The South Carolina Arts Commission, in collaboration with McKissick Museum, launched the Survey of South Carolina’s Tradition Bearers in 2009. Community scholars and folklorists were contracted to identify traditional artists and folklife practitioners throughout the state. Tradition bearers practice traditional arts that are handed down from generation to generation in an informal manner rather than in a classroom. A special aspect of the survey involved work with refugees who resettled in South Carolina.
The survey is needed because many tradition bearers do not identify themselves as artists. A cast net maker may not necessarily think to come to the South Carolina Arts Commission or other arts and culture agencies for support; they are simply doing what they know and love. In order to encourage the practice of their art forms and to assist them in sharing their knowledge and expertise, we must first identify them. In the case of refugees, assisting them in preserving and sharing their traditions may help them maintain their identity while they adjust to their new home. The Survey of South Carolina’s Tradition Bearers was conducted with the support of The National Endowment for the Arts and South Carolina Humanities.