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Youth-driven urban art project to brighten Uptown

May 28, 2019

Index Journal, Adam Benson

The next time you’re walking through Uptown Greenwood, take a glance above.

You might check out Chirp, a northern cardinal, perched in a tree. Or espy Skyy, a blue jay with nowhere else to go beyond his scenic home near the Arts Center.

The clay-fired birds are among a collection of nine spread out along the Main Street corridor – a first-of-its-kind urban art project that brings together the creative skills of gifted and talented students at Pinecrest and Woodfields elementary schools, Greenwood District 50, the Uptown Greenwood Development district and local potters.

With tourism officials on the hunt for new ways to engage with patrons, the installation — called “Tweet on Main Street” is seen as a centerpiece of Uptown’s next wave of growth.

“The project is a wonderful example of a collaborative effort to not only bring public art Uptown, but it also provides another tool for us to encourage visitors and the local community to visit,” said Uptown Manager Lara Hudson.

Wayfinding maps, available at the Arts Center, will lead people on a scavenger hunt to find the nine birds — all of which are indigenous to the region. Along the way, they’ll stop in front of local shops and assets as the splash pad.

Bernetha Culbreath, coordinator of the Gifted and Talented program, came up with the concept in 2017 and more than 40 students have been involved since that time.

“We need to show our young people doing positive things in the community,” Culbreath said. For students involved in the venture, it’s become more than just a long-term assignment: They’ve developed a passion for public service, have grown to understand the workings of local government and even found interest in ornithology, the scientific study of birds.

“Tweet on Main Street” was officially rolled out last week during a reception at the Arts Center.

“We started out just brainstorming reasons it would be good to bring this to Greenwood, and I developed a lesson plan over the summer on project-based learning when I introduced this idea to them,” Culbreath said. “I had ideas in my head, but I shared none of that with them. I just let them go.”

Linley Wilkie, a fifth-grader who’s been involved with the project since its inception, said she and her friends took ownership of it from the beginning.

“I think it’s going to be very exciting, because not only do they get to spend time with their kids, but their kids are learning more about Uptown and where things are, and you kind of learn map skills too,” she said.

Mirabelle Anderson said students expanded the concept of a single bird placed multiple times over the area to presenting facts about birds native to Greenwood County.

“Inside the brochure, it will show you the picture of the bird that they drew and then the real bird and then information,” Mirabelle said.

Culbreath, who affectionately calls her class “bird nerds,” said students have taken what they’ve learned and brought it home — always on the lookout for an avian creature in their own backyards.

Culbreath’s daughter, Kristen, is a graphic artist. She converted sketches of the birds into detailed drawings that were used to render the clay-fired pieces.

Mitchell Miller said “Tweet on Main Street” is special, because it showcases the vibrant minds of youth.

“When kids become adults, their imagination kinds of fades away and becomes more bland,” he said.

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.

Living sculptures put Greenwood’s Main Street in full bloom for festival

May 22, 2019

Index Journal, and Damian Dominguez

With more than 40 living plant sculptures, the South Carolina Festival of Flowers Signature Topiary Display in Uptown Greenwood puts the city in full bloom, through June and into early July.

“The smaller ones can be a challenge because they are top-heavy,” said horticulture crew member Clint Price. “But, some of the larger ones can be as well.”

All in a day’s work, Price and his crewmates do what is necessary to get everything in shape. Including Price, there are five full-time members of the horticulture team and three part-time staffers. On Wednesday, they made last-minute touch-ups in the greenhouse as Price and others used a Bobcat to load the topiaries onto a truck and take them out into Uptown.

“Once you start taking them out you get that rush, but it can be a little bit sketchy at times, too,” Price said.

Backing the Bobcat out of the greenhouse left mere inches of leeway on either side of the wheeled base of the horse topiary. Others kept their hands on the green, leafy haunches of the horse because every bump from the Bobcat left it rocking back and forth midair.

Diana Fetters dove to the floor of the trailer once the topiary was set down, placing pieces of brick behind the wheels to stop the horse from rolling while they secured it to the trailer with straps. It’s her first year working the festival and she said the mix of anxiety and tremendous relief is a bit like riding a roller coaster.

