Archive for the ‘Pee Dee SC Area Visual Arts’ Category

A Trip to See Several Exhibits in the Pee Dee Area of South Carolina in July 2014 – Part I

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

On a day when it was thundering and lightening around the lake here in Bonneau, SC, I decided to head over to the Pee Dee area of South Carolina, to see a few exhibits on view in Lake City, SC, and Florence, SC, just an hour’s drive north on Hwy. 52 (Lake City is one hour away). If the computer had to be unplugged, why not go somewhere else where the weather is not so angry.

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The Jones-Carter Gallery in Lake City, is presenting “Upcycled: The Art of Reclaimed Objects”, an exhibition on view through Aug. 23, 2014. The exhibit features works by Natalie Abrams (Charlotte, NC), Patz and Mike Fowle (Hartsville, SC), Randy Gachet (Birmingham, AL), Jordan Morris (West Columbia, SC), Greg Mueller (Spartanburg, SC), and Amelia Sherritt (Seattle, WA), the show explores the ways in which post consumer products can be upcycled into intriguing works of fine art.

I’m doing this blog post in parts to keep it from being so long. Part I is about the exhibit at the Jones-Carter Gallery and a few other notable items related to Lake City.

When you walk in the door you are confronted by a large work by Randy Gachet entitled, “Repercussions”, 2008, made of reclaimed rubber tire, steel wire, and acrylic mirror. Gachet explains that in the 1990′s he started noticing that the rubber tire remnants seen along the roads were beginning to take forms in his mind – crow wings, tortise shells, and alligator hides. I’ve seen a few of those alligator hides along the road in my travels. “Repercussions” reminds me of a group of turtles in a pond with the ripples of water emitting from their shells. I’m not sure what function the mirrors served as I couldn’t see any effect from them.

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In “Carbon Plume”, 2011, a work of reclaimed rubber tire, concrete, and steel, I first thought the work depicted some kind of tree, but once I read the ID card provided I easily could see the jet black plumes rising from burning oil fields in Iraq, first seen on CNN. Gachet offers the following statement about this piece, “The rubber tire fragments in the piece were all collected along interstate highways in the Birmingham, AL, area where I live. The perpetual whir and rush of semi-trucks and automobiles implicate the voracious engines of production and consumption that hurtle them as I scavenge the highways for the detritus left behind. The resulting form is both graceful and sinister.” After reading that I kind of wished it was some kind of tree, but then I couldn’t think of any happy story lines involving trees and rubber tires.

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Up close look

After reading that statement it was hard to think of this exhibition as representing the ever amazing imagination of artists to make works out of junk and stuff we throw away or consume in our daily lives in America. After all we are the great consumers of the world. It’s a good thing the next works I zeroed in on were by Patz and Mike Fowle. Although their works are more whimsical – they are no less a statements on the great mountains of discarded objects we create in America.

Although this is a group show, it is clear when you get there that Mike and Patz Fowle seized the opportunity to provide many examples of how they use repurposed consumer goods – mostly, in this exhibit, discarded children’s toys. They provide 11 of the 20 works in this exhibition.

The largest piece in the show is “Post-Consumer Aquarium”, 2014, made of repurposed children’s toys, plastic and metal wire. Many of the fish-like creatures are made from plastic toys and toy parts – part of the millions of pounds of plastic produced each year in America which will last longer in boxes stacked in closets and attics or in our landfills for decades longer than they were enjoyed by a child. But now a few of those toys make up parts of artworks.

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I have to say that the toys we bought our son are getting a lot of reuse by his children. We kept them all, but they won’t last another generation. His boys are rough on toys.

In another work by the Fowles, “Recycled Red Bird”, 1994, made of found bed springs, steel, sheet metal, and a glass insulator, shows that the couple also makes repurposed works from more industrial and consumer waste. They found the bed springs while exploring the Sand Hills area of South Carolina in a pile of construction debris – not in a landfill, but thrown or dumped out in the open.

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These three characters produced out of the Fowle’s imagination represent colorful members of a contemporary community of cast-offs including: “Blow Hard”, 2010 (L); “Fast Food”, 2010 (C); and “Tough Love”, 2010, all made of found post-consumer products.

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“Fu-Man Shoe, Jr.”, 2012, made of a found shoe, rusted metal, and doll parts, was created by Patz Fowle. She offered this statement about the piece, “When I held this little canvas shoe in my hand it made me think of the journey it had taken prior to me finding it. So, I felt compelled to give it a face that had experienced many journeys with facial features of rusted metal and the eyeballs of a forgotten doll who had seen it all.”

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I first saw one of Patz and Mike Fowle’s plastic planets at an exhibit at Francis Marion University in Florence, SC. It was an amazing piece of plastic toys, toy characters, and toy parts inside a vary large ball in plastic wrap. As you examine this “planet” up close you can recognize toys from your time frame and toys from every generation there after. “Plastic Planet Redux”, 2014, by the Fowles, also includes repurposed plastic and electronic children’s toys, tape, and wheels. I took a couple of detailed images of toy characters that have been popular in our household – throughout several generations.

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One more of the cast-off characters offered by the Fowles is “The Walk”, 2010, made of found post-consumer products. It represents a scene many of us are used to – walking a pet. The character walking the pet has that look of – “Come-on, we don’t have all day”.

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Jordan Morris of West Columbia, SC, offered one work entitled. “The State of Things Series”, 2014, including four works: “Origins”, 2014, made of wood and glass; “Destruction”, 2014, made of sawdust, wood and glass; “Information”, 2014, made of newspaper, wood and glass; and “Creation”, 2014, made of paperback books, wood and glass. Most of the wood and glass represented the shadowbox cases holding the materials contained inside.

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Morris offered this sentence in his statement on this work: “Each shadowbox contains what was once a living thing in four different forms, inviting one to consider the drastic changes that our world has been through since the advent of computers”. I didn’t get that and what was said in the rest of the statement confused me even further.

What I saw looking at these four boxes was a box of cut wooden logs, a box of sawdust, a box of shredded paper, and a box of designed objects made out of paper. Each representing the progression from trees to paper and then an interesting looking design made of paper. As someone who has taken a printed publication to an online publication, I see a lot of trees being saved by computers and the Internet. But that’s my point of view. Morris also says he pines for a return to simpler times when we were not bombarded by “waves of information” in the age of electronic media. I felt the same way when I walked into a library -way before computers came along. There has always been more information than most of us could digest – there’s nothing new there.

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“Origins”

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“Destruction”

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“Information”

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“Creation”

I thought it was interesting that Morris was the only artist in this exhibit who did not provide information about himself for the press release sent out to promote this exhibition. He could have sent a letter by snail mail, but he didn’t. Perhaps it is his own problems with today’s digital media that he describes in his statement, but I didn’t see how the works he presented would lead anyone looking at the work and reading his statement to come to the conclusion he provided.

Of course there have been times when an artist has provided a statement – several pages long describing a work of art, yet I never saw what they described when looking at the work. And, I wasn’t alone in my feelings. All I can do is apologize for not getting his point. I’m sure it’s me and my lack of higher arts education.

Amelia Sherritt, of Seattle, WA, offers works made of the foil covering the corks of wine bottles. The work “Autumn Gold”, 2013, contains hundreds, if not thousands of wine foils. Sherritt states, “By re-purposing these foils, I am able to make what would normally be thrown away into something long lasting and beautiful”. And, I bet it’s a lot of fun emptying those bottles of wine, although I’m sure she has an army of wine drinkers saving those foils for her.

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Sherritt also offers, “Moss Study”, 2012. It got me wondering how many different colors are offered on all the different makes of wine out there and whether she would have to reach out to other countries for certain colors – adding travel into the process of making art. I think this artist has found the perfect materials to make her art.

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Well that’s enough – you need to go see this exhibit yourself and see if these works bum you out over America’s wasteful habits or amazes you in the endless imagination of artists – or both.

The next exhibition at the Jones-Carter Gallery will be “Francisco de Goya: Los Caprichos”, on view from Sept. 20, 2014, through Jan. 3, 2015. How many small towns can host a major exhibit of works by Goya? This gallery is a place worth visiting.

It should be noted that several of these artists had participated in the two ArtFields competitions that took place in Lake City. The folks at the Jones-Carter Gallery not only keep an eye out for potential exhibitors, but they also curate some parts of the display – so they get a good look at what’s out there. Some names from those competitions are recycled when organizing exhibitions. That’s another intangible result of getting into ArtFields, much like our selection of cover art for our June 2014 issue of “Carolina Arts”, which turned out to be one of our most popular covers – if not the most popular. I first saw that artist’s work at ArtFields. So, just making the cut at ArtFields can lead to many unknown opportunities. Exposure is “King” in the visual arts. And, it’s something to think about when artists are thinking about re-entering this competition or thinking about entering it for the first time. There is more at stake than winning one of the top prizes.

