Archive for July, 2009

Charleston, SC’s Mayor Joe Riley Is A Big Supporter Of The Visual Arts

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Let me make a correction to that headline. Mayor Joe Riley of Charleston, SC, is a big supporter of the American School of the Building Arts – period.

In a The Post and Courier article offered on the front page of the July 25, 2009, issue it states that the Mayor would like the City of Charleston to lease part of the Trolley Barn facility on Meeting Street in Charleston to the American School of the Building Arts for $1 a year. Sweet!

It was almost a year ago when the Mayor asked the City of Charleston to make a sweet deal loan to the American School of the Building Arts of $734,500 to save the financially troubled college from having to close its doors. Double sweet!

I made a blog entry about that on Aug. 23, 2008 titled, “What Joe Riley Wants – Joe Gets“. It’s good reading to see how the City of Charleston works. I made the blog entry to show artists in Charleston, who had just met several times to see what could be done about providing affordable space for artists in Charleston, how far the Mayor will go to help someone in the arts. He’ll do just about anything for some and nothing for most.

In this July 25, 2009, article we also learn that the City of Charleston Housing Authority also sold the old city jail facility – which used to be used for visual art exhibits to the American School of the Building Arts for $3 total. Triple sweet!

Why so much support for a college that after five years is yet to be accredited and only turned out 7 students in its first graduation? Well, in my post on Aug. 23, 2008, I explained that Pierre Manigault is chairman of the college’s board of trustees – he is also chairman of the board of Evening Post Publishing, parent company of Charleston.net and The Post and Courier. The students being trained at this college will also be working on Charleston’s historic homes – owned by the who’s who of Charleston. If you plan on being Charleston’s Mayor for life – you need these people.

Four days later on July 29, 2009, The Post and Courier offers as their top editorial of the day that the American School of the Building Arts would be good for Charleston and the neighborhood. Surprise! As usual no individual takes credit for the editorial – the paper just list all four possible contributors at the top of the page and for all we know Pierre Manigault could have written the “opinion” and just handed it to one of the four. It also mentions that the college graduated its first class last spring, but forgot to mention that it was only 7 students. What an impact they will make – if they even stay in Charleston.

The last time I posted a piece on the American School of the Building Arts I got an e-mail and call from its founder on how I was betraying the arts community and how hard the college really had it. What kind of supporter to the arts community could I be to attack such tough deals? I don’t know – maybe one who would like to see some parity sometime. If he wants to call again to tell me how rough he has it – please do. I love a good joke.

Of course another factor involved in these deals is that this sweet lease will bring the American School of the Building Arts back into the boundaries of the City of Charleston. The college has had its main facility housed at the old Navy base in North Charleston, SC – something Mayor Riley couldn’t stand.

So let’s review – $700,000+ loan, one facility for $3 total and another for $1 a year lease for part of a building. I wonder how long it will be before the college asks for money from the city to fix these facilities up for proper use? My guess is not long. If not the city – the US government.

I’ve Been Taking a Survey of Charleston, SC, for 35 Years

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

I came to the Charleston, SC, area from Michigan in November of 1974. I liked what I found here and have found no reason to leave since – although I eventually moved 45 miles away to Berkeley County – a place where I could afford to do an arts newspaper and own a home. And, maybe 35 more years or so from now – I might own that home one day, if I live that long.

I came, so many years ago, as an adult. And I only mention this in the context that when dealing with many people in the art community these days – I’ve lived and dealt with Charleston’s art community – long before most were born – some in Charleston – most from somewhere else.

I mention that last bit about coming from somewhere else because I’ve been and still consider myself part of Charleston’s working class. We’re the folks that do stuff – offer services, create new – well, everything. That’s the way it’s been in Charleston for the most part – the people that built up the community come from somewhere else – first from Europe, then Africa, and now from other parts of South Carolina, the South, and America. Most, not all, who were born here are connected to a heritage of leadership and consumers – they’re the deciders and users. Both are vital parts of any community.

That was most evident at a recent meeting of arts people gathered together for a mid-June lunch at the Gibbes Museum of Art in downtown Charleston – to get to know each other. Most were relatively new to Charleston, some were what I consider very young and a handful were seasoned veterans of the Charleston art community. I myself, carry my scars of past battles (culture wars) and am easily frustrated by the enthusiasm of these newbees – in that they are going to change Charleston. I find myself more interested in deeds, not words. In fact, it is very hard to get me to go to one of these gatherings anymore. I still make the effort if I can see reason or opportunity, but as I said, I’m not impressed by words. I make my living dealing with words and I know how easily they can be offered without anything to back them up.

I’m a realist, I play the devil’s advocate, I’m pessimistic at times, I’m what my high school German teacher called facetious, but I’m also an optimist – I have to be – I publish an arts newspaper in the Carolinas. I could have done a newspaper about NASCAR and probably made a lot of money by now. But I love the arts. I’m focused on the visual arts, but I like it all – well most of it.

What I don’t like is being asked from time to time to join other folks to step into a big hamster cage and take a spin on the big wheel. I’m too old to ride that wheel anymore – spinning around and around just makes me dizzy. And, I find I don’t get much work done when I’m dizzy.