“We have no room for error,” she said. “If anything goes wrong, we don’t have time to fix it. We just don’t.”

While working on the seahorse, Price pulled a tall, flowy plant into a “ponytail” to keep it out of everyone’s way and he donned a pair of fishing waders to help move the dolphin into the pond near Sugar boutique and Howard’s on Main.

Nearby, crew member Gene Yarochowicz worked on fountain mechanisms and skimmed debris from the pond.

Price noted that the Lander University Bearcat topiary is one of the trickier to move larger topiaries. Look for it to be installed at the Uptown Market on Maxwell Avenue this year.

“It usually takes about two weeks to put all of them out,” Price said. “When you are in the greenhouse every day, caring for them when it is cold and wet outside, it can make for a long day, but when you bring them out and everyone starts taking pictures, it makes it fun.”

The crew has to decide where to place each one and ready the plant sculptures and their respective locations. That involves dead-heading spent blooms, hooking up drip irrigation systems, landscaping and, in several cases, connecting water features such as fountains.

Although there are no new topiaries debuting this year, Price said more could be in the works for next year.

“Greenwood has one of the prettiest main streets I have seen,” Fetters said. “I am so excited for this.”

Contact St. Claire Donaghy at 864-943-2518

Clay always a learning experience for Michael Johansen

April 28, 2019

Index Journal,

This is the first time in two years Greenwood area pottery studios are participating in the Heritage Trail Pottery Tour and Sale.

Eight different studios are on the tour, including the pottery studios at Uptown Greenwood’s Main and Maxwell, a retail and gallery shop.

Among local artists represented there is Michael Johansen of Ninety Six, a retired school art teacher who says pottery classes were his favorite in college.

Johansen enjoys experimenting with different clay bodies, glazes and techniques. Some of his functional pieces resemble old stoneware. Dipping pieces into different glazes, Johansen can created multi-colored pieces or he can paint glazes on with a brush.

Different designs can be made in clay using a variety of textured objects.

“Anything that will make a mark, you can decorate with,” Johansen said. “I love to watch different techniques by artists with videos on YouTube. I can use that as a springboard.”

There are vases, pieces with lids, sugar bowls, cereal bowls, whimsical whistles, cell phone holders, cups and more.

“Some of my favorite pieces involve a lot of handwork,” Johansen said. “Building it is kind of therapeutic, whether it’s making a casserole dish or a face jug. Some others have a theme or meaning to them.”

For example, Johansen says one of his favorite pottery pieces is one he titled, “Marks of Time.”

Depicted on it are a lizard, a tree, the son of God, fossils, sediments from southern Utah where he grew up, marks of Christ’s crucifixion and more.

“The planning process for this took several weeks,” Johansen said. “It took me a week to build it. The idea of this piece is that some things are fleeting and some are eternal.”

Johansen studied at Brigham Young University and worked for years in art education, teaching seven years in southern Utah and 33 in South Carolina, with a three-and-a-half year stint working in a South Carolina plywood mill in-between.

“I retired from teaching in 2017 and started doing pottery again,” Johansen said. “The tactile quality of pottery is what drew me to it in college and it was kind of a fluke that I got into it. I was working during the summer, on campus at Brigham Young. They sent out a memo about working students also needing to have a class, carrying at least three hours.”

Johansen scrambled to find a class and chose ceramics.

“I had never done pottery or sculpture before,” Johansen said. “I told the professor I needed the class to keep my campus job. At that time, my wife and I already had three kids. I got in the class and I just loved it. I put in 40 hours of practice time a week. At night, security guards would escort me out of the studio building. I got pretty good and became the teacher’s assistant with the class.”

In recent years, Johansen has helped with summer pottery camps at Arts Center of Greenwood and come up with fun craft projects for his 47 grandchildren. He and his wife have 12 children.

As an artist at Main and Maxwell, Johansen pays a monthly fee to be able to display and sell pieces in Main and Maxwell’s gallery and retail shop. Johansen also attended a recent clay conference in Newberry and has been working on establishing a presence for his pottery on social media platforms such as Instagram. Johansen also teaches classes at the Newberry Arts Center.

