This weekend, Spoleto Festival USA’s festival director of production Mike East erected a new sign on the side of their building off their highly visible shop used by the festival along with TTS Studios. In the space normally reserved for their massive “Spoleto Festival USA,” the sign now reads “Black Lives Matter” — it can be seen traveling along I-26 to and from downtown.
East and several TTS employees made and put the sign up on Friday. Protesters in cities across the country are currently calling for an end to police brutality and racial injustice.
Spoleto’s director of marketing and public relations, Jessie Bagley, said: “One thing we want to be clear about is that we did not do this sign as a purely performative action. These words resonate with us as an organization and we are committed to being held accountable for our actions during this important movement and beyond.”
A statement from the festival reads:
We acknowledge that systemic racism and bias permeates every industry in our nation. This includes the performing arts, an industry that historically has failed to acknowledge the innumerable contributions of Black artists. We at Spoleto Festival USA recognize our responsibility as an international platform in the fields of opera, dance, music, and theater, while also recognizing our place in Charleston — a city fraught with historical and modern-day racial injustices.
This time of reckoning comes as we grieve and reflect on the all-too-recent murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, as well as Walter Scott, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., Myra Thompson, and too many more.
Also at this time, Spoleto has been in the midst of launching a digital festival. This process has given us a new platform for amplifying Black voices and learning from Black artists. Representation in the forms of dialogue, education, and performance teach us not only about artists’ creative processes, but also about the larger historical and cultural contexts surrounding their work.
We pledge to examine our own practices of engaging artists, thinking deeply about the work that will be presented as well as the audiences it reaches. We refuse to be complacent in this ongoing conversation and will remain accountable for our actions.
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