Meet Xavier Blake

Xavier Blake, Executive Director of ONE Columbia

A native of Bamberg SC Xavier Blake spent over two decades at South Carolina Educational Television working in the nonprofit public media, arts, and culture sector. He has a robust background as a videographer, producer, director and has been a creative mentor as a part of an initiative of the South Carolina Arts Commission.  Blake most recently held positions at The Nickelodeon Theater and WMHT Public Media in Troy, New York, with both focused on community engagement and diversity. 

How do you plan to leverage your experience at SCETV, PBS, and The Nickelodeon Theater in your role as the new executive director of ONE Columbia?

I’ve always worked in the nonprofit space not because I had to but because I wanted to. I have always believed in the cause being bigger than the person, the mission, and serving the community being the most important part of the job. My time in public media really showed me what it meant to be in a community with people and how important community is to moving our culture and society forward. In my short time, I was able to do some great work at the Nickelodeon and it allowed me to build some tremendous relationships in our community here in Columbia. I’ve already heard from some of the folks I worked with at Nick asking how we can partner at One Columbia on other projects which is really exciting.

One Columbia Staff & Board Members

You said in a recent media interview that diversity, equity, and community are central to your goals as a leader. How do you plan to incorporate these principles into the work of ONE Columbia?

Diversity, equity, inclusion and community are central not only to how I work but who I am. Everything we do is better when we do it in community with others. I also think when we allow for diversity and give historically marginalized groups equity we create the space for incredible innovation and creativity.  Incorporating these ideals is not as difficult as it seems. It starts with active listening, to all the stakeholders involved and invested, especially those that may not have always had a seat at the table.

How do you plan to provide support and resources to emerging artists who are navigating their way in the city, and what strategies do you believe will be most effective in nurturing their growth?

There are some tremendous emerging artists in our city who are trying to navigate a career in our city. One of the things that has been instrumental in my career is mentorship. Columbia is fortunate to have some amazing artists who call our city home, and I think finding a way to connect these artists for mentorship opportunities could be extremely helpful. Creating spaces for the exchange of ideas between creatives is also important.

As the new executive director, how do you envision ONE Columbia providing practical support and resources to artists beyond traditional avenues, such as grants or funding opportunities?

Practical support and resources are a great way to put that. I’ve heard from a lot of artists in my first month and space to work comes up often. I also think you’re right sometimes practical support needs to take on non-traditional avenues. I think there are ways to attack this problem in creative ways. We are looking at some options and exploring spaces that may be available around the city, maybe some public, and private partnerships but I think now more than ever we have to think outside of the box to help serve our creative community.

In what ways do you see art serving as a catalyst for community unity and economic growth in Columbia, and how do you plan to ensure that the city becomes a vibrant destination for the arts?

I think art is a tremendous unifier, it builds communities, it builds bridges, it helps us understand each other on a deeper level, which is something I think this country needs more than ever right now.  

Tourists search out cities with vibrant art scenes to visit which translates directly to dollars. Money spent in restaurants, hotel stays. But I think it’s also important to note artists are small businesses, of course, they create, but they also sell, they also spend, and they add to this economy in all sorts of ways. So finding ways to support that is so important so we can continue to make Columbia the destination. It is not just for tourists but people looking to make Columbia home. 

Columbia is an amazing city and there have been so many folks here doing amazing work to make Columbia a vibrant destination for the arts…and it’s working. I moved back here internationally to be a part of that and I’m excited about having that opportunity here at One Columbia.