From time to time, over the course of the 30 years that I have been writing this column, I have been asked about the title “Arts and Humanities.” Some readers have wanted me to explain the difference between the two.
The arts are relatively easy to identify; from the time of the ancient Greeks, seven disciplines have been said to fit this label: three fine arts (painting, sculpture and architecture) and four performing arts (music, dance, poetry and theater).
Defining the term “humanities” poses more of a problem. In general, however, the disciplines that make up the humanities are said to be the branches of knowledge that focus on human culture and human expression: language and literature, the arts, history and philosophy. In practice, what differentiates an artistic discipline from one that falls into the humanities is a matter of approach. Writing poetry is an art, but the analysis of a poem is humanistic. Performing in a play is an artistic endeavor; studying the history of theater is part of the humanities. In essence, the arts are largely intuitive and subjective (right brain), and the humanities are principally analytical and objective (left brain).
All of this is prelude to the main topic of this column: the upcoming luncheon to be held at the Pastides Alumni Center in Columbia to honor this year’s recipients of the Governor’s Awards in the Humanities. On Thursday, Oct. 24, two individuals and one organization will be added to the roster of 82 honorees since 1991: Steven Naifeh, Ron Daise and Greenville Chautauqua.
The reason for Steven Naifeh’s receipt of this humanities-related accolade is rather self-evident to anyone in our fair city. Since 1989, when he and his late partner, Gregory White Smith, moved to Aiken and restored the 60-room estate known as Joye Cottage, Naifeh has played a major role in the life of our community and state. Their Pulitzer Prize-winning biography “Jackson Pollock” came out the same year as their relocation to South Carolina; and they followed up the success of that volume, which served as the basis for the motion picture starring Ed Harris, with a number of other books, culminating in the definitive biography of Vincent Van Gogh (2011). This fall at the Columbia Museum of Art, a special Van Gogh exhibition will feature about 30 works from the Naifeh/Smith collection by artists who inspired the Dutch post-impressionist painter.
In addition to his receipt of a 2019 Governor’s Award in the Humanities, Naifeh will be among five authors, including Smith, Pam Durban, Andrew Geyer and 19th-century poet James M. Legare, who will be inducted into the state’s literary hall of fame in a special dinner ceremony at USCA’s Etherredge Center on April 18. To obtain more information on that program and make reservations, visit www.scacademyofauthors.com.
This year’s second award winner is author and performing artist Ron Daise, who is vice president for creative education at Brookgreen Gardens. A native of St. Helena Island and a current resident of Georgetown, Daise is most noted as an interpreter of Gullah culture. He appeared in the 1990s on the Nick Jr. television program “Gullah Gullah Island” and has been instrumental in the formation of the Gullah Geechie Cultural Heritage Corridor, a U.S. Congress-sanctioned national heritage area encompassing the coastal areas of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
The final recipient is not an individual but an organization, Greenville Chautauqua. Now in its 20th year, the organization sponsors yearlong programming in four cities in two states: Greenville, Spartanburg, Asheville and Brevard. In 2018, the society’s “History Alive” program included scholarship-based, oral history performances by nationally acclaimed historical interpreters impersonating George Washington, Winston Churchill, Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Francis Marion and Alice Paul.
For more information about the Governor’s Awards and the availability of tickets to the awards luncheon set to begin at 11 a.m. at the Pastides Alumni Center on the campus of USC-Columbia, visit S.C. Humanities, our state’s program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, at www.schumanities.org and click on the tab marked Projects.