I also want to warn artists who might think that Darla Moore just might buy their over priced artwork – she’s loaded right. She didn’t get that money by overpaying for things. More work was sold the first year before artists learned she bought work that first year and jacked up their prices the second year. One artist just out of college put $100,000 on their work. I hope they were embarrassed. Moore is not the only person looking to buy works at ArtFields – so don’t price yourself out of a sale. You might also scare off a gallery owner who was thinking of representing your work in their gallery, but your price was out of reason.

It also should be noted that on this trip I learned that ArtFields will be under new management in 2015. The Community Museum Society which operates the Jones-Carter Gallery will now manage ArtFields. ArtFields will be in the good hands of Ray McBride and his team of capable folks in 2015 and I think you’ll notice many changes in how the event is handled and promoted. We’ll have more about that later.

You can read a press release about this exhibit on Page 29 and 30 of our July 2014 issue of “Carolina Arts” found at (www.carolinaarts.com).

The Jones-Carter Gallery is located at 105 Henry Street in Lake City, SC, next to The Bean Market. Admission is free at the Jones-Carter Gallery and large groups are encouraged to call ahead. The gallery is open Tue.-Fri., 10am-6pm and Sat., 11am-5pm. For further information contact Hannah L. Davis, Gallery and Exhibitions Manager, by calling 843/374-1505 or visit (www.jonescartergallery.com).

ArtFields Redux 2014, A Look Back at Lake City, SC

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

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What a difference a year makes. It will be really interesting to see what version this event shows up in next year. The first event was just a big juried art show with a bigger than normal cash prize for four of the 400 + artists who had one piece of their work on display throughout this small downtown area. Last year there were a few stumbles right out of the gate but overall the small town of Lake City, SC, did a great job pulling the event off and the merchants were delighted to see folks from around the region spending money inside their shops.

After last year’s event I offered some suggestions which I felt would make this event better. I think organizers listened to some of those suggestions, but others are still out there to be considered. Some took my suggestions for criticism, so I didn’t have much, if any, contact with folks who were happy to talk with me before the start of the event in 2013 – what I guess now was just an effort to get lots of publicity and support out of me. Long time followers know that I’m happy to give support, but it won’t come with sugar coating and a pledge to always agree with everything. I’m just not made that way.

I’m hopeful for this art competition and exhibition, but I won’t call it an epic arts festival until it becomes one. They can advertise the event any way they choose, but my advice is to tone it down a bit and wait to see if they earn such a description. They’re doing better than some bigger communities, but time will tell what this event should be called. Only in the world of television is a show a hit before anyone sees the first show or after just one episode.

So What About This Year’s Event?

I’ll say this again as I did last year, ArtFields missed the opportunity to educate the public and artists about the opportunity this event was offering through social media. I have no idea what effort they had in other states, but what media crossed my radar just never seemed to explain the event or the Lake City community other than to direct folks to check out their website for further info – which wasn’t updated very early after the first event. The event suffered from the big lull effect, and a little controversy in the judging process by going silent for much too long after the first event ended. That may be the case again this year, but it’s still early to tell. They have to promote this event all year long. There is lots of education to be done about the event and the community.

I hope the organizers have learned something this year about the media. What was big news one year is old news or no news the next year. Next to Florence, SC’s newspaper, “Carolina Arts” is presenting more text and photos about this event than anyone else – more than just a few weeks of the year. It may not all be positive and smiley faces, but it’s coverage not many other media outlets are giving this event. So my advice to organizers is that they will have to work harder at getting their message in the media or spend more time telling their story through social media. And, I’m not talking about the slick video they made this year after the event which makes ArtFields look more like a community party than an art event. What I saw in that video wouldn’t make me travel to check out ArtFields in Lake City, SC, from Miami, FL. People can have a good time anywhere.

First Impressions

My first impression of ArtFields 2014 came from the online gallery of selected artists. And that impression was that the SC Arts Commission had a hand in recruiting artists to enter this event. And then there was the shot heard throughout academia. The fact that last year’s top winner was Jim Arendt, an art professor at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC, brought entries from art professors throughout the region and especially South Carolina. As I checked out the bios it looked like university and college art professors got the impression that they could win $50,000 just by entering their work. Installation artists had also gotten the message that these folks wanted to be more like ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, MI – which now awards $400,000 in cash.

When I finally stepped into The R.O.B., the large warehouse building turned into an art gallery, my impression was confirmed – this building looked like one of the SC Arts Commission’s “Triennial” shows. So, I’m sure they were more involved in this year’s event, giving artists their seal of approval to enter and making contacts to artists telling them they should enter this competition. Funny thing though, not too long ago the Arts Commission was sending out the word that they didn’t see much value in juried exhibits without themes that only showed one work by artists. What changed their mind? I guess they were trying to warm themselves up to Darla Moore – probably looking for funding for one of their pet projects.

Of course, none of these professors were winners of the awards so I’m not sure they will be back next year, of course they could be back in full force.

Hannah L. Davis, Gallery Director at the Jones-Carter Gallery in Lake City, was the curator of the works presented in The R.O.B., all 102 of them, which was no easy task with all the different kinds of works included there. She did a great job of laying the works out in that space. During the two days that I visited ArtFields I must have toured this facility at least six times. This venue would have been worth seeing if there was nothing else offered at ArtFields. It also showed that the event was headed in the right direction, but… and it’s a big but – it all depends on what is entered and how far ArtFields reaches into the visual art communities of the 12 states from which artists can enter this competition.

Another point about The R.O.B. worth mentioning is that last year I said they needed to get rest rooms in that building. I may have overlooked it last year, but this year they had the fanciest outdoor rest rooms I’ve ever used. They were air-conditioned, had running water, flowers (although probably plastic ones) and artwork on the walls. And, no lines on the days I was there.

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This year I got the opportunity to see more of the works being presented in the shops throughout Lake City. Some were no bigger than my bedroom. I think I saw about 90% of all works displayed in my two visits. I might have seen more except for a few basic problems – I had a May issue of “Carolina Arts” to finish, I like to talk with people in the visual art community and I ran into a lot of folks at ArtFields, even on a Monday and Thursday, and I don’t like trying to see works of art over people trying to eat their food in restaurants. Stepping into hair salons which emitted a certain smell didn’t bother me one bit, this paper got it’s beginnings in a broom closet inside a Charleston, SC, hair salon, but bothering people during their lunch or dinner is not something I like doing. I think it bothered a lot of other people and artists too, so I would recommend ArtFields rethinking that one.

I think most of the merchants did a great job of accommodating the artworks they selected to be in their shops and many were ready to act as tour guides. A few gave up more space than I might have as a business person and a few placed works in places too hard to get a good look at – most notably some were too high up the walls to even read the ID cards. I heard this complaint from a few artists as well, who say they won’t be returning next year. They may not enter the competition, but they have no way of knowing if they could even make the cut next year, so that complaint could be moot.

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This work by Hirona Matsuda took up a lot of space at M & D Drug Company

Only a third of the folks who entered last year entered again this year, and ArtFields got about the same amount of entries (780), but I don’t think they can maintain that kind of turn over every year.

I know the idea behind ArtFields is to get people to come to Lake City and spend money, and to attract people to open new businesses there, but the organizers should never lose sight of the fact that it is a fine art event and they shouldn’t compromise the art in any situation over sales. An artist’s lounge with free snacks and drinks are not all it takes to keep artists happy. Believe me it takes much, much more. So keep that in mind.

I know this, I stepped into a lot of stores I wouldn’t even consider going into, even in downtown Charleston, to see what they had on display. So the overall concept works, but there has to be a happy medium between art and commerce.

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Lake City also looked a lot more green and flowery. So ArtFields has helped spruce up a town that probably looked pretty brown a few years ago. Of course I wouldn’t know as I had no reason to check it out before 2013, and I have driven through Lake City on Hwy 52 many a time headed to Florence, SC, and back again. I’m actually looking forward to staying there overnight sometime in the future. A new 57 room hotel will be open on Main Street before ArtFields 2015 opens.

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I had a great time riding the tour bus around Lake City and talking with the driver getting his impressions about this year compared to last year – sometimes riding when it was just me and the driver. Remember, I was there on a Monday and Thursday. Like they say – if you want to know what’s going on talk to a taxi driver, or in this case a bus driver. He was a great ambassador for Lake City. Shop owners, waitresses, and local reporters also gave me a better view of what was going on in many cases – much better than ArtFields’ staff members did. ArtFields runs a tight lipped ship in Lake City.

