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Creating functional art from recycled skateboards

By Kyle Vuille
Carolina Reporter

The act – and art – of skateboarding is open to interpretation and those who practice it believe they can do anything their bodies and minds are capable of expressing.

Professional skateboarder Marc Johnson said it best: “I had this idea, if you think of something, you can do it. You know, skateboarding is ideas that are put in action. I mean, every time you do a trick it’s mostly in your head and your body is just responding to what your head is telling it what to do. You can do any trick if you really want to, if you put your mind to it and try it long enough. if you can think of it, you can pretty much do it on a skateboard.”

Larry Reaves, 41, has expanded on those possibilities, taking two different schools of thought on form and function and blending them to create beautiful crafted pieces from old skateboards.

A standard skateboard deck is comprised of seven individually glued layers of maple wood that are pressed together.

Colorful scraps of the “skatewood” lay in a box. Reaves is influenced by Japanese artist Haroshi who uses recycled boards to make sculptures of art and his friend, George Rocha, who started Iris Skateboards.

In the skateboard world, boards come and go. Just by the nature of skateboarding, boards are used and abused.  They’re bound to be scratched, cracked, and snapped over time. Most decks get thrown away or go in the pit at your friend’s next bonfire.

Reaves grants these battered boards a second chance to shine by combining his craft of woodworking and his 31 years of skateboarding to create beautiful, and functional, pieces of art.

Reaves, 41, has been practicing carpentry for eight years, but many of his woodworking skills were honed over the years as a skateboarder who built his own ramps.

This piece from Reaves’ personal collection is a small club made from a board pressed between two pieces of mahogany wood.

“Since about ’86, it’s like, means to a way, making things to skateboard on, and steal your dad’s tools and make a thing to skateboard on, so yeah, I guess that’s full circle now we’re here making things out of skateboards,” Reaves said.

Reaves makes everything from knife handles to beer tap handles using “skatewood,” as Reaves calls it. He said he has been influenced in his work by Japanese artist Haroshi and George Rocha, founder of Iris Skateboards, a company that makes new boards out of old ones.

The process starts with getting the grip tape off the top of the board. Reaves’ secret is leaving the boards out in the sun for 20 minutes so the glue weakens and the top of the grip layer loosens, leaving some residue.

“You just use solar power and it comes right off,” Reaves said.

He then takes a palm sander with coarse sandpaper and sands off the graphics on the bottom along with the remains of the glue from the griptape.

Reaves says depending on the project he is working on for a client, he will ask them to supply him with a deck of their own giving it a personal, sentimental feel.

The next step in the process is shaving the “skatewood” into strips and gluing them in different shapes and patterns to create a work of art. The number of boards used for a project depends on the size and nature of it. This is where the table or band saws and the lathe come in to cut and shape a piece.

Reaves works a piece on the lathe. His machine rotates the wood to be shaved and formed.


For those who aren’t carpenters, a lathe, by definition, is a machine for shaping a piece of material, such as wood or metal, by rotating it rapidly along its axis while pressing a fixed cutting or abrading tool against it.

The finishing touches include sanding down the piece once for a smooth texture and if desired, adding a coat of varnish to create a shiny, polished look.

Reaves’ company, Reaves Woodworks, has gained exposure in the past year with the help of social media sites such as Instagram.

A special order of beer tap handles made of the “skatewood” are ready for more sanding and polishing. This unique design is headed for a bar in Charlotte.

“That’s funny, like my Instagram has gotten pretty popular in the past year and so I get a lot of those DIY crafter people that follow me and they’re just like ‘how do get your veneers that color’ and ‘how do you make all those lines in your products,’” Reaves said, “and I’m like ‘It’s a recycled skateboard, did you not read the description of what I’m posting?

“So that’s pretty funny to see people not dumbfounded, but just like ohhhhhhh, okay I understand now but yeah, it’s a trip to see non-skateboarders,,, their take and also their appreciation,” Reaves said.

Reaves says the appreciation of the skateboard community is such a boost to his business. Transworld Skateboard Magazine gave him a shoutout on Instagram and overnight, Reaves gained thousands of followers. Reaves currently has 12,200 followers and always has projects going on.

With the support of nearby local skateshops ranging from Charleston to Charlotte, Reaves has plenty of used boards to keep up with the supply and demand of his products.

“Then last holiday season, just trying to batch out bunches of screwdrivers and knives and some like that, I think I did 30 knives, 40 cutting boards, and then assorted hand tools,” Reaves said, “Last holiday season was a killer for us.”

Reaves does normal carpenter jobs building tabletops, stairs, porches as well as still being on call for information technology work, which he did before starting his woodworking shop.

The father of three says he’s the happiest he’s ever been doing what he loves to do while earning a living for his family.

“I like making useful items, not so much something that sits on the shelf.”

My Brain on NASCAR: Short Tracks

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

It is not uncommon, when one of NASCAR’s rare “off” weekends rolls around – the recent Easter weekend is a very current example — to hear the inevitable complaints, things like, “Aww, man, there’s no race this weekend.”

Or, as my friend Dianne put it (with her tongue planted firmly in her cheek) – “What’s up with that? Who needs family time?”

It is a fact that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series does not compete every week, and they’re being particularly lazy this year. After having the audacity to enjoy a couple of rare and well-deserved days off to spend Easter with their families, NASCAR’s premier racing series will follow it up with yet another free weekend – at the end of August.

Yes, you read that right. In 2017, from February’s Daytona 500 to the season-ending championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, NASCAR takes a whopping two weekends off. After the first one, they’ll surely be thankful for the short period of R&R they got during Easter, because the next stop on the circuit – Bristol Motor Speedway on April 23 – is anything but relaxing.

More than two decades ago, the late Jim Hunter, who then served as president of Darlington Raceway, took masterful advantage of what could have been a discouraging situation for a track promoter.

Read the rest of this entry »

SCLEAP: Providing on-call counseling for South Carolina’s law enforcement

By Joseph Crevier

Carolina News

When gunman Sueng-Hui Cho burst into a Virginia Tech classroom building and fatally shot 32 students and professors and wounded 17 others in April 2007, law enforcement officers from all over Southwest Virginia responded to the 911 alarm.