The director of the Newberry Arts Center, Marquerite Palmer, who is also a potter, said Johansen is a good teacher who has a calming personality.

“He just walked in one day and asked to join a class for intermediate to advanced students that had already started,” Palmer said. “He joined the class and I asked him why he was doing it, because he already knew a lot. He said he loved clay and that there’s always room to learn more…He’s a huge help for us. I’d say he was a godsend. He came right when we needed him and he said he found us right when he needed us. It has been a great thing.”

Palmer said she doesn’t shy away from challenging her pottery students.

“I really had to up the challenge with him because he was already so far ahead,” Palmer said. “He does really nice work and helps us keep our studio open so other people can come in and work.”

Although he is an accomplished clay artist in his own right, Johansen said he’s still nervous about his first Heritage Trail Pottery Tour and Sale Saturday and Sunday.

“The idea of having a lot of people watching you is a little intimidating,” Johansen said. “People can come to my downstairs studio at Main and Maxwell and watch me throw. There are a lot of awesome artists on this tour. People who come to it will be uplifted and entertained. Every artist has his or her own story. It’s nice to have diversity.”

Contact St. Claire Donaghy at 864-943-2518


‘Gorgeous’: quartet of exhibits celebrating black history month open Uptown

February 9, 2019

Index Journal, Aleks Gilbert

Artists set themselves up for failure when they burden the audience with the expectation of knowing “exactly what the artist is talking about,” Jonell Logan said at the opening reception for “WOVEN” Friday evening.

Norma Hammond would have been happy to hear it; she came to the Arts Center of Greenwood, which is hosting the exhibit, to experience a different culture through art, but found some of the installations challenging.

“I got to look at it awhile to figure it out,” she said while considering Michaela Pilar Brown’s abstract “Search for New Land.”

“Every year, we do something for Black History Month,” said Jennifer Smith, gallery director for the Arts Center. “This year, we decided that we want to focus on women.”

“We knew that we wanted to look at texture and textiles,” Jonell Logan, the exhibit’s curator, said. “That was kind of the root.”

It was not a coincidence. Down the street, The Museum hosted the opening reception for “The Ties that Bind – Service for a Lifetime”; “I’m NOT Every Woman, I’m a PHENOMENAL Woman,” of the 12th annual African American fiber art traveling exhibition; and “The Art of Quilting.”

“Frequently when we think about that in the black community, we think about quilting,” Logan said. But she wanted to define textiles broadly. That meant “bringing elements together because you sew, weave, connect things,” she said.

Janice Degraffinreid, of Spartanburg, convinced her friend Mary Bolden, of Anderson, to make the trip for the reception.

“It wasn’t hard because we’re both historians,” Bolden said. “We love African-American history, and just history period.”

Bolden welcomed the focus on African-American art and history.

“If you weren’t educated to write it, you had to tell it,” she said. Some of those oral histories were “lost in the shuffle” over time, and exhibits such as these help fight such erasure.

Lavondra Sussewell doesn’t often visit art exhibits — or Uptown Greenwood, for that matter — but “something about this (exhibit) really caught my attention.”

“It was intriguing,” said Glenda Green, who had come to see the exhibits with her friend, Mary Stevens. “It was not art as I thought of art.”

She was especially intrigued by Logan’s likening of the three-dimensional, “Search for New Land” to a painting. “I guess that’s what an artist does,” she mused. “See things differently.”

Her favorite of the four exhibits, however, were “I’m NOT Every Woman, I’m a PHENOMENAL Woman” and “The Art of Quilting.”

“Oh God,” she exclaimed when asked about the exhibit. “Gorgeous.”

Debbie Cameron, one of the featured artists, was an unlikely addition.

In 2002, she suffered an accident in her garage that split her head open. Among myriad complications that followed was having to relearn how to sew.

“My faith got me through,” Cameron said. “I’m not where I need to be,” she said of her quilting, “but God’s been good, and I’m proud of it.”