At some point while viewing art in the new shops on Main Street in Lake City I came up with what could be a subtitle to whatever I titled this blog. “Men of the Carolinas – Keep Your Women Away From Lake City, SC,” if you don’t, it’s going to cost you. Then I thought that would be a pretty chauvinistic thing to say, but it’s more a reflection of how this town has turned into a shopping haven – for mostly women and children. I just hope people come to Lake City throughout the rest of the year or some of these places might be closed by next year – unless their rent is being subsidized.

ArtFields hasn’t released any numbers yet on how many people they thought attended, how many registered to vote, how many people voted, and the number I’ve been waiting to hear since last year – how many votes the top winners received. So, I can’t say much about that. On a Monday and Thursday I couldn’t gage whether there were more people there than last year, but I did have several, of what I call Spoleto moments.

Sometimes in Charleston, SC, when the Spoleto Festival USA and the City’s Piccolo Spoleto Festival are going on it would take me 15 to 20 minutes to cross a street – the traffic was that bad. A few times on Main Street in Lake City, it took a good time to cross the street. Once I thought it would take forever, but a bus had to stop at the railroad tracks that cut Main Street in half, and it was just enough to cause a break in the traffic so I could cross. And that was on a Thursday.

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This image was part of The Inside Out Project – Local Matters, showing the faces of the people who are making this all happen in Lake City

Some Bullet Points

I received a number of calls and e-mails asking me how a  number of boxes making sounds was a visual artwork? This was referring to the top prize, “Sun Boxes Mach II,” by Craig Colorusso of Rogers, AR. This was one of my favorite pieces and I voted for it. I explained that as this competition goes on they will see even more borderline works that won’t look like a sculpture or painting in this competition and it won’t be long before an artist enters a performance piece where they stand somewhere and create their one work of art during the event where they are the artwork or something like that.

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“Sun Boxes Mach II,” by Craig Colorusso of Rogers, AR, not very visual

I also got asked how the jurors could select John Eric Riis’ work “Neoclassic Male and Female Tapestry” a diptych (meaning a two part work) and only buy have of it – the female part as the “second” juried “bonus” prize. I couldn’t answer that, but I think the fact that the work was priced at $50,000 and the award was for just $25,000 might tell you something about that.

In the case of Robert Snead, the artist who listed himself as from Charleston, SC, but now lives in New Orleans, LA, his work, “Family Dollar General Tree,” was listed as Not For Sale. I’m sure he didn’t turn his nose up to the “other” $25,000 Juror’s Choice award offered him. Or did he? Is listing a work NFS, ever really not for sale? Snead is from Charleston, but he doesn’t live their now, but I figure he did that to bank on attracting the local vote – for the People’s Choice award.

Which brings us to a trend which took place at ArtFields 2014, and that is “inflation”. A lot of artists heard that Darla Moore does some shopping during ArtFields, so many showed up with prices on works they only dream about at night. For a few, the big prices were their normal market price, but for many, they priced themselves out of making a sale or being selected (if that was a factor). What happens when a work is priced at $100,000 and the jurors want to make it the $50,000 prize? What does that say if the artist says I’ll take it and runs to the bank? What if the jurors pass it by and say too bad we can’t pick that one?

Let’s get real artists, ArtFields in not only an exhibition and a competition, but it is a sales opportunity. Darla Moore didn’t get rich overpaying for goods and services. Plus the odds are 22,000 to 1. There is only one Darla Moore and many more possible art buyers coming to see this exhibit. I didn’t know this and it wasn’t publicly promoted anywhere last year but apparently a lot of art was sold during the first ArtFields – something that should be promoted to the artists and the general public. I was told this year’s sales were down – I wonder why? While viewing this exhibit many others viewing the exhibit made funny remarks about the prices on the works. I hope artists get more realistic next year when it comes to pricing their works – for their own good.

The life-changing award of $50,000 is a lot for a top prize of a regular juried show. But for the type of artists ArtFields is hoping to attract to this event, it’s not that much money, especially when you have to give up your work if it is selected for one of the top awards. And, except for a few, it’s not going to be life-changing. If some of the artists had sold their works at the price they were asking – winning the top prize would have been a letdown. All works sold or that have a pending sale have to wait to see what the jurors pick first and it might not be too long before an artist turns down the top award to make a better sale.

Like I said last year – when dealing with artists you’ll find they are more complicated than the rest of us. They see things differently and it’s a good thing they do – most of the time.

Some artists told me they will keep trying to get into ArtFields – more for the exposure than the chance to win a top award. Some think the work they produce will never be selected by the jurors and they might be right, but they still want to be part of this event as they think one day it will be a major accomplishment to just get into the competition. There are other things to be gained by entering and getting it this exhibition. Our June 2014 issue of “Carolina Arts” will feature a work on the cover from ArtFields 2014. No big deal, but it’s something.

This year, there were 278 South Carolina artists accepted into ArtFields (64 from the Charleston area and 50 from the Columbia area) – 522 from SC sent in entries – that’s a 53% success ratio. Those numbers need to slow down in order for ArtFields to attract visitors from other states. I’m not saying the jurors have to limit how many works can be in the show from certain areas – the event needs to encourage more “excellent” works from the other 11 states. Eventually, down the road a ways, I think you could see that number shrink down to 50 – 100 from SC. And you’ll perhaps see 30 – 50 artists from each eligible state. That’s once the word gets out about the opportunities being offered artists by ArtFields. I was surprised how few were coming from North Carolina.

I heard that some locals were critical about the fact that only a few Lake City artists got in the event. I was surprised that a few I saw made the cut at all, and very soon the event might see fewer from the Pee Dee area of SC make the cut. Not that there isn’t talent in the Pee Dee, it’s just that the competition might get that rough. But, again it all depends on how well the event attracts top artists from other states. Maybe in the future there will be a side competition just open to local and regional artists – bigger than the Greater Lake City Artist Guild show presented at the ArtFields Gallery on Main Street. Remember the goal is to get outsiders – people who live far away from Lake City – to come to Lake City.

The new handout explaining ArtFields was an improvement, as was the 64 page competition catalog you only received once you registered to vote. That was a good idea, but I’m not sure it will help get people to register to vote and then actually vote. The numbers on that haven’t been released yet. The Artist’s Gallery on the ArtFields’ website is the most informative resource, offering larger images of artworks and artist’s bios.

A lot of education and promotion that ArtFields is a competition determined – mostly – by the public voting on their favorite works has to be done. I kept hearing the mantra from staff members that people keep telling them – they just want to look at the art – not vote on it. It’s tough turning some bystanders into participants.

The worst thing I heard at ArtFields was that folks from Hilton Head Island, SC, came this year to Lake City talking about the fact that they were thinking of launching their own Art??? – something. This would be a shame and dilute both events. This is what happened with the Art Walk craze – everyone has one now and nothing is special about them anymore.

What’s going to bring folks to Lake City in between ArtFields each year? Well, the Jones-Carter Gallery will help with that, offering excellent exhibits, and if someone could do a better job of publicity on what the ArtFields Gallery is offering – that would help too (and Saturday hours). A new commercial art learning center/gallery opened on Main Street six months ago, named Olio Studio – this will also help, but they’re going to need something more. Maybe an upscale concert series or music festival would help keep a spotlight on Lake City – bringing in upscale cultural visitors. But they’re going to need something to build tourism traffic in Lake City all year long.

Finally, I think ArtFields should consider pulling the event back into April and stay away from the month of May – too many other visual art events are taking place during the first part of May. I think it cost them in attendance and media coverage. I’d head more for the middle of April.

OK – that’s enough from me until the numbers come in, which I hope doesn’t take too long.

I posted a number of images of art on display at ArtFields on Facebook at Tom Starland.

If you want to learn more about ArtFields – as an artist or as a possible visitor – visit (www.artfieldssc.org) of keep up with “Carolina Arts” at (www.carolinaarts.com).

The Results of the ArtFields 2014 Competition in Lake City, SC, Are In

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

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The judges have spoken, after the people registered their votes and the winners have been announced. I voted for 26 works and 4 out of the 5 winners were on my list.

Top Prize of $50,000 goes to Craig Colorusso of Rogers, AR, for “Sun Boxes”. These wooden boxes are not much to look at, but what they do is amazing yet simple. My little video is not much but gives you a taste of what they do.

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Still image of “Sun Boxes” by Craig Colorusso of Rogers, AR

To hear the sound of the “Sun Boxes” visit this link if you have Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=633147016755717).

