A CASE FOR THE ARTS - an essay by Jasper Intern Olivia Morris


Art is a celebration of humanity's emotional and technical intelligence. It is what we build ourselves from  and what spills out of us, personal and universal at once. However, art has been pushed aside in favor of STEM subjects in schools. The Republican Study Committee has suggested the arts budget be eliminated entirely. In a world that devalues the emotional and intellectual value of art, an argument can be made in terms everyone can understand — money. Art is money. Areas with art make money.

Artistry-rich areas have a competitive advantage compared to cities without sufficient artistic activities. These areas attract visitors and businesses.  Increased art and culture in a region increases both the amount of foot traffic and the amount of money spent in the area.

In 1905, The Crane Company Building inPhiladelphia was erected as a cast concrete emblem of modernizing architecture. Built in the manufacturing district of northern Philadelphia, the building transformed to meet the shifting American demands, first as a plumbing manufacture, then as a seafood processing plant.  After years of reeking of draft horses and half-frozen shrimp, the building closed and became dilapidated through the twentieth century.  In 2004, a group of local artists restored the building and established Crane Arts, a gallery space for established and emerging artists in Philadelphia. Crane Arts's 'Icebox' art projects have garnered international attention and were mentioned in Lonely Planet's article on top ten U.S. destinations. This is one of the numerous examples of how fostering artistic expression can lead to increased visibility and visitation of a region.

Stories like Crane Arts don't only exist in major cities. In Columbia, The Nickelodeon Theater hosts an annual arts and culture festival called Indie Grits. Andy Smith, the Executive Director of The Nickelodeon, shared the figures on how much this one festival contributed to the economy. Indie Grits had 10,267 attendees this year, all in one weekend. 38 percent of those people come from out of town, and therefore increased the profits going towards hotel and restaurants. On average, attendees spent $30 outside of the festival, mostly within a mile radius of the The Nickelodeon.  That is roughly $300,000 dollars being pumped into the non-arts sector over the course of one weekend.

Additionally, arts and culture jobs proliferate into jobs for other sectors. For every arts job that was generated in 2012, 1.62 other non-arts jobs were created as a result. The arts are constantly pumping more into the economy than they are taking out. For every $1 invested in the arts, there is a $1.69 in total output. The nonprofit arts industry creates an average of $135.2 billion every year, resulting in $22.3 billion in tax revenues across the national, state, and local levels. Lee Snelgrove, the Executive Director of One Columbia, brought the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report on Columbia to our attention. It outlines the economic impact that the nonprofit arts and culture organizations have in Columbia. In the greater Columbia area, total industry expenditures total at $35,898,074.  Columbia alone generates revenues of $1,773,000 to the local government and $2,154,000 to state government.

When 97% of employers report that creativity matters to them when looking for an employee, the fostering of art is not only important to individuals, but also to businesses. South Carolina's economy is one of the most sluggish in the nation. According to Business Insider, South Carolina ranks as one of the most economically struggling states, the fifth worst in the nation. Instead of eradicating the arts, it has proven already to be more effective to bolster them. Arts and culture invigorate the economy and are vital to placemaking. The arts are not a part of the problem, but rather a part of the solution.


Olivia Morris

"Andy Smith does not spend his time waiting" -- Tony Tallent Endorses Andy Smith

Tony Tallent is the director of learning and literacy at Richland Library  


We are all drawn to people who are able to articulate a vision for a brighter future, particularly when that vision touches on things we really care about. Articulating a vision is a powerful action. Implementing it is even more powerful. Too often there seems to be a wait-time for many leaders to act on the vision they have announced. Perhaps they are waiting for a mass of approval or funding or a wave of new insight and personal courage. This wait-time burns through resources, opportunities and trust.


Andy Smith does not spend his time waiting. He is already actively making moves to  fulfill the vision he has set for the City of Columbia. He hasn’t waited for superficial permission or for the political climate to be easy. The work Andy Smith does both through his role as a nonprofit director of a notable organization in Columbia as well as an involved community member has already made improvements that surpass the tangible changes many seasoned leaders have made. He has lifted up the lives of disadvantaged youth and has shown a palpable respect to marginalized and vulnerable segments of our community in ways that are remarkable. Andy Smith cares in ways that are real and not only in words.


Andy Smith is already doing the work that is moving Columbia toward a brighter future. Imagine how much more powerful this good, earnest work would be if Andy had a platform to reach into our community more directly.


We all want to see great, mindful changes in our city. Andy Smith hasn’t waited for others to make this happen. He has stepped in with courage and without hesitation. Why would we want to prolong making Columbia an even better place to be? We know someone who can help make this happen more rapidly. Andy Smith. Andy doesn’t hesitate to do the right thing. Let’s not hesitate anymore either.


"the entrepreneurial business and infrastructure and commercialvision candidate" -- Ed Madden Endorses Andy Smith

Ed Madden (left) with Bert Easter and Andy Smith Would you rather?


Either/or.  That game.


Sometimes the options don’t feel very different.  Would you rather watch Seinfeld or watch The Simpsons?  Would you rather be itchy or scratchy?


Sometimes they are very different, despite the superficial structure of the game.  Would you rather be telekinetic or telepathic?  Would you rather have the power of invisibility or the power of flight?


My dad and I took one of those little personality tests.  I remember one question that clarified things for me.  Would you rather have your head in the clouds or be stuck in a rut?  That’s easy, I thought: head in the clouds.  That’s easy, he thought: stuck in a rut.


For him it was about getting something done, even if it was the same old thing.  For me it was about possibility, vision, about doing things better, doing things differently.


So, would you rather have Andy or Howard?  Someone emailed me, said here’s the issue: non-arts folks don’t see a lot of difference between Andy Smith and Howard Duvall.  Said we got rid of the regressive element on the council, and either of these guys would be good.

