Being the Reason Why Art Gets Made

Many fundholders choose to partner with Coastal Community Foundation because they see a need in the community and have a passion to address that need in any way they can. The work of Dr. Mike Griffith and Donna Reyburn is no different. Mike and Donna first became involved with CCF after speaking with friends in the area and hearing former President Madeleine McGee speak at an event.

“When we first moved to Seabrook Island, we were talking with some friends of ours and saying, ‘How can we help the people of the Lowcountry?’ and they told us to go to the Foundation,” Reyburn shared.

Mike Griffith and Donna Reyburn were drawn to CCF because they could create a grant award of their own to serve the needs they were most passionate about. Out of this passion the Griffith-Reyburn Lowcountry Artist of the Year award was born. A deep fondness of art, particularly Lowcountry art, led Mike and Donna to develop an award dedicated to supporting the work of visual artists who are creating art that reflects the unique feel and culture of the Lowcountry.

“Lowcountry art is really very special. We looked around and noticed there really was no mechanism for Lowcountry artists to be recognized and given awards and opportunities like there were in other fields,” said Griffith.

In the fall of 2023, the award reached the 20-year milestone, having awarded more than $100,000 to 20 local artists since it began. Not only has the award changed the lives of many artists, but the award’s unique nature makes it an incredibly artist-friendly grant, according to 2005 recipient Honor Marks.

“Donna and Mike set up the most artist-friendly grant I’ve seen, including not requiring matching funds from the artist, allowing the artist to sell the commissioned work created, and a huge exhibit of the artist’s work,” Marks reflected.

Furthermore, the award has served as a key catalyst for career growth for the artists’ it has supported. Recipients have seen widespread success ranging from having installations at prestigious institutions, such as the International African American Museum, to becoming a Guiness World record holder.

2015 recipient Karin Olah spoke on the impact of the award, sharing “In the year following this award, my art was chosen for the cover of Charleston Magazine, I connected with new collectors, my paintings were chosen for public collections, sales doubled, and new exhibition opportunities opened to me.”

The Griffith-Reyburn Lowcountry Artist of the Year Award has proven to be a transformative stimulus for success, propelling recipients’ careers to new heights and fostering tremendous growth by providing invaluable recognition and support within the artistic community. Perhaps even more transformative, however, is the sense of empowerment and confidence the award has been able to elicit in local artists.

“It gave me mental and emotional space to dedicate quality time to the studio, and it boosted my confidence in a way I hadn’t known I needed,” said 2019 recipient, Julia Deckman.

Mike Griffith and Donna Reyburn have truly shaped what it means to “Be The Reason Why.” Because of the Griffith-Reyburn Lowcountry Artist of the Year Award, they can Be The Reason Why Art Gets Made. Through their dedication and passion, they partnered with CCF to create a truly unique award that has helped pave the way for success for so many local artists. As they pass the torch on to their son Brent and his wife Brenda, who share a similar passion for Lowcountry art, the legacy of Mike Griffith and Donna Reyburn will continue to support the creation of local art for many more decades.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Lowcountry Artist of the Year award, Coastal Community Foundation created a commemorative coffee table book highlighting the work of all 20 grant recipients. Lowcountry Reflections is available for purchase for $65.

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