Past Comments

July Issue 2005
by Tom Starland

Tempo Gallery Has Closed

In Oct. 1999, I wrote in this column that, "Sometimes Good Gals Win". I was commenting about "Scottie Hodge Week" in Greenville, SC.

The week of Sept. 12 - 18, 1999, was declared by Greenville, SC's Mayor to be a week to celebrate Hodge's contributions to the visual arts in Greenville - of which there have been many.

Last month, Scottie closed the doors of Tempo Gallery which has been serving the Greenville visual art community since 1975 - that's 30 years for those who ran out of fingers and toes at 20.

Through Tempo Gallery, Scottie has provided Upstate artists with a source of art supplies, exhibit space, and classes in art. Whatever needed to be done, Scottie was the person who would most likely do it - act as a temporary director, for an organization be a newsletter editor, provide entertainment (she plays a mean horn), learn to be a web site designer, provide newspaper distribution, provide office space to art groups, and be a good overall listener for artists who need someone to hear their end of the world tales.

For eight years Scottie also headed up the ART IN THE PARK event, an annual celebration of the visual arts in Greenville, sponsored by Upstate Visual Arts which provides the community with a quality event showcasing a large UVA member exhibit, artists and organizational booths, art demonstrations and workshops, and many educational opportunities. Although she no longer wears the "General's" hat when it comes to this event she was responsible for this event becoming one of Greenville's longest lasting art celebrations.

A number of years ago, folks in the Greenville area nominated Hodge for the Verner Award - SC's top award in the arts. She was never selected after several years of being nominated.

Of course we have learned over the years that when it comes to the Verner Award it's not how you serve the art community - it's how you serve the SC Arts Commission and what your relationship was to it.

It's not too late for the Commission and their sister organization the SC Arts Foundation to prove me wrong, but I won't be holding my breath. What a shock it would be if the public really had a part in the selection of the Verner Awards. Do you know who makes the selection? No - of course you don't - it's a secret.

I hope the people that really matter to Scottie have shown her their appreciation - as I do. She made a difference and that's what counts to most of us.

And, don't get me wrong - Scottie's not finished - she may still have a few contributions up her sleeve.

A Bad Gallery Revisited

Last winter I did a series of commentaries on our website about "bad" galleries and "bad" artists. Although both subjects represent a very small part of the visual art community as a whole - there occasionally comes a real winner.

We didn't name any names back then but I think it's time to warn any artists who may not have heard the news about the "erl Originals gallery" in Winston-Salem, NC.

You might be well advised to stay away from this gallery - which has been closed - and it's owners - Peter and Lee Swenson, and the company they operate, Bogart Management Group. The word is - Peter Swenson is calling himself an 'art consultant' these days.

Here's just a few items that have been reported in the Jan-Feb., 2005, edition of Crafts Business Magazine, and the Winston-Salem Journal in a Dec. 10, 2004, edition.

From the Journal we have: "In late September, (2004) erl's owners, Peter and Lee Swenson, and the company they operate, Bogart Management Group, were foreclosed on by their bank. They were barred from their gallery at 480 West End Blvd. for being months in arrears on rent and utilities. Peter Swenson is facing numerous tax-fraud charges, as well as a growing number of civil lawsuits filed by creditors seeking to collect payments they say are long overdue".

It is alleged that the Swenson's may owe several hundred artists up to $300,000 in commissions on sold art.

Now, I'm not saying this was one of those "bad" galleries or that there might not be some logical explanation for why these artists feel they haven't been treated fairly by these folks, but if I was an artist - I might want to hold off on any dealings with this gallery or its owners.

You look on our website and you'll see that there are many other galleries in Winston-Salem.

Spoleto Aftermath

These days with our printing schedule, the Festival hasn't even started by the time we have done our May and June issues and has just ended as we are finishing our July issue. So about all we can do is look back and make a few comments.

Some things never change - the Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Show didn't get mentioned in the local paper until some spirited theatre performers got a little too curious about what was inside the tents in the park. As we all know - the visual arts are not news until someone tries to steal them. I even saw a local TV station do a spotlight piece on Piccolo in the middle of the art show and they never mentioned where they were. It's a good thing that the public enjoys this show and records their favor with their hard earned dollars - otherwise the show gets no respect locally.

The result of the juried show were: Daryl Knox won the Mayor's Purchase Award (Best of Show) for his work, Isle of Palms Flag. Tammy Papa won First Place for Soft, Pink Sky; Steve Jordan won Second Place for Hugo Hilton; and Jane Jackson won Third Place for Against a Wall.