Don't see a lot of difference?  Really?  Are we watching the same news, reading the same webpages, thinking about the same city—and what they  think a city could and should be?


Everyone knows Andy Smith is the arts candidate—or to rephrase that, the candidate at the heart of the city’s cultural boom, the candidate with a comprehensive vision for strategic planning.  Everyone cites his transformation of the Nickelodeon Theatre from a tiny arts venue to a central cultural venue for the city—and his creation and direction of Indie Grits, one of the most exciting recent developments in our city’s ongoing cultural renaissance.  (And don’t say you haven’t noticed this cultural renaissance?  Columbia is not the sleepy little self-satisfied city I moved to 20 years ago. It is something better, something more.  It is an urban ecology in transformation.)  And doesn’t that massive film festival suggest he is more than an arts candidate: he is also the entrepreneurial business and infrastructure and commercialvision candidate?  Look at their webpages.  Look at Andy’s response to the flood and the infrastructure and local business issues it addresses.  What have they done, what can they do?  Earlier this year, the Free Times named him one of “50 People Who Get Things Done.”


Would you rather…?  There’s a difference.

"It comes down, quite simply, to scale." - Kyle Petersen Endorses Andy Smith

Kyle Petersen There are a lot of reason I, along with so many others, support Andy Smith for City Council.

There’s the surface level stuff—he’s a progressive committed to LGBT and racial equality, a firm supporter and leader of our city’s sense of community and cultural growth, and a savvy administrator who has proven his ability to bring both imagination and expertise to the management of one of our city’s largest and most prominent non-profit arts organizations.

If we dig a little deeper, I might point to his keen awareness of how interconnected the arts are with not just the cultural but economic growth of a city, or that he has an impressive record of envisioning what kind of city he wants to live in and then setting about actually creating that city through his leadership of the Nickelodeon Theatre and Indie Grits.  That he’s proven to be inquisitive and engaged with important conversations about city planning and urban development as he’s continued that work, and that he brings a wealth of experience to the table through his experience with national groups like the Ford Foundation and Nord Family Foundation and serving on boards like the national Art House Convergence and National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC).

And all of that is important—values, vision, and experience. Who are you? What do you specifically plan to do? And how able are you to do it? That’s essentially the three questions of any political campaign. Or any other job interview for that matter.

However, Smith’s opponent in the November 17th run-off has his own qualifications, including a similar set of values, a long history with working in (and leading) municipal governments, and his own clear vision of the kind of role he would take up on the council. So why do I so ardently believe Smith is the superior choice?

It comes down, quite simply, to scale. Andy’s campaign slogan is “Think Big,” a phrase which strikes at the heart of his appeal. He believes, fundamentally, in creating grand, imaginative concepts and then executing them to the best of your ability. The Nick and Indie Grits are prime examples of this, of course. Before Andy, the former was a tiny niche art house theatre and the latter didn’t exist at all. Now, The Nick has grown by leaps and bounds as it has launched new education initiatives and programming ventures while reimagining the role of a community cinema in the 21st century. With Indie Grits, he began a quirky film festival focused on DIY filmmaking in the Southeast and then grew it into a nationally recognized multi-disciplinary arts event that draw submissions from across the country. That both also make huge economic impacts and are key parts of the Main Street revitalization just sweetens the pot.

I want to stress, though, that what’s key here is the way Smith both dreams big and in imaginative ways, and then makes things happen, not just his arts organization prowess. That’s an ability that will cut across all of the issues our city faces, from economic growth to quality of life to maintaining basic services. Andy is not going to simply settle for the status quo, for what’s minimally adequate, or for whatever we’ve done in the past. He’s going to ask ‘what’s the best version of this we can imagine?’ That’s the kind of vision and attitude that I want, and that we need collectively as a community, on City Council.

I implore you, registered voters of Columbia, to go out and vote not just to get a smart, forward-thinking candidate like Andy Smith elected. Go out and vote for the idea that truly is a “best future” for Columbia out there.

Kyle Petersen is Assistant  Editor of Jasper Magazine


'His ideas are just that much bigger now." -- Meeghan Kane Endorses Andy Smith

meeghan kane

I met Andy Smith when I moved to Columbia in 2006. He was a native son returning to South Carolina from Los Angeles. His plan was to bring some fresh ideas to the Nickelodeon, in particular, and to Columbia, in general. His enthusiasm was infectious then, and it still is today. His ideas are just that much bigger now.


In many ways, I don’t think 2006 me would recognize 2016 Columbia, and I say that with all of the affection in the world. Because Andy worked hard to cultivate and enrich an arts community that was ready to grow, and he’s a big part of the really good change that’s happened here. The potential for that change to continue and expand is key to sustaining growth and progress in Columbia. Andy's plans to keep our arts community at the heart of economic development and public education in the city is the type of innovation in city planning that many of us have been hoping for.

Andy also commits his time and resources to providing opportunities for and encouraging young folks in the city to participate in the arts and take leadership roles in creating and sustaining change. And on that note, he is a strong advocate for progressive social change and racial and gender equality.


I think it goes without saying that Andy has my full endorsement for city council, but I’ll say it anyway.


Go Andy!

Meeghan Kane teaches history at Benedict College.

"It's like he's found ways to transcend the Columbia living experience."- Shige Kobayashi Endorses Andy Smith

 andy shige

I've gotten into several conversations that sound like this:

"Do you have something to say about Andy Smith at the Nickelodeon Theatre? He is running for Columbia City Council."

"I don't know who that guy is."

My friend will then go on to say nice things about the movie theater. The marquee sign on Main Street looks awesome. It only makes sense to have a beer while watching a movie. They have a friend who hosted a scary movie night at the Nickelodeon, and another friend who hosted a variety show, and it's like they've found ways to transcend the movie-watching experience.

Andy Smith has been at the head of the Nickelodeon during all these experiences. If he has not been visible, it's because he surrounds himself with energetic people who like to build things.