There was a surprise in the naming of the Juried Prize winner in that the judges picked two and ArtFields came up with the extra money to award two prizes – $25k each to Robert Snead of New Orleans, LA, for “Family Dollar General Tree,” and John Eric Riis of Atlanta, GA, for “Neoclassic Female Tapestry” (which was only half of the work displayed). Riis was featured last year in a major show at the Franklin G. Burroughs • Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach, SC. Snead is a Charleston native, and one of the organizers of Redux Contemporary Art Center. I’ve included a few more detail shots of Snead’s piece. You can see more of Riis’ works in a blog I did at this link (http://carolinaarts.com/wordpress/2013/12/19/hurry-to-the-franklin-g-burroughs-simeon-b-chapin-art-museum-in-myrtle-beach-sc-to-see-the-exhibit-the-opulent-object-on-view-through-jan-5-2014/).

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“Family Dollar General Tree,” by Robert Snead of New Orleans, LA

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“Neoclassic Female Tapestry” by John Eric Riis of Atlanta, GA (which was only half of the work displayed – the female image)

The People’s Choice winners were, “Think” by Joshua Redfearn of Cheraw, SC, for 3-d and “Out of Bondage,” by Colin Quashie of Charleston, SC, for 2-d. You can check out a blog I did about Quashie’s exhibit at Redux back in 2012 at this link (http://carolinaarts.com/wordpress/2012/05/10/a-trip-to-charleston-sc-to-see-colin-quashies-exhibit-at-redux-and-the-french-quarter-art-walk/).

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“Think” by Joshua Redfearn of Cheraw, SC, for 3-d

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“Out of Bondage,” by Colin Quashie of Charleston, SC

There you have it – read em’ and weap or celebrate.

For further info visit (www.artfieldssc.org). The event is still taking place today, Sunday, May 4, 2014, from 1-6pm.

Last Chance to See the Works of Florence, SC, Native, William H. Johnson, on View at the Jones-Carter Gallery in Lake City, SC

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

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Not too long ago I did another Pee Dee Two Fer trip where I went to the Artisan Outpost in Johnsonville, SC, held the first Saturday of the month and the Jones-Carter Gallery in Lake City, SC, which is now open on Saturdays. The Artisan Outpost will be hosting another great gathering of artworks on Dec. 7, 2013, from 10am-6pm. This gathering is so popular – Santa is going to show up at this next event. But, for now I want to tell you about the exhibit at the Jones-Carter Gallery – time is running out to see it.

The Jones-Carter Gallery, located at 105 Henry Street in Lake City, next to The Bean Market, just a block off Main Street is presenting an exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), featuring rare paintings by Florence, South Carolina-native, William H. Johnson, from the collection of the James E. Lewis Museum at Morgan State University. An essential figure in modern American art, William H. Johnson (1901-1970) was a virtuoso skilled in various media and techniques, and produced thousands of works over a career that spanned decades, continents and genres.

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Ring Around the Rosey, by William H. Johnson, courtesy of Morgan State University.

William H. Johnson: An American Modern is on view at the Jones-Carter Gallery, a branch of the Community Museum Society, Inc., in Lake City, through Dec. 29, 2013. The Jones-Carter Gallery is the only South Carolina venue on the tour.  Developed by Morgan State University and SITES, the exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Henry Luce Foundation and Morgan State University Foundation Inc. Additional support is provided by Ford Motor Company Fund.

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Jitterbug, by William H. Johnson, courtesy of Morgan State University.

The pivotal stages of Johnson’s career as a modernist painter are assembled in this group of rarely seen paintings. Every step of his artistic development is conveyed – from his post-impressionist and expressionist works of the 1920s, to vibrant vernacular paintings from the end of his career in the 1940s, in which Johnson articulated his distinctive, unforgettable vision as an American modern artist.

Usually I’d be offering lots of photos of the exhibition, but there were so many restrictions on photography that all I have to show of the exhibit is the one shot I was allowed to take. I may have pushed the button on my iPhone, but I was placed in the only position allowed by the gallery staff. I could have taken more on the sly, but I know the restrictions are from the Smithsonian and I didn’t want to get the gallery in trouble or prevent future shows from the Smithsonian coming to Lake City. I’ve got two images from the press kit and I took several more of the surrounding area outside – which I think is just as important to Lake City’s progress in becoming a cultural destination.

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This photo doesn’t show you much of the exhibit, but it at least shows you there were others there viewing the exhibit while I was there.

The works in the exhibit and provided text tell an interesting story of this artist’s history. And being from the North originally – that’s right I’m one of those transplanted Yankees, I had to think when viewing these images how many other talented black artists had to leave the South to have a creative life and how many never made it out and just had to put that creativity aside. Frankly I’m not sure how easy it is to be an African American artist today. In some ways it seems that you can get more attention if you’re considered a folk-artist or visionary artist (untrained) than if you have a Masters degree in art. But like I always say to my old Yankee friends in describing what it’s like in good olde South Carolina – it’s 400 years of history – 20 years of progress, and it seems like the Tea Baggers are dragging us further back in time every day.

But then again, when you think about it Jasper Johns had to leave SC before he made it big in New York City. In this case Johnson left the United States to find fame and respect.

Go see this exhibit before it leaves South Carolina and if you haven’t been before you’ll be amazed that such a facility as the Jones-Carter Gallery is located in Lake City. Most other small towns in SC will have exhibit space in an old house or a converted bank – if they have any at all. This space is as good as any in bigger cities.

Now, lets talk about Lake City. Since my last trip to the Jones-Carter Gallery, SCDOT has placed many new signs directing you to the Jones-Carter Gallery making it easy to find coming into Lake City from any direction. I bet there are more signs in Lake City directing you to this gallery than there are in Charleston, SC, directing you to the Gibbes Museum of Art.

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View from across The Green

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The front door of the gallery

The gallery is located next to The Bean Market, another great facility for cultural events in Lake City and across from The Green, an open green space with a performance stage. There’s a sculpture by Alex Palkovich, from Florence, SC, there and this unique drinking fountain – designed for humans of all sizes and pets. Banners were up promoting the Johnson exhibit and new ones will probably flap in the wind for other exhibits and events in the future. The city is really serious about becoming a cultural destination and small details like this fountain will make the difference.

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A pet friendly drinking fountain

Lake City has big plans for transforming their city, but none of it will happen very fast unless people get up off their back sides and travel there to see and enjoy it all. It’s not a big trip from Charleston, Columbia, Florence and Myrtle Beach, and for those folks traveling further – they do have hotels and motels – like the ones people use to travel to your city.

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A view of The Green

Gallery hours are Tue. through Fri., from 10am to 6pm and Sat., from 11am to 5pm. Large groups are encouraged to call ahead.

And, don’t forget – ArtFields will return to Lake City from April 25 through May 4, 2014.

For additional information about William H. Johnson: An American Modern call the gallery at 843/374-1505 or visit (www.jonescartergallery.com).

The 2014 ArtFields Competition and Exhibition in Lake City, SC, is About to Start

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Before we start promoting this event, there are still a few unanswered questions about last year’s event and this upcoming event that you as an artist should be wondering about. Like what are they going to do differently?

A recent report tells us that 22,000 visitors attended the event – that’s an estimate as there where no ticket sales to base attendance on. Of those 22,000 visitors only 5,965 people registered to vote in the competition and only 2,443 votes were cast. Why did so few visitors want to participate in the vote – which is the core of the event and then why did less then half of the people who registered to participate actually cast a vote?

We still have not been offered how many votes the top winners received – with almost 400 possible works to be voted on did the winners get over 100 votes or maybe even over 500 votes? What does it take to win this competition?

As far as this year’s event goes – who are the judges for entry and who will make selections on the winners. Are they the same as last year, different or a mix?

What does “ONE” work really mean? Can it be an installation of a lot of works related to each other? Can it be a sculptural piece of 100 or 1000 pieces? Can the one work be a site specific installation that fills a whole room? I know a lot of artists who submitted one painting that was maybe 16″ x 20″ last year who were surprised when they saw some of the “one” works of art at last year’s event.

And finally, if you are interested in entering, I suggest you read the rules very carefully. It cost one person $25,000 last year by not understanding the rules or thinking they didn’t matter.

Just remember, I support this event and feel the folks in Lake City did a wonderful job on their first effort, but there is room for improvement. I have yet to hear anything about those issues.

Here’s the official call for entries:

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Starting Oct. 30, 2013, You Can Register for the 2014 ArtFields Competition and Exhibition in Lake City, SC

The 2014 ArtFields Competition and Exhibition takes place in Lake City, SC, from Apr. 25 through May 4, 2014.

Whether you’re an established or emerging artist, get ready to submit your artwork to the 2014 ArtFields Art Competition for a chance to win $100,000 in total cash prizes! The Call for Submissions will open October 30 and will close December 13, 2013 at (http://www.artfieldssc.org/artists/how-it-works/) that link will be closed until October 30.

