Archive for April, 2009

“Artista Vista 2009″ in Columbia, SC, Time Well Spent

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Even though the event takes place on a Thursday night, all the planets seemed to be in alignment – so Linda and I made a run for it. Columbia is a two hour drive from our front door and Artista Vista starts at 5pm. Linda had to start a three day work weekend of 12 hr. shifts on Friday and I was picking up our May 2009 issue from the printer on Friday, which takes two trips to North Charleston, but we wanted to do Artista Vista – this would be Linda’s first time. I had been to two previous Artista Vistas, two Vista Lights and one Congaree Arts Festival over the last 14 years. It would be a quick visit considering the two hour drive back home and the fact that Linda would be back in the car headed for work shortly after 6am the next morning. So we left early to get there early.

Our first stop was One Eared Cow Glass where they were getting things ready for the 5pm opening. We figured this would be a good opportunity to see the work without fighting the crowd and see what was being offered before anyone else. As usual, there were plenty of new items on the shelves. They are always up to something new. We got a good look and would come back when the show was going on – the magic of seeing molten glass being turned into art objects.

After that we headed to Lincoln Street to find a parking space – again before the crowd. We stuck our heads in the door at Blue Marlin which didn’t start serving until 5pm, but the bartender served us up a drink so we could sit outside and wait for the event to begin. It was nice sitting outside watching all the parking spaces fill up and people scrambling around – getting ready for the crowd.

You see, unlike art communities that have art walks every month or even quarterly, the Vista only does it twice a year and Artista Vista is the only totally art event. Vista Lights includes all businesses in the Vista. So, this is a pretty big event for Columbia and the surrounding area. We wouldn’t be able to see it all given our limited timeframe and knowledge of what was ahead of us (physically) for the next week, so we planned to do the best we could in a small area of the Vista.

At 5pm we walked over to City Art Gallery where they were presenting,Perceptual Painters: The Collective, on view through June 27, 2009. This exhibit featured the works of a group of painters who all had a connection with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. And, you could see it in the works. There is something about the painters who go through that school. I’ve seen it in other painters’ works who went to school there – like Linda Fantuzzo in Charleston, SC. City Art always seems to bring in something different for Artista Vista – whether it be emerging artists from universities around the region or a seasoned group like this one. The artists being featured were: Dave Campbell, Matt Klos, John Lee, Aaron Lubrick, Scott Noel, Brian Rego, and Andrew Patterson-Tutschka.

While at City Art we ran into Mary Gilkerson, who at one time used to write reviews for Carolina Arts ( – way back when. She’s also written for The New Art Examiner, The State, and is currently writing for FreeTimes in Columbia. But the big news here was – she has started a blog which will give her much more opportunity to write about the art scene and other things in South Carolina called SCARTblog ( Her first contribution is about an exhibit of works by Carl Blair, Flora and Fauna, on view at ifART Gallery in Columbia through May 9, 2009. Add Mary’s blog to your bookmark list.

It’s great that more people are starting blogs about the arts in the Carolinas – they need all the coverage they can get considering the cuts being made at daily newspapers. And, don’t forget about Jeffrey Day’s new blog, Carolina Culture ( Jean Bourque ( also gives out a lot of info about what’s going on at her blog.

Next we went over to ifArts. I was hoping to see Carl Blair there, but he wasn’t there. I wanted to let him know the reason we didn’t have anything in our April issue about his show was because no one sent us the info in time for our deadline. I’ve seen a lot of his paintings and sculptures in other galleries throughout the Carolinas before – this was the first showing of his animal sculptures in Columbia – so you readers in the Columbia area need to go by and see the show if you already haven’t before May 9. No excuses.

We then headed to Vista Studios to see View from the Studios, on view through May 12, 2009. Gallery 80808 was filled with art as was every inch of the place – including the studios of Susan Lenz, Stephen Chesley, Don Zurlo, Robert Kennedy, Laura Spong, Pat Gilmartin, Sharon Collings Licata, Pat Callahan, Ethel Brody, David Yaghjian, Michel McNinch, and Jeff Donovan. As usual, the studio door of Heidi Darr Hope was closed. I wonder why she is part of this facility. I don’t think she participates in many of their events. No problem – there’s plenty of art to feast your eyes on.

While there, I got to catch up with some artists I used to chat with on a monthly basis when I was delivering papers to Columbia during the day – Laura Spong and Ethel Brody – who always seemed to be working in their studios. I was hoping to talk with Susan Lenz ( – the Queen of blogging, but she was always tied up with someone and I hate to get in the way when customers might be buying art. In fact, this place was full of folks.


OK, here’s something that I probably shouldn’t do, but you know me – what the heck. My favorite work of the evening was Pat Gilmartin’sBlooming Arms. You can see it here. I liked lots of other works I saw this evening, but this was my favorite – don’t shoot me.


This is a testament of my taste in art. As we left Vista Studios I was thinking to myself – I didn’t even look to see how much that piece cost. I need more art like a hole in my head, but you can’t help but think of things you would love to have. And, after our trip to SEE pottery in Seagrove, NC, the week before – I was on a tight leash. Imagine that,Carolina Arts Unleashed on a tight leash. Believe it.

Anyway, I at least got a photo of the work to share with you all from Gilmartin. She let me know that the work had sold later that evening. At least I have the photo to remind me that recessions are hell, and the knowledge that someone else out there has good taste in art.

