By WILLIAM W. STARR
Cultural Affairs Editor
CAMDEN – A special program designed to give the public an opportunity to deepen its understanding of the arts begins here today – after a close scrape with cancellation.
It’s “CART Week” (Community Artist Residency Training) and it features a series of appearances and performances throughout Kershaw County by a young opera singer.
But the participation by the singer – soprano Judith Rhodus of the New York City Opera – almost didn’t happen.
Another artist had been schedule to take part in the CART week activities in Camden, but she was giving a series of concerts in Alaska and had to be hospitalized just two days before the CART program was to begin.
That initiated a series of frantic telephone calls from Lise Swensson, executive director of Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County, to CART officials in New York in a last-minute effort to find a replacement.
“I didn’t know what we’d do and a cancellation would have been a disaster,” said Ms. Swensson with a sigh of relief Monday.
The threat of cancellation disappeared when Mrs. Rhodus was contracted over the weekend and agreed to come to Camden.
“I just love horses and when someone told me that Camden was THE place for horses, why you couldn’t have kept me away,” Mrs. Rhodus joked Monday after her arrival.
She had just completed an engagement with the New York City Opera in New York and was available to spend the week in Camden. She arrived by plane late Monday night.
She has taken part in similar programs previously, having spent eight weeks each in Des Moines, Iowa, and Springfield, Ohio as an Affiliate Artist, experiences which she says she found to be not just work but good fun too.
“I enjoy getting out in the community and meeting and talking with people.” she says.
She’ll have plenty of opportunities for that this week. Her schedule begins this morning with an 8:30 appearance at the Camden City Hall where she will talk with city employees and present an impromptu concert for them.
Tonight she’ll do the same thing for a large crowd at the Camden PTO meeting, and on Wednesday she’ll be singing at informal gathering at the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, the Blaney Baptist Church and at a meeting of senior citizens from around Kershaw County.
The major public event on her schedule and which concludes her week in the area will be an 8 p.m. concert at the Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy followed by a special reception.
Mrs. Rhodus, a native of Indianapolis, is a veteran singer with a number of the finest American opera companies including the San Francisco Opera and the Kansas City Lyric Opera. She also has made recordings with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
But many opera buffs might be quicker to recognize her as Judith Dickerson, her name before her recent marriage. While many opera singers in similar situations have decided to keep their own name for professional reasons, Mrs. Rhodus doesn’t agree with that notion at all.
“I think it makes a strong statement about the way I feel about marriage and the family,” she says. “It also helps me to think more about my husband and because I travel a lot we are often separated. I think it’s a nice touch but I also believe that’s the way a marriage should be.”
This is the second year for Camden CART program, and last year the Fine Arts Center was the only arts organization program in South Carolina to participate. This year it has been joined by other groups including the Kitani Foundation in Columbia.
The CART project is funded by grants from the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts and is supported by the Southern Arts Federation with assistance from state arts councils in the southeastern U. S.
Last year baritone Richard Barrett made a weeklong appearance in Camden, singing before groups of firemen, senior citizens, school children and their parents.