Ti Barnes came for “The Ties that Bind – Service for a Lifetime,” which celebrates African-American sororities and fraternities.

“To see a diverse crowd out here tonight was spectacular,” Barnes said.

African-American fraternities and sororities are unique, according to Barnes, in their level of commitment.

“Once you cross the burning sands — this is for life,” he said. He demurred when asked to explain what the “burning sands” are, however.

“I can only tell you so much,” he said, smiling.

Contact staff writer Aleks Gilbert at 864-943-5644.


Sundance Gallery officially on the market

December 28, 2018

Index Journal, St. Claire Donaghy

Greenwood photographer Jon O. Holloway says he’s “always known personally when it’s time to kind of do something different.”

Holloway’s two-story 9,420-square-foot event/gallery space – Sundance Galley – at 146 Maxwell Ave. in Greenwood is officially on the real estate market.

Don’t panic, Holloway is keeping his photography business next door.

“I kind of felt it was time last year,” Holloway said. “That’s when I moved my photography footprint next door (to Sundance Gallery) and created space that was all event space on both floors (of Sundance Gallery.)”

Holloway said the time is right for another creative visionary to transition Sundance Gallery and “take it to the next level.”

The event space is still available for rentals and has bookings scheduled through December 2019, Holloway said.

“We keep doing improvements to the building,” he said. “For me, it’s one of the most interesting buildings in the Upstate. We will continue to go above and beyond for clients who book this space.”

Holloway said, in his view, Greenwood is well-positioned for the next decade and growth, and that includes transitioning Sundance Gallery.

“There’s no big reason,” Holloway said, of the decision to list Sundance Gallery for sale. “I’m just simplifying my life, or trying to. … I’ve been doing this for 12 years. Do I want to do it for another 12 years? You know? This space is busy on the weekends and we have a lot of people renting it and utilizing it, including people from outside of Greenwood.”

Holloway said he wants to be able to devote his time and energy to “a really big photography project coming up, to hopefully take place in 2021.”

Holloway said this future photography project might also involve a book.

This announcement comes on the heels of his Dec. 21 book release and signing for “Chasing Dawn: An Adventure of Three Fathers and Four Teenagers Bicycling Across America.”

Holloway photographed images for “Chasing Dawn” and was one of the fathers on the epic cross-country trip, along with his daughter, Annie.

“I’m always thinking ahead about what I want to do personally,” Holloway said. “I feel this is the right opportunity for me to put the Sundance building on the market and start turning my time and energy toward another personal photography project.”

Holloway also teaches photography full time as part of the art department faculty at Lander University.

Currently being used as gallery and event space, Sundance Gallery could be adapted to house a restaurant, catering business, retail or office space, according to Bubba Harvin with Re/Max Action Realty, who has the commercial listing for Sundance Gallery.

“It’s a wonderful space and is a great opportunity for someone wanting to take it up a notch,” Harvin said. “There are 50 to 60 events there this year alone. If somebody doing that full time, I think it would really do well. It’s continuing to take bookings and those on the books are going forward. Plus, Jon’s not going anywhere. He’s going to be right next door.”

Holloway opened Sundance Gallery in July 2007, during Greenwood’s South Carolina Festival of Discovery that year, utilizing it then as a fine art gallery for his work, studio and office space, with an outdoor area out back, facing Oregon Avenue.

It didn’t take long for the former auto parts shop building, which dates to 1901, to become a go-to spot for weddings, receptions, graduation and retirement parties, charity fundraisers, concerts and more.

Holloway’s vision for Sundance Gallery dovetailed with establishment of Uptown Greenwood’s Cultural Arts District, including the Arts Center of Greenwood, Greenwood Community Theatre and The Museum, as well as establishment of an overlay design review district Uptown.

Lara Hudson, Uptown Greenwood manager, said Holloway was “the first to invest in a building on Maxwell Avenue and was truly the catalyst for the entire revitalization of that area of Uptown.”

Additionally, Hudson said Holloway has served on the Uptown Greenwood Development Corp. board as a member and president.

