericho Advisors; Keely Enright, Artistic Director for Village Repertory Co.; and James Braunreuther, Fine Arts Coordinator for Charleston County School District. Silverman, Enright, and Braunreuther were tasked with asking the candidates questions about how they would support the arts while in office, and candidates were given 60 seconds to answer.

The morning began with a question of how the candidates support for the arts would differ from that of Mayor Riley’s. Maurice Washington said it best when he said, “Riley is a visionary and all you can do is expand upon what he has already done.” The next question probed the candidates to share their ideas about creative placemaking. William Gregorie explained that he “would like to see outdoor art by local artists in the park and throughout the city.” Paul Tinkler believes that we can improve in gateways west of the Ashley.

The panel asked another question regarding what the candidates would do to welcome the next generation of artists into the city. Ginny Deerin, who is the founder of the social and emotional intelligence after-school program WINGS for Kids, claimed that she would continue to build upon the opportunity that kids have here to get internships and learn the business. Leon Stavrinakis voiced that it would be helpful if the College of Charleston had a fine arts program — which, as you probably know, it has had for years. When he said this, a lady in the crowd laughed to herself and mumbled, “Where has he been?” Tecklenburg did not pass up the opportunity to point out his fellow candidate’s mistake, immediately asserting his knowledge of the college’s art program. He also proposed College of Charleston take it to a graduate level.

As the candidates each gave their closing speech, it became clear that each individual is as passionate about the city’s future as a mayoral candidate should be. Deerin, however, seems the most eager to take action as far as making improvements in the arts throughout the city. For example, she says she would meet quarterly with the city’s Cultural Affairs department in order to stay informed and take action on important issues, and wants to encourage business and residential development for the arts and artists in the upper peninsula.  

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