The carnage they witnessed in Norris Hall and a campus dormitory was almost too much to absorb. Within a day, the Rev. Eric Skidmore was traveling from South Carolina to Virginia to help Blacksburg area officers cope with the aftermath of the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history.

Methodist Church

Eric Skidmore and the SCLEAP team are based out of the Heyward Street United Methodist Church located at 2501 Heyward Street in Columbia.

Eric Skidmore

Eric Skidmore, program manager, was recruited in 1997 by SLED to lead the then-new South Carolina Law Enforcement Assistance Program.

Police car

SCLEAP works largely in conjunction with the Columbia Police Department, but also extends throughout the state and to four state departments.

“That chief, she knew that they needed help because this was much bigger than a single internal peer team can take care of, because all their people were involved in it,” Skidmore, program manager for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Assistance Program, said. SCLEAP is modeled on an FBI program aimed at assisting officers who have witnessed traumatic events, from widely publicized incidents to those that don’t get much attention but nevertheless leave an impression on the minds of law enforcement.

Eight years after the Virginia Tech slayings, Skidmore and his staff headed to Charleston the day after nine parishioners were killed at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by white supremacist Dylann Roof. Roof, who was sentenced to die for the crime earlier this year, had been welcomed into the church’s evening Bible study on June 17, 2015. At the benediction, he pulled out a gun and began firing at the pastor and church members in what he hoped was the launch of a race war.

“It happened of course on a Wednesday night at a Bible study, and Thursday I got a call from an administrator in Charleston County that said we’ve heard about your peer support for police officers, can you come down here and talk with us,” Skidmore said.

Upon its founding in 1997, SCLEAP only served the members of five state agencies and their family members, including the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, known as SLED, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, South Carolina Department of Public Safety and the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon.

Today, it extends to much of the Southeast and has been involved in assisting officers who have responded to major tragedies and less publicized, but violent, incidents from domestic violence to suicides that weigh heavily on first responders. The agency also helps those who suffer with post-traumatic stress syndrome from their time in war zones, those who have alcohol and drug related issues related to their service in the military or law enforcement and suicides in law enforcement.

The SCLEAP team only responds to tragic events upon request, Skidmore said. He said relationships he has built through training and seminars have led to partnerships as far north as Ohio and as far east as Texas.

It also relies on help from peer support team members, who are law enforcement officials trained to provide counseling. SCLEAP also has a cadre of trained volunteers who are officers, mental health professionals and chaplains.

“We have worked diligently on partnership with other states. So, when Virginia Tech happened, what’s important to know about that in terms of why they called us, (is that) we knew each other and we had trained together,” Skidmore said. “It was the personal relationships between the chief of police in Blacksburg, Virginia, and peer support elements in other states.”

Skidmore, along with SCLEAP staff members Steve Shugart and Ron Kenyon, are all ordained ministers. They offer 24/7 support and counseling to non-sworn and sworn law enforcement officials upon request, many of whom are veterans of the U.S. military.

The three-man staff is required to work 37 hours a week but often works overtime without pay because of the on-call nature of it, Kenyon says.

“When I was in the army we had to go over for tours in Vietnam and we were gone for months at a time, so this isn’t that bad,” Kenyon said.

Shugart and Kenyon specialize in counseling veterans, who often choose to go into law enforcement after the military.

Dr. Jack Ginsberg, a licensed clinical neuropsychologist at the Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, said signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and stress are more common in veterans because of the nature of their jobs. He uses forms of therapy ranging from simple verbal counseling to more intense types like neurotherapy, which tracks brain waves.

“Almost all returning combat veterans have a period of excessive alcohol use upon return. Three months is the minimum, six months is the typical, some of the time they will straighten out on their own,” Ginsberg says.

Ginsberg said drug use isn’t nearly as prevalent as alcohol abuse, though neither form of self-medication is helpful. In fact, they only make the problem worse, he said.

But that’s exactly what SCLEAP tries to do — minimize stress and prevent extreme cases.

“When they call, they kind of know what they’re gonna get,” Skidmore says.

“They’re gonna get people trained in a particular model, they’re gonna get mostly peer support team members, sworn officers from other agencies, they’re gonna get a mental health professional, they’re gonna get a chaplain and they’re gonna get a program that is tried and true and is sort of a standard of care in the high speed environment of public safety.”


Please email Joe Crevier at with any questions

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Sweet sounds on a Saturday at Soda City Market

By Danielle Kennedy

/ Carolina Reporter

It’s a crisp, chilly Saturday morning on Columbia’s Main Street at the Soda City Market. Vendors with an array of goods from beaded necklaces to creamed blueberry honey line the streets seeking to lure shoppers over to their tents and tables for a sell.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of people, well-manicured canines and playing children, the sweet sound of a violin breaks through the cheerful noise of the weekly market scene.

A small, 11-year-old girl launches into a sonata by Handel and runs her bow expertly up and down her instrument.

Danka Ndubuisi, who has been playing since the age of five, stands on the median, slightly elevated above the passersby, completely focused on making sure the vibrations sent through her violin are perfect. One hand strums and plucks while the other draws the bow across the strings. Tippers bow before her to place money in her violin case, behind the sign “For our music lessons.”

“It sounds like she’s playing staccato,” said Melodik Rukus. “She’s good,” as he passes Danka playing her violin. Others passing by either remain silent and enjoy her playing or let her know how great she sounds.

“Wow, that’s beautiful.”

She performs at the weekly Soda City Market because she wants to raise money to continue her lessons at University of South Carolina.

Her mother, Malgorzata Ndubuisi, (pronounced Dew-BU-see), stands a few paces off under a large tree just to the right of Danka to watch and listen to her daughter’s lovely sounds.

“Danka started lessons at USC in the Suzuki Strings,” said Malgorzata Ndubuisi. “I was looking for a place for my kids to learn music and USC offers this program for very young children with private lessons.”

