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November 2009

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Harriet Smartt
Written By: 
Ida Becker

Stealth Activist


Age: 68
Home: Isle of Palms Professions: Activist and retired academic career counselor
Passions: “Networking and sharing information related to politics and the cultural arts”
Find Harriet: hica.org, gibbesmuseum.org, and coastalconservationleague.com


Harriet Smartt has been called a stealth force. It’s a fitting description for this woman whose behind-the-scenes orchestrations—for the Center for Women, College of Charleston School of the Arts, and numerous organizations—rarely position her as the face of a particular project. No, this former Virginia-based activist, who served on the Clinton Campaign Fundraising Committee in 1992 and ’96, prefers to empower young people—especially women—to become involved in both community and politics.

In 1994, Smartt and her husband, Richard, retired to Charleston, where she knocked on the doors of the Center for Women and the Gibbes Museum of Art—resumé in hand—to enlist as a volunteer. Among the many organizations that have benefited from her networking savvy and shrewd advice over the past 15 years are the South Carolina Arts Alliance, Coastal Conservation League, and Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, whose director, Mark Sloan, considers Smartt “one of the most well-connected people in Charleston.”

While the organizations she supports resoundingly credit her as a tremendous asset—when the South Carolina Arts Commission celebrated its 40th anniversary by creating the Forty Lists Project “of the people, accomplishments, ideas, and milestones that have contributed to the development of the arts during the past 40 years,” the name Harriet Smartt appeared three times—she never lets recognition dilute her focus. “You often get more accomplished when you listen instead of talk,” she says.




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Photograph by Christina Bailey

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