What Got Printed

September Issue 2001
by Tom Starland

Bank of America Leaves Another Mark on Uptown Charlotte

The Mint Museum of Craft + Design in "Uptown" Charlotte, NC, is undergoing modifications to become part of a grand outdoor plaza which will be the entrance to the new Hearst Tower, scheduled to open in early 2002. The Hearst Tower will be 46 stories tall, making it the second tallest building in Charlotte. The building is being built by - guess who - Bank of America. In case you forgot, Bank of America gave the Mint Museum of Art their new facility, The Mint Museum of Craft + Design, not too long ago.

Now, the good folks at Bank of America are giving the craft museum a new upscale entrance on the plaza and moving the Bank of America Gallery (How many banks do you know who have their own gallery?) to the lobby of the Hearst Tower, making room for the museum to add a café.

Shops, galleries and restaurants will line the plaza, with benches, planters with trees and artwork in between. Framed by the craft museum and an Irish pub, a 10-foot glass and bronze sculpture with flowing water will welcome pedestrians entering the plaza from North Tryon Street - the avenue of the arts in Charlotte. Just another helpful gift from your friendly neighborhood bank.

I know Bank of America spreads a lot of money - a lot of money - around the Carolinas and elsewhere to art events, art groups, and arts organizations, but I wish they would spread some of those profits around to other cities in the Carolinas for capital improvements or new facilities for the arts - especially some new gallery spaces. I know the folks in Charleston, SC, would love a three story building with a gallery space in the lobby. The Upstairs Gallery in Tryon, NC, could use "just" a couple of hundred thousand dollars to help finish their new facility.

If there is one thing that is needed around the Carolinas - big towns, small towns, major cities - it's more public exhibition spaces and the money to run them properly. The rest of us are ready to cry uncle and admit that Uptown Charlotte is the big dog when it comes to state-of-the-art, public, art facilities. Now how about the rest of us? We'd just like a little taste of that kind of patronage.

Getting Noticed

In the 25th Anniversary Edition (July/August 2001) of Art Papers, an arts publication based out of Atlanta, GA, the cover story addressed The New Face of Art in the Sunbelt. In an article that looked at "hot spots" in the South, three major geographic areas were considered, South Florida, Georgia and Texas. Charlotte, NC was grouped with Georgia in a column that noted the active gallery and museum scene in Charlotte's Center City. (Thanks to Bank of America!)

In addressing the academic galleries of the area, writer Linda L. Brown noted:

"The local college art galleries also play an important role, often showing artists outside the mainstream. Winthrop University Galleries in Rock Hill, South Carolina, leads the pack, closely followed by Davidson College, UNC Charlotte, Queens College and Central Piedmont Community College."

Tom Stanley, Director of Winthrop University Galleries, proudly sent me a copy of the article FYI. I e-mailed him back a reply that I was not surprised. In my book, Winthrop has always been ahead of the pack in the Charlotte area and SC. They seem to be one of a handful of college/university galleries which understands that it is just as important to publicize their exhibitions, as it is to select what they put in them.

Stanley is one of the few college/university gallery directors who makes sure we know his exhibition schedule - well in advance, sends press releases on every exhibition - by our deadline, and on occasion, takes out paid advertising to promote exhibitions. He also maintains an active and well informed "Friends of the Gallery" organization; publishes a yearly gallery report; and as an artist himself, participates in art activities in both NC and SC, as artist and curator. So you can see, I'm not surprised that his efforts, through the Winthrop University Galleries, have been noticed.

Stanley also mentioned that it was a shame that other SC college/university galleries were not mentioned in the article. I think some of the reason for that was Art Paper's targeting of select areas of the South and the fact that many of these facilities have a hard time thinking outside their respective campuses - who knows what they are doing. But, some may be catching on to Stanley's technique.

In this issue, we have ads from Converse College in Spartanburg, SC, and Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC. Of course we also have another ad from the Weatherspoon Art Gallery at UNC-Greensboro in Greensboro, NC - another visionary facility which maintains a national reputation - not only for what they exhibit, but by letting people know what they are offering - beyond the campus boundaries.

Next we have a few words about a gallery director who was on the other end of the scale.

Who has a problem with geography?

Is it The Ogden Museum of Southern Art at the University of New Orleans or their newly hired, Chief Curator, David Houston, former Director of the Rudolph E. Lee Gallery at Clemson University - and before that - Director of Visual Arts at the SC Arts Commission? Frankly I can't tell, but one of them has a serious problem with geography and more.

