Hughes Investments

ELEVATE UPSTATE Grants Initiative

An annual grant program that provides initial funding for community-based programs that promote vibrancy

Ten at the Top, through a funding commitment from Phil Hughes and Hughes Investments Inc., has established the Hughes Investments Vibrancy Initiative: ELEVATE UPSTATE Grants. The purpose of the ELEVATE UPSTATE Grants is to identify and provide initial funding support for community-based programs that promote community and economic vibrancy in local areas across the Upstate. The initiative will award two grants annually up to $5,000 each (total of $10,000 per year) to entities including neighborhood associations, civic- or community-based organizations, non-profit organizations or local governments that are committed to developing and implementing programs designed to increase local vibrancy in communities within the Upstate.


Applicants must be located in and do their work within communities in one of the ten Upstate counties: Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg, or Union. Successful proposals for projects funded by ELEVATE UPSTATE (EU) should be able to clearly demonstrate how the implementation of the initiative that they propose will benefit and provide vibrancy in the local community. These proposals may seek to produce a physical result, such as a mural, sculpture or signage that will increase the vibrancy and sense of place within a community, or implement the first of a reoccurring or annual event or program that helps grow vibrancy within a community. Click the links below for more details about grant parameters and interest form.

2021 Elevate Upstate Grant Application

2021 Elevate Upstate Interest Form 

2019 Elevate Upstate Grant Workshop Presentation


On Tuesday, June 1st, 2021 the application process for the Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Grants officially opened. The deadline for interest forms is on Friday, August 13th, 2021. The deadline for full applications will be Friday, September 17th, 2021.

A Grant Workshop was held on July 14th. Here is a link to the Grant Overview provided by Dean Hybl of Ten at the Top. You also can view the PowerPoint presentation on applying for the Elevate Upstate Grant by three-time recipient Jonathan Irick of Main Street Laurens through this link.

If you have any questions, contact Dean Hybl at or 864-283-0346.


The winners of the two $5,000 grants  were Rhythm on the River (Powdersville Business Council) and Piedmont Blues and Roots Music Festival (Main Street Laurens). Hughes also pledged to give $1000 each to the other three finalists if they followed through with the proposed projects.

Rhythm on the River | Powdersville Business Council

Rhythm on the River, a community event designed to bring families and businesses together in the Powdersville community, will take place on May 2, 2020, at Dolly Cooper Park with family activities, music, and food trucks. The interactive, festive atmosphere will attract neighborhood, school, and church groups to enjoy good fellowship.

Piedmont Blues and Roots Music Festival | Main Street Laurens

The Piedmont Blues and Roots Music Festival will be a celebration of the rich past Laurens has with blues, jazz, and even rock music genres. The event will be held in Downtown Laurens on May 9, 2020, and will focus on the traditional piedmont blues music, mill hill blues, and other types of music that have played such an important role in music history. There will even be an opportunity to highlight local record companies and local bands who produced their own records back in the day.


The two $5,000 recipients are Ninety Six Movie Night at the Park and 1st Annual Charles Townes Art & Technology Experience.  In addition to providing $10,000 to the two winners, Hughes also pledged a matching grant to the Environmental Art Festival in Union.

Movie Night at the Park | Ninety Six Mill Village Association

The Ninety Six Mill Village Association (MVNA), in collaboration with the Town of Ninety Six and local residents, is seeking to build a sense of pride in the community by offering a series of free outdoor events to showcase the community park. MVNA is requesting assistance to help fund the purchase of equipment and supplies to host a regular Movie Night at the Park, which stands on the site of a former textile mill.

1st Annual Charles Townes Arts & Technology Experience

The 1st Annual Charles Townes Art & Technology Experience intends to generate awareness and gratitude for Charles Townes, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, who was a Greenville native and graduate of Furman University. The project also aims to be a catalyst for the acceptance and encouragement of experimentation and curiosity—in technology as well as the arts—reflecting some of Townes’ ethics.


The two $5,000 recipients for 2017 are:

Main Street Laurens USA | Food Truck Plaza:

Laurens – As a part of a larger Downtown Master Plan for the City of Laurens, the Food Truck Plaza will dedicate space within the city where food trucks will be located for residents and visitors to enjoy a variety of dining experiences. The plaza will include colored shade sails, brick pavers and picnic benches as well as power and water for the food trucks.

Greenwood Arts Center | Bee smART:

Greenwood – The City of Greenwood received the Bee City USA award in 2016 and will use the Elevate Upstate Grant to develop educational and interactive art programs designed around the Bee City designation.

In addition to providing $10,000 ($5,000 per recipient) to the two winners, Hughes also pledged a $2,000 matching grant to each of the three other finalists. The other three finalists were the City of Landrum for their Art of the Horse project, the Abbeville County Farmers Market for their Farm to Fork Dinner and the City of Seneca and Blue Ridge Arts Council for their Art Wall at Monarch Park.


 The two $5,000 recipients for 2016 are:

Expand Your Wings - Town of West Pelzer

The Town of West Pelzer is established and declared to be a wild bird sanctuary. “Expand Your Wings” is both an educational venture and an art installation that will allow residents, visitors and passersby to West Pelzer to “Become like a bird, expand your wings, learn new things and fly high as you can.”


The two $5,000 recipients for 2015 are:

Celebrate Agriculture:

Greenwood – The Arts Council of Greenwood County plans to celebrate national farmers market week with several activities: tailored pieces of art to exhibit and family fun day focused on our agricultural heritage, cooking demonstrations, etc. throughout the six week celebration.

Music at the Museum:

Greenville – In a partnership between the Children’s Museum of the Upstate and the Furman University Partners in the Arts Program, student and faculty ensembles will perform a series of mini concerts.


The two $5,000 recipients for 2014 are:

Let’s Keep Travelers Rest Beautiful – Before I Die Wall

The ‘Before I Die’ wall concept has been implemented all over the world to encourage healthy discussions regarding dreams and hopes. Travelers Rest will construct several different walls to spark discussion and actions across the community.

Main Street Laurens – Finally Friday on the Square:

Finally Friday on the Square will be a monthly celebration of all things Laurens with live music hosted in the historic downtown.

*Phil Hughes, creator of the Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grants, was extremely impressed with the all of the finalists that he announced he was donating $1,000 to those finalists projects that were not chosen, including:

The City of Gaffney – The Unforgettable Gaffney project to create a coherent and engaging system for communicating the esthetic and historic value of properties in two historic districts in the city.

The City of Clinton – Rhythm of the Rails will be an annual celebration to be held the last Saturday of April as a finale of the Celebrate Clinton Month.

Pickens Revitalization Association – The Pickens Main Street Challenge is designed to attract new businesses into downtown Pickens by providing reduced rent in currently vacant storefronts.


The $5,000 recipients for 2013 are:

City of Anderson

Transforming utility and traffic signalization boxes and crosswalks into public art based around the book “Little Wren Lost and the Teakettle Call.”

City of Greer Parks and Recreation

Greer: An International Festival would be a one-day event in Downtown Greer as part of Upstate International Month.

Blue Ridge Arts Council

“3 Part Public Art” project includes murals, custom and hand built street furniture and interactive sculptures in downtown Seneca.*

*Phil Hughes, creator of the Elevate Upstate Grants, handed out three awards this year due to the impressive amounts of applications received.