Danka, whose mother is Polish and father is Nigerian, is the third of six children — 12-year-old twin brothers Milka and Slawka, 9-year-old Eliasz, seven-year-old Izaisz and four-year-old Bozenka. All are home-schooled and attend the Suzuki Strings program at USC.

Danka can be seen performing in the midst of a crowd of strangers at Soda City sometimes twice or three times a month depending on her schedule.

When she grows up, Danka said, “I want to be a violin teacher, anywhere.”

Living on Purpose: Parents can guide but children make their own choices

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

How many parents have waited for the day when their child’s eyes would suddenly be opened and like the prodigal they will finally see the truth and change their ways? Mothers and fathers dearly love their kids, but unfortunately, things do not always go as planned and many difficult children have caused their parents much worry, sadness, and disappointment. It is easy to blame the parents, but I do not believe that all liability can be laid at their doorstep. Parents have the perfect opportunity to present constructive thinking, discipline and a sense of right and wrong into their children’s mind and spirit within the formative years, however this does not always guarantee the child will continue in the direction they were pointed. We guide and provide for our children, but they have a mind of their own.

Children are like sponges when it comes to learning and are very curious about what they observe, which gives every parent the duel opportunity to not only be the instructors but also the responsibility to demonstrate what they believe in front of them. We must also realize that children are vulnerable to other outside influences and have the ability to embrace whatever they want. So, how important is it to protect and guard the mind and spirit of a young child? Many experts agree that the first six years in a child’s life is his or her most important years of mental, emotional and spiritual development. It is believed that the foundation that is laid within the individual’s conscience during this crucial period of time becomes the decision filter they will use for the rest of their life.

Read the rest of this entry »

“Up To Here” from The Times and Democrat

“Up To Here” from The Times and Democrat

“Up To Here” from The Times and Democrat

“Bipartisanship” from The Times and Democrat

“Bipartisanship” from The Times and Democrat

“Bipartisanship” from The Times and Democrat

“Political Reality for Bannon” by Stuart Neiman

“Political Reality for Bannon” by Stuart Neiman

“Political Reality for Bannon” by Stuart Neiman

NOBLE COLUMN: One SC Woman Making a Difference – Globally

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

This is another column in an occasional series about people in South Carolina who are making a difference. Jennifer Jones-Wood is our guest columnist and she writes about her work in South Carolina to help young girls around the world.

Today, 130,000,000 girls do not have access to education. Please let that sink in.

One hundred and thirty million girls do not have access to education. If you were to count from 1 to 130,000,000 without stopping it would take you approximately eight years. Now that I have your attention let me tell you about The ONE Campaign.

ONE was started in May of 2004 by U2 front man Bono and Bobby Shriver whose family started Special Olympics. ONE is an international, non-partisan, non-profit, advocacy group that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising awareness and encouraging political leaders to support policies and programs that are saving lives and improving futures.

The reason I initially joined the now nearly 8 million members was simple; I was at a U2 concert and Bono asked me to. I am now the ONE Congressional District Leader for South Carolina’s, 1st District.

Now, 12 years after that evening, I understand the power ONE voice can have. I have signed petitions. I have made phone calls. I have written letters. I have joined other volunteer leaders on Capitol Hill and met with aides, Congressmen and Senators. All with the same goal: to help the least of these!

There is a lot of loose rhetoric from politicians about how much we spend on foreign aid. A recent poll found that people think about 25% of the US Government’s budget goes for foreign aid; the simple truth is it’s less than 1%… and Pres. Trump’s proposed budget would cut this amount by one third. Read the rest of this entry »

My Brain on NASCAR: Tax season

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

Wouldn’t it be great if the IRS operated more like NASCAR?

When expending a certain amount of angst, effort, or both, it seems only right and natural to expect some sort of a payoff in return. This is never more evident than during (and before, and after) tax season, which for most of us has already concluded its annual fusillade of frustration.

I once read somewhere that from January 1 through May 10 – just a little more than four months — we work for the IRS. The rest of the year, we work for ourselves, meaning that about 30 percent of our $30,000, which is roughly the average individual American’s income, goes to the government.

From May 11 through the end of the year, you are generously allowed to keep what you earn for yourself. We all work just as hard from January 1 through May 10 as we do from May 11 until the end of the year. But where’s the reward for crossing the finish line? Where’s the dessert at the end of the meal?

In the best example of “getting what’s coming to you,” some Americans do receive refund checks from the IRS. In most cases, however, all that hard-earned money just keeps on headed in the wrong direction–away from the folks who worked so hard to earn it in the first place.

I consider this unfair. Don’t you want some reward to follow your labor? This is not a political statement. Someone has to pay the bills and make it possible to keep the government up and running, and I guess that job falls to you and me. Still, I can’t help myself; I continue to wait for my year-end party, my well-defined triceps after all those sweaty hours at the gym. I want my payoff.

NASCAR gives me all these things.

It is human nature to invest oneself wholeheartedly into things that we consider necessary, important or interesting. The definition of these categories may vary from person to person, but they usually boil down to work, family and fun.

Many people take their fun just as seriously as they take their work, if not more so. NASCAR fans are a stellar example of this principle in action. Very fast action.

The Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays provide a diversion during the weeks when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck series are not actually competing. A statement like, “It’ll be nice to have a little break” uttered in mid-November, however, quickly evolves into a question in early January: How many more weeks until Daytona?

On January 1, the new year fires up its engines in earnest as we start focusing our time and attention on the upcoming season. In other words, we go to work. The sport provides us with plenty of information on drivers, teams, sponsors and paint schemes. We give back our part — sometimes a sizable one — in the form of things like race tickets, travel arrangements and new merchandise purchases.

This outflow of support extends far beyond the first four months of the season. It literally never ends. As with governmental military spending or foreign trade policies, we may not always be completely happy with the result of our expenditures (i.e. the “wrong” guy wins the race), but prevailing opinion holds that the end can justify the means. Conduct a straw poll if a certain car sporting the No. 88 concludes the day in Victory Lane this season if you don’t believe me.

