Artists Matthew Kramer and Jarid Brown got the idea for a collaborative show years ago. They recently held that show at Olympia’s 701 Whaley and then donated almost half their earnings to helping flood victims. It has been a common effort by the arts community.
By Andrew Moore
Dec. 4, 2015
Local artists Matthew Kramer and Jarid Brown held their first collaborative show after years of planning and made some money. This could have been simply a story about their success.
But it’s not. It’s a story about community and how they gave up almost half that money to help victims of South Carolina’s floods. And it’s just a small part of how the arts community rallied after the rains came.
Kramer and Brown have always striven to help others through art. They met in 2011 at the Anastasia and Friends art gallery on Main Street where they painted violins auctioned to raise money for the South Carolina Philharmonic education programs.
They stayed in touch and talked for years about holding a show together. Then this summer the idea became a reality. Brown and Kramer sat down at a coffee shop in July and planned it all out.
“701 Whaley is very open about what they will let you do,” Brown said. “So we just went for it.”
The show opened in the Olympia landmark in late September. But the flood came two weeks later, destroying homes and businesses across the Midlands.
Both artists began thinking about how they could help those affected. A friend told Brown about Zoltan Borbely.
Borbely lives near Gills Creek. It became “a raging river, and a majority of my neighbors lost everything,” Borbely said. He organized volunteers to help flooded-out residents move their belongings from their homes and collect needed supplies.
“We’ve been able to give couches, beds, grocery items, and much more to people thanks to donations,” he said. “And my house is still full of supplies that will be given out.”
Brown told Kramer about Borbely, and they decided to give 40 percent of each piece they sold to his efforts.
“People near Gills Creek were hit really hard. And Zoltan was just someone that took his neighborhood in. I just couldn’t help but respect him for that, and I knew we had to help him,” Brown said.
Then they asked John Reeves, pastor at Radius Church of White Knoll, if the church could help. Brown, a longtime member at Radius Church of Lexington, had known Reeves for years and had heard about the White Knoll church’s flood relief efforts in Lower Richland. Reeves and the church decided to match the artists’ 40 percent.
By the time the show had ended in late October, Brown, Kramer, and the church had raised about $500 for Borbely’s efforts.
“My hope is that everyone can get back to leading a normal life,” Borbely said. “It will be hard because the emotional toll is significant for all these families, but this money will help.”
But that was just a small part of the outpouring from the Midlands’ arts community after the flood. Museums offered free admission, artists donated works to fundraisers and music venues exchanged tickets for donated goods. Many funds or items have gone to local nonprofits like the Central Carolina Community Foundation and Harvest Hope Food Bank.
The Columbia Museum of Art held a free art show and asked people to bring food and supplies for those affected. The event brought in nearly 800 cans of food for Harvest Hope. The museum then offered first responders and their families free admission through November.
The Rosewood Arts Festival raised nearly $1,200 for the Epworth Children’s Home where the heating and air units, as well as the water heater, were submerged. Festival director Arik Bjorn said he was surprised when artists donated pieces to raise funds.
“It was just a spur-of-the-moment type of thing, and it was so nice to see the artists helping out,” Bjorn said.
A concert at City Roots farm raised over $30,000 for the Central Carolina Community Foundation. And Conundrum Music Hall, before it closed at the end of October, exchanged free admission for canned goods and hygiene products.
Brown and Kramer continue to help flood victims. Kramer is helping to raise money for Forest Lake Gardens, a popular produce and garden store in Forest Acres that was flooded by Gills Creek and then told by the bank that owns the property that it must move.
Owner Joseph McDougall told artists they could decorate broken pottery for an auction, and Kramer has decorated several pieces.
Brown said he will continue to give a percentage of his earnings not only to flood relief efforts, but to anyone who needs it.
“This has really been an eye-opener because there are people who always need things,” Brown said. “I think as long as someone needs something, I’ll be thinking about how I can help.”