Past Commentaries

July Issue 2000
by Tom Starland

Thirty Years in the Gallery Biz

How about a big WOW for Hampton III Gallery in Taylors, SC, just outside of Greenville, SC. They have been presenting art to the public for 30 years. They've been a long time supporter of Carolina Arts, local artists, and the greater Greenville art community. They have a great group of exhibiting artists, they're the only commercial gallery in the Upstate of SC which presents "continually" changing exhibits, with receptions for each exhibit, and has clients which include collectors, corporations and national institutions and museums. They have gone a long way and look forward to going a lot further into the future. Congrats!


During the opening ceremony of this year's Spoleto/Piccolo Festivals, it was reported that Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. made the following statement: "The city demands excellence. This is a city in which mediocrity is no longer an accepted friend." I hope those words were taken out of context - I can't imagine what city he was talking about.

We have results of the three major Piccolo Visual Art Exhibitions and Competitions. Something that wasn't reported anywhere else during or after the Festival. As a monthly newspaper I'm surprised we are able to scoop our weekly and daily competitors in the print media. Well, I'm not that surprised!

This year's Annual Juried Art Exhibition was in my opinion a giant leap forward for the visual arts. There was some great art featured and a great presentation in spite of the space allocated. The show was produced by The Georgetown Design Group, Inc., located in Washington, DC, in association with the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs. The show was also sponsored and "partially" underwritten by the French Cognac Industry. Other than the artists' entry fees, I doubt the City put any funding into this show. Anyway, it just goes to show how things can be improved with the direction and leadership of the commercial community. This show would probably even be better with less Office of Cultural Affairs. After all, it's not called the Office of Cultural Excellence.

A few tips for the good folks in Georgetown. Don't rely on the OCA to handle the Call for Entries for this show, spend some money on advertising the show - outside of the Piccolo environment, and cut the jury-by-committee routine - there must be plenty of qualified jurors with national reputations in DC. Fix these flaws and you'll be producing a truly national juried show worthy of the Spoleto/Piccolo audience. Take the next step, please!

Now for the results: First Place/Best of Show - went to Gretchen Lothrop of Pittsboro, NC, for her stainless steel sculpture. For all you out there who wished they had won the lottery when they looked at the work - sorry - the piece is sitting somewhere on Hilton Head Island. That's right, the $20,000 sculpture was sold during the show. Food for thought - artists! The Second Place Award was a tie between two artists, Eva Carter for her painting entitled, Evergreen, and Art Thomas for his painting entitled, Brookgreen Destiny. Both artists are from Charleston, SC. (This doesn't happen with one juror, only a committee could come up with a tie.) Honorable Mention Awards went to the following: L.L. Biggs of Summerville, SC, for the work, Sunrise - Ashepoo River; Bridget Busutil of Atlanta, GA, for the work, Red Night; Karen Hewitt Hagan of John's Island, SC, for the work, Red Clouds on the Stono; and Jean M. Selman of Columbia, SC, for the work, Heads - You Lose.

One final point about this show. The OCA takes a 20 percent commission on sales from this exhibit. About 10 works had been sold by the final weekend of the show, including the $20,000 sculpture by Gretchen Lothrop. That's a $4,000 commission on just one sale. I hope that money is going back into the visual arts.

Next, we have the show that has to put up with all the City's problems, and some. The Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Show - last year they were forced to be on one side of Marion Square - the year before that on the other side of Marion Square - this year at Washington Square - and next year? I'm betting on Washington Square again. I don't see any way the City will be done with the renovations "planned" for Marion Square by next year. All it will take is another film company to roll into town and the City will rent them "hollywood" north of Broad, aka - Marion Square. Screw the artists - they don't mean anything to the City, but we "need" a new symphony hall for a group that can't sell enough tickets.

These folks, bless em - they sit out in the heat for 16 to 17 days, dealing with all the incredibly rude remarks the public can come up with. They fight off the squirrels and dodge the projectiles from the night herons nesting above. At night, people raid their tents and steal anything not too heavy to carry off while running from the security guards. What else can people do to them? If you can't think of anything - someone will.