After reaping the benefits of all these cool bonuses along the way, the generous refund check at the end, of course, is the Chase for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition and the ultimate crowning of a champion.

NASCAR goes to work, and we pay them to do it. In essence, we also go to work for them, and in the end they give us exactly what we want and pay us back many times over. With very rare exceptions, we consider our expenditures, of time or money or whatever they may be, worth every penny. We feel rewarded. We are happy.

What a concept. Maybe the government should consider it.

Cathy Elliott is the former director of public relations for Darlington Raceway and author of the books Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR; Desktop 500; and Darlington Raceway: Too Tough to Tame. Contact her at

Map of infinite connections

Kyle Vuille
Carolina Reporter

In the entrance to the Lincoln Street tunnel, a palette of brilliant colors pop off the wall, transforming the gloomy pedestrian walkway into a vivid passage to imagination.

Local artist Michael Dantzler, 31, of Eastover, started drawing and collecting maps around the age of six after being exposed to his father’s model train displays.

On a recent April morning, local artist Michael Dantzler commenced painting a mural of Columbia on one of the walls, a giant grid map he paints from memory.

“I’m not writing any names of streets. People have Google maps for that,” said Dantzler. “Pretty much the idea behind this is Columbia: map of infinite connections.”

Dantzler, 31, was chosen by Leadership Columbia to take part in its “Watermarked” project that commemorates the historic thousand-year flood of October 2015. The newly renovated public space, which celebrates the city’s community and unity, will open April 20 in partnership with OneColumbia.

“I’m a big advocate of public spaces. I believe that people should have other places to go besides work, home and shopping. Sometimes you should just have a destination where you can just sit and relax and enjoy the scenery,” said Dantzler, who holds a degree in geography from USC.

Dantzler first became enamored of maps as a young boy growing up in Eastover. His father collected model trains and set up miniature cityscapes around their house.

“I always had an overview of towns and I always found that interesting,” Dantzler said. Those moments in his life became the seeds for the artist he is today.

His love of maps and geography goes deeper than just the lines he draws. He remembers, shortly after his father’s death, he got lost with his mother when he was about seven years old.

“We got lost on the interstate and I cried really bad,” Dantzler said, “and I made a vow to myself to never get lost again.”

He started buying, collecting and studying every Rand McNally map he could get his hands on as well as drawing his own from his imagination.

“I used those maps as a kid to travel within my head if I wasn’t able to physically, and when I finally did travel, I knew exactly where I was going, down to the exit,” Dantzler said. “It amazed people.”

In the Lincoln Street tunnel mural, the map is colored coded depicting highways, streets and the movement of people around the metropolitan area. Dantzler’s vision includes some geometrical shapes representing landmarks around town that could potentially spark treasure hunts among onlookers of his piece.

“To the Oshun” is an allusion to the African river goddess. Dantzler was inspired by an older artist who once drew a map and labeled the Atlantic Ocean, the “Atlantic Oshun.”

One small but eye-catching detail can be found towards the bottom. Big white letters towards the bottom of the map read, “TO THE OSHUN.” “Oshun” is an allusion to the African river goddess, Oshun. Dantzler was inspired by an older artist who labeled the Atlantic Ocean “the Atlantic Oshun.”

Dantzler has painted two other murals in Columbia. One sits in the stairwell of the Nickelodeon Theatre and another drawn in chalk in inside USC’s School of Music.

“This is kind of the only thing I know how to draw actually,” Dantzler said. “My brain works in layers like a map.”

Artist Tyrone Geter: Searching for a universal language

By Taylor Halle
Carolina Reporter

By his own admission, Tyrone Geter says he is not the best-known artist. His work is not commercial, and he does not paint what will sell in galleries.

But the 72-year-old painter and Benedict College professor is experiencing a late-life renaissance in the art world as people discover the deep revelations in his larger-than-life pieces.

“My work is not supposed to allow you to walk past and not feel. I believe that one of our problems in society is that we’ve learned not to care,” Geter said. “We see something happening to someone, we say ‘oh, wow, that’s too bad,’ and you go on about your business and that keeps happening. Mine was to make us feel like we are one with the human race.”

The power of Geter’s world view and imagination is on view at the Columbia Museum of Art, where “Enduring Spirit: The Art of Tyrone Geter” runs through June 11.

Will South, chief curator of the Columbia museum, says Geter explores through his art the thorny issue of uniting different ethnicities in America and understanding each other without stereotypes.

“Tyrone takes that on,” South said. “He’s not a politician, and yet he is. By default, you are making statements that people listen to, and that’s powerful.”

The size of his exhibit’s opening night audience attested to this.

“It was black, white, but beyond black, white, it was young and old,” South said. “Young people of any color or any background, we have a hard time getting into the museum, because they’re all about their cell phone and their social life.

“Some of them were his students – that says something. They love their teacher, they like what he has to say.”

The power of family

Geter’s early years were spent in segregated Anniston, Alabama. Raised by a single mother and surrounded by two sisters, Geter realized the power of women early on. Today, that theme is reflected in his work, which often depicts outsize auras of hair on his female subjects.

“My mother believed firmly that her kids could do things even though she came out of a third-grade education,” he said. “But she believed that that third-grade education allowed her to be a domestic worker.”

His earliest exposure to art came from his eldest sister, who enjoyed drawing comic books and using the “Draw me” instructional booklets of the times. After watching her sit at the table and work, he decided to try it for himself.

Geter’s family later moved to Dayton, Ohio, seeking a safer life as an African-American family trying to survive in a time of institutionalized southern racism. The young and curious artist attended Roosevelt High School, where he met Ruth Nincehelser, a teacher that would become an instrumental figure in his early career as an artist.

“Those students that she thought could do art, that had possibility, she drove us relentlessly,” Geter said.

In his senior year of high school, he still hadn’t learned how to drive a car, so he decided he would quit art and take driver’s training. But Nincehelser called his mother and implored her not to allow her son to abandon his art.

His teacher asked “if she could find any other way to let me take driver’s training, and if she had to she would help her, and I think she actually did,” Geter said. He remained in art and his mother worked extra hours so he could learn to drive outside of school.