And spinning in place is what has drawn me to my computer today. ThePost & Courier newspaper has just offered another – State of the Arts article subtitled, “How are Charleston arts organizations weathering the current financial drought?” in it’s Weekend section (7/16/09). It’s as if they don’t even read their own paper – what did they expect to find?

I’m not familiar with the author of the article, (I’m a daily subscriber to theP&C) but I can only guess that it was a young person, fairly new to Charleston’s art community. No veteran would have written what was offered. The article was about a page and a quarter of a regular newspaper page, so expectations were very low to begin with. It’s not like this was considered a major subject for a series.

And, I’m not coming down on the Post & Courier (this time) – many other newspapers have gotten around to offering this same, limited look (more like a peek) at the state of the arts in their community. I’ve seen them in the FreeTimes in Columbia, SC, and the Charlotte Observer in Charlotte, NC – they’re all the same – a cursory look at how bad things are in the arts during this economic downturn. Duh! At least in this latest look at the state of the arts no one from Charleston said they depend on making people feel guilty to support them – as one arts person said in Columbia, SC.

Most of these articles are just another plug for a few nonprofits hoping to gain a few more donations, some like this latest version by the P&C were based on national surveys – this one was a National Endowment for the Arts 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Guess what – it’s down.

Another darn survey of the arts!

Here’s a truth. No amount of survey results is going to change my thinking based on my own experience and I imagine that’s the way it is for most people. We are after all creatures of our environment and experience – knowledge based on anything else is hard to accept. We can do it, but it doesn’t come easily. Otherwise how would you explain that there are very large numbers of people in this country – educated under the same system that most people were in America, who believe the earth and the universe is only a few thousand years old. The rest, what most of us call history and science, is all made up by people who just can’t accept their way of thinking or their beliefs.

Surveys are not scientific – they’re just another form of advertising or wishful thinking on most people’s part. And, I’ve never seen one done about the arts that I could believe or that is anywhere close to my own experience – based on the last 35 years. And why is that so?

Most people in the arts don’t participate – that’s the truth. They don’t like the questions asked and they don’t see what difference the survey results will make. That’s even if you ever are offered a close up look at the survey results. Most of the time the only thing offered is someone’s interpretation of what those results mean. They don’t want you to see the raw data because it’s ugly, it might not show the organizers of the survey in a good light, and people who take the surveys plan their answers to project certain results. But the big problem is most people won’t participate. Surveys are no better than opinion polls. You can get any results you want by cooking the questions and selecting who you ask. Make people sign their names to a survey and tell them they are going to be made available for public viewing and I bet you would get entirely different results – if you could get them to take the survey under those standards.

Most of the public doesn’t care about survey results either – they’ve been offered survey results too many times that were just manufactured to project a favorable point of view by the folks paying for or organizing the survey. It’s unfortunate, but true. So, why do so many arts organization believe that doing a survey will change the public’s mind or at least the minds of people making decisions on who gets the money, on how valued the arts are to society? You got me. Look, they either get that point by now or they never will.

In today’s world, I think most people are like me – they want to see deeds, not hear or read words about what the arts are doing for them or how it can enlighten their lives. Show them the deeds and they’ll show you the money – if they have any to spare.

The Charleston Arts Coalition is conducting a survey. You can find it at on their website. The cut off day to participate is July 29, 2009.

Should people in Charleston’s art community take this survey in view of everything I’ve just said? Yes, but only if they are going to be honest and willing to work towards the goals that survey suggests – otherwise why bother? The Charleston Arts Coalition doesn’t just need your 2 cents worth, it needs your participation.

I first offered comments about this group at the very beginning of this blog on May 26, 2008, after going to one of those art community gatherings – this time it was about the lack of affordable space in Charleston for artists. Back then at the end of my blog entry I said, “Most things they want are possible and possible with the help of the community – once the artists – like commercial gallery owners – are willing to put their own money and futures on the bottom line. Money makes the world go round and it’s the mother’s milk of the arts. Once artists stop waving around pumped up economic surveys about the impact of the arts in front of the community and adopt a healthy respect for other people’s money, they will find that many are willing to become partners with them on sound projects. Don’t continue to delude yourselves or insult the intelligence of the public. The call for this movement – if there will be a movement, should be – get real, get serious and you might just get what you want. Carolina Arts will do its part – if presented with a sound proposal, but then we have to fight to survive everyday to keep what we have.”

Since then the Charleston Arts Coalition has been formed, they have a website, a blog and have created another website called Charleston Culture, launched May 14, 2009. The focus of the group seems to be on spreading information about the art community. The lack of space issue has faded into the background for some reason.

I have not found a lot of participation on any of these sites or the blog. Not many people are joining in or offering comments.

I’m still hopeful about this group, but somewhat frustrated with where they seem to be going and at this point – it seems to be the big wheel – in my opinion. Participation is the key and at this point I don’t see a lot of signs of it. A few folks are probably working a lot on this project, but they have yet to gain the attention of the greater Charleston art community. Time will tell and that’s always the case. I’ve seen so many efforts like this come and go – not just in Charleston. Getting the arts community together is like herding cats. I’m stealing that from Christopher Rico an artist and blogger in Clinton, SC.

