In 1979, North Charleston City Council established a Cultural Arts Program with the mission to plan for and support arts and cultural activities throughout the community, increase arts awareness in the community, and make arts experiences available to the widest spectrum of the community. The program was awarded the Elizabeth O’ Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts in 2000 and became an autonomous city department in 2001. Over the years, with the addition of staff and increased availability of venues, the department has continued to provide a vast array of multi-discipline arts programming that touches the lives of more than 100,000 participants through a combination of programs and services that fall into five categories: General Public Programs, Outreach Programs, Artist Assistance, Economic Development, and City History. The department's largest general public program, the annual North Charleston Arts Fest, is now celebrating its 36th year and has developed into one of the most comprehensive arts festivals in the state of South Carolina. In 2008 and 2018, the Arts Fest was selected as a May Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society.