Ernest A. Finney, Jr. Cultural Arts Center
The Ernest A. Finney, Jr. Cultural Arts Center, a 501c3 organization located at 1510 Laurens Street, Columbia, South Carolina, (formerly the Southern Electric building) officially opened in the summer of 2022. This new center is home to African American culture, art, and expression. It is also a long-awaited gathering place for community conversations. The new center is in the historic Robert Mills district and just across from the historic Waverly Community, and a stone’s throw from the one-hundred-year-old railroad tracks that have long defined small-town southern life in America.
The focus of this Cultural Arts Center is on the making of art, the keeping of community, living Black history, and the ongoing generational celebration of music, visual art, poetry, dance, theatre, the culinary arts, and other community building and life sustaining activities.
We know that art and culture can powerfully shape and reshape a community. Therefore, we begin our work at the intersection of historical Black cultural expression and modern creative artful ideas, in hopes of building conversations and alliances in our many communities, while also spreading the word about the power of art to inform and bridge our 21st century world. The Ernest A. Finney, Jr. Cultural Arts Center wishes to be an incubator for progressive notions of what it means to be an involved, informed, and engaged creative human being — no matter that human beings age or background.
While we understand that the full expression of art includes performance and exhibition, and we will certainly engage in those activities, our priority is to honor and recognize the illuminating power of creating art, in order to invite our beloved community into art’s minute and monumental capacity to transform and create the individual and the world we wish to live in, a world guided by truth and beauty even in the face of catastrophe and hard-headed trouble.
Our name is graced by the life and work of Ernest A. Finney, Jr., the grandson of Black Virginia farmers and the progeny of two historically Black South Carolina colleges, Claflin University and South Carolina State University. Finney was a tireless advocate for justice and equality in South Carolina during the middle and late 20th century. He began his career as a civil rights attorney in 1955 and ended his legal career as Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court in 2000. Throughout his life he was also, quietly, an avid jazz listener and a passionate believer in the indelible and often untapped power of the Black community. Finney is remembered as “the Black Fox” for his uncanny ability to get people from all walks of life to sit at the table together, look each other in the eye, and grapple with the uncomfortable but necessary creation of a more justly aligned world.
We believe that Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, a major city in the southern hemisphere of these United States, has hungered for a space like the Ernest A. Finney, Jr. Cultural Arts Center. As governments and private business and passionate citizens plan for the future of our deeply interconnected world – we believe our new arts center will be one place of endless human possibilities.