Artists may only submit ONE piece of artwork to the competition, and there is a $25 non-refundable entry fee. Artists must reside in one of the 12 Southeastern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia) for 6 consecutive months prior to the submission date. Eligible artists must be 18 years of age on or before the submission deadline of Friday, December 13, 2013. Artwork must have been completed within two years of the submission deadline of Friday, December 13, 2013, and artists may submit one 2-D or 3-D piece of artwork, including, but not limited to, painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, digital media, and installation art.

View the full entry rules at (http://www.artfieldssc.org/artists/rules/), information on prizes (see below) and artists FAQs (http://www.artfieldssc.org/artists/faqs/). If you’d like to get inspiration for the Competition, visit our online gallery of last year’s finalists at (www.artfieldssc.org).

For any art related questions, please e-mail to (ArtTeam@artfieldssc.org).

$100,000 in Prizes:

Prizes will be awarded in three amounts:

$50,000 – Top Prize awarded by a combination of visitors’ votes and a jury of visual arts professionals.

$25,000 – Juried Panel Prize awarded by a jury of visual arts professionals who will be present in Lake City, SC during ArtFields.

$12,500 – People’s Choice 2-Dimensional
$12,500 – People’s Choice 3-Dimensional

Each of the People’s Choice is determined by visitors’ votes throughout the ten-day artfest. Visitors will register in Lake City, SC, and vote for their favorite entries during ArtFields. Visitors may only vote once per entry.

For further info visit (www.artfieldssc.org).

Yes, Yes, Yet Another Trip Into the Heart of the Pee Dee in South Carolina to the Art Trail Gallery in Florence

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

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There was a time when it seemed like I was going to an opening reception for exhibits at the Art Trail Gallery in Florence, SC – every other month. It didn’t actually happen that often, but it seemed like it as I wasn’t getting to much of anywhere else. Travel like I used to do has been hard to come by. That can be explained with three factors – I don’t have to physically deliver our paper anymore, extra gas money has been hard to come up with these days, and our son, his wife and their two children live with us now.

So going to the Pee Dee is easy for me. It’s not far away and I can get there and get out fast and be back home in no time at all. And make no mistake – I’m yearning to go to many other places – far and wide, but for now the quick and easy will have to do. And, I might get too travel farther once things settle in and it cools off a little in the Carolinas.

This latest trip was a multi stop trip which I enjoy most. Because the Art Trail Gallery reception for “Vulcraft-Nucor Visualicious 2013″ was being held on a Friday, I was able to check in at the Jones-Carter Gallery in Lake City, SC, before I headed further north on Hwy. 52 from Bonneau Beach, SC – headquarters of PSMG, Inc. and Shoestring Publishing Company which produces Carolina Arts.

At the Jones-Carter Gallery, operated by the Community Museum Society Inc, I checked in on the exhibit “agriART,” featuring works by Joshua Vaughan, Mark Conrardy, and an installation by Vassiliki Falkehag. While there I had the opportunity to catch up with Hannah L. Davis, Gallery Manager and Historic Preservation Coordinator for the Community Museum Society. She was also curator of this first exhibit at the new space in Lake City.

It should be noted that on the door was a change of hours from Mon.-Fri. to Tue.-Fri., 10am-6pm – a move in preparation for Saturday hours. Hopefully, soon visitors to the Pee Dee will be able to make a triple stop in Lake City, Johnsonville, and Florence on a Saturday art adventure.

It also should be noted that the “agriART,” exhibit will be closing earlier than scheduled on Aug. 19, 2013, for maintenance and renovation. If that seems a little early for a gallery space which has only been open a few months – I hope to have some good news about that soon.

Davis and I talked about a lot of things – how to grow tobacco plants inside a gallery, a visit to the gallery by the Lake City High School football team, and the fact that the gallery is seeing more outsiders than locals so far.

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The tobacco plants had grown since the exhibit opening.

The Jones-Carter Gallery is a beautiful space that will no doubt have an interesting and eventful future ahead of it. Right now it is the tip of the spear for all the cultural changes Lake City has planned. So, you better get there soon to be able to say you were there at the beginning.

For further information call 843/374-1500 or e-mail to (hdavis@cmslc.org). You can also like their Facebook page at (https://www.facebook.com/JonesCarterGallery).

Within 30 minutes I was parked less than 100 yards of the door of the Art Trail Gallery in downtown Florence at the corner of Irby and West Evans Streets – another reason I like going to the Pee Dee. Parking was free and there was plenty of it to go around.

This was my second visit to the new Art Trail Gallery at its new location, just around the corner from their old location on Dargan Street. But it was my first reception in the new space. The reception had already been going on an hour by the time I arrived and it was pretty lively inside. There was a good crowd on hand and people were enjoying the food and good conversation about the works on display. So I headed right in for my first walk though of all the works on display.

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Work by Sherry Dailey

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Work by Amy Smit

This new space has less wall space than the old location, but it is not small and it seems to be more set up for social networking. The first noticeable thing was that there was no lack of seating during the reception. Good news for older folks like me, who can stand only so long. Of course the gallery was also offering a free Jazz Night concert during this reception, so maybe all the seating was for that and other receptions might not offer all that seating, but here’s my open request for all receptions at all facilities – provide seating and lots of it.

On my first pass I was seeing some good works. There were some from artists I remember form exhibits at the old location and a good number of new names I didn’t remember or was seeing for the first time. I then started taking photos of those works that stood out to me. Works I wanted to show when I wrote this blog entry. There is no rhyme or reason for what I’m attracted to and over all I didn’t spot much that I didn’t feel should have been included in the Professional works. In the Novice works there were typical works that looked like they were made by beginners as well as a few who could have hung with the Pros.

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Just about as soon as I stopped taking photos the announcement of the award winners began. The judge for awards was Amelia Rose Smith, an artist I’ve known in Charleston, SC, for more years than either of us would want to admit. I love her work and the gallery had a good display of it – which was a nice touch so visitors could see that this judge knew her stuff.

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Work by Amelia Rose Smith

After the award ceremony was done I had selected five of the 15 artists she had selected for awards which was pretty good. There have been times when I didn’t like any of a judge’s selections and wondered if they were blind or what. Even when it came to individual selections by artists Smith and I liked different works by the same artist. Which just goes to show – everyone like different things. It’s nice to win an award, but it’s also not life or death if you’re not selected. Your day will come – all judges are different.

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Work I liked better by Sherry Dailey.

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Work by Johnny Tanner I might have scored higher.

I know the Art Trail Gallery has been more inclusive than exclusive – something the artists in the Pee Dee region need, but I hope one day as opportunities expand for displaying art arrives – as I’m sure they will in Florence, that the gallery offers some curated exhibits where artists are invited to show works that tell a story or explore a selected subject. It would be great if they get to a point when they can present a major show by one deserving artist who doesn’t have to share the walls with anyone. But, then the new Florence Museum of Art will be open soon right next to the old gallery location on Dargan Street.

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Two works by Gingi Martin.

There was plenty of food and beverages offered – which seems to be a tradition with the Art Trail Gallery, although I did have a meatball which seemed like I was getting my salt content for a year. Maybe I got the unlucky one that got an overdose, but all the rest of the food I tasted was great and plenty of other folks were eating lots of meatballs – so it might have been me. Hey, we’re lucky that any gallery these days serves anything at a reception – so I’m not complaining. And we all have to remember – it’s all about the art on display.

Eventually the Jazz band started playing and it got a little hard to talk and, since I still had to drive home, it was time for me to leave. One of these days I’m going to make an overnight stay in the Pee Dee so I can enjoy all that this new arts district has to offer.

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Here’s a list of all the award winners:

The Best of Show award was presented to Gingi Martin, for an oil painting entitled “The Elusive Peacock”.

PROFESSIONAL DIVISION:

First Place went to Pam Rhoads, for an oil painting titled “Jump For Joy”.

Second Place was awarded to Johnny Tanner for an acrylic painting entitled “Freedom Light”.

Third Place was given to Sherry Daily for an acrylic entitled “Serenity”.

Honorable Mentions were given to: Ann Page for a woodburning titled “Screech Owl”; Gaye Ham for a watercolor titled “Fruit Loops”; and Denny Stevenson for an oil painting titled “Untitled #5.

NOVICE DIVISION:

First Place was given to Amy Smit for an oil painting titled “Serving Together”.

Second Place was awarded to Patricia Emery for a pastel painting titled “Faced in Blue”.

Third Place went to Jessicah Kean for her work “Masked”.

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Again – work of Jessicah Kean I liked better. Works behind glass are hard to photograph.

