ARTS CENTER CEO/PRESIDENT RECOGNIZED FOR DEDICATION TO THE COMMUNITY
Kathi Bateson is having her moment. In March, she earned South Carolina’s highest honor in the arts, the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts Individual. This award by the South Carolina Arts Commission recognized for her “outstanding achievement and contributions to the arts in South Carolina.”
While her role as CEO, president and executive producer at The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina requires her to wear many hats, teaching and learning are her strongest passions.
“I am a Pennsylvania-certified visual arts educator … and I believe in arts education strongly, whether it’s teaching or mentoring or providing opportunities for others to learn,” Bateson said. “I’m a lifelong learner. I find great joy in sharing our resources and particularly in connecting individuals and institutions with resources and opportunity that The Arts Center can facilitate.”
She was thrilled to receive the news that she’d won the Verner award, but said the achievement has been a team effort.
“When we won the Verner award as an organization in 2006, I was just struck by the fact that here we were in this small community being recognized by the state for our collective work,” she said. “I never thought there would be any subsequent Verner award. I could really not accomplish everything they’re giving me credit for without the infrastructure of The Arts Center organization. The honest truth is I’m shocked and immensely flattered. I know how rigorous the selection process is and I am somewhat beside myself that the Verner award would be awarded to me.”
I’M A LIFELONG LEARNER. I FIND GREAT JOY IN SHARING OUR RESOURCES AND PARTICULARLY IN CONNECTING INDIVIDUALS AND INSTITUTIONS WITH RESOURCES AND OPPORTUNITY THAT THE ARTS CENTER CAN FACILITATE.
Since its opening in 1996, The Arts Center has attracted a slew of big-name performers, from Dave Brubeck and Chick Corea to Natalie Cole, Misty Copeland and Kenny Leon. Bateson’s favorites? Ben Vereen, the Martha Graham Dance Co. and Bobby Short, as well as theatrical productions of “Les Miserables,” “The Color Purple” and “Boeing-Boeing.”
A long career in the corporate world taught Bateson how to run the business side of The Arts Center and honed her networking skills. For the 22 years she’s been at the center’s helm, she’s worked to expand what she calls “a tapestry” of business and social connections who support the arts.
“It started out with just a few threads going in different ways. Then you keep adding more and more threads and the fabric gets richer and richer through all the participants and all the experiences,” she said.
Bateson and her staff are well into planning next season’s shows, as well as working to secure grants for The Arts Center’s Education Outreach program. Bateson said it’s important for area students to be exposed to the arts — whether musical acts, dancing or stage performances — as often as possible. When students have easy access to the arts, she said, the whole community benefits.
“Arts education is the only place young people can build self-esteem by choosing shape, color and lines. That personal creativity is celebrated by others, thereby reinforcing independent thinking, self-confidence and decision-making,” she said. “That is key for me and has been since the day I started this job. I told The [Arts Center] board we’ve been fortunate that our community has supported The Arts Center, and we need to give back.”
And Bateson certainly is dedicated to the community. In addition to her work at The Arts Center, she serves as the chairwoman of Women in Philanthropy, a women’s giving circle that in 2018 awarded $72,000 in grants to area organizations focused on women’s health, wellness, and justice.
Even with all her responsibilities, Bateson still finds time for a little fun. She loves movies and antiques. And she and Torrey Glass — a financier, restaurateur and her husband of 34 years — recently took the trip of a lifetime.
“It’s been a dream of ours to go through the Panama Canal. It was extraordinary,” Bateson said. “I love being on the water. I find it incredibly peaceful and fun at the same time.”