We got back to One Eared Cow Glass to see them at work. Someone was leaving as we arrived so we got a parking space. They were in the groove and we watched two works from beginning to – I’d say end, but that’s not possible. We got to see two works they finished working on, but because it will take them 15-16 hours to cool down in a slow cooler – we might never see what the finished piece looks like. The final colors wouldn’t show until they totally cooled. And, by that time – they will be sold. But, we can all imagine what they would look like to us. Hey, that’s multi-media art.

Our witching hour came at 8pm and we headed back to Bonneau – ETA 2 hours. We were tired, but it was worth it. We had a good time. You just can’t do and see everything.

Charleston County Public Library One of Top US Libraries

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

I love libraries. They have been a useful resource for so many things in my life and work. I don’t know what I’d do without them. The library provides books on CD for my long delivery travels, research info when working on my commentaries and instructional help from technical books – covering all sorts of subjects. Throw in the collections of music, DVD’s, national magazines & newspapers and monthly art exhibits – what more could you ask for – except more funding for the libraries. The library even has free parking too.

Although I’m a card carrier for both Berkeley and Charleston County most of the time I tend to bypass the libraries in Berkeley County to visit Charleston County libraries – they just have more and better selections. My favorite is the Main Branch library in downtown Charleston. It was nice to learn that this library system had just been recognized for its excellence.

Library Journal, the oldest and most respected publication in the field, named the Charleston County Public Library (CCPL) a “star” library, putting it in the top 3 percent of library systems (7,115 libraries included) throughout the country. This first-ever service comparison clusters libraries with similar operating budgets, then rates the libraries in four main categories: number of visitors, circulation, program attendance and public Internet computer use.

“We’re a community resource, not a vault with books that are kept under lock and key. From computer training and entertainment events to homework help and finding the most recent book or DVD, libraries provide residents with essential services and information,” said Cynthia Bledsoe, Acting Director. “Library Journal’s star rating is a reflection of how Charleston County residents have embraced the library and understand its importance as a vital cornerstone in the community. We’re proud of our rating and of the support from our community.”

A 2007 study by the SC State Library found that CCPL was the busiest public library system in South Carolina, ranking first in circulation, patron visits, programs offered, program attendance, reference transactions, public Internet computers and number of branches. The same study showed that Charleston County’s available operating revenues ranked third, behind the library systems in both Richland and Greenville counties.

I like my local library, but I enjoy other libraries too. I’ve spent a lot of time in the SC State Library in Columbia, SC, as well as the Richland County Public Library in downtown Columbia. In fact, the Richland County Public Library was named 2001 Library of the Year – best in the country byLibrary Journal. So we have some pretty good libraries in SC.

I used to like the Greenville library too, but some years back they said we couldn’t leave our paper, Carolina Arts, there anymore. The problem wasn’t us, it was some other publications they had problems with and the only solution they could come up with was to ban all alternative newspapers. I’ve had no problem like that with any other library – except in Asheville, NC. They really didn’t have any good reason for keeping us from their readers. But, that’s Asheville for you – always different. Sometimes not in a good way.

And, the good news, bad news is, with the downturn in the economy – people are using libraries now more than ever, but funding is probably being cut like all government services. We should let our leaders know that we understand the need for cutting back, but we don’t want to see the libraries’ budgets cut – they should be increased due to the increases in use. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Update on NEA Stimulus Monday for the Arts

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

We’re finding out some things about the $50 million the National Endowment for the Arts got for economic stimulus recovery for the arts. Well, the non-profit part of the arts that is. Everyone else involved in the arts will be left out in the cold. And, it’s pretty cold out there in this economy.

The trickle down effect is taking its toll on the $50 million figure. First off, $30 million was set aside for previous NEA grant recipients who received funding within the past four years. That’s 64 groups in NC and maybe a dozen in SC. The remaining $20 million was split (almost in a King Solomon manner) between 63 – state arts agencies including the District of Columbia, regional arts organizations like the Southern Arts Federation and US territories like Virgin Islands, Guan and American Samoa. The pie is bigger than most would think.

As the money trickles down from there, here is what our states received and those of states near us.

North Carolina Arts Council ($339,100), South Carolina Arts Commission ($311,500), Georgia Council for the Arts ($342,000) and Tennessee Arts Commission ($321,800).

The big states didn’t do that much better.

California Arts Council ($502,400), Texas Commission on the Arts ($427,300), and New York State Council on the Arts ($399,900).

Imagine trying to split up $400,000 in recovery money for the arts groups in New York city alone, much less the state of New York.

And, what about the smaller states?

Alaska State Council on the Arts received ($290,000).

This hardly seems fair or makes good sense. Alaska gets just $100,000 shy of what was given to New York state. I’m not sure even King Solomon would see the justice in that.

And what about those “other” groups most wouldn’t think of off the top of their heads?

The Southern Arts Federation based in Atlanta, GA, will distribute $510,500 within the nine state arts agencies they represent. They say they will contribute $51,000 to each of the nine states to distribute within the states – saving a bit of the money for themselves ($51,500). A 10% finders fee – they have to eat too.

The District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities received ($290,000), Virgin Islands Council on the Arts received ($50,000), and the Northern Marianas Commonwealth Council for Arts & Culture, Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities, and American Samoa Council on Arts, Culture & Humanities each received ($25,000).