After graduating high school, Geter attended Ohio University in hopes he could master painting the figure and realistic drawing. Here, he met his Nigerian-born wife, Hauwa, another integral figure who would eventually lead him to Africa, a place that influenced his art ad represented a turning point in his artistic career.

After they married, the couple moved to Hauwa’s home in Nigeria near her family. Their two daughters, now grown were born there.

“When I left Ohio, I had no concept of Africa.  I’m not even sure I had even met an African in my life from Dayton, Ohio,” Geter said.

Once there, he landed a job teaching art at Ahmadu Bello University, the biggest university in West Africa at the time. They stayed for seven years, moving back to the U.S. because of Nigeria’s crumbling economy, and the need to start their daughters in American school. Most importantly, he wanted to give his daughters a chance to meet his family and learn his side of the culture.

After his time in Nigeria, his art transformed into a search for a universal language.

“For most of my life as an adult artist, that’s what I’ve been trying to do,” Geter said. “Find a way to speak a universal language that will talk to anybody that sees it, and this is the first time I feel like I’ve gotten close.”

For a long time, Geter said his main subjects were family, because his mother, sisters, wife and children represented such a powerful force in his life. He also became a successful illustrator of children’s books and now claims nearly a dozen to his credit.

For the last 17 years, he has taught art to students at Benedict College, a private historically black college in downtown Columbia. He and his family lived in the Waverly area near the campus until his wife’s death in 2004. She was his ballast – and also the organizer of his many projects – so he determined he could not stay in the home where they had been so happy and raised their family.

He moved to the little community of Elgin, a 30-minute commute from the college, where it is unlikely his neighbors know an artist resides in their midst.  There he creates art in his cluttered second-floor studio and contemplates how to approach the big questions of life.    

My life has been one big wall

Geter has rarely listened to voices except those inside of his own head. So he has been shocked by the response to the two dozen pieces that hangs on the walls of the Columbia Museum of Art.

People have come to him, some crying, saying how much the paintings move them emotionally.

Geter said that’s what he has been trying to do all along.

“I’m trying to make you get past the fact that this might be a black face,” Geter said. “That face is the same thing your mother went through or your father went through.”

“If I’m talking about any particular issue, you can darn well believe that whites, Hispanics, everybody got that same issue, so when you look at it, that’s where they go; they go to their own experience with that. They don’t see that black face anymore, they see themselves. It may not be a universal statement but it’s mine.”

The path for Geter has been filled with more road blocks than most artists might go through. Although he’s been featured in other exhibitions including museums and galleries in Boston and New York, Columbia has been one of the most important.

“What I do, it’s never on that cutting edge, what they’re demanding out there. I’m always at odds with the market, so that’s one continuous wall for me,” Geter said.

He remembers a director at the Aiken Art Museum who told him he was going to struggle his whole life, because Geter’s work is difficult to pigeonhole. He said when galleries can’t do that, it’s hard to find a track record for selling what he does.

“I don’t know how to get beyond it either and at this point in my career I really don’t care about that wall anymore,” Geter said. “My thing is that I can live with me. I think there was a time I really hated myself, but right now I’m OK with me.

“I know this that I’ve done the best I could. I know my mother raised me to treat people better than anything else, they’re the only thing that counts in the world. Nothing else matters but people.”

Discovering a new passion

One of the lessons Geter says he tries to teach young artists is that the best thing they can do for themselves is learn technique.

“I don’t care what anyone says, learn technique and you’re free. You’re free to go any place you want to go.”

This has proven to be true for Geter, as his portfolio is filled with not only just paintings, but other mediums such as charcoal, pastels, torn paper and ceramics.

But one theme that stays consistent among all of these is the subjects’ hair. In almost every piece, Geter weaves in wispy, playful and exaggerated hair, sometimes even resembling the roots and branches of trees. He connects it back to his youth in a household full of women.

His two daughters grew up washing their hair and allowing it to air dry, which was a common thing among African-American women in Nigeria. But when they moved back to Ohio, they soon realized others were confused by or disapproving of the curly manes.

Geter remembers his oldest daughter decided to ride around on her bike so her hair would dry faster, but the other neighborhood kids quickly began harassing her.

“She came back in the house, she was so hurt. After that she wouldn’t go outside with her hair like that again. That was something that was just tragic, that’s a loss of innocence. It was really, really tragic that we could do that to each other,” Geter said.

Years later, Geter was working on a piececalled “Target,” which he recalls being his first to incorporate his signature hair illustrations. The incident with his daughter’s hair popped back into his mind.

“Women are being targeted for looks, body types, all kinds of things. That’s where it started and after that I just kept using it,” Geter said. “It’s not deep it’s just meaningful. When I was growing up, women were a major force in our community.”

Mastering the craft of voice

Peter Chametzky, the director and art history professor at USC’s School of Visual Art and Design, discovered Geter’s work just a couple years after moving to Columbia from New York. He says Geter is a master draftsman and skilled artist, and successfully uses these skills to make statements about identity and counter stereotypes.

“He’s dealing with textures a lot and he’s dealing with, you know, it’s not conventional drawing in that he’s drawing both with charcoal, colored pastels, as well as using materials like torn paper as drawing material in itself,” Chametzky said. “So collaging it together and that kind of materiality I think appeals to people. You’re seeing that work of art as an object and seeing it as more than just a picture, it’s not a picture, and it’s not like a photograph, it’s got texture, it’s got this kind of physical presence.”

He points out Geter deals with subject matter that is especially important in what the United States currently deals with today.

“He’s not followed various art world trends. He’s followed his own path and that’s what, in a sense, I think most really strong artists do. They’ve got to follow whatever path their own artistic will guides them to and that’s the way to make strong art,” Chametzky said.

Geter believes he has found his voice, and more importantly, a way to get others to listen to it.

“I do art because I have a right to speak. You don’t have to listen to me, but you have to allow me to speak. And if I want to reach a mass of people, how was I going to do it? All I had was art.”

