A handwritten invitation came in the mail.
Its intro was: “Charleston’s creative community is a pretty special family.”
Then the BACE League invited me to dinner along with a guest who would “appreciate the evening and have something to offer.” This inaugural Thanks or Die happened a week before Thanksgiving and around 40 of Charleston's creatives got together at a house in Wagener Terrace and broke bread prepared by Leila Schardt and Tito Marino, executive chefs of Monza and Closed for Business.
"Creative inspiration—all of that is at our fingertips in Charleston," Elliott Smith, cofounder of BACE League said in his explanation of the evening. BACE League's tagline is, "Keep talented people here," and its events like Thanks or Die are meant to blend the many cliques of Charleston's creative community in an attempt to keep us all inspired and wanting to stay and create in Charleston.
The nonprofit's mission statement is: "To promote process, inclusiveness, and transparency in municipal government, with a focus on finding inventive ways to encourage the local millennial, creative, and F&B communities to become more civically engaged and informed." Elliott, along with partner McKenzie Eddy, musician who you may know as the brains behind King Dusko, threw Thanks or Die with a simple intention. "We wanted to introduce you. Share a meal together. That's what builds bonds."
At dinner, I sat across from hip-hop artist Matt Monday. Next to me sat a Charleston newcomer Dan Lehrich, who's a musician, composer, and app builder. Art gallery owners Robert and Megan Lange were right behind me. Other names you may know in attendance were John Duckworth, Terry Fox, and Brendan James.
The event was, on a small scale, to illustrate that Charleston's creative community is much more vast than it seems.
Comedian Tim Hoeckel performed a quick set about shucking at the oyster festival, then Matt Monday performed with jazz musicians Lee Barbour and Kevin Hamilton. All night, Mado Smith live painted. It was all about immersion in and exposure to the forms of local art we may not be used to.
When the speech portion of the meal arrived, K.J. Kearney, founder of the nonprofit organization H1GHER Learning and columnist for the Charleston City Paper, was one of the first to stand up and say a few words about the expansion of Charleston's creative community: "It needs to be a place where we can ask what might be considered a dumb question—a safe space where we can learn from each other if we want to grow. And you can't react to these quote-unquote dumb questions like, 'Duh!' For instance, what is a creative? There are a bunch of people who don't know what exactly that term means, especially in the black community, and if I was asked that question I would simply respond that it's code for someone who does something artistic."
Being a creative is that simple, and everyday it should be as simple as Thanks-or-Die-day to expand and educate the creative community in our city.
Elliott says, “We are the ones who get to decide it. That’s what we’re trying to do here."
Click here for more info about BACE League of Charleston.
Words by: Elizabeth Bowers
Photos by: John Gaulden