Now, when you start to think about the hundreds and hundreds of organizations in each of these states, regions or territories – that trickle stream is going to start to look like a drip, drip, drip. That $50 million figure almost seems laughable as economic recovery.

Out of the $311,500 the SC Arts Commision is receiving from the NEA, they will keep about $50,000 (16%), but that money will be made up by the SAF money – so it’s a wash. The Arts Commission also has to eat.

How many jobs will this really protect? That’s what it’s all about, right – saving jobs in the arts?

Here’s what the NEA says this is all about.

“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides $50 million to be distributed in direct grants to fund arts projects and activities which preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn. Forty percent of such funds will be distributed to State arts agencies and regional arts organizations and 60 percent of the funds will be competitively awarded to nonprofit organizations that meet the eligibility criteria established for this program.”

The NEA’s $50 million was to go towards saving jobs that were being lost in the arts community.

The SAF says: “Southern Arts Federation’s distribution of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds will be through partnering with our region’s nine state arts agencies to re-grant funds to arts organizations in our states for arts jobs preservation.”

But, here is what I found on the NC Arts Council’s website which sheds a different light on what this money can be used for or what it will be used for.

Letter from E-News from NC Arts Council Mar./Apr. 2009

From Executive Director Mary B. Regan

Updated March 9, 2009

“Last week the NEA released the guidelines for the $50 million in stimulus funds they received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The one-time grants will help preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector that are threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the economic downturn.

Thirty million of this will be awarded through direct grants to organizations that have been NEA grant recipients within the past four years.

About 45 North Carolina organizations (those that have received NEA grants within the last 4 years) are eligible to apply directly to the NEA for grants of $25,000 or $50,000. Groups can apply for salary support for critical jobs that are in jeopardy or have been eliminated as a result of the current economic climate and for fees for previously engaged artists or contractual personnel to maintain or expand their engagements. The application deadline is April 2, 2009. We strongly encourage all eligible groups to apply directly to the NEA for these funds.

The remaining $20 million of the NEA funds will be distributed to state and regional arts agencies. The N.C. Arts Council will distribute our state’s share of these funds. Nancy Trovillion is developing these guidelines and will send them out within the next six weeks. We anticipate that the deadline will be in June and we will work on a quick turnaround review process so that announcements can be made in July or early August.

The NEA is requiring that our guidelines be similar to their direct grant guidelines. Organizations that receive one of the stimulus grants directly from the NEA will not be able to receive a grant from our share of the NEA stimulus funds.

Additionally, we have studied the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Economic Stimulus Package) to find opportunities for the arts to be a part of rebuilding our economy. There are Economic Stimulus Arts Funding Opportunities outlined on our Web site with examples of how federal programs can fund the arts.

To be very clear about the language in the Stimulus Bill, there is no restriction on using the money for the arts. The Senate version did contain language prohibiting the money from going to museums, theatres, and arts centers, but this language was dropped in the final compromise bill. If you encounter any confusion on this issue, please let us know.

Hang in there. Let us know if there’s any way we can help.”

Mary B. Regan, Executive Director
North Carolina Arts Council

As the executive director of the NC Arts Council points out to the people who will be applying for this money in her last paragraph – “there is no restriction on using the money for the arts.” She underlined the words no restriction – giving these groups the green light for – whatever.

Even though every statement keeps stressing that this recovery money is for saving jobs in the arts – wink, wink – it’s really for anything and anybody we want to interpret it to be for.

And, people in government wonder why people (taxpayers) don’t trust them.

Finally, just before posting we received info from the NC Arts Council with a link to their guidelines to apply for this funding of $339,100 – minus whatever amount they are keeping in house – all Mama’s children got to eat. The guidelines are titled, Creative Workforce Grants, and they use the words job and salary a lot, but it also keeps mentioning the word “project” – maybe that’s the wink, wink part. Here’s a link to the guidelines.

This fuzzy interpretation of guidelines is something I have found to be the norm in the world of the non-profit arts. They put out statements as to what qualifications are for a program or a grant – to discourage many from applying, knowing that the savvy will call to find out from their friends at the agency – how soft those requirements are. And, when the final results are announced – many that didn’t apply, as they thought they couldn’t, find they maybe could have – since someone like them did and got it. Even though the two are equally qualified or disqualified. It’s all about inside info and playing the system.

Like the little understood fact that when it comes to federal money – all can apply. No one can be turned down from applying for something even if they don’t qualify. Then, only those who apply can be considered, whether they are qualified or not. And, things do seem to slip through the cracks at times. The trick is to get you not to apply.

Let’s hope some change will come to this system someday. Perhaps it’s time for Mary B. Regan to retire too – wink, wink.

With the full disclosure promised with these recovery funds, we hope to keep you posted as to where the money goes and what it is used for – saving jobs – I’m sure. We’ll see.

Maybe it’s time for the Art Police.

A Glorious Spring Day in Seagrove, NC

Monday, April 20th, 2009

It was April 18, 2009, and by 6am, Linda and I were in the car headed for Seagrove, NC, for the first day of the Celebration of Spring in Seagrovewhere over 40 potteries in the area would be greeting visitors who would be coming to see new works – many fresh from the potter’s kilns. Estimated arrival time was 10am where we would meet up with our friend and part time technical advisor, Will Ravenel, at the parking lot of the NC Pottery Center in Seagrove.

