Columbia, SC’s Congaree Vista Area Named South Carolina Cultural District by SC Arts Commission

The Congaree Vista Guild, a membership organization of Vista supporters, announces that the SC Arts Commission has named the Vista an official South Carolina Cultural District. The City of Columbia, SC, and the Vista Guild will use the new cultural district designation to attract visitors and residents to the neighborhood and continue to promote the Vista as a hub for arts and culture.

A cultural district, defined as an easily identifiable geographic area with a concentration of arts facilities that support cultural, artistic and economic activity, was created by the SC General Assembly and Gov. Nikki Haley in 2014. The SC Arts Commission awards the designations after communities prove their desire to retain artistic identity and creativity that will encourage responsible economic development and growth in tourism.

“The arts have been and continue to be a vital part of the development of the City of Columbia and we have made significant strides in the past several years,” said Steve Benjamin, mayor of Columbia. “We are seeing tremendous growth in the Vista because of the efforts of so many artists and arts organizations that have led the way in establishing the unique, creative identity of that area of the city.”

Over the past year, the Vista Guild, One Columbia, city leaders, business owners, artists and residents of the Vista worked together to craft a cultural vision for the future of the Vista. A five-year cultural plan for the district includes goals of attracting tourists and visitors, encouraging responsible economic development, attracting artists and creating opportunities for the public to experience the rich arts and culture the Vista offers. The Vista is only the fourth entity to receive a cultural district designation. Previous cultural district designations have all been awarded to the cities of Spartanburg, Lancaster and Rock Hill, South Carolina.

“Those non-arts businesses are important pieces of a cultural district, says Ken May, SC Arts Commission executive director. “A successful cultural district attracts creative enterprises, such as galleries and theaters, whose patrons want to dine out and shop, so nearby retail and other businesses benefit from that increased economic activity.”

According to the cultural district designation guidelines as set forth by the SC Arts Commission, a qualifying district is made up of galleries, live performance venues, theaters, artist studios, museums, arts centers, arts schools and public art pieces, all of which are located and thriving in the Vista.

“With more than 5,000 programs offered last year and 117,000 people who participated, Richland Library is a portal for those who want to explore the arts and improve their craft and as a destination for all ages for high quality entertainment,” said Melanie Huggins, executive director of Richland Library. “We are so proud to be a part of one of the most creative and vibrant arts and entertainment districts in the state and look forward to what this designation will mean for future developments.”

The Vista Guild is planning a special announcement about its designation as a cultural district for Vista Lights, the neighborhood’s annual holiday open house, which takes place Nov. 19, 2015, from 5-9pm.

“The Vista as we know it today is a hub for entertainment and tourism because of the artistic aesthetic and vision that artists and the arts community founded many years ago in this neighborhood,” said Meredith Atkinson, executive director of the Vista Guild. “We’re proud that responsible growth in the Vista through the years has retained the character of the neighborhood, continued to support the arts and led to this cultural district designation.”

For more information about the SC Arts Commission’s cultural district guidelines, visit ( or contact Rusty Sox at 803/734-8899 or e-mail to ( For more information about the Vista Guild, please visit ( or contact Meredith Atkinson at 803/269-5946 or e-mail to (

The South Carolina Arts Commission is the state agency charged with creating a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their location or circumstances. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts by providing services, grants and leadership initiatives in three areas: arts education, community arts development and artist development. Headquartered in Columbia, SC, the Arts Commission is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources. For more information, visit ( or call 803/734-8696.


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