Lately I've been receiving flyers about exhibitions at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art - addressed to South Carolina Art" - a newspaper which hasn't been published since 1997. That's no big deal, we get a lot of mail addressed to South Carolina Arts from folks who can't seem to update their mailing lists - we even get mail addressed to Charleston Arts, but when did New Orleans become part of the Carolinas?

I can only suspect that it has something to do with David Houston, but that amazes me too. While Houston was director of the Clemson gallery he could never bother himself to send us information about exhibitions taking place there. Just one of the many reasons we don't cover that part of South Carolina in our printed paper. He couldn't even bother to get this information to Clemson's PR folks most of the time. I knew about everything taking place at Clemson, except their visual art exhibits - which is the only reason for Clemson to send me anything. Now that Houston is in the bowels of Louisiana - we start getting regular press about exhibits he is apparently curating. Go figure. Perhaps Houston figures that since he is still pulling strings at the Arts Commission as far as visual arts matters goes - he's still a part of the Carolinas. Or, perhaps he has convinced The Ogden Museum of Southern Art that he has big press connections around the country.

Some people bemoan Houston's departure from South Carolina, but I look at it as one small step forward for the state's visual arts community and hope more individuals would move on to greener pastures before they retire on the backs of SC's taxpayers. We'd all be better off. Now if we could get the folks over at the Arts Commission to realize Houston doesn't work there anymore and doesn't even live in the state. But, I'm sure they'll have him back, again and again, for more of his old dusty advice on SC's visual arts and artists - oh David, what should we do?

Retiring Educators

Last month, we had an ad for an exhibit of works by Emery Bopp at Bob Jones University, in Greenville, SC, and this month, one for an exhibit of works by Boyd Saunders at the McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. These ads are part of our ongoing program of not forgetting our retiring artist/educators in SC and were our gift to those artist/educators for their contributions to SC - a.k.a. free ads.

In the past, we have run free ads promoting exhibitions at the SC State Museum in Columbia, while they were presenting exhibitions of works by William Halsey and Corrie McCallum from Charleston, SC; August Cook from Spartanburg, SC, and Carl Blair and Robert Howard Hunter from Greenville, SC.

I'm not sure why they stopped this program, but I'd like to suggest that the Museum once again take up this practice of hosting exhibits by these retiring artist/educators.

Emery Bopp was teaching art at Bob Jones University for 50 years. Boyd Saunders was at USC for 36 years. Both are active artists, but I don't remember seeing any of their work in recent SC Arts Commission exhibitions and I know the Arts Commission is fond of college/university art instructors - they dominate their exhibitions. The only problem is, they seem to be more interested in those who sometimes are barely in our state three or four years before they move on to greener pastures.

I remember when William Halsey died, he became an instant icon at the Arts Commission - the honors couldn't come fast enough - once he couldn't respond to them. But for most of his 60 + year career, Halsey was ignored by the Arts Commission. He was more value to them dead than alive, much like Elizabeth O'Neill Verner is.

I think there should be enough room for our emerging artists, established artists, and for those who may be at the end of their careers. Too much time is spent on artists who fit the current trends of what ever is "hot" - this week, at the lunch table of the curators of the month.

And, this is why I send cudos to the Columbia Museum of Art for presenting their first major exhibition, in their new facility, by an artist on the SC scene for a very long time - Carl R. Blair. Blair's exhibition, The Patterned Landscape, will be on view from Sept. 15 through Dec. 2. You will see an ad for his exhibit in next month's issue. You can read about it on page 31. (I should include here that the Greenville County Museum of Art, in Greenville, SC, has presented exhibitions by Blair and other retiring artist/educators from SC. I hate to mention them at all, but that's another story.)

Blair was part of the art department at Bob Jones University for 41 years. I call that being a loyal SC artist/educator. He deserves recognition, as do others mentioned here, not just because of their time and effort on SC's behalf, but because they produce good art. It may not be cutting edge in some people's minds, but in my book, good art is always at the cutting edge of art. I can't say that all cutting edge art is good or even well done. Some of it is not even art - in my opinion.

Stepping off the Soap Box

What you have been reading is just my opinion on selected subjects of importance to me and hopefully to others. For me it's one of the benefits of doing this paper. But....

Starting in our Jan. 2002 issue, we will be presenting "guest commentary" by others. This doesn't mean just anyone will be able to express their First Amendment Rights at our expense. Writers wishing to partake in this opportunity will have to - sort of apply - for the right. Since we receive no government funding, we extend no government rights. They will also have to deal with the same restrictions I do each month - space limitations, no libelous statements, and passing the watchful eyes of "my" editor. Yes, even I am restrained at times. If you want a shot at it, call us at 843/825-3408 or e-mail at (carolinart@aol.com).

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