I felt it was only fair to get Will to join us from Greensboro, NC, since some folks think people in Greensboro would have a hard time finding their way to Seagrove to find great pottery. And, as I expected, he had no trouble and actually beat us there – just before 10am.

I’m having a little fun with the folks who thought they had to take Seagrove pottery to Greensboro for some reason. As I’ve said before, if you want to see Seagrove pottery – go to Seagrove.

At 6am, getting into the car it was cool and it stayed cool until the sun was up long enough to do its thing. By the time we arrived at the Pottery Center’s parking lot – we could tell it was going to be a wonderful spring day. And, it was.

Our first stop was at Johnston & Gentithes Art Pottery. I knew we were in trouble right away. They had complimentary hand-crafted oatmeal cookies and outstanding pottery. I fell in love with Fred Johnston’s pots right off and we loved Carol Gentithes’ animal sculptures – especially the dog eating the tax return. “I’m sorry Uncle Sam – my dog ate my return.” The problem was – this was our first stop and I was already hot to buy.

We hadn’t really intended to buy on this trip. I just wanted to meet some of the blogging potters who I’ve been following since last year when I first learned that the NC Pottery Center was in financial trouble. A movement had formed to save the Center and bloggers had a big part in helping. The Center was saved and I’ve been learning a lot about potters and their processes – things I would have never known without those blogs. And, part of this event was another fundraiser for the Center. Many of these same Seagrove potters and others from around NC and the region had donated works for silent and live auctions taking place this same day entitled, Many Faces for the Center, held at the Pottery Center – our final destination for the day.

So here we were at our first stop and itching to spend money we really didn’t have to spend. We knew we were going to buy something this day – we always do. We love pottery. But we displayed strong self-control. And, besides – these potteries would not be going anywhere. Well, that was the plan anyway.

Next stop, Whynot Pottery, to meet Mark and Meredith Heywood. Meredith and I had become e-mail buddies during the Save the Pottery Center campaign. We arrived and walked into the gallery and Will sees a vase against the wall and the next thing we know he’s buying it. And, Linda discovers jewelry. All bets are off and the shopping begins. But we’re being conservative and selecting pieces with low price tags, but good pieces. It’s soon like the British on a visit to Willy Wonka’s. Well, not really, but it was amazing to see how self-control was soon out the window.

While there, Meredith gave us a tour of the studio which had burned last year. I’ve been watching the progress of the studio’s recovery through her blog. They have a great location there and we all agreed that if we lived there we wouldn’t get any work done at all.

We next found ourselves at Ben Owen Pottery where we got a look at Ben Owen III’s exceptional works. My eyes quickly scanned the gallery to see a red pot, but no glowing red pots. But they did have examples in the Museum part of the shop. The red is spectacular, but so is a lot of his work and before we left I was holding a small blue piece with small hints of red in it. Come Monday morning I might have to see if I could get some of our neighbors to pay me to rake leaves or cut grass. This was not how the day was supposed to go. Look, touch, enjoy, but don’t…

How stupid was it to make our next stop Jugtown Pottery? The pottery compound was an amazing sight as was the pottery inside and before you knew it we had acquired pieces, one by Vernon Owens and one by Pan Owens. Our heads were spinning, so we headed to the Westmoore Family Restaurant for lunch. It had been a long time since that Egg McMuffin in Manning, SC, at 7am. And I think my usually good self-control was being affected by my lack of food.

After lunch we drove to From The Ground Up Pottery to see Michael Mahan’s work, another blogger. We wanted to see the “soul pots” to get some of those good vibes of positive energies of love and kindness. It might be good for building up our self-control. As we drive up Linda and I see wind chimes – at least a kind of upside down clay bowl with a wooden ringer, both hung from ropes. They made a really nice sound.

The problem here was – I got talking with Michael Mahan and didn’t really get to look around too much and before I knew it – Linda and Will were giving me that look of – miles to go and time is running out. But I’m sure I only dodged the buying bullet – for now. After all – I’m in Seagrove once a month – very early, but nothing says I can’t wait around until potteries open.

Next stop, Dean and Martin Pottery. I know – some name right? Now, you have to think that with so many potteries in Seagrove that you are going to walk in one and not see anything that speaks to you, but it wasn’t happening at this pottery. Both Jeffrey Dean and Stephanie Martin had works that were speaking to both Linda and I. You know what happened – need I say more?

We did find one or two of those potteries where we did the quick walk through and out the door. I won’t mention them, as I’ve learned in my years in covering the arts – all art appeals to someone – all art does not have to appeal to me. I make no judgements. So in order to prevent someone from trying to figure out where we were, I’m skipping several stops and jumping to our final pottery stop. You have to watch every word you say – some people try to make the most out of nothing sometimes.

Samantha Henneke is another one of the Seagrove blogging potters. Her blog is on my daily check list. She and Bruce Gholson own Bulldog Pottery. As soon as we all enter their showroom – bingo we are going nuts again. Our eyes are just bouncing from one pot to the next and wall pieces that looked like batik. I point to a spot on one wall and tell Will – “I really like that one”. He doesn’t even see what I’m pointing at – I can’t get his full attention. Finally I break through and he sees I’m pointing to an issue of Carolina Arts on the wall.