Living on Purpose: The passion of Christ is our eternal hope

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

This is the time of year when Christians remember the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a season when His followers are focused on how He suffered and died on the cross and after 3 days He arose from the grave. To be honest, holy week is not really a jolly time of celebration but rather calls for serious meditation and being grateful for the gift of salvation. It is bittersweet because it’s never pleasant to imagine a person being brutally tortured (especially when they are innocent), but the fact that Jesus miraculously came back to life, is a demonstration of His infinite power and authority and why we are so filled with humility and encouragement. Jesus Christ did not just talk about love, He demonstrated His passion by suffering and surrendering His life so that we could live.

I admit I am an emotional person. I remember going to see the Passion movie a few years ago and I was disturbed to say the least. It is not uncommon for me to cry when I witness something that moves my soul and this was no exception. Recently, I was watching a story about the “Make-a-wish foundation” and how they provide a way for very sick children to experience a happy but most likely a last request and it seems I cried through the entire program. As the scenes of what Christ went through was presented before me, I kept thinking how could someone watch something like this and not be deeply stirred? I am not ashamed to wear my feelings on my sleeve, as I have no desire to hide behind a mask to pretend I am strong and not emotionally influenced. Actually, I believe if we are not careful, we can become hardened by the harshness of life and lose our spiritual sensitivity.

I think about His life and the reason why He came to earth which is explained so clearly in the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of John. I think about how He was betrayed by those He trusted and was denied by His closest friends. The religious community rejected His message and the legal system along with the demands from the general population, overwhelmingly agreed to publicly execute Him without a reason other than they hated Him. Sadly, things have not really changed that much.

We notice that He was constantly approached by those in desperate need and it was His character to be concerned and compassionate. The world has always been filled with human suffering and He is always ready to respond in love and mercy. Being emotional and even knowledgeable about the Bible is fine but that does not necessarily mean that someone is following Christ. It is what they do with what they have learned that transforms emotions into spiritual obedience. When we see someone who needs help or even an encouraging word, what good does it do to just look at them with pity. Christ was always ministering to those who would reach out to Him by faith and two thousand years later He is still pouring out His grace and forgiveness to anyone that will call upon His name.

As His followers, we have been called to focus our attention to becoming more like Him in spite of a troubled world that justifies walking over the wounded and being self-centered. His command to take up our cross includes letting go of our natural way of selfish thinking and to willingly embrace the empathy of heaven. It seems the more I learn about His life, the more I can sense what was being felt by those who knew Him. As we meditate on His message, we are given a deeper understanding of who He is, and what He wants to do through us. The reverential fear and awareness of who Jesus is and why He came is our hope for heaven and it is now our responsibility to keep our spiritual eyes focused on our mission. Beyond the new clothes and the Easter festivities, may we spend some time focusing on the one that loves us and came to save us from our ourselves.


Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author and community outreach chaplain. Request a free copy of his new CD at:

NOBLE COLUMN: Three Stories: A Teacher, a Family and a State

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

This column is about three stories – about a teacher, a family and a state. They are both historic and modern. But they are really about one very simple but very powerful idea – expectations.

First the teacher. In 1804, in the deep South Carolina back woods of what is now McCormick County, at a cross roads called Willington, four men got together and decided that their little community needed a church and their children needed a school.

They were all Scots Irish immigrants who had come to the Upcountry when it was still unsettled Indian territory, before the state was even a state. And, in keeping with their ancient families’ tradition, they were all Presbyterians.

And Presbyterians (then and now) place a high value on learning. Church rules require that their minister be ‘educated and trained’ and thus many if not most backwoods Presbyterian ministers also taught school in their church community.

The preacher who came to Willington Presbyterian Church and founded Willington Academy on the banks of the Savannah River was Dr. Moses Waddel. A native of North Carolina, Waddel had several schools before and after Willington in both North Carolina and across the Savanah River in north Georgia. But, they were all basically the same in two ways: what he demanded of his students on the front end and what his schools produced on the back end.

He required every student every night to translate, memorize and recite 250 lines of classical Greek or Latin – every student every night.

Think about this for a moment. These were not the sons of Charleston aristocratic privilege with private tutors and individualized attention. These were rough and ready boys from the hard scrabble back woods of the Carolinas and north Georgia.

And what was more remarkable than what he demanded, is what he got.

If you add up all the students from Dr. Waddel’s schools, they included: one president, two vice presidents, three secretaries of state, three secretaries of war, one assistant secretary of war, one U.S. attorney general, ministers to France, Spain and Russia, one U.S. Supreme Court justice, eleven governors, seven U.S. senators, 32 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 22 judges, eight college presidents, 17 editors of newspapers or authors, five members of the Confederate Congress, two bishops, three Brigadier-generals, and one authentic Christian martyr.

In the presidential election of 1824, three of the five candidates were his students and when the electoral dust settled, the winning president and vice president were both South Carolinians who had studied under Waddel – Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun. At one time, five S.C. governors in a row were his students.

Dr. Waddel expected greatness from his students and he got it.

Now the family. In 1945, a young man named Clay Matthews graduated from Charleston High School. He was a good athlete and went to Georgia Tech where he was a stand out in swimming, boxing and wrestling.

But, his passion and greatest skills were in football. After graduation, he had a great pro career with the San Francisco 49ers. He married and had two sons, Clay, Jr. and Bruce; they both played in the NFL and were named First Team All Pro multiple times.

Clay, Jr. had two sons and Bruce had three sons – and all five of them played NFL football. There are also three cousins that played in the NFL. That’s 11 NFL players in three generations of one family – thus, they are known as the First Family of the NFL.

The family philosophy to their children was summed up by Clay Jr., “You guys can do whatever you want, and I’ll be proud of you. But whatever you’re going to do, apply yourself, be responsible, show up and do it like you mean it.”

This was the family expectation that produced three generations of greatness.

And a state. My father was a minister and we moved from Greenville to Alabama when I was a young boy. I grew up there when Bear Bryant was coach of the University of Alabama football team. From 1958 until he retired in 1982, The Bear compiled a record of 232 wins, 46 loses and 9 ties. He won 13 SEC championships and 6 national championships. Twice he won back to back national championships.