Honorable Mentions were given to: Antoinette Ganim for her work titled “Pink Peace”; Gena Sallinger for her work titled “Peace”; and Jana Goss for her work titled “Peacock”.

The Gleason Emerging Artist Award was given to John Ainsworth for his wire work titled “Greeting In the Park”.

The Vulcraft-Nucor Award of Excellence was given to Patricia Emery for her colored pencil piece titled “Reflections of the Afternoon II”.

One last thing about the awards. It’s nice when local companies like Vulcraft-Nucor step up and provide support for exhibits and cash awards and it was really nice of Jim Gleason to step up and provide an Emerging Artist award, as it was not too long ago when he was a beginning artist looking for recognition and encouragement.

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One of Jim Gleason’s creations.

The Art Trail Gallery is located at 185 West Evans Street in downtown Florence and “Visualicious,” will remain on view through Sept. 7, 2013. Gallery hours are: Wed., 11am-6pm; Thur., 11am-3pm; Fri., 11am-6pm and Sat. 11am-3pm.

For further information call 843/673-0729, e-mail at (atg@art-trail-gallery.com) or visit (www.art-trail-gallery.com).

Checking Out Another Cultural Offering in the Pee Dee in Johnsonville, SC

Monday, August 5th, 2013

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Linda and I made an early scamper up Hwy. 52 to Lake City, SC, and then to Johnsonville, SC – just 20 minutes to the east to check out the 2nd Artisan Outpost event at the old library building in Johnsonville. We had overbooked the day and needed to get back home early to entertain grandchildren. So we were going to be spending a little more time in the car than on the ground, but in the short hour we were there – we saw what it was all about and learned something too.

When we got to Lake City I took a short cut and Linda remarked that I was getting to know that town very well – as I should, as I think of it as the new Gateway to the Pee Dee. I won’t trademark that so the tourism folks are free to use it, but I guess if you’re coming from a different direction other than Bonneau, SC, headquarters of PSMG, Inc., who produce Carolina Arts, it doesn’t make much sense. So, it’s just my gateway to the Pee Dee. Of course if I ever find something worth seeing in Kingstree, SC, that could change.

But here’s a hint to Lake City. If you ever want me to stop in Lake City, as I’m passing through, you’re going to have to open something up on the weekend.

Anyway, we arrived in Johnsonville in about an hour and 20 minutes – a little early, before the event was scheduled to open but I’ve found that no one seems to mind if the press shows up early. We were welcomed by Jackie Stasney, an artist who makes jewelry and is also the driving force behind the Artisan Outpost.

I took some photos which are presented here, but they are not the best they could be. I was under some duress as to what I could accomplish in an hour. Can I talk to folks – something that tends to get me sidetracked and forget to take photos. If I just took photos it would make the artists nervous – thinking I was another artist who had no original ideas of his own – snapping pics to steal all their ideas. In the end, I got a look at everything, talked with a few folks and then ran into Jane Madden – who we have a long history with in sharing ideas in promoting the artists of the Pee Dee. So the serious talking began, but before I knew it Linda was acting as my walk-up alarm – which had gone off twice – when she just said, “we have to go!” And, go we did, but I do have some observations to share with those who care to read them.

First, if the Artisan Outpost event is to continue, and I think it will – they have had great success with the first two events (considering this last one was competing with tax-free weekend in SC) the city of Johnsonville would do well to invest in a couple of banners to drape across a few of the town’s crossroads announcing that the Artisan Outpost takes place on the first Saturday of the month. This would let everyone who passes through the area know about the event. That’s a small investment to help develop some cultural tourism. A few more signs like the one shown here placed where people need to turn to find the old library would also help.

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Although there is a great mix of items offered, all handmade, that you would normally find at flea markets, farmer’s markets, craft fairs, and even in fine art galleries – a few more items would really round things out. I think a local potter who makes functional wares would be an excellent addition to the Artisan Outpost offerings. This month they had a sweetgrass basket maker, Jennifer Mazyck, from Mt. Pleasant, SC, which brings up the idea of inviting one special artisan from outside the Pee Dee every event to give locals a look at something they may not see locally – to keep them coming back. After awhile seeing the same items offered – event after event, may grow stale for the folks who live in Johnsonville or nearby. A monthly invited guest artisan would shake things up and keep them fresh, but they may have already thought of this.

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Now it should be noted that in this eclectic mix, there were a few things you might not see at any of the afore mentioned venues – anywhere. Jim Gleason’s musical creations – made from recycled parts of musical instruments can’t be found just anywhere. I get around a lot but I’ve never run across baskets made from recycled magazines which Joyce McDaniel makes. And, the big unexpected find of the hour for me was John Siderio, who was offering knives, arrowheads and arrows all made from chipped stones and other natural items – like animal gut.

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Siderio who moved to South Carolina from Linden, TN, used to travel the craft fair circuit for 20 years, has just joined the Artisan Outpost group, and I found his display to be the most interesting – this day. I’m not even sure what you would call him – a flint worker, stone chipper, or what, but other than the stones (which come from all over the world) all or most of his items he said came from his back yard. He makes his items the way Native Americans did hundreds and thousands of years ago. And, like those Native Americans he uses everything offered from nature and wastes no part of anything.

While we were talking with him, Siderio demonstrated how you would break a chip off a rock, use natural tools to make a saw that could cut a tree branch or a tool to skin an animal. He loves his craft, loves talking about it and loves showing folks who would take the time – how it was done. You can’t do this with just any stone, but the chips he got off of those stones were like razor blades.

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I know some re-enactor folks who would love to shop at Siderio’s display. He doesn’t have a website, so there is no online shopping so you’ll have to go to Johnsonville’s first Saturday Artisan Outpost to see his hand-crafted items. If the zombie takeover ever comes John Siderio will be a survivor for sure. If you see yourself as a survivor – you might want to check out Siderio’s knives and arrow heads.

Jackie Stasney, with the help of Johnsonville city leaders, have created a wonderful event for locals and tourists alike which I feel will only get better and better as word gets out. Jane Madden who has assisted them in promoting the event is also one of the artisans offering silk scarves.

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I’m sure I’ll be back for a longer stay, and it sure would be nice to have something to check out in Lake City at the same time, but that will come in time. Before you know it SC will have a new heritage trail around the Pee Dee for folks to explore.

The next Artisan Outpost will take place on Sept. 7, 2013, from 11am to 5pm. And, if you go – don’t forget to pay your respects to General Francis Marion over at Venter’s Landing in Johnsonville where Alex Palkovich’s statue rests. It was men like Marion and other men from the Johnsonville area who saved us from having to get all excited about a royal baby being born. Oh wait, that happens now anyway. Why – I’m not sure.

For more information, to volunteer, or to participate, persons may contact Jackie Stasney at 843/621-1751 or visit the Artisan Outpost Facebook page at (https://www.facebook.com/artisanoutpostjohnsonvillesc).

Second Artisan Outpost in Johnsonville, SC, Takes Place – Aug. 3, 2013

Monday, July 29th, 2013

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One of the newest entries onto the arts landscape in South Carolina is the Artisan Outpost established in Johnsonville, SC. The venture combines the charm of an old-fashioned market day with cultural and visual arts. Held in and around the old library at 151 East Marion Street, the Artisan Outpost is an example of cooperation between artists and their city’s officials who provide the building and assist with general operation. Headed up by local artist, Jackie Stasney, the Artisan Outpost had a very successful opening day in July and aims to repeat that once each month. Saturday, Aug. 3 from 11am to 5pm is the next event.

The Artisan Outpost complements economic development efforts to attract visitors to Johnsonville. The City made headlines recently when it installed a world-class bronze sculpture of Revolutionary War hero, General Francis Marion, by well-known sculptor, Alex Palkovich, at Venter’s Landing on the edge of Johnsonville on Highway 51. History buffs know this as the spot where Marion received his commission in the Williamsburg militia in 1780. Canoeists, on the other hand, have a beautiful location to launch an exploration of the river that is nearby.

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The Artisan Outpost has an expanded line-up for Aug. 3 with a combination of demonstrations and selling. To accommodate everyone, artists will be found inside and out. Demonstrations will include the very popular, Meck Hartfield, President and Librarian of the Philip Simmons Artist Blacksmith Guild, returning with his forge to show both the practicality and artistry possible in the hands of a master craftsman. John Siderio, from Conway and new to the Artisan Outpost, is a master flintknapper and will be outside demonstrating this ancient skill. Spurred on by a childhood interest in arrowheads, he has spent the last 20 years practicing flintknapping and other primitive technologies. For gun enthusiasts, this is the technique used to create flints for the old flintlock rifle. Jennifer Mazyck of Mt. Pleasant will also be on hand demonstrating the construction of the traditional South Carolina sweetgrass basket. Baskets will also be available for purchase. Inside, as time allows, Jane Madden will demonstrate Shibori techniques she uses to produce patterns on fiber.

