The following address was prepared for delivery by Mayor John J. Tecklenburg on May 25, 2018, at the Spoleto Festival USA. Opening Ceremonies.
Chairman Medich, President Gregory, members of City Council, (note of any other dignitaries), distinguished guests and friends: Bon Giorno and benvenuti. Welcome all.
I am honored to be here today as we kick off the forty-second season of Spoleto Festival USA. This festival is the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people, so let's please take a moment to show our appreciation to everyone who played a role in ensuring this year's festival will be a success-the board of directors, artists, performers, stagehands, ushers, … let's give them all around of applause.
As we stand here before this great City Hall, now in its two-hundredth year, the second oldest continually operating City Council Chambers in America, I can't help but reflect on the history of our city, and on all of the people, cultures, and events throughout the years that have come together to form this extraordinary place we call home.
From the beginning, the arts have been integral. In fact, Charleston is home to many "firsts" in the arts. It is right here that the first opera was performed in America - Colley Cibber's Flora. Charleston was also home to the first female professional artist in the English colonies of North America - Henrietta Dering Johnston. Robert Mills, the first major architect born in America was a proud son of Charleston. The original Dock Street Theatre was the first building in America to be built for the sole purpose of housing theatrical performances, and the first American Opera, Porgy and Bess, inspired by our Gullah culture, was set here in Charleston, Gershwin, inspired by local scenes and sounds, wrote the music during his stay here in the summer of 1934. And of course the incredible jazz musicians spawned from the African American orphanage founded by Rev. Daniel Jenkins.
This long and storied history in the arts no doubt helped to draw Gian Carlo Menotti to Charleston when looking for the right city to host a new companion festival to the Festival of the Two Worlds he'd founded in Spoleto, Italy. And with the founding of Spoleto Festival USA forty-two years ago, the history of Charleston was forever changed. And I would note that we continue our sister city relationship with Spoleto, Italy, with the help of Charleston Sister Cities International, and there is a contingent of Charlestonians once again visiting our sister festival in Spoleto, Italy later this summer.
As we come together over these next seventeen days to celebrate the arts and enjoy the world-class performances that this festival has drawn into our own backyard, I am uplifted to know that it will inspire a new generation of poets, actors, singers, dancers - and maybe even a few jazz pianists - to pursue their passions. And this year, we can take particular pride in the fact that this inspiration will come not only from the many artists who've traveled here from around the world to share their extraordinary gifts with us, but also from one of our own - the much-loved and internationally acclaimed, Ranky Tanky.
The renaissance art critic Walter Pater once wrote, "Art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass." In short, the arts inspires us to live life to the fullest and to pursue excellence in all that we do.
And while Spoleto Festival USA arrives each spring and provokes us to reflect on the quality of these moments, it is important that we harness this energy and enthusiasm and excellence, and keep that spirit alive throughout the year.
That is why I am so proud of the partnerships the City of Charleston has built over the years, and of the many initiatives underway to ensure that the arts, while appropriately celebrated today, continue to be cultivated year-round. It is critical that young artists who are moved by what they see during the Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto Festivals have the support and encouragement they need to express their ideas, to follow their dreams, and to embrace the artist within.
From the Gaillard and the Gibbes, to the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and Charleston Jazz, to Charleston Stage and PURE Theatre and Art Forms and Theatre Concepts, outreach and community engagement lies at the heart of our local cultural institutions' missions and programming.
Fine examples of this abound throughout our city and, increasingly, within our schools, with outstanding initiatives like Engaging Creative Minds and Yo Art - a program that teaches media arts like photography, filmmaking, and digital coding to students in Title 1 schools. What began as an after-school program for just thirty-five students has since grown into a well-established initiative that has touched the lives of some ten thousand students. Each summer, Yo Art students' work is proudly displayed at the Charleston County Public Library as part of the Piccolo Spoleto program.
This year, Gene Furchgott, Yo Art's founder, will be stepping down from his role as Executive Director. I'd like to congratulate Gene on everything he has accomplished, but more importantly, I want to thank him for his vision, his dedication, and his tireless efforts that have shaped so many young peoples' lives, and reminded us all that the arts are neither a luxury nor a diversion - the arts are what connect us and what continue to chart our path forward as a community.
And so, Maestro, once again, let the baton twirl, let the songs begin, let the dancers dance, let the musicians and children play and sing, let the words of playwrights come to life, and for the next 17 days, Spoleto is the thing.