Cultural commission has new director

Colclough hopes to inspire passion for arts

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Melanie Colclough is having a very good year.

On March 11, she and her husband, David, became the parents of four young children, and just under three weeks ago, she was named executive director of the Sumter County Cultural Commission.

The 45-year-old Manning native now lives in Sumter with her large family, as she settles into the new job she's very excited about.

"I don't know if you can be prepared for this," Colclough said. "It has so many facets."

Those include planning and coordinating arts performances on the Patriot Hall stage, other cultural events and festivals and administering small arts grants, as well as offering educational opportunities.

A graduate of University of South Carolina Columbia with a bachelor of arts degree and with a master's degree from City University of New York in communications and public administration, Colclough's background includes many years' experience working with nonprofit organizations, Clarendon School District Two, the Municipal Association of South Carolina and Fairfield County schools, and she also worked in public relations at USC.

"Luckily, I have a wealth of knowledge in the people who work in the (Sumter County) Cultural Center," Colclough said. "They are being very helpful in my learning the job."

These include Karen Watson, executive director of Sumter County Gallery of Art, and Eric Bultman, executive director of Sumter Little Theatre.

"They're my unofficial focus group.

"And the Patriot Hall staff," Colclough said, noting that technical director David Shoemaker has been with the facility for 20 years, Audrey Maple, Patriot Hall manager, has been there 30 years, and Bubba Prince recently celebrated 18 years.

"They're an incredible staff," she said. "There's a lot of knowledge there. They love it, and they know everybody in the community."

Colclough has also been meeting with former commission directors Martha Greenway and Booth Chilcutt, who she said have provided her with valuable information about the job.

"Everyone has been so accommodating and helpful," Colclough said.

Also impressed by "the wonderful people who volunteer because they love the arts," she said she's looking forward to "working with the (Sumter County Cultural Commission) board of directors to come up with a schedule of events as soon as possible."

Asked about having the annual Fall for the Arts festival in October, Colclough said she thinks it's too late "to turn it around this year. It's a precarious time to start planning for a new season. We've got to crawl before we walk, but I believe we can grow and expand our programming."

She said she would eventually like to sponsor a summer camp at Patriot Hall, much like Watson has at the gallery and like the theater classes Bultman teaches at SLT.

Colclough also hopes to work with the city, especially Seth Reimer, Sumter's cultural manager, and Downtown Development Manager Howie Owens.

"They've got a lot of good arts programming there, and I want to see how we can partner together," she said.

Already this year the commission has had a summer intern, a Sumter High School student "who sings and plays guitar. She's inspired me, too, to continue to inspire a passion for the arts. There are so many people interested in the arts in Sumter. I want to be able to help them."

She's also excited that her children will be able to "grow up surrounded by the arts. I walked around the building (Sumter County Cultural Center at 135 Haynsworth St.) with my son, and he was oohing and ahhing," Colclough said. "This is what I want for other people's kids, too, an opportunity for cultural (enrichment) or just something for fun."