That is exactly what we need in a city leader.

Andy Smith also founded the Indie Grits Festival and has been at the center of its growth and expansion. He's given artists of all disciplines more opportunities to show their work. The festival has highlighted whole city blocks and sections of Columbia. It's brought tourists to town, added to area businesses, and found uses for undiscovered spaces around our city.

Again, imagine this sort of cultural growth on a city-wide level.

This has helped me professionally. I work at Camon, a small, quiet Japanese restaurant on Assembly St. We serve those who are hungry, literally and figuratively, for authentic cultural experiences. I also own P-Bug Goods, which sells t-shirts that proudly proclaim "Columbi-yeah!" The Tapp's Arts Center, where I am Program Manager, showcases the visual and performance art talents of regional creators.

All of these organizations have seen benefits from the collaborative mindset of Andy Smith.

It's not because Smith goes and puts a billboard of advertisements in front of the Nick. It's because he knows that our city becomes richer when he puts together an efficient organization that relies on the talents of exciting and excited people. You can find his specific plans at the Andy for Columbia website.

It's like he's found ways to transcend the Columbia living experience.

If you don't know who Andy Smith is, but you like the work that he has supported, you have a great reason to elect the guy. If you do know who Andy Smith is, you know you have no excuse. Find a neighbor and go vote together on Tuesday 11/3. Make an experience out of it.

Shige Kobayashi is the part-time leader of Columbia-focused organizations Camon Japanese Restaurant, P-Bug Goods, and FRANK Comics. Kobayashi curated WATCH PAINT in 2014 and is the Program Manager at Tapp's Arts Center. He has spoken at TEDx, PechaKucha, Richland Library, and Columbia-area high schools.

USC Student Leader Cory Alpert Endorses Andy Smith

Cory Alpert & Andy Smith Recently, I’ve been asked often why I care so much about the city of Columbia. I grew up here. My first job was at Trustus Theatre in the Vista, and I’ve had so many formative experiences here. In the last few weeks, I’ve seen the city come together in a way that I never expected in the face of a disaster. This has only strengthened my belief that Columbia deserves strong leadership and vision, especially as we recover from the floods.  I’ve been closely following the candidates for City Council, and I’ve come to a point where I firmly believe that Andy Smith is the person I most trust to help lead Columbia to new heights.


If you didn’t already know, Andy is the Executive Director of the Nickelodeon Theatre, which is Columbia’s independent cinema. Annually, it hosts the Indie Grits Film Festival, which draws nearly 10,000 people to screenings and events. He’s been a part of the complete overhaul of Main Street, and he’s led numerous community initiatives to make Columbia a more diverse, safe, and vibrant place. Andy has proven that he knows how to think big, and that he has a vision that looks at both the immediate fixes that the city needs, as well as the long-term investments that we have to make. We need people on the Columbia City Council who are ready to bring big ideas to showcase Columbia and make it even more of a unique and thriving city.


We need members of the City Council who are dedicated to making sure that everyone in the community is treated with compassion and dignity. While Andy has been fighting for LGBTQ rights and volunteering for flood relief efforts, the incumbent, Cameron Runyan, has made the City Council a complete laughingstock. He has introduced efforts to criminalize homelessness, turned his back on the LGBTQ community that he once pledged to support, and has been voted “Biggest Waste of Public Funds” by readers of the Free Times.


The choice has become abundantly clear. We have a candidate who can help bring Columbia to prominence with big ideas on diversity, inclusiveness, creativity, and entrepreneurship. We have an incumbent who has brought Columbia to prominence with inane proposals and a heartbreaking turn against equality and justice for all.


On Tuesday, we have an important choice to make. Of the 133,358 people in the city, 69,136 are registered to vote. 8,420 people voted in the last city council election, with 4,858 choosing the winner. If 25% of the student body voted in this election, we could double the turnout and give ourselves a voice in local policy. These things matter in our daily lives, and they are worth taking 20 minutes to go vote.  


If you want to live in a city that thinks big, that cares for all of its citizens, and that supports a growing and vibrant economy, then join me on Tuesday to vote for Andy Smith for Columbia City Council.


Cory C. Alpert

UofSC Relief Organizer

UofSC Class of 2017

A New Foundation for Our City - Filmmaker Wade Sellers endorses Andy Smith for Columbia City Council

When I hear terms such as “our city is on the brink of…” used in magazine articles, newspaper profiles, and, most recently, at a city council candidate forum, I instantly cringe. It’s a lazy quote, cotton candy rhetoric, instantly sounding sweet but quickly dissolving without the substance to back it up. The term has been used a lot to describe Columbia for many years and recently our explosive growth throughout the city has led us to hear the term more and more. This growth is not by accident and not a surprise to many people. For a decade or more, there have been many young people in Columbia that have made the conscious decision to stay and live here. The decision was not to just live in Columbia, but to make Columbia the place that they wanted to live in. Andy Smith was one of those individuals. Andy’s work in growing the Nickelodeon Theater is not only benefitting the theater itself, but the community as a whole. He has not shied away from what the additional responsibilities of being the Executive Director of a non-profit arts organization bring. He is personally integrated into the arts community, bringing artists of all disciplines together to create and spread their talents through the city as a whole.

Andy does not just make the” appropriate appearances” at arts events in the city. He’s been personally involved and invested in our arts community, and he’s made both that and his national arts organization experience the foundation of his campaign. That kind of experience, coupled with Andy’s creative yet concrete plans for the future of our city, is what is so inspiring and new for a metropolis that has, for far too long, been stuck on the verge of…something.

In Andy we have an opportunity that we have not had in recent memory. As an arts community we have the opportunity to not only have someone who understands the arts and knows the artists in Columbia, but a champion of the arts as a new foundation for our city to grow on for many years ahead. Take time and vote for Andy Smith for the city of Columbia’s at-large seat on November 3rd.

