Last November, a dozen teens gathered outside a Mount Pleasant Harris Teeter. Their sparkling silver instruments drew plenty of looks from shoppers, but once the R.B. Stall High School Steel Drum Band started to play, people stopped in their tracks. The music was so riveting, one would never guess most of the students hadn’t touched a drum until a year ago, when the band was founded thanks to a grant from the R. Keith and Deborah C. Summey Youth Endowment for the Arts (YEA). And yet there they were, playing at a registration event for the upcoming Charleston Marathon—the very event that helped make this percussion ensemble possible.
The YEA began a half marathon in 2010 and a full run the following year to generate money to help immerse area public school students in the arts. “Art is a catalyst to creative thinking,” says North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, who established the YEA in 2000 with wife Deborah. “The more we stimulate our young people’s minds, the brighter our future will be.”
To that end, the endowment is a founding supporter of a local initiative called Engaging Creative Minds that’s devoted to infusing arts into school curriculums. YEA also offers annual grants to arts education programs, with 20 groups receiving amounts ranging from $500 to $5,000 in the last two years. Among the 2012 recipients were Yo Art Project, which taught kids recycling by building a scarecrow of repurposed material, and St. Andrews and West Ashley Middle Schools, which upgraded their stringed instrument programs.
Several grant recipients will return the favor by offering musical motivation along the marathon’s route on January 19, reminding runners how going the extra mile can truly make a difference.
Charleston Marathon: Among the events slated for January 18-20 are the Charleston Youth Marathon Program on Friday; full and half marathons, plus the Shrimp & Grits 5K, on Saturday; and 40- and 60-mile bike rides on Sunday. For details, visit www.charlestonmarathon.com.