Kelly McWhorter, executive director of Greenwood Regional Tourism and Visitors Bureau, described Holloway as “a champion in recruiting and creating events that bring visitors to the area.”

She cites his multi-year photography collective – Click646 – that brought renowned photographers to Greenwood and his efforts that made Sundance Gallery a destination wedding location.

In partnership with friend Nick Hyduke, Holloway also made Sundance a destination for their decade-long listening room concert series, Music on Maxwell.

That, Holloway said, was largely a “break even proposition” and “a labor of love” to “bring incredible artists to Greenwood.”

With its mix of historical building details such as high ceilings, original skylights, hardwood floors and exposed brick walls, along with contemporary art, fixtures and furnishings, Sundance Gallery is ready for the holiday party season and more.

When he acquired 146 Maxwell Ave., Holloway also purchased space next door, at 140 Maxwell, which was used for a time for studios in an artists’ collective known as Meridian and now serves as his photography studio.

“When I first moved back to Greenwood in 1995, after studying at Savannah College of Art and Design, I rented space Uptown, next to what was then Debs and Brides and Cannon Jewelers — at 227 Main Street,” Holloway said. “I was there for eight years and then I renovated an old house on Grace Street. I was there for eight years.”

Then, Holloway transformed 146 Maxwell Ave. into Sundance Gallery.

He said it’s been fun to watch people “bond and create memories” there.

“I knew I wanted to create a photography business and I slowly built it here,” Holloway said. “I think it’s a plus that we don’t have an interstate running through our community. The fact that we are off the beaten path makes Greenwood unique. Uptown is a vital part of it.”

Serious inquiries about Sundance Gallery should be directed to the listing broker, Bubba Harvin, 864-992-9090.

Contact St. Claire Donaghy at 864-943-2518

Wilkie agrees to Greenwood city manager post

December 4, 2018

Index Journal, Adam Benson

Greenwood’s deputy administrator on Monday formally came to terms with the City Council take over on a full-time basis later this week.

Julie Wilkie

Julie Wilkie, 37, is set to become city manager effective Saturday. She’ll replace Charlie Barrineau, who announced his resignation last month after a nine-year tenure to take a job with the Municipal Association of South Carolina.

After a brief executive session, the council unanimously voted to offer Wilkie the job. Officials said the contract would be made available today pending a final review by City Attorney Tripp Padgett.

Details of the agreement include an annual salary of $100,000 and a roughly $10,000 auto allowance, Mayor Brandon Smith told the Index-Journal.

Wilkie said last month she plans to relocate into the city.

Wilkie recently graduated from Leadership South Carolina, the state’s oldest leadership development program. Graduates successfully complete 120-plus hours of instruction in issues facing the state.

To date, more than 2,000 leaders have graduated from Leadership S.C., the only statewide program that explores a vast array of challenges facing the state, with solutions for improvement.

Wilkie, who helps run the South Carolina Festival of Discovery, has also played a key role in ongoing beautification efforts in the Uptown and has strong working relationships with city department heads and county officials, she said.

“I know the nuances of city operations, I have a rapport with the community and if you hire somebody brand new, it’s much more of a learning curve,” she said. “Greenwood is highly recognized in the municipal world for our Uptown, so it’s certainly a desirable job and being a part of it for the past nine years certainly gives me insight into that.”

With the council expected to approve a $15.87 million 2019 budget that includes a 6.5-mill tax hike, Wilkie said it was important for her to live within the city.

“I think the city manager should live in the city. I’m looking forward to it, actually. I know who’s going to come put my fire out and pick up my trash,” she said.

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650.


An emotional goodbye: Greenwood city manager steps down amid accolades

November 17, 2018

Index Journal, Adam Benson

Charlie Barrineau’s first job after finishing graduate school at the University of Georgia in 1999 was a roving administrator the Lower Savannah Council of Governments in Aiken.

He was there for only a year. A blip on his resume, but a small reminder that he actually worked anywhere else besides the city that he has grown to love over a nearly 20-year career.

