Koger Center for the Arts at the University of South Carolina

Koger Center for the Arts at the University of South Carolina

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Koger Center for the Arts at the University of South Carolina

Mission Statement

The Koger Center for the Arts at the University of South Carolina supports exceptional art by hosting and presenting transformational experiences that enlighten, educate, and entertain. The Koger Center is committed to being an asset to the entire community, adding value to people’s lives by providing opportunities for creative programming, new experiences and education while providing the best possible patron experience.

Name of Public Space

Koger Center for the Arts Plaza

City, State

Columbia, SC



Organization Overview

The Koger Center for the Arts opened in 1989 as a partnership between the University of South Carolina, the University Foundation, Richland County, and Columbia, SC. Since opening, the facility has been a cultural destination serving as a home to local arts organizations and community groups, university events and performances, and professional tours. Part of the original plan was to create an outdoor amphitheater for concerts in addition to the indoor facility, but that plan never found funding. In 2021-22, the Koger Center revisited the idea and installed a permanent stage on the plaza at the foot of the grass lawn in front of the building. Transforming what has existed only as green space into a public performance lawn for the community to use.

Upon opening, Koger Presents booked a series of acclaimed cultural performances, but the series ended due to lack of funding after a dozen years. In 2019, the Koger Center re-launched a smaller series and began raising money for a return to presenting a wide range of events not currently available to the local community. The Center is already both a cultural destination and a community space being used for education activities, graduations, and other community events. Creation of a free outdoor series would reach new cultural audiences and provide all building users an opportunity to come together outside as a part of the same community.

Proposal Details

How will your town or city benefit from a Levitt AMP [Your City] Music Series and how will the series reflect the three main goals of Levitt AMP: 1) Amplify community pride and the city’s unique character; 2) enrich lives through the power of free, live Music; 3) illustrate the importance of vibrant public Places?

Columbia has very few free, public concert series –particularly in the downtown area– and those that exist don’t offer a great deal of music variety. The Koger Center built its outdoor stage with the objective of turning an empty lawn into a communal space to engage new and existing audiences with a variety of powerful performances, and the Levitt AMP Columbia Music Series would bring it to life. Our goals for a series are three-fold: to raise awareness of Columbia as a thriving city; to attract new, diverse audiences; and to bring our community together in a safe, engaging environment while they listen to music that moves and entertains them. By itself, the series would provide a wonderful musical experience for our community, but we would also tie into local events and performers to grow awareness of Columbia’s unique qualities both within and beyond the region.

People don’t experience live music for many reasons but limited financial resources in low-income households present a formidable barrier. In Columbia, 22.8% of the population lives below the poverty line, a number that is significantly higher than the national average. Our concert location is on a major bus line and walkable from many adjacent neighborhoods. The ability to hear incredible musicians at no cost at a live concert is a rare occurrence for many of Columbia’s citizens, so they miss that rich personal experience. However, perhaps equally important for the health of our community, is the possibility to weave together disparate groups of people in a concert’s communal setting.

The pandemic accelerated the trend of staying in small, isolated bubbles surrounded by people that think and believe as we do. What has been lost is the sense of shared community that is important in our very divisive times. In a community sometimes separated by political, racial, and economic differences, a welcoming public space is a crucial mechanism to bring people together to share an experience that bridges the divide.

Explain how the Levitt AMP [Your City] Music Series will play a role in enlivening the selected public space and surrounding areas.

The Koger Center for the Arts is in the middle of Columbia and part of the University of South Carolina urban campus making it accessible to a large local resident and student population. A walkability study of Columbia noted the street corner at the Koger Center as one of the most highly foot-trafficked in the city, yet the lawn in front of the building had no function beyond serving as a green space. The Center constructed a permanent outdoor stage in front of its grass lawn in Spring 2022 to turn this frequently traveled area into a performance space as a first step towards transforming an empty green space into a community destination. A free music series would be ideal to bring attention and familiarity to the outdoor green space along with the opportunity to serve individuals unable to afford the cost of a typical major concert. Bringing diverse, live music to a new, diverse audience has long been one of the goals of the Koger Center. We now have a visible, accessible space appropriate for free concerts, but are searching for funding to bring our vision to its fullest reality.

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