Filmmaker Wade Sellers is the Film Editor for Jasper Magazine. Known for his SCETV series "South Carolinians in World War II," he is a three time Emmy nominee and has received Addy's, Telly's and numerous other awards for his work.

Andy Smith for Progress by Larry Hembree

Larry Hembree with Andy Smith and Kimi Maeda I have been asked to write a blog for “Jasper Magazine” about the upcoming election for the City Council at-large position from my perspective as an arts supporter.  I greatly appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts on the election and my staunch support of candidate Andy Smith.

Over the past thirty years, I have served in both artist and arts administrator positions at several non-profit organizations in Kershaw and Richland County, and I spent several years working at the SC Arts Commission.  I have dedicated the majority of my 55 years to promoting the arts while trying to understand their power and impact.

I have served on the boards for arts organizations such as One Columbia for Arts and History, SC Theatre Association, SC Dance Association, and was an original member of SC’s Arts in the Basic Curriculum Steering Committee.

At the same time, I have also served on many other boards in Columbia not directly related to the arts including the City Center Partnership, the Congaree Vista Guild, the SC Gay and Lesbian Business Guild, and my own neighborhood association (the Sherwood Forest Neighborhood Association).

I also participate in other local organizations including church.  I am slightly addicted to Clemson Tigers football and USC women’s basketball.  I grew up in Greenwood, SC and attended Clemson University and the University of Georgia.  I spent a couple of years living outside South Carolina, and have been lucky to have traveled to interesting international places.  As a gay man, I recently got married in SC after a wonderful 15 year relationship with a hardworking, intelligent man with whom I share similar values.

I am  not an intellectual, and I am trying hard not to skew my thoughts in reaction to what the at-large candidates say they are going to do (or not do), how old they are, how conservative or liberal they are, whom they choose to alienate, or who endorses them.  I have followed this election closely, attended some candidates’ forums, read everything I could about all of the candidates, talked to most of them, consider myself a friend to some of them.  And I have pondered all of this ….. a lot.

I unapologetically admit that I love living in Columbia, SC.  There is nowhere else I would want to live for many reasons including the fact that I have been given great opportunities here since I moved here in 1997.  And as I get older, it becomes important to me that others who want to live a wonderful life here get the same opportunities as me.

Without a doubt, a vote for Andy Smith is a vote for the arts, but as we know, there is much more than just the arts at stake as the challenges our city encounters grow every day.

I do believe all of the candidates are nice, genuine people, and I have great respect for all of them, but when all is said and done, Andy Smith is the candidate who understands the larger picture.  If elected, I believe he would become an integral part of fostering the creative talent and energy of our city for the long haul.  His youth is obviously on his side in this case.

With Andy’s education and background, he could have lived anywhere but chose to move back to Columbia when many of his childhood friends left for other places. When I interviewed him for a job at the Nickelodeon Theatre in 2007, the first thing he told me was that he wanted to settle in Columbia and make a difference.  And he has.  He is tireless.  He is passionate.  And he has had time to see the workings of our city for a decade.

I have watched Andy travel all over the U.S. to participate in events and conferences, and then bring what he learns back to our city to figure out how we can assimilate this information and strengthen our core.  He has served on boards of national organizations, and has a huge network of visionaries all over the U.S. who are accessible to him.  And he has a similar eclectic network in our city too.

It’s important to understand that Andy is not living in a cocoon that is centered only on the arts.  One should not assume that he is going to be weak in his understanding of the plethora of other elements that go into making a strong city.  No, he has not had experience in balancing a city budget, in understanding issues related to water, sewer, police, fire protection, codes, infrastructure, etc.  But because he is committed to our city, listens, demonstrates flexibility, and has a vision for where he wants Columbia to be 20 – 30+  years from now, I am completely confident in his abilities.  I trust him to make decisions for all the people of Columbia with rational judgement, an unwavering set of solid values, and the savvy to say no when he disagrees.

To me, this race is about progress.  We like to believe Columbia is becoming a progressive city, and we need a strong progressive candidate to continue moving us in that direction.  That candidate is Andy Smith.

Please take a minute to visit Andy’s website at andyforcolumbia.com, and read more about him.

And please vote on November 3.

A Message from Not-Just-The-Arts Candidate Andy Smith

Andy smith showing up for the job Yesterday, Jasper Magazine took great pleasure in endorsing Andy Smith for the At-large seat on Columbia City Council. Today, we bring you more of why we made this decision via the words of the candidate himself. Please read, share and, most importantly, VOTE! - Jasper


Those of us who live and work deep within the arts community know first hand why what we do is essential for our city.  Having moved well beyond an “artists are good because they make the world pretty” mentality that relegates arts funding to boom-time icing on government budgets, we know that artists and arts organizations are critical agents of change, economic drivers and unique problem solvers.


I decided to enter the Columbia City Council race for the At-large seat because none of the other candidates were prepared to advocate for a more innovative and thorough investment in our arts community.  If we are going to shape a more progressive and prosperous future for our city, it’s essential that we have leaders who understand how to best support and best utilize our artists and arts organizations.


At the top of my priorities will be the commissioning of a city-wide cultural plan.  When serving as a grant panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts earlier this year, I learned that they give more weight to applications that reference a city’s cultural plan.  By failing to develop a robust plan, we are leaving money on the table for our arts organizations and I’ll work to fix this.


The plan will not only help with external funders, but will also help us shape priorities as a city and a community.  It would be my hope that during the planning process we would look at pressing issues we all face, including access to studio, rehearsal and performance space, racial diversity in the arts community, and shrinking funding sources.


Our plan should then be used as a guide as we work to reform our H-tax distribution process.  I’ll fight for multi-year funding for established organizations and events in order to make the process more efficient, while also working to make sure funded organizations are making real progress towards the goals we set together.