Awards of Merit went to: Chris Ritsch, Katherine Dutremble, Carolyn Epperly, Dennis Clevenger, and Ron Rocz. Honorable Mention Awards went to: Jerry Spencer, Lynn Hardwick, Bob Graham, Zernie Smith, and Rick Dean.

Of course my feeling is that every artists who stayed out there in Marion Square during the 17 days of the Festival deserves an award.

The most unrewarded event taking place during the two festivals was the exhibition, Floating, which was sponsored by Redux Center for Contemporary Art, College of Charleston School of the Arts and the Visual Arts Club at the college. The exhibit received high critical acclaim and a good bit of coverage, but very few people came to see the exhibit. I did.

One of its problems may have been that the exhibit was never given the status of being an "official" Piccolo Spoleto visual art exhibit. Without that status the show was never mentioned in the daily newspaper listings of festival events and it wasn't mentioned in the "official" Piccolo program.

Over the years I have never been able to figure out what makes some shows an "official" exhibit and some not. But Piccolo missed the boat not being able to take credit for one ounce of this exhibition. Go figure - official? - unofficial?

My favorite piece in the show was by Seth Gadsden, one of the show's organizers. It was a collage of before photos of how the space looked, receipts for paint and hardware, lists of things to do and people to contact, copies of checks received in support of the exhibit, etc. - all the things it took to put on this exhibition. It gave the public a glimpse at what it really takes to present an exhibit. And, it was a first rate presentation - considering the budget.

And, hats off to the owners of 560 King Street for letting the exhibit show there - free.

We also have results of the 21st Piccolo Spoleto Juried Art Exhibition, which was housed at the Charleston Visitor Center. Not the best place for an exhibition, but in that location - a lot of people saw the exhibit - even those who had no clue that a couple of art festivals were going on in Charleston.

The exhibit was juried by three jurors in three separate mediums: Painting & 2D, photography, and sculpture. The awards in painting/2D were: First Place went to Jaclyn Wukela for Nassau Lady X; Second Place went to Alvin Staley for Revelation 3:20 #5; and Third Place went to Sally Hughes Smith for Tawny Meadow.

The awards in photography were: First Place went to F. W. Pate for Rural Cuba; Second Place went to Heather Moran for Weighing the Catch; and Third Place went to Bonnie J. Williams for Waiting.

The awards in sculpture were: First Place went to Marty Celum for Paragon; Second Place went to Gregorie Rawls for In Repose; and Third Place went to John David Duncan for Charleston Townhouse.

Honorable Mentions were given to: Carla Padgett Clark, Heather Forsythe, Susan Lenz, Kevin Bruce Parent, Jo Thomas, and Caroline Street Trickey.

One opinion about the Juried Art Exhibition - which is attracting entries from throughout South Carolina: I don't know if it is a good idea to have separate jurors for different mediums. One good juror should be able to make selections in all media and I don't think a good juror has to be an artist too. I'm not sure artists are really that comfortable selecting works in their own chosen mediums - especially between artists they may know. Also I think it would look better if the juror came from outside SC - especially outside Charleston so artists from other parts of the state don't think that the juror would be partial to local artists.

But, like I always say about "juried shows" - if you win great! When you lose - the juror was blind as a bat! If you got in the show you were already a winner - many people didn't make the cut. People viewing the show will pick their own winners.

I saw the exhibits at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park too, but I won't comment. After I heard that the kind of exhibits that the South Carolina Watercolor Society presents are not worthy to show there ...

Will Spoleto Come Around on the Visual Arts?

I don't want to take anything away from the Gibbes Museum of Art and the exhibitions presented during the Spoleto Festival, but they are not comparable to a full-blown Spoleto Visual Art offering. At least not the two site-specific exhibitions Spoleto presented in the past. And, I wouldn't even count the most recent Evoking History "exhibits".

In order to be the world class festival Spoleto claims to be - they need to present world class visual arts exhibitions. Without the visual arts it's just a world class performing arts festival.

I'm sure a lot of people could live with that distinction, but can Nigel Redden?

Next year is Spoleto Festival USA's 30th anniversary in Charleston. I would hope that after 30 years the Festival would begin living up to that "comprehensive" reputation by offering regular world class visual art exhibitions.

I would really like to cover the Festival again, but being a visual arts newspaper we have to have something to cover.

Maybe number 30 will be the beginning of what we will in the future call the "golden years" of Spoleto Festival - the years when it was truly a world class "comprehensive" arts festival.

We'll see.



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