Now for the before now unreported results of what is supposed to be The Mayor's Show. The Mayor's Purchase Award, selected by this year's juror, Al Vesely, went to Susannah Gramling for an oil painting entitled, Sketch - View From St. Michaels; First Place was awarded to Jennifer Smith for her oil painting titled, Old Village Evening; Second Place went to Erica Hoyt for a watercolor painting entitled, Grapes; and Third Place was given to Danny O'Driscoll for an airbrush/acrylic painting entitled, Lowcountry Hummer.

Five Merit Awards went to the following: Daryl Knox for a pastel entitled, Creek with Red Sky; Karen Vournakis for a mixed media work entitled, Facade #32-B; Tammy Cardnella for an oil painting entitled, Lush Lowcountry; Tammy Pappa for a pastel entitled, Torquoise Marsh; and Nancy Hoerter for an oil painting entitled, Study in Greens and Whites.

Seven Honorable Mention Awards were given to the following: Alice Stewart Grimsley for a mixed media work entitled, Lowcountry Lane; Jane Jackson for a watercolor entitled, In the Shadows; Jeanette Nicholson for an oil painting entitled, Lily of the Nile; Charlynn Knight for a watercolor entitled, Charleston Fireworks; Bob Graham for a graphic entitled, Daydream in Midnight Sun; Ron Rocz for a photograph entitled, Gyspy Wall; and Amelia Rose Smith for a watercolor entitled, Reaching for the Sun.

The show is coordinated by Billie Sumner and Victoria Platt Ellis. They have to deal with all the headaches between the artists, the City, and neighborhood. They deserve a long vacation.

This show needs a sponsor like the International Anonymous Association or the National Asprin Industry or --- maybe the City's Office of Cultural Affairs could treat them like they do the Spotlight Chamber Music Series or Charleston Symphony Family Concerts - these events don't seem to have the problems the Outdoor Art Show does - but then again, these events are coordinated personally by Ellen Dressler Moryl. Or maybe all they need to do to get treated like the professionals they all are is to invite Richard Moryl to join them in the park - that might get them the special attention they need. Luckily, the public likes this annual show and they reward the artists with the highest praise - sales.

Charleston Crafts proudly announced the award winners from the two Fine Craft shows, a part of Piccolo Spoleto Festival, held at Wragg Square in Charleston SC, May 26-28 and June 2-4. Though the weather was very hot this year, the show was a success and the exhibiting members' quality work challenged the judging for the best. Arthur MacDonald, past faculty and chair of the College of Charleston Art Department juried the shows, selecting from the 134 artisans' pieces. The coordinators, Regina Semko and Susan Hogan, were appreciative of the efforts of the artisans who came from eleven states to present there works.

The events are produced by Charleston Crafts, Inc., a cooperative organization of South Carolina fine craft artists, in cooperation with the Piccolo Spoleto Festival. The Festival is co-produced by the City of Charleston, Office of Cultural Affairs, and the College of Charleston, School of the Arts.

Piccolo Spoleto Crafts-Awards (May 26-28): First Place ($500)- Maria Lindsay, fiber, Smithfield, UT; Second Place ($300)- Ignatius Creegan & Rod Givens, hats, Richmond, VA; Third Place ($200)- Annie Van Every, clay, Seabrook Island, SC; Honorable Mentions ($100): May Yang, fiber, Newton, NC; Jonathan Baxter, Origami, Charlotte, NC; Mary Green Stone, mosaics, Isle of Palms, SC; Obayana Ajanaku, jewelry, Avondale Estates, GA; Exhibitor's Choice ($200)- Ignatius Creegan and Rod Givens, hats, Richmond, VA; Purchase Awards: ($300)- Barbara Urbanski, jewelry, Pawleys Island, SC; ($200)- Mary Green Stone, mosaics, Isle of Palms, SC; ($200)- Jim & Carolyn Meyer, jewelry, Orangeburg, SC.

