Newberry Arts Center in the plans for downtown Newberry

By Elyssa Parnell

May 2, 2014

NEWBERRY — Newberry County might soon be able to work together to create a beneficial art program with the help of Marquerite Palmer and the City of Newberry’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department.

Palmer’s vision is to create a Newberry Arts Center as discussed by community members, supporters of the arts and others at an information session Tuesday.

Moving to Newberry in 1993, Palmer said it was her goal to raise her children in a small town and to promote an arts program.

“My hope was to create a full time program or arts center,” Palmer said.

What set the stage for an “artsy” community was the opening of the Newberry Opera House in 1998. Deborah Smith with the Opera House connected Palmer with Scott Sawyer, now director of Parks, Recreation and Tourism for the city.

Together, Sawyer and Palmer wrote a grant to create an arts council with the National Endowment for Arts, which they received.

“At that point, we had created a long range plan for 2005,” Sawyer said.

Shortly after the grant was finished, Palmer said the council fell apart for various reasons and she went into teaching school full-time.

Palmer said she did work within the school district for a while, but didn’t feel that was quite where she was supposed to be, feeling that the arts were a big part of her personality.

In September 2013, Palmer had the opportunity to apply for a position, which she now has with the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Department working with the senior adult program as the Senior Coordinator.

By this point, she had already left her job working within the school district and had opened a pottery business in her home on Harper Street. Palmer’s pottery studio is in her backyard, while her painting studio is inside her home.

Working part time for the City of Newberry, Palmer said she revisited the grant she and Sawyer had worked on, trying to find bits and piece she could pull from it to build consistently and continually on an arts program.

Sawyer and Palmer brought the idea to City Manager Al Harvey, who was encouraging of the idea.

Palmer’s vision is to create the Newberry Arts Center (NAC), with the location being at the old Parks and Recreation building beside City Hall on College Street.

There, they will have workshops, summer camps, painting parties, and other activities for artists young, old, beginner or experts.

“We want to branch out into several different areas to foster arts for many areas in the community,” Palmer said.

The mission of the NAC is to provide quality art experiences to all interested citizens and increase support for working artists, while creating appreciative current and future art patrons by involving the diverse population and fostering local economic growth, while enhancing the quality of life for all residents.

Palmer said it was important people realized her goal includes the entire community. Palmer hopes advertising workshops statewide will bring people into Newberry County where they can eat, stay and shop.

It’s all about relationships

A big part of what Palmer said will make an arts program like this successful is relationships. “I want us to combine resources for a better and more successful program,” Palmer said.

Rusty Denning from Piedmont Technical College said they have instructors in art, photography and pottery they hope could work with the program, maybe even working forward to some type of career path that students could continue if they become interested in a particular art program.

Andy Hawkins from Prosperity expressed her concern Tuesday that cities within Newberry County get involved with the program. Palmer said although the program was through the city, she did not want to exclude anyone in the county or even outside of the county.

Palmer suggested holding classes in Prosperity or another city with an arts program, alternating bringing people into other cities within Newberry County.

Palmer said she is trying to build on the seeds that have already been planted.

“From the very beginning we want to draw and create,” Palmer said. “We all have been touched by art. It speaks to us, and molds us whether we realize it or not.”

Registration for summer classes, workshops and events will run from May 12 until June 6. The summer sessions are set to begin June 16.

Art parties for children or adults can be reserved by calling the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department at 321-1015, or emailing

More information about upcoming events can be found at