Charlie Barrineau

From shepherding millions of dollars’ worth of grants into the city for improvements to Uptown streetscapes to growing the Festival of Discovery into a nationwide mecca for barbecue and blues enthusiasts, Barrineau — for many — is the face of Greenwood itself.

He joined the city as assistant manager in 2000, ascending to the top position in 2009 after current County Council chairman Steve Brown retired from the post.

On Dec. 7, Barrineau will step down as the Emerald City’s chief administrative official to prepare for a job as a field services manager with the Municipal Association of South Carolina. He’ll formally ask the City Council to accept his resignation on Nov. 19.

“A number of months ago, I just had on my heart that I was interested in a new challenge and my wife Leslie and I prayed together and talked a lot, and asked the Lord to help with an answer,” Barrineau said. “About the same time, this position came open and the aspects of the job — team building, relationship building, teaching, are things that I’m really interested in.”

Barrineau met with department heads on Wednesday afternoon and spent the day reaching out to current and former colleagues, who are as much personal friends as professional peers.

“Charlie has been such a dedicated city manager. Frequently, I would be walking with him and he would stop to pick up a piece of litter. That type of focus really brought our Uptown to new heights,” said outgoing Mayor Welborn Adams, who’s worked with Barrineau for 10 years. “He is to be commended for giving Greenwood all his attention.”

Barrineau and mayor-elect Brandon Smith acknowledged the timing of his announcement may appear suspicious, but both quickly discounted that notion. Their families are close, and they both attend Main Street United Methodist Church.

“He insisted that we meet this morning, and it was surprising but yet not surprising, in that he’s a rock star in the city management world, and we’re lucky to have had him for 18 years,” Smith said. “I am sure people are going to twist this as if he’s leaving because of me but I know Charlie as well as anybody can, and I don’t believe it’s because of me.”

Barrineau said the results of Tuesday’s election had no bearing on his decision.

“I hate the coincidence with the election. It has nothing to do with whether or not Brandon or Annette would have won. This was going on in my heart months ago and at the end of the day, I have to do what’s best for my family,” he said.

He plans to stay in Greenwood through the end of the school year, and then relocate to the greater Columbia area.

Barrineau developed a strong working and personal relationship with County Manager Toby Chappell — a partnership that began before he arrived in Greenwood.

“When I was announced as the county manager in 2012, even before moving here, one of the first phone calls I received was from Charlie. He wanted to welcome me to the community, and we hit it off. Over the past six years, Charlie and I have always held true to our earliest agreement, which was that we may have to deny the others request occasionally but we would make every effort to work together for the better of the all of the citizens of Greenwood County,” Chappell said. “At no time in the last 6 years have I felt like Charlie did not uphold his end of that agreement.”

In October 2017, the American Planning Association named Uptown Greenwood one of America’s best neighborhoods, complimenting officials for carrying out the vision of a 2003 master plan that laid the groundwork for urban growth.

Floyd Nicholson, now a state senator, was Greenwood’s mayor at the time. He credited Barrineau with bringing the master plan to fruition — among his many other accomplishments.

“He’s been a true asset for the city of Greenwood. The positive improvements we’ve experienced, he’s had a lot to do with, and I really wish him well. I know he has to look out for what’s best for his family, but the citizens of Greenwood have a lot to thank Charlie for,” Nicholson said.

Reba Campbell, deputy executive director at the state’s municipal association, said Barrineau’s skill set was a perfect fit for his new role — which in a way, harkens back to that post-graduate school job as a roving administrator.

He’ll work closely with many of the state’s smaller towns and cities on local issues such as strategic planning, zoning and grant writing.

“Charlie has got a great instinct for the work he does, and we feel certain that’s going to very valuable as he takes his abilities into the field with other cities and towns,” Campbell said. “The type of help that cities need are very diverse and the two people in these positions have a lot of autonomy to identify needs. These two positions boil down to knowledge and respect, and Charlie has both.”

In his letter of resignation, Barrineau specifically thanked current County Council chairman Steve Brown for “taking a chance on a 25-year-old kid” when he was hired on in 2000.

Brown was city manager at the time.

