Archive for category News

Alarms on nukes fiasco sounded years ago

By Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

August 9, 2017

When Santee Cooper and SCE&G pulled the plug on their shared project to build two nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville at the beginning of last week, it was a “wow” moment and rightly so. For one thing, several thousand employees were thrown out of work with no warning.

Yet with the benefit of hindsight, this fiasco was like a freight train that had been steadily approaching for years, a speck in the distance, a slightly bigger speck in the distance, slightly bigger… “is that a train?” — and then, one day it arrived all hiss and clang, right on time.

“No one anticipated what kind of a catastrophe this would turn into,” Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler told the Associated Press late last week.

Keep in mind that Setzler said this despite his having co-sponsored the 2007 Base Load Review Act, the law that positioned SCE&G parent company SCANA to risk so much on the project, where it was the majority partner, while insulating itself from loss and enriching its shareholders.

That’s what economists call a moral hazard. And it shouldn’t have been hard to see before last week that it posed at least a potential problem.

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South Carolinians fall short on education, finance, wealth

Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

August 7, 2017

South Carolina businesses are much more likely to be white-owned than businesses on average in the U.S., and less likely to be owned by women. Does that affect its prosperity?

At the same time, businesses owned by men and by whites are more valuable than minority and female-owned businesses, and the difference in value in South Carolina is even greater than the average national difference.

A greater percentage of the South Carolina workforce toils in low-wage jobs, 30.4 percent, than the national average of 24.2 percent, ranking South Carolina 42nd from the best among all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Adding insult to injury, the average annual pay for a South Carolina worker is $46,411, well below the national average of $52,942 — and those figures are adjusted for cost of living.

These data are some of the findings which led the non-partisan group Prosperity Now, a D.C.-based nonpartisan nonprofit that promotes “household financial health,”to give the state an “F’ on its recent annual report card, in its category for Business & Jobs. For South Carolina, it argues, this all means prosperity later if ever.

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Nowhere to run

By Hannah Hill for TheNerve.org

August 4, 2017

When the multi-billion V.C. Summer nuclear reactor project was scrapped this week, the question on everyone’s mind was “Who’s going to pick up the tab for this?”

SCANA, SCE&G’s parent corporation, wasted no time in asking the Public Service Commission’s permission to pass the bills along to its ratepayers in a six-decade plan.

No one but SCE&G seems thrilled with that idea. All of its customers feel the sting of potentially having to pay for a project that doesn’t exist anymore – especially after shouldering nine rate increases over the past nine years to fund it to begin with.

In a legislative press conference on Wednesday lawmakers said that all options to fix the broken system that gave rise to this situation were on the table, except for making the ratepayers absorb the loss.

That sounds a bit overly optimistic to anyone familiar with legislative politics, but the fact remains that it’s unjust to make the customers pay for the investors’ bad decisions.

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So your reactors are kaput. Now what?

Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

August 3, 2017

The announcement earlier this week that SCE&G and state-owned utility Santee Cooper were pulling the plug on construction of two nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville has left questions that keep multiplying.

In the run-up to the decision, one factor driving it was that the partly-completed, multi-billion-dollar project would provide more power than electricity consumers in South Carolina were likely to want.

Canceling the project, though, could lead to a shortfall.

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Who pays for failed reactors?

Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

August 3, 2017

Last week, as the planned construction of two nuclear reactors in South Carolina was enveloped in doubt following the bankruptcy of their contractor, Westinghouse, news came of another planned rate-hike by one of the project’s two partners, the government-owned utility Santee Cooper.

Under the proposal, the Santee Cooper board would vote in December to raise rates for its residential electricity customers by about 10 percent over two years, in part to cover “costs associated with nuclear construction.” And with the hike, South Carolina would be poised to have the highest electricity costs in the country.

That was before the announcement that Santee Cooper and its partner in the reactors, SCE&G, would abandon the project.

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Senator Margie Bright Matthews, D-Colleton, talks about criminal justice reform

Senator Margie Bright Matthews, D-Colleton, talks about criminal justice reform, which she says is one of her legislative focal points for the upcoming session in 2018. Bright Matthews, who represents District 45, is a member of the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee.  View the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYhOXTsEmVU

Senator Greg Hembree, R-Horry, discusses the moped bill

Senator Greg Hembree, R-Horry, discusses H. 3247, often called the moped bill. The bill included multiple provisions for moped drivers, such as new registration and licensing requirements, as well as additional operating and safety guidelines. View the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwyhtyZaGZQ

Picking produce — and winners

By Hannah Hill for TheNerve.org

July 27, 2017

Tax credits can be some of the worst policies a government can pass.

Taxes, as a rule, should be broad-based (everybody pays them) and low-rate (nobody pays much). Tax credits usually violate that principle – after all, tax cuts are different from tax favors. The former lowers the overall burden for everyone, and the latter make exemptions for favored businesses, individuals, or sectors at the expense of everyone else.

And of course, targeted tax credits are often used for economic development – or so the claim goes.

Take S.404, which passed the Senate this year.

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Enough with the parting gifts

By Abby Nugent for TheNerve.org

July 24, 2017

According to a contract obtained by the Post and Courier, the former head of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Catherine Templeton, accepted a contract with the agency just one day after she left her position in January of 2015. As director, she was paid $13,500 a month. After signing her no-bid consulting contract, she was paid $17,300 a month—a 28 percent increase.

