Past Comments

June Issue 2006
by Tom Starland

Spoleto Is Still Going On

Actually, as I'm writing this - it hasn't even started yet, but by the time you're reading this - it will still be going on. There are a lot of visual arts to take in - throughout the greater Charleston area. So get out of your house, office or car and go see some. You just won't be able to see the South Carolina Watercolor Society's annual exhibition there - it's in Columbia, SC, this year - not Charleston.

On The Cover This Month

I guess this will be the standard from now on - identifying the cover - that is. We're offering images of works from the annual South Carolina Watercolor Society's member exhibition - not taking place in Charleston, SC, this year. As you can see it's a diverse group of works offered in a variety of styles and subject matter.

Not in Charleston, SC

The South Carolina Watercolor Society's annual members exhibition isn't taking place in Charleston, SC, this year. It will be a wonder if it ever will again after being turned away coldly by those who control exhibit space in Charleston. They said it "Wasn't their cup of tea," or something like that.

After this year's Artista Vista in Columbia, SC, where the event was enhanced by the SCWS's exhibit opening and ten other related SCWS exhibits - folks in Columbia will hope the show never goes back to Charleston and returns quickly to Columbia. It made a big difference in this year's Artista Vista.

Some folks in Charleston are a little myopic when it comes to the visual arts - they think they are the purveyors of all that is cutting edge and experimental - but they keep showing the same old things and not much of it is cutting any edges or fooling art history buffs.

Watercolor Show in Columbia, SC

We have the results of the SCWS 29th Annual Exhibition - Watermedia Plus, taking place in Columbia, SC, at City Art - not in Charleston, SC. It's a great show and worthy of a visit to Columbia - plus you can take in the Brian Rutenberg exhibition at the SC State Museum. Two for the price of one trip - no matter what the cost of gas is. (Here's a tip - there's a lot more to see in Columbia - a lot more. Give it a try - you won't be sorry.)

When viewing the SCWS exhibit you'll think you're viewing an exhibition in a museum - all the works are presented in similar, simple frames - giving no distractions to the art. You'll also see works that just won't bring the word "watercolor" to mind. A lot of people have a set picture in their mind when the word watercolor is mentioned, but after viewing this show you'll see - they have not been keeping up with what artists are doing today in this medium.

Hopefully we didn't spell anyone's name wrong in the awards list, but if we did - we're sorry - give us a buzz.

Greenville, SC Blues

I usually don't come to the rescue of much of anything - well a lot of things - especially an advertiser. It looks bad, and would lead people to think that my opinions could be bought. Can you imagine the amount of ads the SC Arts Commission would have to purchase? But I'm going to throw in my 2 cents (actually it cost a lot more to express my opinions) into some comments made about Artisphere, The International Arts Festival of Greenville, which took place Apr. 21-23, 2006, near and around the fantastic Falls Park in the West End area of Greenville, SC.

A local alternative newspaper, The Beat or Upstate Beat ( was complaining - for the second year in a row that there were not enough local or regional artists included in the 100 booths of artists presented at this year's event. Only 31 locals out of the 300 who applied (from across the US) were selected. Apparently they think 31 is not enough considering the number of top quality artists which can be found in the Upstate.

In their complaint a number for how many locals out of the 300 applied was not provided. Was it 41 or the possible 231 - we don't know. But 31 out of 100 was not enough in their opinion. Maybe so.

If I have learned anything from my squabbles with the SC Arts Commission about juried events - it's the little catch that it's hard to complain about artists not getting selected for things they do not apply for. Like I haven't won the SC Lottery or the Power Ball Lottery, but I also haven't purchased many tickets either - maybe two. So I'm not overly surprised that I haven't won.

Also, the organizers of Artisphere are pushing it as an "International" arts festival, so I would hope that there were some folks from outside the US and a few representing 50 US states. So 31 doesn't seem so bad to me. I know of very few local visual artists who have participated in the Spoleto Festival USA - unless they are one of those folks who stands on stage during an opera and does nothing but hold a spear or a pail of water. The organizers promoted the event in national publications so I'm sure supporters as well as financial backers were hoping to draw tourists from across the US - at least - if not from further away. That would be easier than getting people to come from Charleston and Columbia.

The three-day event is bringing lots of people into an area of Greenville where there are a number of commercial art galleries and non-profit art spaces - featuring mostly local and regional artists. Locals have the whole year to look over the offerings of local artists. And people who are really interested in the visual arts tend to look beyond festival offerings when they go to a city.

I don't think the folks at The Beat are really that upset about the representation of local and regional artists at this event. Most likely they are reflecting the complaints of a few artists who did not get selected to participate, some who didn't even apply but would like to have been invited and a few more who didn't really have anything else to complain about that day.

In Charleston, in respects to the Spoleto Festival, over the years people who can't get on the main stage have learned to wiggle onto a side stage and if they can't get there, they create a fringe event. The Big Festival will hopefully bring the people to Greenville - you have 3 days to get their attention - but you have to make the effort. You're an artist - be creative.

Do the artists in Greenville really want to go back to the old Coca Cola Festival, just featuring local artists? I don't think so. Greenville's visual arts community is growing and will suffer from growth pains, but wait until you've got as many venues and artists as Charleston - all vying for the attention of art patrons. Then you'll have something to really complain about.

Let Artisphere grow and evolve and in five or ten years if something hasn't been done to include more local or regional artists - complain on. But, my guess is the real ambitious artists in the area will find ways to make their art seen by the people coming to this event. The complainers will - complain. That's what they do.

I also think the folks at The Beat totally should have brought up the issue - otherwise organizers think they're doing a fine job without input from the outside. That's what alternative papers do - give another side to issues - talk about things no one else will.

Oh by the way - Artisphere also isn't taking place in Charleston - probably never will!

Not in Charleston - Again

Well, if you haven't noticed, the theme of this month's commentary seems to be about things that are not taking place in Charleston - or that were told they couldn't take place in Charleston by folks who for some reason didn't want a lot of - very good artists from around the state - showing their works in Charleston.

Perhaps they were afraid viewers would make comparisons and ask to see more of these kinds of shows in the city? Or... .


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