In 1961, they were undefeated national champions and outscored their opponent 297-25. I vividly remember watching the Bear Bryant Show at the end of the season and listening to Bear apologize for the 25 points that had been scored on them – and he meant it.

What was most amazing about Bear, was that he convinced everyone in the state of Alabama, including Auburn fans, that Alabama was going to win every game, every year and be the national champions. If it didn’t happen, we all thought there was something wrong.

All of these stories are about one thing – expectations.

And what of South Carolina today – we accept an education system that is 50th in the country, we accept being rated 48th in opportunity, we accept being 46th in overall quality of life. It’s basically the same with bad roads, violent crime, domestic abuse, etc. … ‘thank God for Mississippi.’

Sam Walton said it best, “High expectations are the key to everything.”

We in South Carolina deserve better – and we must expect, and demand, better.


Phil Noble has a technology firm in Charleston, is Co-founder of EnvisionSC and writes a weekly column for the S.C. Press Association. Contact him at and get his columns at

“Syria and Trump” by Stuart Neiman

“Syria and Trump” by Stuart Neiman

“Job Incentives” from The Times and Democrat

“Job Incentives” from The Times and Democrat

“Jogging” from The Times and Democrat

“Jogging” from The Times and Democrat

“No Positives” from The Times and Democrat

“No Positives” from The Times and Democrat

Open carry bill heads to the Senate

Kyle Vuille
Carolina Reporter

Legislation that would allow legal gun owners to openly carry handguns without a government permit narrowly passed the S.C. House Wednesday afternoon but will face more scrutiny in the Senate.

The House voted 64-46 after more than three hours of debate. Five did not vote and five were absent.

Some legislators and opponents of the so-called “open carry” bill said Thursday they were frustrated by the way the bill had been pushed through a committee and onto the floor.

“They didn’t allow any public input,” said Arlene Andrews, of Blythewood, a member of the S.C. chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Members of the group are visible around the State House because they don red T-shirts that read “EVERY TOWN FOR GUN SAFETY” across the back. The shirts establish the women as a part of a nationwide group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

The nonprofit group, launched on Facebook by Indiana resident Sharon Watts in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, has expanded across the country with chapters in every state.  Each chapter consists of mothers, survivors, and some mayors, who have their own group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Andrews, a retired professor at the University of South Carolina College of Social Work, recalls the images from the Sandy Hook shooting and seeing people praying in the aftermath.

“The answers to those prayers was to go out and do more,” said Andrews.

Andrews is one of the women who dons a red shirt. The safe gun law advocacy group monitored the House committee where they were not allowed to speak and followed up by watching the House debate from the gallery above.

The group is now on to lobbying their message of safe gun legislation to state senators before the bill heads to a Senate committee.

“That’s what I’m doing today, contacting all the senators who oppose this bill,” Andrews said Thursday.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, and proponents of the measure believe it reflects the intention of the U.S. Constitution and the writers of the Second Amendment. But some were worried that there is no provision for training in the bill or question how law enforcement would handle volatile situations, particularly related to the minority community.

Pitts has acknowledged that the bill would have to be revised significantly before the Senate would even consider passing such a law. The measure has failed in previous years.

“You are not under government permitting for a constitutional right,” Pitts said.

Andrews worries the measure will have a detrimental effect on tourism in the state if passed.

“Most people want to feel safe and they will go elsewhere if they see people walking the beach or in the local bar openly carrying a gun,” said Andrews.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America has expressed that they are not against guns nor does the group want to take guns away.

“We are not against guns,” said Sylvie Dessau, “but we want safe gun legislation.”


Amid the grapevines: Vineyard owners love life close to nature

By Micaela Wendell
Carolina Reporter

Part two of an occasional series

At this juncture in his life, winemaker Richard LaBarre expected to be relaxing on his version of Easy Street.

“I like to say that when we got this place 12 years ago, my five-year plan was to get a white suit, a rocking chair, a Cuban cigar and a glass of wine. That was my five-year plan,” said LaBarre, 69. “Twelve years — I’m still in T-shirts and blue jeans.”

Over that time, LaBarre and his wife, Laura, transformed a muddy cow pasture into Enoree River Winery in Newberry, planting 800 grape vines with the assistance of family and friends. He said that while they take their business seriously, they don’t take themselves seriously. Jokes, smiles and Southern charm are the norm on their property.

Richard LaBarre, co-owner of Enoree River Winery, considers himself more of a beer drinker but appreciates the business of wine.

The operation is one of more than a dozen vineyards and wineries scattered throughout South Carolina, ventures that have become agritourism stops for visitors. Wine has become a way of life for these independent grape growers, and it is often a family and community affair.

The LaBarres consider themselves the only full-time workers at the vineyard, but friends and family have been contributing to the winery since the beginning. Richard LaBarre’s brother moved from Florida to work with them for a few years, and the LaBarre’s two grown children also pitch in. Laura LaBarre’s father and uncle often worked downstairs below the tasting room on the vats and equipment.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do it without everybody’s help,” she said. “’Trade you a couple hours for a bottle of wine!’”

The crucial help from loved ones sometimes inspires the LaBarres in naming their wines. “The Barbarian” was named after their friend Barbara, who helps out on Saturdays in the tasting room. They have named wines for the pets on the property.

Deep Water Vineyard, nestled on Wadmalaw Island near Charleston, is also very family-focused.

Jesse Freiwald co-owns the business with his wife, Andrea, who helps with marketing and is the chief financial officer of the property. They purchased the vineyard, formerly known as Irvin-House Vineyard, from Jim and Ann Irvin in 2015. Their first year as owners, he said, was filled with adjustments.

“It was very busy. It was a good busy, though,” the South Dakota native said.

Andrea Freiwald has a separate business of her own, so she splits her time between both locations while Jesse Freiwald works full-time on the property with hired help. To further adapt their lives to the vineyard, the Freiwalds homeschool their three young boys to balance the demands of the farm with the need to provide a quality education for their children.