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Participating artists and artisans encompass a wide spectrum of creative endeavors, as well as expected elements of a traditional market. Jim Gleason, retired Marine and accomplished musical instrument technician from Florence, takes his technical expertise to another realm by fashioning sculptures and lamps from the parts and pieces of brass and woodwind instruments no longer able to be repaired. His work has shown at exhibits and galleries around South Carolina.

Unlike a traditional art show, many of the participating artists show their works on items having practical utility. Paintings are done on pillow cases, clothing, and glass such as the work of local artists Pat Singletary and Mary Lynn Hope or on bird houses such as those done by Taylor Burkett. More traditional visual arts are represented by watercolorist, John Cribb, Leslie Belflower who uses regular canvas, as well as gourds as the basis for many of her pieces, and Fred Riales, painter, and 3-D artist who works in shells. Connie Hartley, from Johnsonsville, will be showing her work in ceramics. Jackie Stasney will be displaying her original gemstone jewelry pieces, Monica Moore from Myrtle Beach, will display jewelry in a vintage style, and Elizabeth Eaddy will show the upcycling trend with her bottlecap jewelry.
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Fiber artists include: Karen Martinez, Lake City, and Janice Green, quilters, Lavonia Olsen, crochet, Jane Madden, Florence, experiments in surface design on silk, Joyce McDaniel, the transformation of magazines into bowls, Stephanie Gore, wreaths, and Chrissy Smith who produces intricate beaded designs. Teri Kooper will also be there with her handmade cards.

Culinary arts are represented by: Dianne Moen, traditional canned goods, Debbie Hanna, baking, and Sherise Jackell, who specializes in homemade treats for canines.

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Woodworkers include: Ed Palumbo, working with reclaimed lumber, Alex Miles, wood and metal signs, Ron Stephan, plaques, and Tom Stasney, traditional Williamsburg apple tree forms.

Rounding out the line-up for the diverse market approach is Becky Ratz of Camden with her hand-molded soaps and plant specialists Sally Haynes and Barbara Matthews. Fresh produce will be available from Marvin Russ. A traditional South Carolina chicken bog will be available on-site for lunch.

The complete list of participating artists include: Jim Gleason, Mary Lynn Hope, Chrissy Smith, Jennifer Mazyck, Dianne Moen, John Siderio, Meck Hartfield, Fred Riales, Leslie Belflower, Jackie Stasney, Teri Kooper, Taylor Burkett, Pat Singletary, John Cribb, Connie Hartley, Monica  Moore, Elizabeth Eaddy, Karen Martinez, Janice Green, Lavonia Olsen, Joyce McDaniel, Stephanie Gore, Debbie Hanna, Sherise Jackell, Ed Palumbo, Alex Miles, Ron Stephan, Tom Stasney, Jane Madden, and Becky Ratz.

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If you go to Johnsonville don’t forget to visit General Francis Marion at Venter’s Landing and you could also visit the Art Trail Gallery in Florence, SC.

For more information, to volunteer, or to participate, persons may contact Jackie Stasney at 843/621-1751 or visit the Artisan Outpost Facebook page at (https://www.facebook.com/).

The Opening of the Jones-Carter Gallery – the Next Big Step in Making Lake City, SC, a Cultural Destination

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

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On Friday, June 21, 2013, (not June 26 as Jane Madden pointed out to me – we didn’t time travel) Linda and I made the 52 mile trip from Bonneau, SC, to Lake City, SC, to attend the opening of “agriART,” featuring works by Joshua Vaughan (photography), Mark Conrardy (paintings), and an installation based on tobacco by Vassiliki Falkehag, on view in the Community Museum Society’s new Jones-Carter Gallery, through Aug. 26, 2013.

I didn’t come to review the exhibit – I leave that up to viewers. I’m more interested in getting readers in the doors of exhibit spaces. This time I was smart and took photos early on before a lot of folks would be in the way of seeing the art displayed and didn’t start talking until later. I want you to go see this exhibit and this new art space in Lake City.

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It seems fitting that the Community Museum Society which covers art, agriculture, and history begin with an art show focused on agriculture. Joshua Vaughan offers photographs of rural farm communities in the Carolinas, while Mark Conrardy offers paintings of farm objects – mostly vintage tractors. Vassiliki Falkehag, who was an active member of the Charleston, SC, art community during the late 1980′s and early 1990′s offers a site specific installation focused on tobacco entitled, “Fields of Risk”.

Both Vaughan (from Greenville, NC) and Conrardy (from Columbia, SC) were participants in the first ArtFields event in Lake City, but Falkehag is like a blast from the past – Charleston’s past.

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When I first saw her name associated with this exhibit I wondered where she has been all these years. I did a Google search and there was very little there about her. She was part of a more creative time in Charleston when the City’s Office of Cultural Affairs was run by Diane Abby. It was a time when the visual arts in Charleston didn’t have to take a back seat to the performing arts – as it does now. Falkehag has been living, exhibiting and teaching in Sweden and now that she has retired is spending Summers back in Charleston. She visited ArtFields and made some connections with folks here and soon she was to be featured in an exhibit. That’s one of the other benefits of ArtFields besides large cash awards – being seen and making connections.

The new Jones-Carter Gallery is a wonderful space – big enough for showing lots of works by several artists at once – including installations. In talking with Ray McBride, Executive Director of the Community Museum Society and Hannah L. Davis, Curator of the Jones-Carter Gallery, we learned that they are working on bringing a major art exhibit to Lake City from the Smithsonian perhaps in the fall, but all the details are not worked out yet. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

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We also learned that the folks who produced ArtFields are getting ready for ArtFields 2014 and a few more big projects including a Children’s Museum and developing an artist’s colony – including apartments. The merchants of Lake City saw the impact ArtFields had on their businesses. I’m told some did a year’s worth of business during ArtFields, but they still haven’t adjusted to the fact that in order to develop a tourist market – they will have to open themselves up to more than a banker’s hours effort. The city will have to come alive on the weekends.

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Excuse the finger in the upper left corner. Once people start to fill the space it’s harder to take photos.

But, all good things take time. Opportunities are being missed in the aftermath of ArtFields, but those are lessons learned sometimes the hard way. I think they’re catching on fast in Lake City – at least I hope they are.

One example of that was a list of eating establishments in Lake City and the surrounding area provided by The Greater Lake City Chamber of Commerce found on the front counter at the gallery. And Linda and I had a meal in Lake City before we left town. So we want them to know these efforts are paying off.

Linda and I also had a chance to talk with the Mayor of Lake City, Lovith Anderson, Jr. and his wife, Willie Mae who were at the opening about ArtFields’ impact and future plans for the city. Karen Fowler, Executive Director of ArtFields was also there.

So, beside looking at art we also enjoyed a few hours of meaningful conversation about the art biz and making connections. But you can go just to see the exhibit and explore Lake City without the social networking or get on their mailing list for the next invite to the next opening.

One other special note worth mentioning. At the opening they were serving peach cobbler (from locally grown peaches) and ice cream. I didn’t know they were growing peaches in the Pee Dee, but then again there is so much most of us who live in South Carolina don’t know about the Pee Dee.

The Jones-Carter Gallery is located at 105 Henry Street in Lake City, next to The Bean Market, just a block off Main Street. It is open Mon.-Fri., 10am-6pm.

For further information about the Society or the Jones-Carter Gallery call 843/374-1500 or e-mail to (hdavis@cmslc.org). Dial them up on their newFacebook page and give them a “Like” to keep up with what’s happening there.

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Alex Palkovich is the one not in costume.

OK – Not to take the spotlight away from Lake City, but we also had a conversation with Alex Palkovich, the sculptor from Florence, SC, who was also in ArtFields and recently showcased in our coverage of the new Francis Marion statue in Johnsonville, SC – just 20 miles from Lake City. We talked about my recent trip to Florence’s growing art district, and he filled me in on a lot of exciting developments going on there. He claimed that since the 30 days that I visited I wouldn’t recognize the changes made, but what was more impressive was future plans he told us about that I can not mention here. Florence is putting the pedal to the metal on its arts district.

My Grande Tour of the Pee Dee Area of South Carolina – May 18, 2013

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Sorry for the delay – our June 2013 issue got in the way.

May 18, 2013, was one of those Saturdays where I could accomplish a number of things in one sweep of the Pee Dee area of SC. First up was a visit to downtown Lake City, SC, a month after the big ArtFields event to see what was going on as well as a visit to Moore Farms Botanical Garden, just outside of Lake City, which was having May Days – a tour of the Garden, a plant sale and a BBQ lunch.