Turns out both artists have been followers of the paper for some time – way back to 1997 when we first went into North Carolina. They used to pick it up at the Green Hill Center for NC Art in Greensboro. We don’t go to Greensboro anymore, which is too bad, but we never could find any regular support for the paper there and that kind of matches up with things – I mean if the people there can’t figure out that you go to Seagrove for Seagrove pottery – how could they ever figure out that in order to keep us in Greensboro – they would have to support us.

Anyway – we all got some very nice pottery at Bulldog Pottery, and when we went to put the bags in our car’s trunk – the trunk was full of bags. What had happened to our plan – where was the self-control?

Next stop – back to the NC Pottery Center for the auctions. It was 3pm and Linda and I were beginning to feel our day. As we walked in we were just in time for the end of the first silent auction – but nothing was silent here. The place was abuzz with chatter and excitement. Some folks were just about to become the winning bidders of donated pottery and round two was about to begin. We moved through the crowd as best we could to see what was being offered. The theme was, Many Faces for the Center, and it was interesting to see how the various artists had taken on that theme.

Will asked if I was going to be bidding. I reminded him of the trunk of the car and gave him one of those looks – like – haven’t I gotten in enough trouble already? Besides I’m more the kind of guy who likes the “Buy Now” option on eBay. I’ve learned what can sometimes happen in the heat of an auction – even silent auctions. I like the satisfaction of walking up to something and saying – you are mine now. During an auction if I like something and someone else outbids my wallet, which isn’t hard to do – I’ll just feel bad.

Wait a minute, I have to adjust that statement – it sounds a little too manly. What I should have said is – I like to fall for something and then ask Linda – may I have it?

Before long, the crowd is beginning to wear on us and we decide since we are not making bids – perhaps our day has come to an end. We say our good-byes, after we sort out the purchases in our car’s trunk and part to return home in different directions. Will pointed out that since Greensboro is less than an hour away (Did you hear that folks in Greensboro – you’re less than an hour away from Seagrove.) that he will have finished a nap before we get home. Thanks again for that thought, Will.

By 8pm we had arrived home – just another 14 hour adventure in the Carolina Arts history books. Although it was a long day – we had a great time.

Then began the unwrapping of the purchases made earlier that day – the rediscovery of what we had fallen for. In the bag from Bulldog Pottery we found a notice for a show, Cousins in Clay, scheduled for June 6 & 7, 2009, at Bulldog which would be featuring works by Bruce Gholson, Samantha Henneke, and Michael Kline – another blogging potter from Bakersville, NC, whom I’ve also been following through his blog. Here’s a case where Bakersville comes to Seagrove. You can find many of these blogs I mentioned in our links on the side of this page.

Some Points To Remember

First off, going to Seagrove is like going to an art walk in downtown Charleston, SC. There is no way you are going to see it all in one visit. Both places are steeped in history and tradition, but you will always discover something new every time you visit. So for those potteries who might feel left out – no worries mates – we’ll be back. Linda and I have been collecting pottery for almost 30 years – we’re not finished yet.

Secondly, on this day our purchases ranged from $5 to a high of $45. My want list ran as high as $450 and up, but they will have to wait for better days. So even in tough economic times – you can go and fill your eyes with wonder and not drain the family coffers – that is if you have better self-control than some. Will is coming our way in a few weeks and he was already planning a return trip to Seagrove with Mother’s Day in mind. There are going to be some lucky mothers on that day.

Thirdly, for the AARP generation, which you enter at age 50 even if you’re not a member – a visit to Seagrove’s potteries was easy to take. You can drive right up to most of the pottery shops, we took advantage of three – count them, three good rest rooms – one at the Pottery Center, several at the Westmoore Family Restaurant, and there is a rest area on Hwy. 705 – the pottery highway. That’s important. Also stop at the Pottery Center first – they have good maps on how to find the potteries.

Fourthly, even if all you do is look, Seagrove’s rolling hills and country roads are a wonderful backdrop to the potteries, which are interesting in themselves. And although Seagrove when looked at on a map seems like it’s in the middle of nowhere, it is centrally located near many of North Carolina’s populated areas – even Greensboro, and not that far from many places in South Carolina. If Linda hadn’t been on call for her 911 job on Sunday, we probably would have stayed with Will in Greensboro and gone back to more potteries on Sunday. They also have hotels in the area for those without friends in the area.

And my fifth point is, we have been involved with the Seagrove area and its potters since last July, but we know there are great potters located all over the Carolinas. In fact, our last pottery purchase was made almost a year and a half ago up in Asheville, NC, during one of the Southern Highland Craft Guild’s Fairs. We purchased a piece of pottery from Courtney Erin Martin from Bakersville, NC. Before that we purchased works at one of the annual Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Crafts Fair in Charleston, SC – probably from a Carolina potter. Our collection is focused on works by Carolina artists. And, before that we’ve gotten works at Southern Pottery Workcenter & Gallery in Columbia, SC. Peter Lenzo does some outstanding work and also carries great works from other Carolina potters. In other words – we get around and we shop around.

But, if it seems like we have been focused on Seagrove – we have. They need the attention. They deserve the attention – at least the good kind. And, I hope you (the readers) are giving it to them through this blog.

