2017 Connected Communities Impact Report

What makes residents love where they live? What draws people to a place and keeps them there? The Connected Communities grant initiative funds innovative philanthropic projects that connect residents to our community. The nonprofit grant recipients presented innovative ideas to the Foundation that embrace one or more of the following three focus areas, identified by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Gallup as the three most important elements of an attractive community:

  • Welcoming Community, which promotes and encourages open and inclusive activities and programs
  • Vibrant Social Offerings, which support the availability of community events, arts and culture opportunities
  • Superb Public Spaces, which enhance the beauty and physical setting of the Midlands community.

2017-2018 Grant Recipients

Columbia Children's Theatre, "The Flatbed Truck Theatre Series"

Columbia Museum of Art: “We Speak: Celebrating Women in the Arts”

FoodShare, "Community Cooks"

Friends of the Lexington Main Library, "Summer Reading Program"

Historic Columbia, "Hampton-Preston Garden Phase 2 Rehabilitation"

Indie Grits, "Two Cities Lab"

Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center, "Arts Center Renovation"

Palmetto Luna Arts, "Latino Arts in Motion"

South Carolina Philharmonic, "Conduct the Phil" series

Sumter County Museum, "Temple Sinai Jewish History Center"

Vista Neighborhood Association, "Utility Box Wraps"

Women's Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN), "Seen and Heard: Women and Girls in the Midlands"

Connected Communities by the Numbers

Columbia Children's Theatre

Columbia Children’s Theatre's, "The Flatbed Truck Theatre Series," went mobile and took their own original show, “Part-Time Dog,” on the road! The theatre performed free shows in gathering spaces across the 11 counties the Foundation serves in South Carolina.

"The Connected Communities Grant Tour garnered the Columbia Children's Theatre the ability to promote our show to new audiences. Without the Connected Communities grant, the connection made between the audience and theater would have never happened!"

Jerry Stevenson, Artistic Director, Columbia Children's Theatre

Indie Grits Labs

The popular cultural festival Indie Grits moved the annual festival’s program to venues across North Columbia. The "Two Cities" exhibit continued using the power of the arts to bring people together to engage in welcoming discussions.

"The Two Cities project brought together a diverse group of artistic fellows, many of whom did not know each other and who had not worked together before, for sustained conversations and creative activities exploring the needs and dreams of North Columbia residents."

Seth Gadsden, Director, Indie Grits Labs

Columbia Museum of Art

"We Speak: Celebrating Women in the Arts" was an ambitious, year-long series of exhibitions through the Columbia Museum of Art. It explored the contributions of women to American society through the prism of pioneering women artists from the nineteenth century to today.

“The program played a dual role in providing local writers with a platform for creation and dissemination, while simultaneously exposing our community to independent and diverse artistic voices.”

Della Watkins, Executive Director, Columbia Museum of Art


The "Community Cooks" program utilized a teaching kitchen within the new FoodShare facility. A new sense of creation and connection within public housing neighborhoods has occured. The teaching kitchen is a source of refuge and respite for vulnerable community members who lack access to health programming and safe spaces.

“The new space has been a blessing! It allowed families to gather in an inviting multifunctional space where they can learn about healthy living and build meaningful relationships with each other!”

Beverly Wilson, Chief Inspiration Officer, FoodShare

Lexington Main Library

Lexington Main Library's popular "Summer Reading Program" featured various programs and events to improve the children’s reading levels during the summer months. To mark the end of the summer, a new event was created to help connect the community to the library at the start of the school year.

"Thanks to the funding from the Foundation, we created an afternoon, festival-style program that featured local and regional performers."

Marlena White, Director, Friends of the Lexington Main Library

Historic Columbia

Historic Columbia's "Hampton-Preston Garden Phase 2 Rehabilitation" project transformed the historic Hampton-Preston garden into a gathering place, with added light, signage, and public wifi for visitors to access and interact in the virtual garden tour.

“At Historic Columbia, we have the great responsibility of being the stewards of the unique Richland County-owned site that is Hampton-Preston. The rehabilitation in the gardens provides an expansive and historically-inspired green space for the public to visit and experience.”

Robin Waites, Executive Director, Historic Columbia

Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center

Renovations and repairs to the "Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center" created a gathering place for the local community and will enable the cultural growth of all Orangeburg citizens.

“The Fine Arts Arts Center project will create an amazing opportunity for the community to connect more deeply and authentically with our past, in a space that is beautiful, contemplative and safe.”

Vicki Smith King, Former Executive Director, Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center

Palmetto Luna Arts

The goal of the Palmetto Luna Arts, "Latino Arts in Motion" initiative was to bring Latino artistry to new venues across the community, allowing Midlands residents the opportunity to experience first-hand Latino art creations.

“Our goal was to educate and empower. To build bridges to bring our community together. To create a connected, vibrant, compassionate and engaged Midlands where everyone is welcomed and participating."

Ivan Segura, Executive Director, Palmetto Luna Arts

South Carolina Philharmonic

The "Conduct the Phil" series by the South Carolina Philharmonic, continued to break the boundaries of the concert stage by inviting listeners to be guest conductors. Rooms of unsure spectators were transformed into guest conductors, full of smiles and support for one another.

“By taking the musicians off the stage and placing them in the community…we were able to reach more people, provide meaningful experiences, and create the opportunity for healing and entertainment.”

Morihiko Nakahara, Music Director- SC Philharmonic

Sumter County Museum

The Sumter County Museum transformed a local historic temple into the "Temple Sinai Jewish History Center," a permanent Jewish history exhibit. The exhibit educates and preserves the history of the groups and individuals who played a major role in the development of Sumter County.

"The Temple Sinai Jewish History Center has not only preserved a building to be used by the community, but also a local history that can be shared and built upon."

Annie Rivers, Executive Director, Sumter County Museum

Vista Neighborhood Association

The Vista Neighborhood Association's project, "Utility Box Wraps," successfully wrapped 15 highly visible traffic control boxes in the Downtown Vista with vivid images of work by local artists.

"The enhanced beauty and welcoming vibrant content of the wrapped boxes generated buzz for the area. We hope visitors and residents alike enjoyed the art and look forward to adding more boxes as well as other public art projects."

Meredith Atkinson, Executive Director, Vista Guild

Women's Right and Empowerment Network (WREN)

WREN's "Seen and Heard: Women and Girls in the Midlands" exhibit at Tapp's Art Center documented women’s diverse voices through community conversations, photography, and the sharing of stories to inspire social action.

"This dynamic exhibit served as the premier event in a series of eight unique gallery openings across our region. The project allowed the building of new alliances in the quest to make our communities better for everyone."

Ann Warner, Chief Executive Officer, WREN

Congratulations to all of the grant recipients on successful projects that have helped make our communities a better place to live, work and play!

Questions? Contact Erin Johnson at erin@yourfoundation.org or 803.978.7822


Created with images by Davies_Designs - "beach ocean sea" • dennisflarsen - "slave quarters boone plantation south carolina charleston" • Marcus Löfvenberg - "untitled image"

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