Spotlight on Tracie Broom


Photo by Forrest Clonts

By Grace Fennell

Tracie Broom, a Columbia native, couldn’t wait to leave as a teenager. It wasn’t until years later, when she returned from working in San Francisco as a food writer, that she became fully committed to the beauty and thriving culture that Columbia had to offer. She also had become very interested in the “slow food” movement and was eager to promote that philosophy to Columbia.

She explained this movement simply as “the opposite of fast food.” Founded in Italy, it’s a non-profit organization that promotes clean, good, and fair foodways, a catch-all term for anything to do with our food system (eating, cooking, restaurants, etc.). She became very passionate about it and decided her dream was to move back home and be part of that movement here in South Carolina. Now, six years later, she co-chairs the Slow Food Columbia board. This was just the beginning of her discovery of how much she could really do in her own hometown and just how much Columbia had to offer for her.

In 2010, she co-founded the public relations, marketing, and event planning business, Flock and Rally, with her friend Debi Schadel. It is a business committed to giving local non-profits and community businesses, including artists, an opportunity to thrive. They help with getting media attention for local businesses, non-profits, and events, branding those enterprises (logos, graphics, websites, brand presence), and developing social media empires. They usually only work with clients who are doing something positive, progressive, and interesting for the community. If they work with a big business, it must be one that also sponsors non-profits and is putting money back into the community.

One of their biggest upcoming annual projects is the Columbia Open Studios tour, a two-day event where people are invited to walk around town and see different artist’s studios. Based on similar, unaffiliated events in other major cities, 701 Center for Contemporary Art re-started Columbia’s version in 2011 as ”a way to show, intimately, how the creative process happens,” according to Broom, and it has since become their signature event. Only artists who can make their dedicated workspace available are included, and each makes their space open to the public for the duration of the festival. Flock and Rally are in charge of promotion and marketing in addition to helping out with some of the project management and event planning alongside 701.

It’s a completely self-guided process, aided by the help of the Columbia Open Studios maps, but Broom says the process is as casual or grueling as you make it. “We have people who try to visit all 41 studios, and you can, but it’s really up the individual,” she says. “Most people take 15 minutes to 1 hour per studio. For instance, let’s say I wanted to focus on the Vista, West Columbia, and Cayce. I could hit a studio or two at 80808 and then get brunch at Cafe Strudel, head over to John and Venetia Sharpe’s space out on Frink Street in Cayce and then hit That Godzilla Guy’s studio in West Columbia.”

This year, Broom is particularly excited about a new participating artist, Ron Hagell, who is a filmmaker and photographer. “He sets up 3-D, interactive battle scenes based on his time in Vietnam in which people can take photo booth-type photos of themselves,” says Broom. “He’s hoping to set it up in his Rosewood workspace for Columbia Open Studios.”

For many citizens, it can be an eye-opening experience to see how rich and diverse our art scene of Columbia is. The event runs from April 11th to 12th from 10am-6pm on Saturday and 12pm-6pm on Sunday. You can pick up your guide and map at various locations throughout the city, including at 701 Whaley and as an insert in the Free Times. It’s one of most important event that contributes to the cultural growth of Columbia and Tracie is proud to be a part of it.

What motivates her in her work, more than anything, is the desire to shine a light on how remarkable and creative Columbia really is. She feels that Columbia is “a sort of best-kept secret” and people are slowly starting to figure that out. Flock and Rally helps out with many of the city’s signature art events, like Indie Grits and Open Studios. They also help to promote Motor Supply Company and many other events and businesses that make this city great. She loves the vibrant and thriving arts community that’s growing in Columbia and wants people to know about it so it can continue to grow. She wants locals to know that Columbia doesn’t have to be, and in fact isn’t, a boring place to live. It can be a cultural mecca of arts and creativity. And that’s what she’s determined to share.

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