“He’s one of the finest young men that I’ve ever been associated with. I was fortunate to be able to locate him, I think the city of Greenwood was blessed that he was wanting to get into this work and the years he worked under me, it was pure delight,” Brown said. “These jobs are tough, and I know that when you have to battle budgets like he does year after year after year, it’s not easy. When you’re No. 1, you have the whole load on top of you.”

Chappell echoed that.

“In the work life of a city or county manager there are oftentimes struggles, and it is helpful to have someone that understands those pressures. I was very fortunate to have Charlie as my counterpart and someone I could confide,” Chappell said. “I do not use the word trust lightly; so for me to say that I trust someone is as about as big of a compliment as I can give and I trust Charlie Barrineau implicitly.”

Hours after informing department heads of his decision Wednesday, an emotional Barrineau deflected any accolades for the city’s growth to them and their employees.

“Look at our Uptown today. The fire department is out there putting decorations on trees,” he said. “Greenwood has been good to my family and I, and I have nothing but positive feelings for Greenwood. But any success we’ve had as been a result of employees of the city. I can’t say enough about them, and I’m very proud of their hard work.

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.

Smith to become Greenwood’s next mayor

November 6, 2018

The Index Journal, Adam Benson

Uptown attorney Brandon Smith fulfilled a lifelong goal on Tuesday, ascending to Greenwood’s highest office with a commanding victory for the political newcomer.

Smith, 39, entered the race in March and quickly went about building name recognition and laying out a vision for the city that includes enhanced recreational opportunities, more public safety initiatives and continued beautification efforts.

Brandon Smith and his wife, Tara, celebrate in November at Howard’s on Main after he won the Greenwood’s race for mayor. Tara is leading a litter pickup campaign.

He bested Annette Edwards 57.6 percent to 41.9 percent with all precincts reporting. He spent the evening celebrating with supporters at Howard’s on Main.

“I hope people saw me everywhere before I announced my campaign. I have no regrets one way or the other. I’m going to sleep well tonight,” Smith said.

Smith and his wife Tara have three boys: Jarratt, 12, Witt, 9, and Benjo, 6. They attend Main Street United Methodist Church. He’s also active in several local and state organizations, including the Arts Center of Greenwood, the United Way of Abbeville and Greenwood Counties, Greenwood Kiwanis Club and the Greenwood SC Chamber of Commerce.

Smith moved to Greenwood from Arkansas in the mid-1980s when his father, Dewitt H. Smith III joined the Savannah Lakes Village in McCormick.

For Smith, who said he was drawn to the office because of its nonpartisanship, the victory fulfilled a childhood dream. In the fifth grade, he wrote an essay about his aspirations to one day serve as Greenwood’s top elected official.

“There’s a part of you that files that dream in a different part of your brain and puts it away for a while, but it is exciting. It’s almost like déjà vu when it actually happens,” Smith said.

Smith ran unopposed for five months, until community activist Annette Edwards filed for the mayor’s job on Aug. 15 — just hours before the deadline lapsed to run for local office.

Smith said he appreciated the concerns she raised about the city, and hopes to work with her over the course of his administration.

“I’d like to thank her for pushing me to see what I can do, and I look forward to working with her in any capacity to do what’s best for Greenwood,” Smith said.

Smith plans to huddle with department heads and learn what their priorities are.

“I don’t have a degree in criminal, I’ve not been to the fire academy,” he said. “But I want to ask them what the city of Greenwood can do so they can do their jobs as best they can.”

Edwards did not return a call seeking comment as of midnight Tuesday.

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.

Greenwood Partnership Alliance toasts 20 years of success

October 31, 2018

The Index Journal, Adam Benson

State and regional business development officials took a deep dive Tuesday into the inner workings of Greenwood County’s economic foundation, emerging with findings that could dramatically impact future growth.

“Greenwood has always been a very progressive and visionary community, putting infrastructure in the ground to attract global companies, and now you’re investing in a new infrastructure, and that’s workforce,” said Nelson Lindsay, director of global business development for the state Department of Commerce.

His remarks came during the Greenwood Partnership Alliance’s annual meeting and 20th-anniversary celebration, which provided investors and civic leaders with a forward-looking agenda.

