City approves Office of Cultural Affairs’ application for NEA grants, leasing of new community arts space

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134 Cannon St. is laid out so that multiple arts organizations can use it at one time. - GOOGLE MAPS

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  • 134 Cannon St. is laid out so that multiple arts organizations can use it at one time.

Last night City of Charleston Ways and Means Committee approved two Office of Cultural Affairs’ (OCA) items — the application for the next round of National Endowment of the Arts grants (to be awarded next April if funded) and the leasing of a new community arts space at 134 Cannon St.

OCA was recently granted two NEA awards as part of the Endowment’s second major funding initiative of 2017: $20,000 for an arts marketing initiative, called Imagine Charleston, and $10,500 for the Big Read grant, which funds literary events based on poet Claudia Rakine’s Citizen this coming fall.

And the OCA, with director Scott Watson at the helm, shows no signs of slowing down, at least as far as NEA grants go. Last night the Ways and Means Committee approved the OCA’s application for funding for a grant in the amount of $50,000. As the memorandum announcing the application says, this grant will be used to “support Create Charleston, an integrated platform of marketing and centralized ticketing services to benefit local arts organizations and artists. This project will assist artists and arts events throughout the city of Charleston, particularly serving those populations and communities without access to traditional venues or existing arts-related infrastructure/resources.”

The OCA will complete this application by the end of this month; NEA funding for 2018 will be awarded next April.

In addition to approval of this application, the city’s arts scored again last night with the approval of the leasing of 134 Cannon St. for use as a cultural arts and performance center. The building, formerly used as Zion-Olivet Presbyterian Church, will, as the OCA sees it, open up opportunities for arts groups who cannot afford other spaces in town.

Mayor Tecklenburg spoke in favor of the building: “The proposal is to create what I think will be an amazing cultural arts center for our community, for those community arts groups that can’t afford the high rents of King Street and the Gaillard. It will be able to be used by a number of different community arts organizations at the same time. It’s going to be a great cult. asset to our city.”

Charleston realtor Patterson Smith is the current owner of 134 Cannon St. Last night he told the Ways and Means Committee that Tecklenburg himself planted the idea for a cultural arts space in his mind. “I share a vision with the mayor. When he was running for office he always talked about his avocation as a jazz pianist and how important the cultural affairs were to him. I’m glad I can be a vehicle to benefit my community,” said Smith.

Learn more about the Office of Cultural Affairs online at

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