Brainerd Institute Heritage Programs

Chester County, South Carolina – not unlike the rest of the state – suffers from high rates of illiteracy; many children read well below grade level. Therefore, our efforts are concentrated on creating innovative programming that is designed to improve literacy, such as the Workshops in Open Fields initiative.

Watch the video or read below for information and check back seasonally for updates on new events.


Workshops in Open Fields

Workshops in Open Fields was conceived by Dr. Vivian Ayers Allen (Founder of the ADEPT New American Folk Center and Founding Director of Brainerd Institute Heritage) and developed in collaboration with a group of arts instructors.

This cultural education program, originally designed to provide free instruction and development in the visual arts to children in Houston, Texas, won the heart and support of Nancy Hanks, Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts.

In 2008-2010, Workshops in Open Fields presented Free Dance Days in Chester, South Carolina at the historic site of Brainerd Institute, featuring Debbie Allen and faculty of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy.

In 2017, the focus of Workshops in Open Fields turned toward pre-school literacy in Chester. With a volunteer staff of certified teachers, sessions in pre-school literacy were offered in two-hour sessions, three times per week, at the Brainerd Estate.

This educational initiative will continue to expand each year to benefit the Chester community and provide a shining example of how education in South Carolina – and our nation – can be approached in a way that truly engages the minds of young people and encourages a lifelong love of learning. Certified teachers from the Chester County School District enthusiastically volunteer their time to participate as teachers for the program. The innovative approach to education is as refreshing to the teachers as it is to the students.

June 28 - July 9

This Summer we will be expanding the age of the youth participating in the program, ranging from PreK through twelve- year-olds.

If you are a college student or Teacher Cadet and would like to apply for one of our limited internship positions. Please feel out this google form.

Brainerd Workshops in Open Fields

Another Successful Summer of Workshops in Open Fields

Preschool Literacy Program

Summer 2018 marks the second year of the Workshops in Open Fields Pre-school Literacy Program at Brainerd Institute Heritage. As awareness of the free educational and artistic enrichment available to children in the Chester, SC community increases, the number of participants in the program increases, as well — attendance this year nearly tripled as compared to 2017.

This year’s Workshops in Open Fields Pre-school Literacy Program also saw an increase in the number of educators, community leaders, and artists who gave generously of their talent and time to make the program such a rousing success: over twenty certified teachers led classes; the Superintendent of Chester County Schools made several visits to the program in a show of support.

Below are video vignettes from Summer 2018.