Piccolo Spoleto Crafts-Awards (June 2-4): First Place ($500)- Nancy Kubale-Wicker, mixed media, Rutherfordton, NC; Second Place ($300)- Barbara Buckingham, paper cuts, Staunton, VA; Third Place ($200)- Ed Bryan, clay, Columbia, SC; Honorable Mentions ($100): Delores Newson, Sweetgrass Baskets, Troy, SC; Lynn Kranich, jewelry, Apex, NC; Mayor's Purchase Award ($500)- Barbara Urbanski, jewelry, Pawleys Island, SC; Slide Jurors Choice ($125)- Nancy Kubale-Wicker, mixed media, Rutherfordton, NC; Exhibitors Choice ($200)- Nancy Kubale-Wicker, mixed media, Rutherfordton, NC.

Information/application to next year's shows can be addressed to Charleston Crafts, PO Box 22152, Charleston SC 29413-2152, or (843)723-2938.

The City of Charleston and Spoleto Festival need to give these folks back the use of the Gaillard Auditorium's Exhibition Hall for it's second weekend "Indoor" show. These folks have put on a quality show for way too long to be just kicked outside so that the Spoleto folks can have a standby rain-out location. Spoleto hasn't used the rain-out facility in two years.

Gallery Update

Last month I reported on the opening of a new contemporary gallery in Charleston - Tippy Stern Fine Art, located at 154 Market Street, across from Saks Fifth Avenue. What I didn't understand at the time was that this gallery would be closing its doors after its first exhibit and won't open again until the next exhibit planned for Sept. This is a new kind of "commercial" gallery I'm not used to. The gallery and its first exhibit got a lot of attention in Charleston, but it's too bad it won't be contributing full-time. We're sorry if you ran down there before you read this update.

A lot of noise was made about the fact that this gallery was showing "cutting edge" art - art with a message in its first exhibit, In The Shadow of the Flag. That's nothing new in Charleston. What would be news is a commercial gallery presenting this kind of art on a full-time basis - for more than a month - more than a couple of years. That would be news.

You would think that the second Charleston Renaissance had begun the moment this gallery opened its doors. This gallery has presented one 30-day exhibit with a theme (never done before) and Mayor Riley shows up at a commercial gallery reception, the "Post & Courier" does an instant preview and "reviews" the exhibit - at a commercial gallery (breaking their long standing taboo of covering commercial shows), TV stations do interviews, and the SC Arts Commission is interested in traveling the exhibit. Wow, did hell freeze over?

No, all that happened is one of Charleston's socially well connected just opened a part-time gallery and used every connection available to create a media blitz. And, what's wrong with that. I'd do the same thing if I was so blessed. And, I'd tell anyone else to do the same if they could. Should we hate this gallery because they can make Charleston stand up and pay attention to art - contemporary art, when no one else could? No!
Let's just hope that Tippy Stern Fine Art is here to be part of Charleston's growing visual art community and that the doors they are opening stay open for all in Charleston.

One of the owners of the gallery, Tippy Stern Brickman, made a statement during a TV interview saying she had waited twenty years to open this gallery. I just hope she understands that the reason she was able to open her gallery now is because of all the galleries that opened and stayed open during those twenty years. They paved the way for galleries like hers to even think about opening in an environment which is not gallery friendly. Believe me, Brickman may not have seen that side of Charleston - the not gallery friendly part, but the rest of us have.

Was the gallery and exhibit that special? Well, for someone who has traveled throughout the Carolinas and seen a lot of "cutting edge" exhibits of contemporary art - it was OK, but I'll wait to make my judgments on how good the gallery is after I see a few more exhibitions. I'm glad they're here pushing Charleston's perception of art, opening closed doors, and making other galleries envious of their media connections - it will make everyone else work a little harder - even if they are only participating on a part-time basis.

Being Left Out

Last month, we also had an article about an upcoming exhibit at the SC State Museum in Columbia, SC. The press release for the exhibit, Return to Sender: The Columbia Postcard Project, starting July 7 and continuing through Oct. 15, left out the name of one of the artist - Gene Speer. That's worse than having your name spelled wrong. I bet you a lot of people hope they never see their name in my commentary, but it's not so bad - is it Gene? Let's just hope I don't have to mention it again!

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