Getting a large art community together – like Charleston is near impossible. Charleston is small and can’t support such a large art community, which makes for rough and tumble competition for funding and resources. Trust is low and based on past experience.

I’ve taken the survey, I’ve plugged the survey, and I’ve looked at the Charleston Culture and organization’s websites and am trying to figure where and if I fit in. I was trying to participate in a roundtable discussion, but the schedule was during my delivery time for Carolina Arts and that comes first. I don’t live in Charleston so I’m not in the social loop of this group.

I haven’t joined the organization because I’m not sure what I’m joining and where my membership dollars would go. Besides being part of the local media, I’m not sure you can be part of something and comment on it at the same time, and be honest. It’s not an easy thing to do. My best contributions my be as an observer from outside the group.

Either way, build or fade – this group’s efforts depend on the art community’s participation and past experience tells me – they’re not into it – right now at least. What will make them change their minds? I’m still working on that 35 year survey of trying to figure out Charleston’s art community. I’ll let you know when I have it figured out. I haven’t found a lot of logic at this point. But I do know they are not keen on participation, or working on goals where the payoff is in the future, and they have a hard time overlooking self interest for the good of all. This makes them not much different than art communities anywhere else or other people in general.

Now, one thing’s for sure about the Charleston Art Coalition – they have lit a fire under some other groups in Charleston that are supposed to be serving the public. Ever since the Coalition started talking about plans for a cultural website, the City of Charleston’s Office of Cultural Affairs has stepped up work on their efforts to promote Charleston’s cultural events. Even the Coastal Community Foundation suffered an uproar when it stepped in to just help a few groups suffering in the art community over the holiday season. They tried to promote a Charleston Art Alliance to make them look more inclusive, but they learned the art community is bigger than their usual myopic vision.

So if anything the Charleston Arts Coalition has stirred things up some, but time marches against them. People will lose interest – even those involved now, if they don’t see their time and efforts build on something – something not already being offered – something everyone in the art community can be a part of – whatever that is.

But, then again – I’m just one of the old farts of the Charleston art community who has grown tired of spinning in place and sees the negative side of things much more than those who seem to see only the positive future – unknown territory to most of us old veterans. Please, make me wrong folks. I want to be wrong on this subject. I won’t mind it at all.

Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC, Reinstalls Collection

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

I went to the Déjà View Day at the Columbia Museum of Art on July 18, 2009, for several reasons – it was free admission all day, for once you could take pictures in the museum, to do some research, and to see how different things would look – it’s been awhile since I’ve been there last. Yes, I missed the big blockbuster exhibit, Turner to Cézanne: Masterpieces from the Davies Collection, National Museum Wales, which attracted over 46,000 people to the Museum.

I’ve got a few words for those who think America is into staycations this year – I-26 between I-95 and Columbia was almost a parking lot and traffic on I-95 wasn’t moving too fast either. People were on the move and there was no Carolina football game either, so I think some people are going on vacations.

Free admission is always an attraction to me, the Columbia Museum of Art just raised adult admission to $10 from $5 (since 2001), making them now the highest admission for an art museum in SC, but I’m sure the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, won’t be too far behind. They seem to think the way to attract more visitors is to raise admission prices. How’s that been working out for you? Of course the Museum offers free admission every Sunday and all members get in free.

Upon arrival I went upstairs right away and discovered my digital camera was going to be my pain in the rear of the day. Before leaving home I transferred all the photos I had on it to one of our computers, but must have done something wrong in the process. When I went to take a picture, the camera told me there was no memory space left. I’m like what are you talking about? My camera doesn’t really talk – it’s not an expensive model, but it also wasn’t making sense. So I was just going to have to manually delete all the images to clear the camera’s memory. I knew the files were on my computer – I looked at some of them before I left home. Houston, we have a problem! I couldn’t find any old files on the camera to delete and it wouldn’t let me take any more as there was no memory space and the instructions were in the car to reduce my carry load. Darn, no pictures.

I used to be a photographer. I made a good living in photography, but lately photography has been my curse. Either I forget to take my camera with me, end up talking with someone instead of taking photos, or the camera doesn’t function properly.

Oh great photography spirits – forgive me for abandoning you. I swear when I retire I’m going to get a new battery for my Nikkormat. Give me another chance! Of course I hope that battery is still available then – whenever that is.

So, it’s another blog posting without much or any visual entries – sorry.

Ok, we’re back upstairs at the Museum. Things looked great. I couldn’t really tell if that much was changed, new or what. But, I’m the same when we move furniture around in a room of the house – instantly I can’t remember how it was arranged before. At the same time the impression it gave me was that new car smell. I’m sure even regular viewers could find something new, even if a lot of the works were the same. And, it’s my understanding that a lot of new items have been added. Besides this is one of the few art museums in SC where you can see such a large collection of older works from Europe and the rest of the world.