The next big event in Seagrove will be the 2nd annual Celebration of Seagrove Potters, taking place on Nov. 20-22, 2009. Actually two pottery festivals will be taking place that weekend in Seagrove. I recommend you go see both, but you don’t have to wait for a big event to go visit potteries in Seagrove. In fact, I bet they would like it if you just went there any old time. Buy all the pottery you want – they’ll make more.

Arts Whining – Not a Good Image for the Arts Community

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

While scanning the Internet for news about what’s going on in the Carolina visual art community I came across an interesting feature in Free Times a Columbia, SC, based publication (Issue #22.14 :: 04/08/2009 – 04/14/2009) entitled, Cutting the Arts – Midlands Groups Struggle Amid Declining Support, by Ron Aiken. As I read through the piece I had to cringe – it’s just the kind of publicity the art community doesn’t need – someone in the arts whining about the lack of public and private funding. You can find the full article here.

Wim Roefs, board chairman of the 701 Center for the Contemporary Arts (a non-profit) and owner of if ART Gallery (a for-profit) provided the bulk of the whining. For the purpose of keeping things straight I’ll be putting Roefs words in bold type – everything else will be me.

When asked how the local situation regarding corporate giving has effected the people assembled for this article Roefs offered the following:

Our situation (at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art) is a little different in the sense that we don’t have anything to compare ourselves to since we’re in our first year.

But when a bunch of us started this project in 2007 it was a much better climate. We couldn’t even think about what it would be like when we opened in 2008 — in the meantime it’s just all bottomed out. So when we were starting, we were really waiting for a few big — well, big for us — chunks of money. Our budget the first year is $187,000, so we were waiting for these few big ones and then making a big leap of faith.

The fact is this center may have been in the planning in 2007, but they didn’t open the doors until Oct. 2008 – well after the bottom dropped out of the economy. They had plenty of time to put a hold on this effort, but decided to ignore the climate because all the right people were behind their efforts and money was flowing to the group that had done nothing yet.

We did get, in 2007, money from (accommodations) tax and got money from (hospitality) tax, and then the decisive moment came when BlueCross came in and said we’re going to give you the rent for the gallery space. That gave us the money to say, all right, let’s make the jump. Then you have to start raising funds, both corporate and private. We don’t have ticket sales since we’re free. We’ve actually had good attendance. We’ve had 2,300 people come in through the first five months, which is pretty good for a contemporary arts center.

The opening of the center cost $100 a pop. It was also reported in The State that about 80 memberships to the center, ranging from $15 to $2,500, have been sold. That’s not exactly free to me. It was also reported in The State that so far it (the Center) has received $25,000 from BlueCross BlueShield (This is money from profits from people’s health care costs.) and $45,000 from city accommodations and hospitality taxes. (That’s money from taxpayers.) The building’s owners, Richard Burts and Robert Lewis, have donated $15,000 toward the annual rent of $40,000. (That’s a make believe donation of money that never existed.) How did these Columbia City leaders give so much money to a project which had not even opened? This building at 701 Whaley Street in Columbia has had a history of public funding going down the drain. When will these people learn?

We’ve had some other very unfortunate things that are related to the economic situation as well, one of which is that we cannot apply to the arts commission for operational funds because we didn’t exist — the arts commission came up with the decision that there would be no new projects funded — so we’re screwed there, because we’re new. The first year we couldn’t get any money from them because we hadn’t existed for a year yet, then by the time we qualified for money, the ruling came down for no new organizations.

I’m actually stunned here that the SC Arts Commission acted prudently in this situation by not giving funds to an unproven group and then putting a freeze on funding for new groups while their funding was being cut by the State. I’m really stunned, but I know it is really due to the fact – they just didn’t have the money to give “and” keep their staff on payroll. Hard choices had to be made.

And even though now there’s going to be some NEA stimulus money, we can’t get that money because they can only hand it out to previous grantees and what have you. We’re pissing beside a pot on all of this stuff, and it’s a bit of an issue. The city already has sent out a letter to everyone that next year you can expect a 25-percent decrease in H-tax revenue, so the $35,000 that we got last year, if we get $25,000 to $27,000 this year we’ll be lucky. So in the meantime we’re trying to make people feel bad about not giving. It’s all about guilt.

OMG – as the kids say these days – I can’t believe he said that – “we’re trying to make people feel bad about not giving. It’s all about guilt.” Apparently Roefs has no guilt for thrusting a new non-profit on the back of the Columbia and SC art community. If I was one of the city and county leaders in charge of handing out money I won’t be giving this ungrateful soul a penny. Much less the thought that since they got money one year it’s automatic that you’ll get money again. Once on the dole – always on the dole?

Now I’ll agree that it is stupid that the only people who can get a taste of that NEA stimulus money is only those who have received funding in the past, but I guess that was to prevent folks from just forming groups to get some of the money – I don’t know, but it does seem to add to the bad timing on the part of those who decided to take the leap in starting this new art center.

After we took the plunge, we had a bunch of people lined up, corporations and also private donors, that we were fairly certain would come through. Most of them tell you, “We’re looking at your sponsorship package,” and then, “We’re still looking at it,” and then you don’t hear anything anymore. And these are people we know who love this project, love the arts and love the people involved. So what happens is they just don’t show up; we don’t see them. They’re hesitant to even show their face lest they would be looked at with dollar signs in our eyes.