Templeton’s predecessor, Earl Hunter, did the same sort of consulting at a rate of $15,000 per month for three months after he left DHEC, and current director Catherine Heigel (set to leave her position on August 4), was offered the same position, but announced yesterday to The State that she will not accept it amid this controversy.

One might think that, after agency heads leave their positions as government employees, their days of receiving taxpayer-funded salaries are over. This has not been the case. And it raises the question, why was the consultant paid more than the agency head, even after having received a pay raise of thousands of dollars shortly before leaving her post at DHEC?

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A huge hike to cover troubled nuclear reactors

By Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

July 24, 2017

Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility, is notifying customers that it wants to raise its rates by more than 9 percent over the next several years, in part to cover “costs associated with nuclear construction.”

The reference is to its share of the $11 billion price to build two nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, 25 miles northwest of Columbia. Since its chief contractor, Westinghouse, went bankrupt, the utility and its partner, SCE&G, have been trying to determine the partly-built project’s fate.

Meanwhile, it wants to recoup costs from its customers.

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Why is electricity so expensive in South Carolina?

By Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

July 20, 2017

In a ranking of states by total energy costs, South Carolina is solidly in the middle, at 24th most expensive.

When the costs of electricity, natural gas, motor fuel, and home heating oil are averaged and combined, state residents spent $278 per month.

That’s much better than the most expensive state, Connecticut, at $380, and much worse than the least expensive, Washington, at $226. (The District of Columbia is even lower, at $219.)

More curious is the ranking of states just on monthly retail electricity costs.

To get that figure, the authors of a study released last week by the personal-finance firm WalletHub took data from the Census and from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Then they multiplied the average monthly consumption of electricity per housing unit — in South Carolina, that’s 1,380 kilowatt hours — by the average retail price for electricity, which here is $0.1257 per kilowatt hour.

The result: South Carolina is the highest in the nation, at $173.47.

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For commissioner, governor turns to chamber

By Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

July 14, 2017

More than two months ago, the office of Governor Henry McMaster was lining up a permanent replacement for former state Department of Transportation Commissioner Mike Wooten.

When it did, it was guided solely by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, according to documents obtained through an open-records request.

Wooten served a single, four-year term, representing the Seventh Congressional District, which encompasses Myrtle Beach. His tenure was controversial in some quarters, owing to allegations that he had conflicts of interest — he also runs DDC Engineers, a Myrtle Beach firm that does business with state and local government.

Wooten’s commission expired February 15. The law allowed him to sit on the DOT board for another six months. The governor, meanwhile, had the choice of nominating him for another term or naming someone new, in either case subject to the legislature’s ultimate approval.

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Bad news on sales tax

By Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

July 14, 2017

If you shop locally and wonder where the money goes, the Tax Foundation has an explanation. South Carolinians pay the 17th-highest sales taxes in the nation, according to a new midyear report from the nonpartisan think tank.

The ranking, arrived at by combining state and a population-weighted average of local sales taxes, is another rebuke to public officials who tout the Palmetto State as a low-tax environment.

The highest rate is Louisiana, at 10.02 percent. The lowest non-zero rate is Alaska, at 1.76 percent. South Carolina comes in at 7.37 percent, just lower than Colorado (7.5 percent) and higher than Minnesota (7.29 percent). Delaware, Oregon, Montana, and New Hampshire have no sales taxes.

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When economic development becomes a state priority, citizens lose control

By Hannah Hill for TheNerve.org

July 14, 2017

As the Policy Council has been compiling this year’s Best and Worst of the General Assembly, I couldn’t help noticing a recurring theme: economic development-related bills.

Some are overt, like one that would create two new programs and a grant fund to further integrate economic development into the school system.

Others are not, such as the bill that offers a tax credit for purchasing South Carolina produce. The credit is capped, which means not everyone who applies will get it. Guess who doles it out? Not the departments of Agriculture or Revenue. It’s the Coordinating Council for Economic Development, which is instructed to consider “factors related to the economic benefit of the state” when selecting the winners and losers – excuse me, the recipients — of the credit.

These are just a couple of examples from this year’s bills. This is nothing new: Multiple state agencies have economic development missions. The economic development mentality permeates our government.

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I-73: One giant step forward, same old error

By Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

July 5, 2017

When it comes to spending and infrastructure, one of South Carolina’s great white whales rose from the deep with news last week that the Army Corps of Engineers approved a permit to begin work on the South Carolina leg of I-73. Ultimately, the interstate highway could take motorists from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula straight down to Myrtle Beach.

The permit covers the whole state length, slicing across its northeastern corner, starting near Bennettsville. Construction could begin within two years, supporters say, on a project first contemplated in 1982.

The southern half alone, linking I-95 to the Conway Bypass, is estimated to cost more than $1 billion, with total costs estimated now to reach as high as $4 billion.

U.S. Representative Tom Rice, the Republican from Myrtle Beach, hailed the permitting, saying that “studies indicate” the highway will generate approximately 22,000 permanent jobs.

Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Brad Dean seconded that, saying the highway would bring “more jobs, higher wages” and “economic growth” to an area dominated by the tourism industry. Myrtle Beach already sees more than 15 million annual visitors. Read the rest of this entry »

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.”

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 Joseph.Crevier@yahoo.com with any questions

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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.”

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.”