Artfields, Lake City, South Carolina, celebrates the spirit of the South, its culture and art
DARLA MOORE, A LEGEND ON WALL STREET, IS A WOMAN OF PIERCING INTELLIGENCE AND DRIVE WITH A PROFOUND COMMITMENT TO HER HOME STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA. WE WERE INTRODUCED MANY YEARS AGO WHEN SHE FIRST MARRIED. SHE AND HER HUSBAND, RICHARD RAINWATER, ACQUIRED A NEW YORK APARTMENT AND WERE INTERESTED IN STARTING TO COLLECT. SINCE THAT TIME, I HAVE HAD THE PRIVILEGE AND PLEASURE OF WORKING WITH DARLA TO BUILD WONDERFUL COLLECTIONS OF THREE CENTURIES OF AMERICAN ART: HUDSON RIVER, AMERICAN IMPRESSIONISM, AMERICAN MODERNISM, AND NOW WE ARE DAPPLING IN CONTEMPORARY. THESE WORKS CELEBRATE HER LOVE OF THIS COUNTRY’S SPIRIT OF FREEDOM AND ACCOMPLISHMENT. DARLA HAS SUPPORTED THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA IN SO MANY WAYS, ESTABLISHING THE MOORE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA ONLY ONE OF MANY. SHE QUIETLY HELPS INDIVIDUALS OF MERIT AND PUBLICLY INITIATES AND SUSTAINS PROJECTS AND POLICIES THAT IMPROVE THE WORLD AROUND HER.
HER MOST RECENT VENTURE IN APRIL OF THIS YEAR, MUCH TO MY DELIGHT, IS THE LAUNCH OF ARTFIELDS, A PHENOMENALLY WELL-RECEIVED FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS THAT BRINGS ATTENTION AND SUPPORT TO HER HOMETOWN OF LAKE CITY, SOUTH CAROLINA, A HISTORICAL FARMING COMMUNITY. THANKS TO DARLA’S INITIATIVE AND THE EXTRAORDINARY WORK AND COMMITMENT OF THE ARTFIELDS TEAM AND THE TOWN, LAKE CITY WAS TRANSFORMED INTO A CULTURAL DESTINATION OVERFLOWING WITH VISITORS VIEWING OVER 400 WORKS FROM ARTISTS ACROSS THE SOUTHEAST. THE ATTENDANCE WAS IMPRESSIVE AS WAS THE RESPONSE. THE ART WAS INSTALLED NOT ONLY IN ALL OF THE BUSINESSES IN TOWN BUT ALSO INCORPORATED MURALS, INSTALLATION ART AND OUTDOOR SCULPTURE.
DARLA, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR PARTICIPATING IN THE LRFA BLOG.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE OF GROWING UP IN LAKE CITY, YOUR FAMILY ROOTS THERE AND ITS HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AS A TOBACCO AND FARMING COMMUNITY.
When I was growing up in Lake City, SC, it was a prosperous farming town, with the economic base primarily dedicated to the growing and marketing of tobacco. Everyone went to public schools, to Protestant churches, and everyone had some connection to agriculture. Each summer, we would have “tobacco men” come in from North Carolina and Virginia to buy the tobacco at an auction market for the big companies such as R. J. Reynolds. Since we did not have hotels, many families would rent out a room in their homes to a “tobacco man” for the season, which would run from July to October. Some people had the same tobacco man for decades so they became part of the fabric of the town. My family had a farm–which has been in the family for generations—which produced tobacco, cotton, soybeans, and many other grain crops. Although my grandfather ran the farm when I was young and my family lived in the town, I spent much of my time playing and staying on the farm. It has always been a very special place for me. I loved the constant activity. This way of life disappeared as tobacco went out of the culture, but those of us who lived in it were educated, trained, and supported by the economics of the crop for two generations. This farm connection is very deep and has informed everything from my work ethic to my aesthetic sense to my judgment.
THE MOORE BOTANICAL GARDENS YOU ESTABLISHED HAVE TRANSFORMED THE TOWN OF LAKE CITY INTO A HORTICULTURAL TRIBUTE TO SOUTH CAROLINA’ S NATIVE FLORA. HOW DID THIS AGRARIAN VISION CHANGE THE TOWN?