Can you imagine why these people are not showing up. And, how will they feel after reading or hearing about this article?

We’ve had some really nice surprises (with) people showing up and giving us money that were not even on our radar, and thank god for that. The ones that we thought of, not as the usual suspects, but somewhat low-hanging fruit, is hanging pretty high so far.

Unfortunately this is the statement Roefs should have made in response to the question – except for the low-hanging fruit and usual suspects part. I guess art donors are just considered fruit for the picking by Roefs or suspects. And, unfortunately Roefs’ statements will taint all non-profit groups looking for funding in tough economic times.

As someone who represents the commercial sector of the art community in SC and the Carolinas, it is hard to see how Roefs can’t see how lucky he is in even being able to receive public and private funding as a non-profit, but I can’t imagine ever making guilt my basis for why people should support my efforts.

I have asked our readers for financial support during these troubled times and have received support from people I know are trying to get by themselves. I view that support, like the support we receive from advertisers every month as a treasured gift. Hopefully a gift we have earned and a gift we will continue to earn and re-gift in the future. I don’t look at anyone with dollar signs in my eyes. And, I think most in the non-profit sector of the arts don’t either. There are some that do, but they are probably smart enough not to do it in public or make such public statements.

Some will ask why expose this underside of the arts when it might make everyone look bad in the eyes of the giving public?

All I can say is, I want that public to know that they have choices when they give their support and I would hope they pick organizations with people who are grateful for the money they receive – not folks who deal in guilt. I have said many times that we in the arts should wake up every day pinching ourselves over the fact that people give their hard earned money to support our efforts.

Unfortunately some artists and some in the arts industry think: I am, therefore you must support me.

Roll with One Eared Cow Glass at Artista Vista 2009

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Here is something to get you ready for this year’s Artista Vista 2009 – Columbia’s premier gallery crawl, held in the Congaree Vista area of Columbia, SC, on April 23 – 25, 2009. Take a look at the boys at One Eared Cow Glass doing their thing.

Unlike art districts that offer art walks, art crawls, or art strolls – every month – this is the one “galleries only” art event in Columbia. So it’s a once a year offering, and its usually a big bash. This year Artista Vistafeatures some new galleries in the lineup and of course the Congaree Arts Festival held at the SC State Museum on Saturday, April 25, from 10am-4pm.

This will be the 18th annual Artista Vista – no kidding. Unlike some art walks who just had to celebrate their 20th anniversary – four years early – this is the real deal.

I’m going to try and make it this year. You should too.

Catching Up On Old Request

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Over the last couple months and even going back further, I’ve mentioned the SC Arts Commission and the SC Arts Foundation – one or two times – or maybe it was every other post to the blog. I often mention the boards of these two organizations, not mentioning any individual – mostly as a group. Well, some readers want to know who these folks are since they are never mentioned much in any conversations about the arts in South Carolina, but they are so important in that they make all the decisions – right.

I apologize for taking so long in getting this info to you, but I was a little tied up with my own economic recovery plan. So here is a list of folks who make up these two boards:

South Carolina Arts Commission Board

Linda C. Stern, Columbia, Chair
Charles T. “Bud” Ferillo, Jr., Columbia, Vice Chair
West Fraser, Charleston, Executive Committee
Sarah Lynn Hayes, Rock Hill
Noble P. Cooper, Jr., Columbia
Henry Horowitz, Greenville
Barbara R. Nwokike, Charleston
Elizabeth Sowards, Chapin

There should be nine members on the Arts Commission board, but they have been operating with only eight for some time and as little as 7 in recent years. I can’t imagine why they would be doing this and why our good Governor hasn’t appointed a full board and you would think they would need or want a tie-breaker, but I think they all walk in line according to what the staff tells them is needed. If they don’t – they won’t serve for long. Squeaky wheels at the Arts Commission don’t get attention – they get replaced.

You might also notice that half the board is from the Columbia area. A little over-balanced toward Columbia’s art community. It’s bad enough that the Arts Commission is based in Columbia – it’s the only art community in SC they really know. I know myself how hard it is to know – really know what is going on in areas you don’t live in – much less communities spread throughout two states. And, I know how people tend to fall back on things they know. Having half the board with ties to Columbia is not good for the entire state.

For you visual art folks – Yes, the West Fraser mentioned above is the talented painter from Charleston, who with his wife, owns a commercial gallery in Charleston. You would think this would mean something to visual artists and the commercial art community, but Fraser is just one vote out of eight and then there is the know-it-all staff who is always there to tell you – that’s not the way it’s done – if you were to ever think outside the box. And, now – there just isn’t money for new things.

I remember many a conversation with Fraser about the Arts Commission. He was not a big fan back then. I wonder what he thinks of them now?

