Manning Avenue Free Studio

Re-Defining Possibilities


The Manning Avenue Free Studio (MAFS) Art Project has a two-fold mission:




The vision of The Manning Avenue Free Studio (MAFS) Art Project is to create an inclusive, safe haven for Artists, at risk Children, Youth and Adults to learn, value and create Art as a means to heal, inspire, challenge and build equity in the South Sumter Community and surrounding areas.

MAFS Legacy

The Manning Avenue Free Studio is a historical endeavor founded and curated in 1976 by the late David “Pablo” Sanders, a local yet renowned Artist and Sculptor. David Sanders attended Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy (Camden SC); matriculated at Hampton Institute, Hampton, Virginia; received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Morris College; Advanced Studies in Art Education at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York; with further studies at the University of South Carolina. He taught at Lincoln High School, Morris College, and the S.C. Arts Commission for the Arts in Prison and Arts in Motion programs. His humanitarian services included: former School District 17, the Sumter Artist Guild, the Sumter County Cultural Commission and the initiator of the annual Festival on the Avenue. He also founded the South Sumter Community Project through the Manning Avenue Free Art Studio, where he mentored many aspiring young people who became acclaimed artists.


David passed away on May 24, 2018 after battling a long period of illness.  He continues to inspire Artists throughout the country through his legacy of mentoring, creative works and community service. The Manning Avenue Free Studio Art Project is a tribute to his legacy in the Sumter Community.

The Sumter Item Newspaper chronicled the history of the Manning Avenue Free Studio in an article a year after David’s passing when the original MAFS was torn down on as part of the City of Sumter’s continued renovation of the Manning Avenue area, “The end of one era can spark the beginning of another, and that’s the case for a South Sumter art studio. Once owned by David Sanders, a local artist and former educator, the Manning Avenue Free Studio was torn down on April 30 as part of the City of Sumter’s continued renovation of the Manning Avenue area.


The studio won’t be forgotten, as it holds more history in the artwork that was left behind, according to David Sanders’ son, Ivan Sanders. “It started out as a safe haven,” Ivan Sanders said. “My father had the first feed-a-child program, one of the first in Sumter, and he used to do a summer camp and taught the kids a lot of the visual arts.


With this in mind, his family and the City of Sumter knew they had to treasure and save the building’s valued contents before it was demolished.  From drawing and painting to pottery and sculpture, David Sanders put his heart and soul into that studio, according to Ivan Sanders, and he saved about 25-30 art pieces inside before they were lost forever in the rubble.

“The tearing down of the building kind of symbolizes the end of one era and the start of a new one,” Ivan Sanders said…”We’re going to keep that as an icon in the community,” Ivan Sanders said, especially for the south side of Sumter.”


Since the article in the Sumter Item was published, the Manning Avenue Free Studio earned 501c3 nonprofit status from the IRS and an Advisory Board of Directors was established to share information and ideas on the best approach to move forward with the Manning Avenue Free Studio Art Project.  The Advisory Board of Directors is composed of dedicated Artisans, Community Leaders, and Representatives of Local Government and Private Organizations.  Their charge is to bring to fruition the vision and mission, as well as solidify the location, management, sustainable funding, staffing and programming for the Art Project.

MAFS Program Goals:

“Art and culture are essential for building a community, supporting development, nurturing health and well-being, and contributing to economic opportunity. Collectively, art and culture enable understanding of the past and envisioning of a shared, more equitable future. In disinvested communities, art and culture act as tools for community development, shaping infrastructure…and other core amenities. In communities of color and low-income communities, art and culture contribute to strengthening cultural identity, healing trauma, and fostering a shared vision for community.” ( - a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity). Across the United States, growing movements are focusing on equitable development and community-centered art and culture are uniting to strengthen the equity impact of their work.

The Manning Avenue Free Studio (MAFS) Art Project, a 501c3 non profit organization in Sumter, South Carolina is aligned with this concept and designed program goals that will build a bridge between Art and Culture, Workforce Development and Social Supports needed and required in a community whose growth has been stunted by poverty, crime, substance misuse, unemployment/under-employment and neglect.
Ideally, MAFS will be a place where Artists, Children, Youth and Adults can engage with other Creatives to enhance and acquire skills in Painting, Ceramics, Photography Creative Writing, Screen Printing, Filmmaking, Drama, Music, Sculpture/3-D Art, and Crafts. MAFS will be a Creative Place for established Artists, Artisans and a new generation of untapped talent seeking support and a safe haven.
Along with Creative Space for Artists and Artisans, the MAFS Art Project will offer Art Classes and Programs, Vocational Training/Job Developing to prepare participants ages 16-24 for opportunities to obtain competitive employment in Screen Printing and other Art related fields and a Case Management/Counseling component to address psycho-social factors that may impede success.

Leadership Team

Ivan Sanders

Executive Director

Karen Watson


James McCain

Beverly Montgomery

Vice Chairman

Cornelius Mack


Pedro Washington

Allen Bailey

Lana Odom


Cole Gardner Miller

John Pringle

Manning Avenue Free Studio


241 Manning Avenue
Sumter, SC 29069


(803) 464-8453