While I will be a strong defender of our community, I’m also going to push us to step up to do more for our city.  If we are going to ask for more support, we need to step and better demonstrate our value to the people we serve.  I want to push for our artists and arts organization to get more involved in economic development initiatives, after-school programs that keep kids in school, and in place-making projects that make our city more vibrant and livable.  By doing great work, that not only demonstrates great skill but also has a demonstrable impact on our communities, we can develop an even more robust and thriving arts sector.


Though the arts were my entry point into municipal politics, I’ve worked hard to not be pigeon-holed as just the “arts candidate.”  Similarly, I want us as a community to step up and show that we understand that our work is powerful and important in ways that transcend traditional understanding of our sector.  Smart investments in the arts make our communities stronger, more prosperous and, yes, more beautiful.


Thanks to Jasper Magazine for their endorsement.  I’m looking forward to joining Columbia’s City Council soon so that we can get to work developing the vibrant and creative city we all deserve.

- Andy Smith

Jasper Magazine Endorses Andy Smith for At-large Columbia City Council Seat

andy at the whig Last night, as I sat at The Whig and looked around the room while City Council Candidate Andy Smith spoke from the corner, I was struck by two things.

First, of the full house of individuals gathered there, filling up the tables and bar and jockeying for standing space on the open floor, not only was every single arts discipline represented, but almost every single arts organization in town, large or small, was represented as well. Dancers, visual artists, filmmakers, photographers, theatre artists, writers, musicians, and poets – and more than a handful of head honchos of our leading arts organizations – were all there.

But next, and even more importantly, in a place known for its noise and the rumble of hearty conversation, the only sound that could be heard was that of Andy Smith’s voice as he answered questions on the many ways he can envision improving the lives and work of Columbia artists – and backing up his visions with workable, well thought-out plans.

It was almost thrilling to hear him talk about the dreams many of us have about the future of the arts in our city and realize that, if we elect him, it can be the beginning of making those dreams a reality.

I was there the day the seed of running for office was planted in Andy Smith’s mind. A few of us from the arts community had been gathered in the office of Larry Hembree, when he was still at Trustus, to help another candidate (who is still running) come to some understanding about the arts in Columbia. While this candidate, a good man and possibly my second or third choice for the seat, spoke about the arts in his life mostly involving grandchildren in weekly classes and the occasional trip to see a film at the Nick, it became obvious that the idea of the arts being any part of life – much less the measure of life itself as it is to someone who makes their living as an artist or arts administrator – was foreign to him.

Andy seemed to realize this, too.

While Andy had spent years thinking about ways of improving our city and the major role the arts would play in the machinery that makes a city great, this candidate was on another track entirely and was just at that point beginning to ask if the arts were even important. Try as we might, I don’t think we convinced him they were. And are.

I noticed the difference between Andy and the other candidates again when I attended the City Council Arts Forum that One Columbia hosted a couple weeks ago at 701 Whaley. Once again, candidates spoke about the arts in terms of children’s dance recitals and the one time they took their grandchildren to see The Nutcracker. It didn’t seem to dawn on the candidates that they were speaking to a room almost 100% full of artists, arts administrators, and members of boards of directors for arts organizations.

Until Andy Smith spoke.

Andy spoke about the development of a Cultural Plan for the city which would build the development of the arts into both a flow chart of city improvement as well as a budget for getting it done. He talked about the city investing in its arts and artists both financially and philosophically. He discussed the importance of reforming Hospitality Tax policies, creating incentives for property owners to provide affordable space for artists and new arts organizations in under-resourced communities, and working with school board officials to make the arts a larger and more valued part of public education. And perhaps most importantly, Andy Smith talked then and continues to talk about ways to bolster artists of color and more meaningfully support non-profit organizations led by people of color.

And people listen.

That’s why it is with so much pleasure that Jasper Magazine – The Word on Columbia Arts offers our endorsement of Andy Smith for the Columbia City Council At- Large Seat in the election on November 3rd.

The election of Andy Smith to City Council means more than just seeing our colleague in a position of power from which he will so thoughtfully help govern.

It means the beginning of a paradigm shift in the way our city council approaches growth, development, and quality of life.

It means recognition of the integral role the arts play in building the type of community we want to work, live, and raise children in.

It means a future in which our artists are valued, applauded, and paid for their contributions to culture.

I invite you to join me in supporting Andy Smith for Columbia City Council and helping spread the word about the difference Andy can make in the future of the city we call home. Vote on November 3rd and make sure your friends, families and neighbors vote.




Cindi Boiter is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jasper Magazine - The Word on Columbia Arts, and the 2014 recipient of the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Award for the Arts.




More information on  Andy Smith is here.

In Jasper Vol. 3, No. 4: Indie Grits - Cue Seth Gadsden

"The Indie Grits Film Festival returns for its eighth session this April 11th through the 20th in Columbia. Hosted by the Nickelodeon Theater, South Carolina's oldest art house cinema, what started as an intimate local independent film festival has skyrocketed to become one of what MovieMaker magazine has named one of the "Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World." Over the past seven years Indie Grits has established itself as the Southeast's premier film and culture festival by offering attendees a cross section of do-it-yourself media makers as well as annually expanding the festival to include elements of performance art, food, and music. ..." - Wade Sellers For the full story, check out page 38 of the magazine below:

Theatre SC Opens Charming Chekhov Classic Three Sisters November 15

Three Sisters Theatre South Carolina  will present the Chekhov classic Three Sisters at the University of SC’s historic Longstreet Theatre November 15 – 23.

Show times for Three Sisters are 8pm Wednesdays-Fridays, 7pm Saturdays and 3pm on the first Sunday.  There is an additional half-price late night performance on the final Saturday, November 23.  Tickets for the production are $12 for students, $16 for USC faculty/staff, military personnel and seniors 60+, and $18 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling 803-777-2551 or by visiting the Longstreet Theatre box office, which is open Monday-Friday, 12:30pm-5:30pm, beginning Friday, November 8. Longstreet Theatre is located at 1300 Greene St.