The South Carolina Arts Foundation – Board of Directors 2008-2009

Patrick R. VanHuss, Columbia, President*
Debra Timmerman, Columbia, Vice President
Michel G. Moore, Columbia, Treasurer
Jennifer Whittle, Greenville, Immediate Past President

Gloria M. Bell, Charleston
Stephen Benjamin, Columbia
Julie E. Bowers, Columbia
Jeffry C. Caswell, Columbia
J. Ashley Cooper, Charleston
Beryl Dakers, Columbia
James M. Dedman, IV, Greenville
Chandra Foster, Fort Mill
Caroline Freeman, Columbia
Victoria Hollins, Columbia
Beverly Kaplan, Greenville
Kathy Konduros, Columbia
Sally Lyles, Columbia
J. Michael McCabe, Columbia
Sally T. McKay, Columbia
Rhett Outten, Greenville
Lorin Palmer, Sumter
Anne Darby Parker, Sullivans Island
Ruth Rast, Columbia
Peggy Reynolds, Beaufort
Dona Smith, Columbia
Donna I. Sorensen, Columbia
Linda C. Stern, Columbia*
Leo F. Twiggs, Orangeburg*
Bhavna Vasudeva, Columbia
John Whitehead, Columbia*
Patricia E. Wilson, Columbia*

Suzette M. Surkamer, Columbia

* people who are also on the board or have also served on the board of the SC Arts Commission. Of course Suzette “Susie” Surkamer is the executive director of the Art Commission.

Remember, these are the two organizations that are completely separate, but share the same building, phone number, staff and it looks like board members too.

The Foundation’s board has 32 members, but as you can see it is also very heavily weighted towards Columbia with 21 from Columbia (65%), 4 from Greenville, 3 from Charleston and a few from other areas of the state. How can this truly be statewide representation? Not one member is from Spartanburg, Rock Hill, Florence, Aiken or Hilton Head.

Some of these folks from both boards are what I call professional board members. They may go off for a few years, but then they are brought right back again. Linda C. Stern, Patricia E. Wilson and Leo F. Twiggs come to mind right off the bat. Stern and Wilson have been off and on the Arts Commission board serving almost ten years each. Are they that good as stewards of the arts or are they just people who go along easily with staff recommendations? I’ll let you guess my opinion on that question.

During the Arts Commission’s 40 Lists Project – their strange way of celebrating 40 years as a state agency (making lists) – they presented a list of past and present board members, but they only listed a person’s name once and gave a certain period of time they served, hiding the fact that several of these people have been on the board multiple times. That’s the way they roll at the Arts Commission – always serving up info in their own special way. Omission of facts is not really lying is it? Well, either way the Arts Commission is very good at leaving facts out of the public’s sight. I also wish they would list behind each person’s name what their connection is to the arts. It would be nice to see what art groups these people have connections with – like how many serve on boards of other art groups and how many have jobs with the state or groups who receive funding from the SC Arts Commission or the SC Arts Foundation. Also, it would be good to know how many have no real connection to the arts.

Frankly, I think it should be a law that every non-profit that receives public funding should have to post the names of their board members on websites, letterheads, in event programs and every request for funding. Most of the time these folks are totally unknown to the public.

So now you have names to go along with the words “board members” when I’m talking about the Arts Commission or their twin the SC Arts Foundation. Do you know any of these folks? Did you know they were on these boards?

The stories I could tell you about some of these folks, but I can’t because they involve other people who are not willing to go public yet, they still have something to lose, but when they are ready – I’ll be ready. It just might make an interesting book someday.

McClatchy Newspapers Can’t Silence Jeffrey Day

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

A few weeks ago I told you about the loss of arts coverage in SC when The State newspaper in Columbia, SC, a McClatchy newspaper, eliminated Jeffrey Day’s job, long time art critic and arts writer for The State. We’ve already seen the results of that move when Susie Surkamer, head of the SC Arts Commission announced her retirement, effective on May 2, 2009, and The State offered a lackluster article about that announcement – with no comment – because they don’t know what to say.

Well, Day has started his own blog today about the Columbia arts scene and beyond at Carolina Culture. We’ll have to wait and see how this blog develops, but I hope Day takes advantage of the freedom of writing without the constraints of newspaper editors.

Now for all you out there that have been missing your Jeffrey Day fix – you have a new home to get it, and for all you who didn’t exactly agree with Day’s views – you too have a place to get your fix. Check it out.

I wish Day good luck in this new adventure and am glad to see more coverage of the arts in SC – even if it is only in cyberspace.

I’m Going to Seagrove, NC, for Some Kiln Openings

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

On the 18th and 19th of April, 2009, Seagrove potters are planning kiln openings and special events in their shops for the Celebration of Spring in Seagrove. Many of these same Seagrove potters who participated in an April 4th kiln firing at the NC Pottery Center in Seagrove will be donating one of their pieces to the Center’s fund raising auction taking place on Apr. 18. The event titled, Many Faces for the Center, is the 10th annual Benefit Auction, and is a crucial event for the Pottery Center with proceeds from the auction helping to keep this very important museum and educational center open and operating. A Silent Auction will be held from 2:30-4pm. A Live Auction starts at 5pm, all the events are free and open to the public.

From what I understand from reading some of the Seagrove potter blogs, many of the works to be offered during the auctions are already on display at the NC Pottery Center and you can see a list of auction items on the Center’s website at ( Many items are from beyond the Seagrove area from some of the best potters in the region.

I’m looking forward to experiencing some of the magic and talent that makes Seagrove such a treasure in the Carolina art community and matching some faces with some blogs. The trip will get me in the mood for Artista Vista in Columbia, SC, on April 23, 2009, but that’s another blog entry altogether.

For further information about this event you can visit he Celebration of Seagrove Potters website at ( or the Seagrove Area Potters Association website at (