But, I have to confess, I’m not that much into older works. I’ve seen my fair share of masterworks in Chicago and Washington, DC. I’m not that much into art history. But, every art student and artist in SC should be making regular trips to the Columbia Museum of Art and the art museum and gallery at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC, to see these kinds of works. The same goes for other folks in the region who have never seen works found most of the time in art history books. It’s amazing that many have survived so long and museum folks have put a lot of effort into keeping them in shape so you could take a look back in history through art. It won’t kill you – believe me.

Many of these works upstairs at the Columbia Museum of Art are from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. Just imagine all those times I spent my nickles and dimes on toys made in Japan at the Kress store in my hometown – some of those profits were going into masterworks of art. It is a small world.

I spent amost an hour upstairs so I did my duty.

I was also at the Museum to get the current names of all the different gallery spaces. I have a problem with institutions that sell names of gallery spaces for major donations and then slowly abandon the use of those names in publicity. I noticed that the new gallery guide the Museum was handing out did not give the names of the sponsors of these gallery spaces. And, there is no space in the Columbia Museum of Art that doesn’t have the name of a sponsor on it – except maybe the restrooms. They might – I just didn’t notice in the one I checked out. So, inside the Museum these people get their due credit, but it’s outside the Museum where things tend to fall off. Long names of spaces are shortened or not offered at all in press release about exhibitions.

I don’t think that’s fair. Look, I’m not looking to take up more space in the paper, but these people who gave this money expected that they would get credit for it – always and forever. That’s what I would expect for such a donation. So, at the end of this entry I’m  going to list all those gallery names.

Now, one of the treats for me was in the only gallery space upstairs which offers changing exhibits, number G15 on the gallery guide or as I like to think of it as the Mamie and William Andrew Treadway, Jr. Gallery, which is displaying the exhibition, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg: 20th Century Masters in the Collection, on view through Oct. 4, 2009. The PR folks at the Museum did include the proper gallery space’s name with that press release.

This exhibit was more like it – for me. The exhibit, although small, showed some of the works the Museum has in its collection by these two artists, with a very informative text panel to go with it. Johns is a SC native, which is always a point to be made. It is possible to come from SC and become about as big as you can get in the art world. Which is a good opportunity to mention that the Gibbes Museum of Art will be presenting the exhibit,Brian Rutenberg: Tidesong, from Oct. 23 – Jan. 10, 2010. Rutenberg may be SC’s next homegrown artists to find big fame in New York City. He’s big, but I’m talking Johns big.

Now, before I head downstairs, I must mention that the Museum’s new gallery guide does offer a little education about labels on the artworks on display – explaining what that info is all about. Bits of education like this can always help and it was offered in a non-condescending way. People get so uptight about things – asking or not asking what might seem like stupid questions, when on the other hand the folks at the Museum – any museum wants you to ask and enjoy your stay and wants you to come back and learn more.

Downstairs in the Lipscomb Family Galleries, (not mentioned in the PR we received on this exhibit) was the exhibition, Cleve Gray: Man and Nature, featuring a 30-year retrospective of noted American painter Cleve Gray, on view through Sept. 27, 2009. I was blown away by this exhibit. And, here I have to apologize for not being able to print our paper in full color, not exactly in my control, but nonetheless the ad we have been running for this exhibit does just not cut it in black and white.

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Man and Nature #1, 1980, acrylic on canvas, 100″ x 65″

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Zen Gardens #116, 1983, acrylic on canvas, 68″ x 70″

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Both, 1979, acrylic on canvas, 69″ x 44″

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Diana and Actaeon, 1989, acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 70″

I’m used to this factor after all these years and always tell people – if you think what you see in black in white is in anyway interesting – wait till you see it in person. Perhaps if we added  ads for beer and strip clubs like some other publications we could do color, but I’m not there yet, and I’m not sure I ever will be.

If you like abstract art – big abstract paintings – go see this exhibit. Without photos – that’s about all I can say. Check out our June article about this exhibit at Carolina Arts Online.

Now, you might be wondering why I just didn’t go back to my car and read the instructions to see what was wrong with my camera. I was nearing my two hour limit on my parking meter, but the instructions didn’t offer any help and we’ve yet to figure what has happened. If I could have gotten it to work – I would have returned for another two hours to take photos – admission was free all day.

Next to the Gray exhibit were two more rooms of contemporary art in the Dawn Helfont Christopher Galleries. There was some really interesting works there, but I soon started thinking that many of the examples of the work on display could have been works by SC artists. These were works by big name artists from the Museum’s collection which would be on display for some time, but I think just as impressive works could have been offered by artists from our state.

Upstairs there is a small gallery space, one of the smallest in the Museum which displays a few works by SC artists or regional artists. The space G10a – Southern Traditions – in the guide, but which is actually the BB&T Gallery, has works by Edmund Yaghijan, Mary Jackson, William Aiken Walker, Charles Fraser, among others, but I would have liked to have seen more works by SC’s better artists in the downstairs contemporary display.

I know, this is not what art museums’ say they are all about, but how could it hurt to sprinkle in a few local works as long as they are of the same quality. Not all the works in these two gallery spaces were what I would call – household names. Maybe they are to some, but I bet most there that Saturday wouldn’t know who they were.