A vibrantly modern story, the titular characters in Three Sisters, first performed in 1901, live together in their family home, settled in a provincial Russian town.  They feel trapped by their conventional existence, however, and long to return to the sophisticated world of Moscow, which they were forced to leave years before.   Anton Chekhov's poignant story is at once full of charm and anguish as the sisters are haunted by an impending future beyond their control and recollections of a happier past that keep them from truly living in the present.

University theatre professor Steven Pearson is directing the play, which he describes as “a breath of fresh air” and emblematic of Chekhov’s timeless appeal.   “Chekhov’s plays have lasted because they’re about the human condition,” he says.  “His work has a big heart for humanity and is loving about the difficulties of being alive and the magnificence that can exist in small events.”

Pearson has extensive experience with the work of Chekhov, both as a director and scholar.  Additionally, three of his original works (Balance, Gravity, and Flight, produced through his company Pacific Performance Project/east) are billed as “riffs” on themes present in Chekhov’s works, The Seagull, The Cherry Orchard and Three Sisters.

The director says he is working to bring Chekhov’s intended sense of lightness to the play, which is commonly produced with a more somber tone.  “Chekhov’s approach to things is not much different than, say, Charlie Chaplin’s approach,” Pearson says. “In [Chaplin’s] City Lights, for instance, The Tramp will get to a place that’s almost sentimental, where there is feeling and sadness and so on, and then – poof! – he gets water thrown in his face and we laugh.  Chekhov actually uses that structure a lot.  It gets kind of sad and then there’s something wacky that happens, just like in real life.  There’s essentially a very human, smiling person that is watching this comedy of us going through our lives.”

All eight of the theatre program’s Master of Fine Arts in Acting candidates will appear in the production, including, as the sisters, Melissa Reed (Olga), Kate Dzvonik  (Masha) and Laurie Roberts (Irina).  Several professional guest actors will also appear in the production, including two longtime favorites of Theatre SC stages, Bob Hungerford (Chebutykin) and recently retired professor Richard Jennings (Ferapont/Anfisa).  NYC-based actor/director Michael Place will take the role of Solyony.

A mix of period-realism and impressionism makes up the production’s scenic design, created by MFA scenic design candidate Meredith Hart.  Guest artist Andy Smith, a Seattle-based professional lighting designer, will enhance the design’s impressionistic elements with evocative lighting textures.  Detailed, period-specific costuming is being created by MFA costume design candidate Vera DuBose.  Director Steven Pearson will also double as the show’s sound designer.

Pearson sums up the emotional resonance of the show by pointing to Chekhov’s mastery at portraying the reality of living.

“It's not like we go through our lives and suddenly something magnificent happens and that's the only meaning there is,” he explains.  “Real life is much bigger than that, and we have to get sensitive to what's going around us.  It's a magical thing to be alive, even the difficult parts, and I think that Chekov got his finger on that.”

For more information about Three Sisters or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803-777-9353 or via email at bushk@mailbox.sc.edu.

More from those crazy Nickelodeon guys -- Andy and Isaac

Read on to hear our final thoughts on the festival and to  enter to win the official Sundance Film Festival bag!
After a week to decompress from the festival, Andy and I had the chance to finish the final day out strong seeing films like Magic Magic (also w/ Michael Cera).  Looking back at the festival, we wish would could have eaten better things than granola bars, and had more sleep, but the real reason was to see films so we could help bring better options to the Nickelodeon. 
Andy and I both agreed with the Sundance Jury in that Fruitvale needed to win an award for its brutal honesty, and dynamic storytelling. In the end  it won the coveted U. S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, and we know we will be seeing this film at the Nickelodeon sometime later this year.
One of the great surprises of this year’s festival was Chad Hartigan’s This is Martin Bonner, Andy mentioned it earlier in a post, but we loved the film, and audiences agreed.  The film took home the Audience Award in the “Best of NEXT” category.  Again, if you have a chance to see his first film, Luke and Brie are on a First Date, we recommend it highly. It played at Indie Grits, and the film also features the wonderful Ronnie Gunter (briefly). 
If we had to guess other films that should eventually make their way to our screen, we would guess In A World..., Crystal Fairy, Afternoon Delight, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Spectacular Now. Of course, we are in the transitional limbo where films are being bought and distribution being set before we know what we will be available to bring to Columbia and when these films will arise.
Thanks for reading our blog, and as an added bonus, if you share this article with your friends on Facebook or Twitter and tag the Nick AND Jasper (@nicktheatre , @jasperadvises) you’ll be automatically entered into winning the Sundance Festival bag filled with the Sundance program, water bottle and other postcards!
We’ll see you at the movies, Andy and Isaac

Two More Posts from Andy at Sundance (just pretend he isn't home yet)

