Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. (D - Charleston, SC)

Local Arts Leadership
1999

Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina for 23 years, Joseph P. Riley Jr.'s administration has been a model of vigorous civic support for the community's artistic and cultural endeavors. His inspired leadership was responsible for the establishment of Spoleto Festival U.S.A., the sister festival of Spoleto, Italy's world-renowned arts festival. Over the past 23 years, Spoleto Festival U.S.A. and Piccolo Spoleto, the city-run companion festival, have stimulated an artistic renaissance in Charleston and throughout South Carolina, generating over $1 billion in economic development, and helped transform Charleston into one of America's most desirable places to live and visit.

In 1986, Riley's appreciation of the importance of the arts in urban life led him to co-found the Mayor's Institute for City Design, an NEA collaboration that has brought more than 300 mayors together with many of America's most acclaimed architects, urban planners, developers, and others. The Institute has brought forth a new generation of mayors who relish their role as their community's chief civic architect and pay special attention to the creation of beautiful, inspiring and accessible public spaces. Mayor Riley's vision for arts in the Charleston community led him to establish the Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs; the annual MOJA Festival that showcases African-American and Caribbean arts and artists; City Arts for Kids, a program that ensures access to the arts and arts education; and a nationally-acclaimed architectural design model for beautiful public housing.

Riley, a nationally renowned advocate on urban design and the creation of livable cities, provided lead testimony at the 1995 National Endowment for the Arts Congressional hearings. In 1998, Newsweek named Riley one of the 25 most dynamic mayors in America. Born and raised in Charleston, Mayor Riley graduated from The Citadel and the University of South Carolina School of Law. Prior to his election as mayor of Charleston, he served six years in the South Carolina House of Representatives. He and his wife Charlotte have two sons, Joe and Bratton.