The Freiwalds moved from Minnesota after feeling a calling to the South, and in their first year as vineyard owners when Hurricane Matthew hit in October 2016. The winery closed to the public a week before the storm hit. The Freiwalds boarded up all the buildings on the property and evacuated to ensure their boys’ safety.

The vineyard at Enoree River Winery in Newberry used to be a cow field. Winery owners Richard and Laura LaBarre enlisted the help of their friends and family to prepare the land and plant their first vines 12 years ago.

“We did have some grapes left on the vines when the hurricane came, and we pretty much picked most of what we needed, but there was potential to go back out and re-harvest,” Freiwald said. “After the hurricane came, it was pretty much done.”

The family returned to their home to find they had lost 40 trees on the property, and 40 muscadine vine trellises had blown over. The water level also rose uncomfortably high during the storm, so they worried that salt water could have possibly entered the field.

“Did that actually affect the grapes or not? We’ll kind of wait and see,” Freiwald said. “I think we’ll be OK. Again, it’s the hardiness of the grape.”

Maintaining a vineyard is a tough job even with perfect weather, so the Freiwalds started their own tradition to bring good fortune to their vines each season. The Boots, Bottles and a Blessing festival hosts food trucks, music and a visit from a local priest who is also a family friend.

“He’ll come out and literally bless the vines and bless the buildings and bless the people and pray over us,” he said. “And we really value that.”

Living and working with nature

While vineyards can be buzzing with visitors for tastings and special events, these often-rural destinations provide a step into the countryside, which can be a welcome relief for city dwellers wishing for a quick getaway.

“I spent most of my adult life in Columbia, and your neighbors are two feet away from you and you can’t see the stars,” LaBarre said. “(Now) I got cows as neighbors and I can see the stars.”

A thick forest frames the Enoree River Winery vineyard, and the cows next door can hardly be seen — or smelled — through the nettles. A wooden wedding pavilion rests at the far end of the vineyard, and the tasting room and winery come complete with an open-air porch and rocking chairs.

Dusty is one of the LaBarre family’s pets at Enoree River Winery, and he spends his days wandering the vineyard and relaxing on the porch. They named their Viognier wine, “Dusty’s Road,” after him.

The LaBarres’ pet dogs and cat can often be found wandering the grounds. A few wines have taken their names, like Sweet Tipsy Rose (after their cat, Tipsy) and Dusty’s Road (from their brown dog, Dusty).

When the vineyard isn’t filled with the chatter of visitors, guests can hear the local wildlife loud and clear through the fresh country air. On Sundays, if all the work gets done, the LaBarres sometimes build a fire and enjoy a glass of wine by it.

“It’s not a bad life,” Richard LaBarre said.

Deep Water Vineyard is also nestled in a secluded swath of nature. The black metal front gate to the property greets visitors after a 15-minute drive down Wadmalaw Island — a trip set against a distant saltwater backdrop and lined with trees draped in Spanish moss.

The tin-roofed Firefly Distillery rests between the vineyard and the winery’s tasting room, and a porch with string lights spans the two buildings. The yard out back hosts two tree swings and a covered picnic area with cornhole boards. On the vineyard fence’s gate, a painted metal welcomes people to “stomp on in” and see the vines close-up.

Ida Claire is a friendly cow at Deep Water Vineyard who lives among the vines. She spends her days munching on vine canes that have fallen to the ground.

Freiwald says that the placement of the vineyard works to his advantage, especially during South Carolina’s unpredictable spring weather.

“We’re actually in a unique location, too, on the island here,” he said. “We get some of the maritime effects just because we have water nearby, and so that helps keep us a little warmer.”

This lifestyle once seemed like the stuff of fantasy to Freiwald.

“It has been a dream of mine. I just didn’t think it would come to fruition this early,” he said.

Wire coops by the parking lot house numerous breeds of chickens, and the roosters’ back-and-forth crowing keep the front yard anything but silent.

Rabbits can be found huddling in a hutch out back, and visitors can meet a goat, a pig and free-running hens in the side garden. Anyone who decides to hop into the vineyard needs to shut the gate behind them — Ida Claire, the resident cow with a name from the Southern saying “Well, I declare,” might be nearby.

Although care for the animals and the vines can be long and difficult at times, the final fruits of his labor make it all worth it, Freiwald says.

“It’s really cool to take something from…seed to berry or from pruning to seeing through a season,” he said, “And then picking it and making wine — seeing something through from beginning to end is really satisfying.

Working and living on a vineyard used to be a distant dream for Jesse and Andrea Freiwald, the owners of Deep Water Vineyard near Charleston. Two years after moving to the South from their Midwest home, the Freiwalds bought Irvin House Vineyard and made it their own.

Looking to the future

Richard LaBarre says that while Enoree River Winery’s business is on the rise, it doesn’t come without its challenges.

“The more money you make, the harder you have to work, and the more money you have to spend to make that money,” he said.

Enoree River Winery has served as a wedding venue at a pavilion on the far side of the vineyard, so the LaBarres are working on saving up money to build a 5,800 square-foot barn to expand and host wedding receptions and other events.

They also are working on getting signs on the interstate to direct travelers to the remote vineyard.

Freiwald at Deep Water Vineyard hopes to bring in European “vinifera” varietals to start working on Old World flavors. He also wants to partner with Firefly Distillery, home of the popular sweet tea vodka, to create a fortified wine with one of the sweet red blends.

“I think that would be really good if we were to have the distillery make it into brandy for us,” he said. “Then we can bring it back and put it into our wine like a port-style wine.”

He also plans to start oaking red wines with wood chips (in lieu of using actual oak barrels), which adds a bitter, acidic quality to the wine called “tannin.”

“There’s a lot of things that we’d love to experiment with,” he said. “And it just comes down to time and space and money.”

Enoree River Winery, at 1650 Dusty Road in Newberry, is open Thursday through Saturday from noon until 6 p.m., Sundays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Monday through Wednesday by appointment.

Deep Water Vineyard, 6775 Bears Bluff Road, is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.