When I arrived here in 1989, one thing that impressed me most was the presence of USC-Union and the Union County Carnegie Library in downtown Union. Here was a relatively small city in the rural South and it had not one, but two libraries within walking distance of each other in its downtown. I can tell you from personal experience that the libraries are within walking distance of anywhere in the city. That's why I consider it a disgrace that people refuse to pry themselves from in front of the idiot box and avail themselves of the services of these two great sources of education and culture.
I was also impressed that a community this size was home to a regional campus of the University of South Carolina which in turn had its own satellite campus in Laurens. My hometown of Martinsville, Va., is more than twice the size of Union yet it could only manage a community college.
Many changes have occurred both Carnegie and USC-Union as the staffs of both institutions have labored mightily and successfully to keep up with the ongoing information and technological revolutions reshaping our world. As impressed as I was in 1989, I'm more impressed today at how efficient and user-friendly the libraries are at serving the public.
Mirroring these changes has been the establishment of the new Union County Museum and the Union County Arts Center. They compliment and enhance the educational and cultural atmosphere generated by the libraries. Today, you can walk down Main Street, stop in at the museum to view the displays. Leaving there you can stop in at the arts center and see paintings and other works of art that testify to the creativity of the people of Union County and surrounding regions.
Next, you can either peel off down East South Street to read some magazines, check out some books and/or log-on to the Internet at Carnegie or head down Main Street, turn on Academy Street and do the same at USC-Union. Of course, you might want to go to USC-Union first, especially if you're taking a class there and then retire to the campus library or its lounge area to study, followed by a trip to one of the other cultural centers.
The connections between these institutions was on display Thursday during the juried art show reception in the Main Building. Paintings by local artists and others provided a visual treat that was matched by the music of a talented guitarist.
This union of locally-produced art and an institution of higher learning brought here by far-sighted citizens decades ago, was reminder of just how talented and progressive this community can be. It struck me that the ideal would be for the walls of USC-Union to always be lined by works of art while the arts center - together with the museum and Carnegie - should be an integral part of the educational experience USC-Union and the county's other institutions of learning.
When I arrived here in 1989, I believed Union had enormous potential and was on the verge of great things. Thursday was a reminder of this community's ability to achieve greatness, the kind that inspires and nurtures all that is best in the human spirit. It was the best of Union on display for anyone to see who was willing to look, and those that took the time to do so came away the better for it.
In recent months, Union's future has been in doubt as the worst of human nature was discovered at the highest reaches of municipal government. Thursday, however, was a demonstration of what can happen when a community embraces the best part of its nature.
Charkes Warner is a staff writer for The Union Daily Times. He can be reached by phone at 427-1234, extension 18 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.