I’ve seen more works by SC’s contemporary artists on view at the Mint Museum of Art. Is this the – you’re nobody in your own area factor? Well, it’s no big deal – all was enjoyable and that’s another battle for another day.

On my way out of the Museum I ran into Kristina Montvidas Kutkus, an artist who a long time ago used to write reviews for Carolina Arts and Lynne Riding, an abstract painter, both from Charleston, SC. Both have been art instructors at the College of Charleston and Riding now teaches at the Art Institute of Charleston. They were enjoying the Cleve Gray exhibit and were headed upstairs – also concerned about their parking meter so we didn’t get to talk much.

But as I was leaving I had to wonder – I keep running into folks who used to write reviews for us at exhibits around the state. I wish they were still writing for Carolina Arts, but like color we have had to go without reviews – it’s the stupid economy and the economy in the visual arts has been bad for the last eight years. Now, what happened in our country over the last eight years?

Well, on the two plus hour drive home – I-26 was still a slow moving parking lot – I was still struck by this nagging thought that here I have an arts newspaper, people who are qualified art reviewers and good writers are still seeing exhibits throughout the area, but we can’t afford them and they would like to be paid for their efforts. Some are getting some exposure in local alternative weekly newspaper (the kind with beer ads and ads for strip clubs), but not enough reviews are being done of art exhibits taking place in SC. If only there was some statewide organization that’s purpose was to help the art community out in providing such a needed and wanted service – a group who in planning for the future said this is a need in the art community – a group with funding sources. Well anyway – wishing and hoping won’t get you very far and eventually I was back in Bonneau, SC – land of good water, so I’m told.

Gallery Spaces at the Columbia Museum of Art
Upstairs
G1 – Ray Taylor Fair Gallery – Ancient
G2 – Helen and Joseph Walker, Jr. Gallery – Late Medieval and Early Renaissance
G3 – Herbert – Hart Gallery – Renaissance
G4 – First Citizens Bank Gallery – High Renaissance
G5 – Wachovia Gallery (may soon change to Well Fargo) – Renaissance in Venice
G5a – South Trust Bank Gallery – Mannerism
G6 – SCANA Gallery – 18th c. European
G7 – John Cliffton and Francis Bell Judy Gallery – 17th c. Baroque
G8 – UPS Gallery – Asian
G8a – NBSC Gallery – China Trade
G9 – Callie and John Rainey Gallery – Neoclassicism
G10 – Lucy Hampton Bostick Gallery – Colonial and Federal America
G10a – BB&T Gallery – Southern Traditions
G11 – Carolina First Gallery – 19th c. American
G12 & 14 – Andrew Kerns Galleries – (12)Early 20th c. American and (14) 19th c. European
G13 – PYA/Monarch Gallery & Budweiser of Columbia Gallery – Art Glass
G15 – Mamie and William Andrew Treadway, Jr. Gallery – Changing Exhibitions

Downstairs
Lipscomb Family Galleries – Changing Exhibitions
Dawn Helfont Christopher Galleries – Modern and Contemporary
Caroline Guignard Gallery – Recent Acquisitions

P.S. The digital camera is running again after Carolina Arts‘ technical adviser and my better half, Linda fixed it and she was able to download some images by Cleve Gray, not exactly the ones I would have liked to show, from the Columbia Museum of Art‘s website.

The Day Man Stepped on the Moon

Monday, July 20th, 2009

All day today members of the media will be posing the question – do you remember where you were when man first stepped on the moon – July 20, 1969? And, I do – I’m really lucky I have any memory of those times – really lucky to have a few brain cells left from that time.

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July 1969 was the summer after high school graduation for me and my group of friends seemed to have been celebrating since graduation in early June. A lot of drinking and what not.

That summer my family’s home was the party house. My parents were spending a lot of time in northern Michigan – sometimes two and three weeks at a time and almost every weekend. My dad was a big fisherman. So the group of guys I hung out with were practically living at my house – when they were not at summer jobs, but every evening no matter what – my house was the focal point.

We were big card players back then and the game that summer was In-Between or High or Low. This was a game where everyone playing would put a dollar in the pot and the dealer would place two cards face up and each player could make a bet if the next card would fall in-between. Like if you had a two and a king – chances are the next card would fall in-between, but if it was an ace, two or king – you were burned and you had to put in the pot what your bet was. Depending on how good your chances were – was how much you bet. If you got really good cards – like a two and an ace – with aces you could call it high or low – if this was a high ace – you might bet to cover the pot. Most saw that as a sure bet, but when you’re drinking a lot, there’s a large group and a lot of distractions – you might forget that there are still some twos or aces that have not been played yet in that deck – and get burned when the next card came up. You’d be amazed on how many people got burned on a so called sure thing.

And, then there were some that were so crazy or felt so lucky that they would bet – a lot of money that the next card would be in-between an eight and a king or even less of a spread. We were a crazy bunch back then.

We would play this game all night long or until someone won everyone else’s money. After one of those nights a bunch of us were still chillin’ out – another word for suffering from our hangovers – and watching TV – watching Neil Armstrong get ready to make the first step on the moon. After he did it and didn’t blow up or something or a hand reach out from the ground and grab his foot we cheered – like the rest of the country was doing and started saying – this is big, this is something and before you knew it we were saying – we need to do something – something big. It was, “One small step for man,” and we were going to take one too.

