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Letter from Wayne Kelley, Chairman, Pickens County Cultural Commission sent to the Greenville News

Published: August 4, 2016

Letter from Wayne Kelley, Chairman, Pickens County Cultural Commission sent to the Greenville News:

I was astonished by the scathing indictment on page one of your newspaper last week of the Pickens County Museum of Art & History, its physical condition, administration, and finances.  Allow me to respond to these issues.

Our historic and architecturally significant building, constructed in 1903, underwent a major restabilization in 2008-2009.  Seven years later (last month), workers discovered some rainwater leakage from the crenelated turret atop the building had caused unseen damage within the wall of the gift shop on the first floor.  Those repairs will be made in the upcoming weeks.  We are deservedly proud of our National Register building and take very good care of it.

The museum is owned by the County of Pickens and funded by Pickens County, grants, and donations.  Its administration includes County Council, County Administration, a museum staff, and the Pickens County Cultural Commission, an advisory board comprised of volunteer citizens with backgrounds in the arts, history, education, and business. The Department of Tourism & Marketing oversees the museum, Hagood Mill Historic Site, Mile Creek Park, and other sites within the county.  The Director of that department is Helen Hockwalt who brings a wealth of experience and familiarity to the museum, in particular, having been an outstanding curator there for many years.  She and curator Dan Brennan are currently developing a number of projects and strategies to keep our museum viable, attractive, and current.  Museums across the country and around the world are facing the very same attendance challenges we are.  The electronic and web-driven younger generation simply views things differently than their parents and grandparents.  We plan to adapt to changing times while making art and history more accessible to everyone.

Simply stated, there are no financial irregularities whatsoever at the Pickens County Museum.  The financial records, audited annually by an independent outside auditing firm, are readily available to the public.  Every dollar is properly accounted.  In fact, Pickens County has been awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association for eleven consecutive years.  No South Carolina Law Enforcement investigation will be forthcoming because there is nothing to investigate.

The Pickens County Cultural Commission is aware that all of this misinformation was foisted upon your paper and the public by a former employee whose intentions were only malicious.  County Councilman Tom Ponder succinctly and aptly ascribed the cause of this unfortunate and unnecessary episode to “a disgruntled former employee.” 

Although I am well aware this letter will hardly get the attention that your page one feature did, I must make this effort to set the record straight.  Regardless, our talented and dedicated museum staff and volunteers will not be daunted but will continue to do good work here and carry out our mission.

As always, to everyone who appreciates art, history, and natural beauty, we invite you to visit Pickens County, the historic heart of the Upcountry.  Come experience our entertaining historic sites, our excellent museum, and meet our personable and knowledgeable people.  We enjoy your company and welcome you here.

 

Wayne Kelley

Chairman, Pickens County Cultural Commission