Service, Commitment and Passion
June 2019 Issue
by Jane Kendall
Kathleen Bateson has been the President, CEO, and Executive Producer of the multi-award winning Arts Center of Coastal Carolina since October of 1998. When she and her husband first saw the dirt hole that was to become the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, she never imagined that within two years she would be invited to take the helm. Through her vision, determination and leadership throughout the years, the Arts Center has become the magnificent venue that it is today. On May 1, 2019, Kathleen was presented with the coveted Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the arts in the individual category. Presented by the South Carolina Arts Commission, this award honors her for exceptional achievement and statewide impact through her leadership, support and advancement of the arts. The South Carolina Arts Commission is dedicated to developing and enhancing a thriving arts environment, which is essential to quality of life, education, and economic vitality for all South Carolinians. In 2006, Kathleen accepted the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s award in the organization category on behalf of the Arts Center as a whole. Her list of achievements and accolades is astounding. She is a member and past president of the South Carolina Arts Alliance Board, has served as chair and founding co-chair of the Arts and Cultural Council of Hilton Head, and serves as chair of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry’s Women in Philanthropy.
With a background in art education and professional set design, Kathleen laid the foundation for her earlier corporate career in international marketing, development and public relations for professional theaters. She is the founding president of Management for the Arts, a firm which specializes in organizational restructuring, institutional planning, strategic planning, and new business ventures. Her clients benefit from her unique combination of executive arts expertise and her corporate management experience. She has served as a cultural representative on international delegations to South Africa, China and Japan.
Pictured Left to right: Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award recipient Kathleen Bateson, South Carolina Arts Commission Chair Henry Horowitz, South Carolina Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May, and Peggy McMaster, First Lady of South Carolina. Photography by Michael Dantzler
Kathleen’s innovative ideas have been invaluable to the Arts Center’s growth and success. The quality of the live performances at the 350 seat theater rivals those on Broadway. Since the People’s Choice (patrons vote for plays for upcoming season) was introduced a few years ago, theater attendance has grown exponentially. The onsite Walter Greer Gallery hosts dazzling monthly exhibits, with rotating artists from all over the country, as well as juried art shows. The educational and outreach programs have provided more than 261,000 services to sites and schools throughout Beaufort and surrounding counties. The Arts Center was recently awarded a SC Arts Commission Arts in Education Grant for the Traveling ArtsReach Program (TAP), an enrichment program offering opportunities for underserved youth in grades 1 through 5 to experience professional visual art instruction in Jasper and Beaufort counties. More than 100 classrooms was served during the 2019 school year. Kathleen has expanded the Arts Center’s relationship with the Kennedy Center Partners in Education in collaboration with local art teachers and schools to provide professional development. As a result, middle and high school students with disabilities are provided art programs and classes through the Kennedy Center VSA program. Many other programs are offered throughout the year at the Arts Center, including Art Start for 2- to 5-year-olds, Art Reach (professional visual and performing arts experiences to schools), field trips to the Arts Center, and classes for homeschooled children. Community workshops for people of all ages are available throughout the year. Summer camps for visual and performing arts are provided for children ages 5 to 16. Internships in marketing, development, production and administration are available for high school and college students. Kathleen is a firm believer in the importance of art education as a vehicle to celebrate differences, become confident decision makers, and build self-esteem.
The Arts Center has partnered with the Native Islanders Business and Community Affairs Association to host numerous Gullah celebration events over the years, including symposiums, concerts, the Gullah Playhouse, the art exhibit De Aarts Ob We People, all to help ensure preservation of this unique and precious culture. The Arts Center is committed to reaching out to the entire community, offering culturally diverse festivals free of charge, such as Taste of Gullah Festival, Youth Arts Festival, and the Annual Tree Lighting. Kathleen is an outstanding ambassador for the arts for South Carolina.
Under Kathleen’s expert direction a fledgling visual and performing arts pavilion has grown and transformed into a renowned, regional mecca for arts and culture. She and her talented staff have created a place where everyone can come to enjoy the arts. The entire community is fortunate to have her at the helm of our beloved Arts Center. Congratulations Kathleen on this prestigious award!