The Press and Industry screenings don't issue tickets to the individual screenings, but rather you use your badge to get into whatever you want (after waiting in line). To control re-entry, they stamp your hand with a different color stamp for each screening which means that after a full five-film day like today your hand looks like this. It's kind of a badge of pride.
(editor's note: We apologize that, due to unknowable computer malarkey, we are unable to reproduce the image of Andy's hand provided by the author. Suffice it to say that it was quite stunning.)
Once again we started our day at Eccles with the public screening of The Look of Love, this new Michael Winterbottom movie starring Steve Coogan as Paul Raymond, the British entrepreneur who made a fortune from adult magazines and strip clubs (there's a bit of a theme we're picking up on this year).
From there I dashed back to the Holiday Cinema to catch Concussion. One of the best films I've seen so far, the film is about a wealthy, suburban lesbian housewife whose life turns upside down after suffering a severe head injury. She seeks out a secret life in the city but it soon becomes impossible for her to keep her double life hidden.
I then caught Breathe In, the new film by Like Crazy director drake doremus. Guy Pearce plays a seemingly happily married husband, high school music teacher and concert cellist who begins to feel a pull for a more exciting life after an exchange student from England comes to stay with the family. (Again, some more common themes popping up here).
Next up was Inequality for All a documentary on former labor secretary Robert Reich and his decades long work on income inequality in the United States. Reich is such a smart and charming guy, the doc was a real pleasure to watch while also being very informative. It's been one of my highlights of the festival so far.
We had to have another rushed dinner because we knew we'd have to line up early for Escape from Tomorrow, a film getting a lot of buzz around the festival. The buzz is all due to the fact that the movie was secretly filmed on location at Disney World and everyone knew that Disney's legal department would never let the film see the light of day. The screening was packed, but the film was ultimately pretty underwhelming, though the effort was very admirable. It was a full five-film day and I was so ready to hit the bed to get ready for Monday's lineup.
Ain't Them Bodies Saints was another big buzz film here at Sundance so I was determined to get into the Monday morning screening. Sure enough, the lines formed early but we made it in. Directed by David Lowery (whose short film Pioneer played Indie Grits a couple of years ago) the film stars Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Ben Foster in a sort of neo-western. Beautifully shot and nicely paced it was one of my favorites of the festival so far.
The schedule was such that everyone was rushing out of that screening to quickly hop over to C.O.G., a film based on a David Sedaris essay. It was a bit of a mad dash, but we made it in. COG follows a young grad student from Yale as he ventures out to Oregon to work on an apple orchard. It ended up not being as funny as you'd expect from a David Sedaris essay, but as you would expect it had some incredibly emotional and revealing moments in it.
Next up was Fruitvale, which Isaac mentioned. It's proven to be the most powerful film of the festival so far, with sniffles being heard throughout the theater and teary eyes evident as we left.
We had a surprisingly adequate amount of time to grab diner tonight, so with we sat down with Russ Collins from the Michigan theater in Ann Arbor, as well as our friends from Maiden Alley Cinema and Aperture Cinema.  Actually getting to eat some vegetables and some protein, I was in much better shape (I've pretty clearly reached my granola bar limit).
(Samantha Berg, left, a former SeaWorld trainer, and director Gabriela Cowperthwaite from the movie "Blackfish." Photo credit -- Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
The final film of the evening was Blackfish - a shocking and revealing documentary on Orcas in captivity. Like The Cove, which played at the Nick years ago, the film does a great job documenting the clear intelligence and consciousness of these whales.  It convincingly links the many attacks on trainers at Sea World and other aquatic parks to frustration that builds in some of these animals after being forced into captivity for so long.  Really a great film.
Only four films today because our friends from the Art House Convergence are having us over for a party tonight. Looking forward to it!

More from Andy at Sundance

Yesterday the Convergence wrapped up and it always feels like the last day of camp. Kind of. You're all kind of exhausted, do a few more panels, get your picture taken and then pile on to a bus. But, the fun part is most of the delegates head over to Park City for Sundance. It's about a 30-minute drive to Park City and then we were dropped off at festival headquarters. Talk about a big shift in pace. From the quiet solitude of the Zermatt resort where the Convergence is held, the festival headquarters is always bustling. It took us a little while to get our credentials and then make our way to the condo. We're sharing a place this year with Landee and Cory from Maiden Alley Cinema in Paducah, KY and Lawren from Aperture Cinema in Winston-Salem.
After unpacking we made the 20-minute trek down to the Yarrow Hotel to see how bad the walk will be.  It basically involves a crossing a snowy golf course without clearly marked paths. We were too late to catch the first film of the evening so we headed down to Park City's Main Street where we ate at one of our favorite festival spots, the Wasatch Brewery.
After a quick meal we took the shuttle back up to the holiday cinema which is where most of the press and industry screenings are held to catch our first film of the festival : Crystal Fairy and the Magic Cactus and 2012.
The film features Michael Cera as a 20-something American on an extended drug vacation in Chile. His mission to try a hallucinative cactus leads to arid trip with three Chilean brothers and an over-the-top new age American hippie named Crystal Fairy (played by Gaby Hoffman). Directed by Sebastian Silva (whose last film The Maid played the Nick a few years ago), the film is filled with terribly awkward moments (not a big surprise for a Michael Cera movie). Overall it seemed to be a real crowd pleaser.

More from The Nick's Andy Smith blogging for us from Sundance Film Festival


I started this morning by participating in a panel put together by Gary Meyer, one of the cofounders ofLandmark Theatres and one of the directors of the Telluride Film Festival. Together with folks from the Alamo Drafthouse, LA's Cinefamily, and Miami's O Cinema, we all talked about how we pay attention to customer service in our theaters particularly with an eye towards creating a special experience. I was able to talk a lot about the Nick's special place in Columbia, serving as much more than just a movie theater, but also as a place where people have gathered for decades to share ideas and passions.

Next, Isaac and I went to a panel on repertory programming, featuring last year's Indie Grits juror Sarah Finklea (of Janus Films) and Seattle's Clinton McClung (the guy who started the sing-along craze years ago by coming up with the Buffy sing-alongs. We are really excited about launching more rep programming at the Nick and getting to hear some of the really great ideas our peers are implementing around the country is really inspiring. (And by the way, our "And I Feel Fine" series got a shout out from one of the panelists as a creative approach to rep programming).