“I think there’s a very unique labor narrative here in Greenwood, and you need to continue that trend,” said Beth Land, a vice president with the national Site Selection Group.

The 2017-18 year saw 197 jobs and $72.8 million worth of development, including major expansions at legacy companies such as Fujifilm and Lonza, while new firms, such as Caterpillar, announced an entry into the region.

Dan Martins, plant manager for Teijin — which broke ground in June on a $600 million plant that will bring 220 jobs to the region — said Greenwood County’s history of business-friendly government combined with workforce development initiatives makes the area a unique draw.

“The culture of the workforce here is extremely strong and dedicated, and that’s key for us. We want to partner with the other manufacturing companies here. We don’t compete against each other It doesn’t do us any good to steal workers from everybody else,” he said.

Since major manufacturing is now the backbone of Greenwood’s economy, developing talent early on — through apprenticeships and programs such as Greenwood Promise, is vital to ensure the long-term viability of employers, said Todd Dalton, senior manager of human resources for Fujifilm.

“The Greenwood Promise is going to be a big boon for making sure we have those people ready for manufacturing jobs. The folks we’re looking for now are highly educated, have good technical skills and can work together,” he said.

When the public-private endeavor was formed in the late 1990s, the region was reeling from the loss of its mills, Partnership Alliance board member Frank Wideman III said in a commemorative video shown on Tuesday.

“Demise of the textile industry severely impacted Greenwood, so we had a displaced workforce. But over the last 20 years, we’ve been able to significantly retrain a good portion of that and staff new industry in the community,” he said.

In August 2017, Ascend Performance Materials unveiled a $6.2 million facility expansion, bringing with it 24 jobs.

Michael Walters, Ascend’s site operations manager, said the investment was made possible because of Greenwood County’s pro-business track record — a reputation that’s known across the state.

But, he added, better marketing is needed around the county’s school system, and officials should look for ways to finance high-tech training programs in areas such as mechatronics.

“As we get more companies into the area, that’s going to be a need moving forward,” he said. “We don’t want that to be a tight market.”

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.

Main & Maxwell gallery featuring face jug pottery throughout August

August 15, 2018

Lakeland’s Connector – Submitted

Main & Maxwell in Greenwood announced that the gallery’s feature exhibit for the month of August is FOLK FACES – A Collection of Southern Tradition. The exhibit featuring the work of local potters Paula Bowers and Bob Taft of Edgefield, Levi Wright of Columbia, and Michael Johansen of Ninety Six, will also include an estate sale from the face jug collections of Pam Hunley and Laura Bachinski of Greenwood that will feature pieces for sale by Marvin Bailey, Huey Wheeler, Terry and Crystal King, Stanley and Bobby Ferguson and others. The exhibit and estate sale runs through Friday, August 31. A reception will be hosted on Friday, August 27 at the gallery from 5:30 – 7:30 PM with a participating Artist Talk at 6:30 PM.

A face jug is typically a thrown ceramic jug that depicts a grotesque or scary face. There are examples of this form in the pottery of Ancient Greece and Pre-Columbia America. German stoneware jugs, referred to as Bartmann jugs and the later British Toby Jugs are also popular forms that were mass produced. Today, especially in The Carolinas and Georgia, craft potters make face jugs continuing in the African slave folk art tradition. The African slave tradition of face jugs describes them as functional pieces that served practical purposes like holding and pouring liquid. In folklore accounts it is thought that the jugs were more spiritual in nature being used to ward off bad spirits or used to mark graves by being placed on the top of a burial mound surrounded by the departed possessions. Beginning in the 1880’s snakes and devils were added to jugs that were made to hold liquor. These “ugly pots” or face jugs were used to hold the spirits and the ugly face designs were added to keep young children away from the contents.

Face jugs are collected by many people because of the history and the whimsical decorative arts used in creating them. For more information about the exhibit and estate sale please contact Main & Maxwell at 210 Main Street in Greenwood, South Carolina at 864-223-6229 or at For more information about Main & Maxwell visit our website