I had always remained close to my home and family, but about thirteen years ago, I started returning to the farm more frequently. The concept of a botanical garden was an evolution—it started with renovating the 1917 house my grandfather had built when he returned from World War I. Although the house had burned and been rebuilt several times since, the site was the original homestead from when the family first arrived in the 18th century. On one side of the house is a large pecan orchard planted around 1920. The story goes that a travelling salesman came to these parts selling pecan trees to farmers and you can still see pecan trees peppered all over the region from this era. My grandfather ultimately used the proceeds from the November pecan crop to pay his taxes.
On the other side of the house was farm land. Out the front door, the back door, the side door—nothing but fields. My grandmother was a gardener and a lover of all flowering things—tree, shrubs, bulbs—but had to contain her gardening to limited areas because the farm land was so valuable. My thought was to take some of the fields around the house and make them more of a landscape. I brought in a landscape architect from New York and, through her, found a horticulturist to work on the implementation. The house that was once a one-acre property was now on five acres. The horticulturist was a serious plants man and as we added more and more interesting plants, we kept seeing all of the land still in crop production and the pine forest surrounding the land as opportunities to expand our plant palette. So the botanical garden was born, and after ten years, we are now a very sophisticated, well-curated fifty-acre garden dedicated to research and high-tech propagation, with over 6,000 different plant species. Fields of crops still surround the garden.
We have systematically replanted the town of Lake City to showcase many of the species we have in the garden and the native plants of the Pee Dee. It’s like no other municipal plant palette in the country, and for this reason, we have been awarded the “Tree City USA” designation for the past two years.
IN EDUCATION, YOU ESTABLISHED THE MOORE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA AND SOUGHT OUT THE GREAT HARVARD STRATEGIST, MICHAEL PORTER, AND HIS TEAM TO EVALUATE AND ADDRESS THE EDUCATIONAL ISSUES OF YOUR HOME STATE. WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE IMMEDIATE RESULTS OF THIS?
The most immediate result of Michael Porter’s work with South Carolina was the establishment of an organization called “New Carolina,” which focuses on a long-term economic strategy of supporting industry clusters—that is, sectors of an economy that deal in the research and production of specific fields of study. Porter encouraged us to look at our industry strengths and concentrate our efforts to grow what we are already strong in: automotive, agriculture, forestry, and now, aerospace. We are working to connect the education of our workforce to these industries.
YOU HAVE BEEN A WONDERFUL COLLECTOR OF BOTH 19th AND 20th CENTURY ART ON A PRIVATE LEVEL. IN RETROSPECT, IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE REASONS ARE TWO-FOLD: A CELEBRATION OF THE GREAT ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT OF AMERICA AND, AT THE TIME, FOCUSING ON AN AREA OF ART THAT WAS STILL ACCESSIBLE AND UNDERVALUED AT THE TIME. IS THIS PERSONAL INTEREST IN ART WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO START ARTFIELDS?
To be honest, the idea of ArtFields was primarily an economic one. In order to reinvent our small farming community and create traffic to an unlikely place, we needed a “hook” that was potentially sustainable, created economic vibrancy, and reflected who we are. As it turned out, ArtFields did just this. It has been a huge success and has fostered additional economic activity in the area that would have been unthinkable prior to ArtFields. We had 22,000 people visit the town during the ten-day event and the economic impact was $5.3 million. We haven’t seen anything like this since the “tobacco men” were in town.
IN OUR NEXT POSTING, WE WILL LEARN ABOUT THE EXTRAORDINARY COMING TOGETHER OF THE TOWN OF LAKE CITY, ITS RESIDENTS, THE ARTFIELDS TEAM OF EXPERTS, JURORS, AND STAFF AND THEIR EXTREMELY SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCH OF A TEN-DAY FESTIVAL OF ARTISTS OF THE SOUTH. THE NEXT FESTIVAL IS PLANNED FOR APRIL 25 – MAY 4, 2014. PLAN YOUR VISIT NOW! I CAN GUARANTEE THE GREAT HOSPITALITY OF THE TOWN OF LAKE CITY, THE DELICIOUS INDULGENCE OF LOCAL SOUTHERN COOKING AND A DIVERSE BODY OF WORK THAT SPANS EVERY MEDIUM, BE IT PAINTING, SCULPTURE, PHOTOGRAPHY OR INSTALLATION, AND EVERY STYLE. YOU WILL BE SO PLEASED TO ENJOY THIS EXPERIENCE!
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT ARTFIELDS, HOW TO ORGANIZE A SIMILAR PROJECT TO SPONSOR AND SUPPORT YOUR REGIONAL ARTISTS AND COMMUNITIES, OR THE SPECIFICS ABOUT NEXT YEAR’S GREAT ARTFIELDS EVENT, FIRE AWAY!