Guest Blogger Andy Smith Keeps Us Posted from Sundance

It was by all accounts a full afternoon.  After lunch, we were treated to a great keynote by David Bordwell, who provided a really interesting historical perspective on the digital transition. I read a lot of Bordwell in college, and it's pretty cool to get to meet him in person. His interest in our field is really great.
It was a bit of a surprise but after talking to Ava DuVernay this morning, she asked if I'd be willing to sit on her panel on Race and the Art House this afternoon (one of the panelists had flight problems). The panel ended up being really great. There are some clear issues with diversity within the art house world and Ava's story of frustration as a film maker was really revealing. As an exhibitor, I spoke of some of the traditional excuses used to avoid showing work by filmmakers of color and stressed the importance of taking a more wholistic and genuine approach to diversifying our audiences. It was a real honor to get to sit next to Ava and look forward to working with her more in the future (by the way, I told Ava the price of me joining her panel was her agreeing to record a short video for the nick pushing her film. If you haven't seen it, it's on our Facebook page.
Following our panel was a really great session with Tim League from Alamo Drafthouse. They've become the leaders in the commercial art house world and are expanding their theaters at an impressive rate. The session focused on useful metrics and I found myself drooling throughout, wishing we could implement these measurements at the Nick (I know, this probably sounds dreadfully boring to most folks).
Dinner was a big highlight tonight. The chicken was surprisingly tasty and moist and some guy named Robert Redford spoke. He seemed pretty cool. I sat next to Gary Meyer at dinner, founder of the Telluride Film Festival, who has organized a panel in the morning on customer service that I'll also be sitting on. After dinner, we were treated to a special performance by Cripsin Glover. Crispin has been doing these performances at different art houses around the country, and Isaac and I are pretty convinced we need to bring him to Columbia. Lots more to come tomorrow...

The Nick's Andy Smith Guest Blogs from Sundance Film Festival - Part 1

Andy Smith, executive director, of our very own Nickelodeon Theatre is sending dispatches from Sundance Film Festival for the next few days. It's not his first trip to Sundance, but each time he comes back with ideas and initiatives that not only enhance our experiences at the Nick, but also the Indie Grits Festival experience.
First up, Andy's posting about Art House Convergence's 2013 conference, which brings leaders of art house theaters from around the country together, always just before Sundance kicks off. Want to know even more? Follow Andy on Twitter: @andysmithsc, Isaac Calvage, the Nick's marketing director: @calvage, and of course, the Nick: @nicktheatre.
From Andy: 

I simply love the Art House Convergence . It's an incredible opportunity to have a little "check-in" with the field, learn from peers across the country and share our accomplishments (and occasional failures) from the past year. The past few years have really seen the prominence of the Nick shoot up, and when we first attended this conference we saw ourselves as maybe a bit behind the curve. We are now often seen as leaders due to our successful Move the Nick capital campaign, the opening of the new theater and the transition to digital.

With last night things kicked off with your typical conference socializing and catching up with friends from across the country, and things really got going this morning.  Russ Collins, from the  Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor, MI, welcomed all of the delegates this morning showcasing the theme of this year’s Convergence: The Brave New American Art House. Stressing the importance of being community focused, mission driven theaters Russ spoke enthusiastically about our roll as community builders. The cinema, he said, can no longer be seen as a new art form, but the specialness of the theatrical experience, seeing films on a big screen, is still a great experience. It's up to us to continue to provide that.

Juliet Goodfriend, from the Bryn Mawr Film Institue presented one of my favorite parts of each Convergence - the unveiling of survey data collected from attending theaters. The Nick was singled out as being one of only a handful of theaters to have participated in the survey every year (yes, we try to do our homework).  The data covers everything from ticket sales, revenue breakdowns, seating capacity, programming offerings and more.  My favorite statistic is always how much ticket sales increase with the adding of additional screens.  The big take away again this year is that we should all plan to add additional screens, not additional seats, to generate more revenue. It all just makes us so excited about the eventual opening of our second screen.  Other data of note is that the Nick’s per capita concessions sales figures are about on par with our peers and our ticket revenue for only a single screen is also near the national average.

Ava DeVernay with members of the cast of Middle of Nowhere.

I just had the chance to chat with Ava DuVernay, director of  Middle of Nowhere (playing at the Nick through Thursday). I'm really excited that she's here at the Convergence this year and am looking forward to her panel on race and the art house.


On the Road with the Nick -- 5th and Final Post in their Guest Blog Series

Our Friends at the Nick have taken to the highway and are out on one of the greatest of American adventures – the ROAD TRIP! Happily, they’re sharing their news from the road with us via the Jasper blog. Below is the final installation from the great adventurers’ travel(b)log. Thank you everyone for reading about our travels this week.  We couldn't have had this amazing experience without Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC), and we couldn't have had a better outlet to share our story with than the wonderful people at Jasper.  If there is one thing this trip has taught us, it is that an art scene is necessary for any city to truly be great.  Columbia has a wonderful art scene, and we know that Jasper plays a big role.

Our final official day of the trip happened at the awesome Belcourt Theatre in Nashville.  We all got to spend time with our counterparts at the theater, learning how we can be better, and how we can bring new knowledge to the Nick!

Andy started the day off before all of us. He went in early to hang out with Stephanie Silverman, Executive Director of the Belcourt.  He learned a lot, and is eager to get back and start getting all of us to try some new things.  He even had the opportunity to talk about programming with Toby Leonard, who is also a former Indie Grits juror.

Heather wasted no time, hanging out with Melinda Morgan, the Director of Operations.  So much so that she volunteered to scoop popcorn and fill drinks for two of the showtimes!  Claire had a lovely time with Elle Long, their membership coordinator.  (unfortunately no picture exists).  We even ran into another juror at the offices of Janus Films Nashville (in the Belcourt).  It is always a pleasure to see Sarah Finklea, she is a really fantastic person, and we were thrilled she had moved to Nashville and was conveniently located at the Belcourt. We were able to unwind with a nice meal at Southern where Heather got to pick out her steak!

Today we head back to Columbia, and I think the staff all needs a little down time to take in everything we saw.  Thanks again to Jasper, and we look forward to the future of the Nick!