With a $6.3 million economic impact on the Greenville community, Artisphere is the annual arts and culture fair that’s served as a signature event since 2005. As executive director, D.C.-area native Kerry Murphy is the face behind making sure the event goes smoothly. “I have a real passion for Greenville,” she said. “Working for Artisphere makes me feel ensconced in the community.”
Last year the arts and culture event received a record 1,090 applications for 135 booths. The event also boasts being one of Top 20 events for the Southeastern Tourism Society 2016, one of 2015’s Best Art Fairs as voted by artfaircalendar.com and one of 2016’s Top 10 Fine Art Shows according to Art Fair Sourcebook.
Murphy said her undergraduate and MBA work at Clemson, as well as the network she’s made over the past 20 years, have allowed her to bring a balanced perspective to the event. She always works to maintain classic favorites people expect, but she also wants to be on the edge of trends and broadening Greenville’s acceptance of new artists and mediums.
“I just have such a sense of pride. To be able to contribute to [the art scene] and know what our team does has an impact just means a tremendous amount,” she said.
Murphy said although she’s structured and methodical, she wants the event to reflect the lively, energetic and colorful personalities of not only herself and her team, but also the vibe of Greenville. “I love attention to detail. You’ll find lots of little things in Artisphere that from a user perspective can have a big impact,” she said.
Even though the event is only in May, Greenville visitors can create a “mini-Artisphere” experience just by taking a trip through downtown, Murphy said. “Just visit a local restaurant or take a walk through the open studios in the fall,” she said. “There is a good mix of stuff for every level of interest.”
Murphy was lured to the upstate after she saw a glossy Clemson brochure a friend had during their senior year of high school. “I went to the career center and looked it up — I want to say ‘Googled’ it, but I’m not even sure what we did before Google,” laughed Murphy. “I kind of always knew I wanted to go away to college. … When I saw Tillman [Hall] and Bowman [Field] I knew immediately this is where I was going to go. It had a warmth about it.”
As a member of the Student Alumni Council, she saw first-hand how influential a Clemson network could be even though she hadn’t settled on a career path. “We were celebrating the 100th anniversary [of the University] and traveling to different clubs, and I went to Florence. That experience is where I had the ‘a-ha’ moment about the power of the alumni network. People who didn’t know me were offering to assist me. Just their willingness to help you out because of a shared affection for an alma mater was just powerful.” Murphy makes sure to pay that forward through her work in Artisphere and as a sorority adviser.
“Nonprofit work can be very rewarding. I would, as a tip, suggest to students an internship. It was more rare when I was a student, but start internships as soon as freshman year,” she said. “Interns at a nonprofit really become part of the team, and working as an intern means you get to know the board of directors and make connections even before you’re out of school.”