Downtown Camden Cultural District
The City of Camden is home to the ninth Cultural District of South Carolina, as approved by the SC Arts Commission (SCAC) in October 2020.
Cultural districts are defined by the SCAC as walkable geographic areas with a concentration of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. They are easily identifiable and serve as centers of cultural, artistic, and economic activity. They frequently have galleries and artist studios, theaters and other live performance venues, public art, museums and arts centers, and arts schools in addition to non-cultural attractions like parks, restaurants and bars, and other commercial activity.
Legislation ratified by the South Carolina General Assembly authorizes the S.C. Arts Commission to grant official state designation to cultural districts in the state. The legislation specifies the goals of this program:
• attract artists, creative entrepreneurs and cultural enterprises to communities
• encourage economic development
• foster local cultural development
• provide a focal point for celebrating and strengthening local cultural identity
Additionally, cultural districts attract tourists, help preserve and reuse historic buildings, enhance the image and visibility of a place, and foster a supportive environment for arts and culture.
The area chosen to be the cultural district consists of several blocks in Downtown Camden that have organically become home to many artistic and creative spaces. This newly designated cultural district extends along Rutledge Street from Church Street to Lyttleton; down Lyttleton Street, where the Arts Center of Kershaw County resides, south to York Street; west along York, which is home to the African American Cultural Center and additional historic landmarks, to Broad Street; and north on Broad to DeKalb Street.
The Arts Center of Kershaw County is no doubt the artistic hub of Kershaw County, bringing arts experience and exposure to all ages. But the cultural district also plays host to several gallery spaces, art studios and artisan markets, maker spaces and places of creative instruction, as well historic landmarks, beautiful greenspaces graced with public art, antique shops, well know boutique retail stores and restaurants, and indoor and outdoor venues for community events and celebrations.
The designated cultural district creates an identifiable space that celebrates the art and cultural activities that our community has enjoyed for more than fifty years. In the coming months, identifying markers celebrating this cultural district will be installed, such as signage and lamp post banners. Other identifying design tactics will be determined as part of a larger redesign plan for Rutledge Street, as will ways for individual assets and businesses within the cultural district to celebrate the designation.