Next was a trip to Venters Landing, just outside of Johnsonville, SC, about 20 miles east of Lake City where the town was celebrating its 100th anniversary with a dedication of a statue by Alex Palkovich (Florence, SC) of General Francis Marion – the Swamp Fox.

My final stop was the new location of the Art Trail Gallery in Florence, SC, to see how that area – a new developing arts district in SC, was coming along. I hadn’t been there in some time.

Lake City A Month Later

If the goal of millionaire philanthropist Darla Moore is to remake Lake City into a destination for art lovers or whatever – she still has a lot of work ahead of her to get the town on board. I drove down Main Street twice, once at 9:30am and again at 4pm. And, as Dickens might say – this city was as dead as Jacob Marley. Both times, there were many more empty parking spaces than those with cars in them. Hardly anyone was walking the streets that just a month ago were filled with visitors. It looked like some event was going to happen at The Bean Market and on The Green, but later by 4pm – no one was in sight.

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Lake City is still working on banker’s hours – Mon.-Fri. which isn’t going to work if they want people to come there when most have time to go visiting – on the weekend. This is a chicken comes first before the egg moment. Lake City merchants will have to open their doors on the weekend giving tourists a reason to come. Only the retired have time to travel mid-week.

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I expected that this would be the case. The transformation of Lake City won’t happen overnight, but I hate to see them not take advantage of the buzz the ArtFields event generated. Of course that buzz had a bit of buzz-kill attached to it with the unfortunate news that they had to suspend the original People’s Choice winner and taking an agonizing week to name the new winner. But my trip wasn’t wasted. I learned from a flyer on the door of the Jones-Carter building that on June 21, 2013, the new Jones-Carter Gallery will present agriART, featuring an exhibit of works by Joshua Vaughan, Mark Conrardy, (both participated in ArtFields) and an installation by Vassiliki Falkehag, which will be on view through Aug. 26, 2013. I hope there will be Saturday hours and maybe even some on Sunday in the future, but for now it’s a Mon.-Fri. facility.

It’s been some time since I’ve seen or heard of anything from Vassiliki Falkehag who did an installation with tobacco seeds and plants – many years ago.

Moore Farms Botanical Garden

I’m an adventurous traveler, and I’ve done a lot of it in the past 30 years. Sometimes I’m very prepared and sometimes I just wing it. I wish I had prepared to find Moore Farms Botanical Garden. This was not one of my better efforts at finding someplace that I had never been to before. And, I’ll admit that most of my problems were my own fault. Firstly I did not check the location on Google Maps before I left home and secondly not knowing how to use my iPhone better, and being a man – not wanting to ask for directions.

In my defense I wasn’t getting much help from Lake City, which I would described as sign-challenged. One of the complaints I heard from many people attending ArtFields was how hard it was to find locations. And although Moore Farms Botanical Garden is a few miles outside of Lake City, I would expect that there would be signs helping visitors locate it, but I learned about that later. Not much was open in Lake City, but I eventually went to the Lake City Post Office and got the directions I needed.

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Grass and steel sculpture by Herb Parker

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Moore Farms Botanical Garden was the location of one of the invited installations presented during ArtFields so I assumed that it would be one of the attractions drawing folks to Lake City, but I’m not sure. When I got there one of the first things I asked was what their normal hours were and the person responded they are only open four times a year for special occasions like ArtFields and May Days, which was today. That’s too bad, as it would definitely be a draw to Lake City, but I later heard one of the staff tell someone that if they got together ten folks for a tour – they would open for them. This was a little hard to understand. If they will open for a group of ten, why not stay open, promote the place and perhaps see hundreds of folks during a weekend?

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Tourism is a bitch – be careful what you wish for, but if you want it you have to cater to it.

Moore Farms Botanical Garden is a great place, but the main problem might be that it is also one of Darla Moore’s homes. Not many people want to live inside an attraction. But you can learn more about what they offer to the public and how to book a tour for 10 on their website (http://www.moorefarmsbg.org/). I’ll let some photos do the rest of my talking.

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A side view of The Greenhouse – not where they grow plants, but a green building

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This is on the roof of The Green House

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Honoring the Swamp Fox in Johnsonville, SC

I did do my homework on Johnsonville, as I had never been there before and didn’t want to end up in Myrtle Beach, SC, before I realized I missed it or end up in the middle of some swamp – like the British.

I first learned about this statue of Francis Marion back in Jan. 2011, during one of my visits to the Art Trail Gallery in Florence, SC, in a conversation with Alex Palkovich, the sculptor who shared space with the gallery and still does today in their new location. He told me a story about a small town in SC doing a big thing by honoring General Francis Marion with a statue at the site where he received his commission to lead the Williamsburgh Militia during the Revolutionary War at what was then called Witherspoon’s Ferry on the Lynches River.

You can read my first post about this project at this link.

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But today (May 18, 2013) was the long awaited dedication day. It was the main reason I was on this tour. You see, I really like Francis Marion, he’s a true American hero of the Revolutionary War – a war South Carolina should pay more attention to than one that didn’t turn out so well.

That’s Yankee talk to most here in the South, but as I’ve stated before, my ancestors didn’t have a stake in that war – they were too busy running from their English or Prussian overlords.

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Revolutionary War encampment

Besides, I had received an official invite to attend this event by Johnsonville Mayor Steve Dukes, who had come across my blog post about Palkovich and the Francis Marion statue. He was looking for someone outside of the Pee Dee to come to the event without much luck. You see, the media and most folks in the bigger cities in SC don’t care about much that isn’t going on it their cities. I was already planning on going so I was an easy invite.

May 18, 2013 was also the 100th anniversary of Johnsonville, so like many other small towns it was going to be a big event – to scale. Plus many of the folks who still live in the area are kin to the men who followed Marion through the swamps of the region giving the British nightmares.

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A project like this had a lot of help from a lot of groups and organizations so there were a lot of folks to thank and politicians on hand to give speeches on a hot day. Unfortunately or fortunately, part of the festivities included free helicopter rides which kept flying over the area about every 5 minutes and a train went by – just 100 yards away – so we didn’t have to hear much of what was being said by the politicians. Most people there, like me, wanted to see the Swamp Fox.

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Alex Palkovich with some of the re-enactors

The New Art Trail Gallery

From Johnsonville I headed to Florence, SC, on Hwy. 51 through another area I’ve never been to – going through Pamplico, SC. I’ve seen that name on highway signs many a time, but never had a reason to go there. It looked like a nice small southern town.

Florence is a town I’ve been to a lot. It’s just two hours away and I’ve passed through it or near it many a time going into North Carolina to deliver papers. Over the last two or three years I’ve been traveling to the Art Trail Gallery to see shows by regional artists. During the last year they moved to a new location which I had not been to, but that would end on this day. Unfortunately, they were getting ready to display a new exhibit,Photolicious, which is on view now through June 15, 2013. Many of the works were stacked up on the floor, so I did get to see most of what would be that exhibit. There are a lot of talented photographers in the Pee Dee.

This new space on West Evans Street is smaller than their first location on Dargan Street, but it’s still in an area which will be the growing arts district in Florence. Francis Marion University has a performing arts center in the area, a new Florence Museum is being built, and many buildings in the area are being redone, but walking on West Evans I smelled East Bay Street in Charleston, SC. It had that same old musty smell that East Bay had 35-40 years ago. Now it’s one of the hottest spots in Charleston. But, it’s going to take awhile before that smell disappears on West Evans. Some might say it’s the smell of revitalization.

But you could see work going on all over the area. A new  small park was there and people were working on another small landscaped area – dressing up the area. I took a few pictures.

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Some people ask me, “What’s with all this attention you’ve been giving the Pee Dee?” I’m sure the folks in the Pee Dee see it another way – more like what took someone so long to notice us, but in SC, traditionally there are only three cities – Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville/Spartanburg (which are two distinctly different cities). Not much else matters to most others who live in SC. But there’s a lot more to SC than meets most people’s eyes and ears.

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Soon to be the new Florence Museum

To me, the Pee Dee is the next growth area for the arts in South Carolina. It’s got a long way to go, but a lot of good folks are working hard to make it a place – you should go see. They’re hungry for respect and the recognition they haven’t been given for generations. And, it’s kind of in my backyard. Over the last 26 years I’ve seen lots of the other three areas of the State – my eye is looking for new areas to discover and promote.

So, keep an eye on Carolina Arts and we’ll let you know how things are going in the Pee Dee, and with luck it won’t be as hard as the British looking for the old Swamp Fox.