What we came up with was a train trip to Montreal, Canada. Our school’s French club had gone there on a school trip and we heard it was great so we figured that would be a big trip for us. As my memory goes, five guys came up with the money we figured – to the penny – we needed to make the trip – train fare both ways, hotel fee, and some for “entertainment”.

I won’t go into the details of the trip – mostly because I can’t remember them all and what I do remember is a little fuzzy, but we did it and for me – my parents didn’t even know I had left the country. A point of pride throughout my life – it was called independence.

I will tell you a little about the train ride that seemed to last forever. In 1969, as you graduated from high school as a young, healthy US male, we were required to register for the draft and then wait for the draft lottery when your birth-date was assigned a number – mine was 127 – not good, not totally bad, but that’s another story altogether (See the movie Across the Universe). I can bet you that every US male of a certain age group can tell you what their draft number was – to this day. We’re talking Viet Nam folks. On the train, the Grand Trunk Railroad, as we passed into Canada, a conductor came to each of us and asked to see our draft cards and asked – “are you guys really coming back to the US?”. At that point it was never a thought in our minds – we were all headed to college in the fall. Also, at the time, we didn’t know what our draft number would be – that came later that summer – good thing too – I might have ended up living with some of my old distant relatives in Canada.

We all made it back to the good old US of A – penniless, but we had done something – something that to us was big.

Back then America was a can-do society, president John F. Kennedy had thrown down the challenge to Americans and we stepped up. The summer of 1969 was also the summer of Woodstock. I recently watched the movie and felt a little sad about how my generation let a great opportunity slip by to really change our nation and the world. It seems these days we’re more like the – well, I don’t know – it sounds good but maybe we shouldn’t take the chance generation.

Maybe it’s time we did something big – something special for American and maybe, one day we can get ourselves back to the garden. But then, maybe that’s just a line from a song from once upon a time in America.

Those Seagrove Potters Are At It Again!

Friday, July 17th, 2009

I bet some of you thought this was going to be about a drive-by shooting on the streets of Seagrove, NC – one pottery gang taking out a few of their rivals from another pottery gang or about the authorities finding bones at the bottom of someone’s kiln. No such luck. It’s just another boring story about Seagrove potters doing something to help – world peace. Who do these folks think they are?

Meredith Heywood of Whynot Pottery has the scoop on her blog about how potters in Seagrove are making and selling – cups or vessels – to raise funds for the Central Asia Institute. That’s not the CIA – they’re up to something else in central Asia.

So stop trying to read between the lines and go read what these potters are up to now. You won’t believe it.

Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, NC, Presents 5th Annual Potters Market Invitational – Sept. 12, 2009

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

This may seem to be an early announcement, but you want to plan ahead for this event.

Craft enthusiasts will have the opportunity to meet and purchase works by some of North Carolina’s top potters at the 5th Annual Potters Market Invitational. Widely regarded as one of the most popular pottery sales in the region, the event will take place Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009, from 10am-4pm on the lawn of the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, NC.

Tickets are $10 for adults ($8 after 2pm); $5 for children 5-17; and free for children 4 and younger. Ticket sales begin on the day of the event at 9:30am. The entry fee includes admission to the Mint Museum of Art. Proceeds support the Museum’s decorative arts collection.

Exemplifying the region’s rich craft heritage, the Potters Market features 40 superb potters representing the state’s most important pottery-producing areas: Seagrove, Piedmont, Catawba Valley and the mountains, including Penland and Asheville. Potters are selected on a rotating basis so that the opportunity to participate can be open to as many artists as possible.

 

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Bulldog Pottery

This year’s event features notable returning potters such as Ben Owen III, Donna Craven and Crystal King, as well as a select group of up-and-coming potters, all of whom are creating distinctive work that is gaining national attention. Seven of the selected potters recently participated in the 2009 Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, DC, a prestigious juried exhibition of fine craft: Michael Hunt and Naomi Dalglish, Carol Gentithes, Jim and Shirl Parmentier, Akira Satake and Liz Zlot Summerfield. New potters participating this year include the Parmentiers and Summerfield, as well as Steven Forbes de-Soule, Eric Knoche, Will McCanless, Kelly O’Briant, Michael Rutkowsky and Jenny Lou Sherburne.

North Carolina has a central role in American pottery and a growing international reputation in this art field. The Mint Museum of Art has one of the country’s finest collections of pottery and devotes special efforts to documenting the history of North Carolina ceramics. The 5th Annual Potters Market Invitational is presented by the Delhom Service League, an affiliate group of The Mint Museum.

For more information, visit (www.mintmuseum.org) or call Barbara Perry, Potters Market Chair, at 704/ 366-0665.

Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC, Invites You to Déjà View Day – July 18, 2009

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

The Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC, Invites You to Déjà View Day – July 18, 2009. Wait! That sounds familiar. Actually, it’s “Déjà View Day: Rediscover The Museum Collection”. On July 18, 2009, from 10am-2pm, the Columbia Museum of Art will proudly unveils its art collection in newly re-installed galleries for the first time since 1998. Experience 1,000 years in a new light! Enjoy gallery talks, slide-illustrated lectures, new cell phone tours and hands-on art projects for the family! And, it’s all free – admission, lectures, activities – everything. That means you’ll have plenty of money to spend at the Museum’s Gift Shop.

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The Museum went through a major redesign for the recent blockbuster exhibit, Turner to Cézanne: Masterpieces from the Davies Collection, National Museum Wales, which attracted over 46,000 people to the Museum.

The day’s schedule is: at 10am – Ribbon Cutting and Opening Words from elected officials and executive director Karen Brosius; 10:30am – Passport to Art open studio drop-in for families; 11am – American Art lecture by Dr. Todd Herman, chief curator and curator of European Arts; noon – Gallery Talk: Highlights from the Collection (paintings) by Dr. Todd Herman; and at 1pm – Gallery Talk: Highlights from the Collection (decorative arts) by Brian Lang, associate curator of decorative arts.

Say, did you notice there is only 30 minutes between Opening Words by elected officials – good luck with that.

As an added bonus, photography and filming inside the Museum will also be permitted. You can’t do that everyday in a museum.

While you are there you can also check out the exhibitions: Cleve Gray: Man and Nature, featuring a 30-year retrospective of noted American painter Cleve Gray, on view through Sept. 27, 2009, and Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg: 20th Century Masters in the Collection, on view through Oct. 4, 2009.

And, like most episodes of Déjà View, admission will be free again on Sunday July 19, 2009, from noon-5pm.

The re-installation of the galleries is made possible by a leadership gift from the City of Forest Acres, with additional funding provided by the Henry Luce Foundation. Lectures are part of the Humanities American Lecture Series sponsored by the Humanities Council of South Carolina.

And, as always, if you are traveling to Columbia from somewhere else, I would also recommend that you visit some of the commercial galleries in Columbia. You can find info about them in our SC Commercial Gallery listings on Carolina Arts Online.

And, in case you were wondering – Yes, the Museum is fully air-conditioned. That’s hours free of that Carolina sun.

The Columbia Museum of Art is located at 1515 Main Street in downtown Columbia, SC. For further information call 803/799-2810 or visit (www.columbiamuseum.org).

Seagrove Potteries Added to Carolina Arts’ NC Commercial Gallery Listings on Our Website

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

OK, we have a category, Not About Seagrove Pottery, now we also have a category, About Seagrove Pottery – officially. Yes, we’ve done a lot of entries about Seagrove, NC’s pottery community – whether it be about the North Carolina Pottery Center and its efforts to stay open in difficult financial times, or pottery events taking place in Seagrove, but now it officially has a category of it own – well, really two if you count the Not About Seagrove Pottery category as somehow it always seems to end up in those entries too.

Well, ever since Carolina Arts has been covering visual arts in Seagrove we have had a basic problem. It was not a problem adding the NC Pottery Center’s exhibits in our NC Institutional Gallery listings, but how could we fit the commercial potteries into the NC Commercial Gallery listings – there are over 100 in the area. That addition would take up almost two pages in the paper and with out some advertising return to offset that space – we just couldn’t afford it – especially now. This fact always bothered me. For awhile we did list a few potteries, but that was not fair to the rest.

Then, one day it hit me. You know like when the light bulb goes off over someone’s head in a cartoon. Why wasn’t I including the potteries on our website version of the paper – Carolina Arts Online? Really, why? I can’t say other than perhaps I subconsciously knew how much work that would be getting all that info together.

Well, each month I have a few free days where no deadline is hanging over my head – usually that means taking care of overdue yard work, but when the light bulb went off this month – it happened to be raining – everyday. Plus, surely a lot of this info was available on the internet – Seagrove does have several pottery organizations offering this info. So I started on my quest and something like 94 pottery listings later we now have most of the Seagrove area potteries included on our NC Commercial Gallery listings.

There are a few we couldn’t find info about, and I’m sure like all internet listings, some info has changed and even some potteries may have moved or closed, but updating this info will be up to the individual potteries. Just send us an e-mail with corrections at (info@carolinaarts.com).

There were also a few exceptions – there always are. There were some potteries listed as Seagrove potteries, but in reality they were located in cities almost 50 miles away. I didn’t include them. We have a policy of listing some locations near each other together – like Davidson and Cornelius, NC, in with Charlotte, NC, area galleries and Mt. Pleasant, Isle of Palms, and Sullivan’s Island in SC, together, but we have never combined areas almost 50 miles apart. If it’s just 10 – 20 miles well that’s close enough especially when listing a few under a different heading takes up more room. So that’s why we left some out that were included in some of these organization’s listings.

So, I hope you take advantage of these new listings and can now see how unique an area Seagrove really is as an arts destination. The city of Charleston, SC, has about 100 art galleries in the area, but we’d be comparing an apple with a single raisin – Seagrove doesn’t have a McDonalds or a Wal-Mart – imagine that. Really, imagine that and you’ll soon realize how nice an area this is. You can get your Mickey-D or big box fixes in Asheboro, NC, just 15 minutes away. What Seagrove has is potteries – lots of them and the NC Pottery Center. I’d say what more could you want, but living in a community even smaller than Seagrove, I won’t insult the people who live there. I’m not fond of driving 15 – 20 minutes away for just about everything, but I also like where I live and I know the people in Seagrove do too.

Now you’ll be able to see how a trip to Seagrove is like going to a big outdoor mall of pottery – with plenty of parking. The big difference is – all the pottery is made right there by local potters.

Rutherford County Visual Arts Center in Rutherfordton, NC, Offers Juried Pottery Exhibition

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

In my continuing effort to bring you readers info about pottery events – not taking place in Seagrove, NC, we received a short e-mail which told us about a juried pottery exhibit taking place at the Rutherford County Visual Arts Center in Rutherfordton, NC. The e-mail came after our deadlines for both the paper and our website. I’m not including this as a reward for being late, but as an example.

The exhibit, Wheel and Coil and Slab, will be on view at the Arts Center from July 10 through Aug. 31, 2009. The Rutherford County Visual Arts Center is located at 173 N. Main Street in Rutherfordton. They are open Tue.-Sat., 10am-3pm and Fridays until 6:30pm. The Center can be contacted by calling 828/288-5009 or visit (www.rcvag.com).

That last paragraph was about all they sent. It makes me wonder if they are paying by the word for their e-mail or what. I know this is a juried show where they may not have even seen the entries yet, but they could say more. I went to their website – looked at the exhibit prospectus, even sent a return e-mail asking for more info, but received none yet as of this posting.

Since this is a juried show it would be nice to know who will be doing the jurying and if that juror was going to make any cash awards. I receive a lot of info about juried shows and usually they include more info about the juror than info about the exhibit.

There was an entry fee mentioned in the prospectus and a statement that all works entered will be for sale and can be taken by a buyer at any time during the exhibit (70/30 split) – if the artists wanted to they could travel to the Center to replace the work sold – with an unjuried work? So what’s the point of this being a juried show?

With what little I’ve learned about pottery I can tell that the title of the exhibit, Wheel and Coil and Slab, refers to different ways of making pottery, but nothing is offered about that in this e-mail – is there an educational component to this exhibit – I don’t know? Or is it just a clever reference to The Wizard of OZ phrase – Lions and Tigers and Bears – Oh My?

This e-mail is an example of a lot of info we receive everyday at Carolina Arts – it says less than it should. You usually have more questions after reading.

So, as someone who might read that there will be a juried pottery exhibit offered in Rutherfordton, NC, during a 50 day period – why should I go see this show? If Cynthia Bringle was the juror, would that pique your interest? If the Best of Show award was $10,000 would that make you want to see that work? If the Center was going to be posting text panels describing various techniques used in making pottery along with live demonstrations – would that make you interested in visiting this exhibit?

As an editor of a visual arts newspaper this kind of e-mail just represents more work on my part. I have enough work to do already – I’m looking for the easy e-mail to process. This particular e-mail came after deadline and in this case will be set aside for the August issue – meaning that readers might not see it until 20 days after it has already started. Maybe too late for someone to go see it. This particular e-mail will get some publicity here, but not the kind I’m sure they wished it would get.

This juried show may be a wonderful exhibit – if so, it deserved a better and more timely press release, but then again I’ve seen many a show that didn’t stand up to the press release sent about it. So what’s an exhibit viewer to do. I know I make my decisions by what the press release says – even if at times the show doesn’t hold up to what was said. You always learn something, but I won’t travel on so little info. Do you?

The other point is – there are so many choices. I also received (after deadline) info about a pottery exhibit at the Crabtree Creek Art & Floral Gallery in Micaville, NC. They are presenting the exhibit, Imagery in Clay, featuring distinctive works by Ken Sedberry, on view from July 2 – 28, 2009. And, there’s a great pottery show at The Bascom in Highlands, NC. The exhibit, The Three Potters: Bringle, Hewitt and Stuempfle, is on view through July 11, 2009, This show features wheel-thrown and hand built work, some 30-40 pieces, by master artists Cynthia Bringle, Mark Hewitt and David Stuempfle.

A good press release can make the difference in why someone selects your exhibit to go see it above all others. That’s the lesson of the day.

But, if I was traveling all the way to Rutherfordton or Micaville, why not go visit Michael Kline Pottery in Bakersville, NC. But, you might want to give him a call first at (828-675-4097) he’s a busy guy. He’s also a blogger. And, if you go there you should stop by the gallery at the Penland School of Crafts in Penland, NC.

Boy, this is turning into an adventure. No matter where you go, there is always something else interesting near by, and that’s why you need Carolina Arts to let you know – just what that is, where it is, and when it’s taking place. Would you go to the opera without a program? Not me.

And, finally for the record. David Stuempfle is a Seagrove, NC, potter and Mark Hewitt is a board member of the NC Pottery Center in Seagrove. You just can’t mention pottery in North Carolina and not have this area show up. Well, at least it seems I can’t find a way not to find the Seagrove connection.