Archive for January, 2010

Gallery Row on Historic Broad Street in Charleston, SC, Features Blues on Broad with Artwalk – Feb. 5, 2010

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Here’s a press release we received at Carolina Arts.

Gallery Row on Historic Broad Street in Charleston, SC, will present Blues on Broad in conjunction with its monthly artwalk held the first Friday of each month and the annual Lowcountry Blues Bash, on Feb. 5, 2010, from 5 – 8pm.

Gallery Row on Historic Broad Street is thrilled to become an official venue of the 20th Annual Lowcountry Blues Bash, during the First Friday on Broad artwalk. Four Galleries on Gallery Row will be official hosts for the festival, featuring 3 blues performers and numerous “Soulful Artists” exhibiting their work throughout the galleries.

“We are delighted to become a part of Charleston’s tradition of preserving and perpetuation of the blues as a true American art form”, says Stephanie Hamlet, owner of Hamlet Fine Art Gallery.

The Edward Dare Gallery will feature Blues inspired works by two artists; painter/ musician Jim Darlington and fine art photographer, Ron Anton Rocz.

Local photographer, Rocz, began his “Delta Blues Collection” series of photos in 2000. These photos give glimpses into the life and time of the early 1900’s, when names like Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters and B.B. King had their start in the Delta. With their mutual zeal for the blues, Darlington and Rocz have planned for years to collaborate in a joint show of their work. Darlington’s latest series of figurative works, “Muses and Musicians” work in harmony with Rocz’s Delta Blues photos. Together they provide the perfect backdrop for the soul shaking, foot tapping blues that will be provided by the harmonica and guitar duo, Freddie Vanderford and Brandon Turner.

COCO VIVO Fine Art and Design will feature new works by Angela Trotta Thomas. Her works for this show evoke the strong southern character of the blues, but with an underlying, reflective quality. Her show is titled,Midnight Hour Blues. Gallery Director and artist Danny Laran will display a new collection that reflects his life as a young boy growing up on a Carolina tobacco farm. Laran says, “Music is just a part of my soul…my artwork is a direct result of the experiences with my friends that I worked with each summer of my youth…those were days of fun, laughter, and, most of all, music…” The show title is, I Still Sing. Wine portrait artist, Rodney Huckaby, will unveil his new work 57 Strat, a wonderful still life piece. Entertainment will be provided by Juke Joint Johhny, “the harmonica beast of the southeast” and veteran guitarist Drew Baldwin with his 1915-vintage harp-guitar in his arsenal.

Hamlet Fine Art Gallery is delighted to present a new exhibition, titled,Everbody Have the Blues, of jazz and blues singers by Floyd Gordon, a critically acclaimed artist and a South Carolina treasure. Floyd is widely recognized for his vivid, potent acrylics celebrating the daily humanity in life. With brilliant color and layered textures, his canvases are said to dance with captivating vibrant colors of the blues singers. Hamlet Gallery and the Ellis-Nicholson Gallery will have entertainment by bluesman Davis Coen who is currently enjoying heavy airplay on satellite radio.

Mary Martin Gallery and Spencer Fine Art will also have entertainment and a wonderful variety of soulful art for art lovers and collectors.

Participating merchants include: Ellis-Nicholson Gallery, Hamlet Fine Art Gallery, Edward Dare Gallery, COCO VIVO, Mary Martin Fine Art, UTOPIA, Atmah Ja’s, Spencer Galleries, Ella Walton Richardson Fine Art, Martin Gallery, SCOOP Studios, Jake’s, Blind Tiger and the Oak Steak House.

For further information check our SC Commercial Gallery listings, call Stephanie Hamlet at 843/722-1944 or visit (www.charlestongalleryrow.com).

More Good Words Towards the SC Arts Commission(ers)

Friday, January 29th, 2010

No one should doubt my dislike for the actions of the SC Arts Commission – the SC State Arts Agency. As far as the folks who work there, I don’t harbor any dislike – except for a few individuals who have earned that distinction, but of late I find myself taking a new look at the Commissioners who are supposed to direct the agency – their current leader – Charles T. “Bud” Ferillo, Jr., especially.

If I’m not mistaken, and I’m not saying that’s not possible, it’s been some time since the leader of the Commissioners was someone who actually worked in the arts, was an active business person, and also had experience working in politics. So many of these Commissioners have had questionable ties to the SC art community to be thought of as true leaders or representatives of any part of the arts much less the whole state.

I’m talking about people whose claim to fame is having sat on the board(s) of arts organization or non-profits. People who are the spouse of an important business person, university president or politician. Or in one case, someone from Hollywood who just happened to be married to someone in SC for a period of time. Most of them are just rubber stamps to the staff’s directions.

But Ferillo could be the real deal.

I’ve been reading about Ferillo in local newspapers. He was just awarded the Harvey Gantt Triumph Award during Martin Luther King Jr. Day festivities in Charleston, SC, for the documentary film Ferillo produced called, Corridor of Shame, which highlighted the poor conditions of SC’s public schools located along the I-95 corridor. By the way, Ferillo was the 25th recipient of the award and the first white person to receive this award since its inception in 1983. He’s now working on a second documentary film titled, State of Denial.

You all know who Harvey Gantt is – right? He’s a Charleston native who was the first black student at Clemson University, former Mayor of Charlotte, NC, and he’s the person the new Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture in Charlotte is named after.

Ferillo also runs a publicity business – which I hope will help the SC Arts Commission in dealing with publicity and the media as well as the general public, much less some parts of the art community they seem to not notice.

Ferillo also served as deputy lieutenant governor and chief of staff to the speaker of the SC House – so he knows politics.

And, in a previous posting I told you of the quick response I got from Ferillo (during the holidays) when I e-mailed him about not getting press releases from the SC Arts Commission. Getting a response from a Commissioner hasn’t happened since Carl R. Blair was head of the Commissioners – a long time ago – at least its seems like a long time ago. Since Ferillo looked into this matter I’ve received two press release from the Arts Commission.

I’m not saying I’m an instant fan of Charles T. “Bud” Ferillo, Jr., but he’s got my attention and respect. His leadership is still new and there are lots of things to improve at the SC Arts Commission, during these challenging times, but so far I’m glad he’s at the top – for all that’s worth.

My biggest concern is that he might be too busy to make the impact needed at the Arts Commission, but I can hope.

We can still do that can’t we?

City Art Gallery in Columbia, SC, Features Works by Tarleton Blackwell

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

An article about this exhibit was in our Jan. 2010 issue of Carolina Arts, but when they recently sent some images of the works included in this exhibit – I just had to share this one image with you all.

It’s of former President George W. Bush – the “shoot from the hip” “bring em’ on” “War President” –  George Bush. Who’s the nearsighted sidekick? Who knows, it could be anyone from the former President’s rogues gallery – Karl Rove, Dick Cheney – perhaps Donald Rumsfeld the warrior. Who cares!

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Blackwell has had some great satirical imagery in the past – the Piggly Wiggly pig as Pope and himself as a Spanish commodore, but this one really gets to the heart of a real American characteristic. We’re all a bunch of cowboys at some time or another.

The exhibit is up through Feb. 20, 2010, at City Art Gallery. It should be well worth any effort to go see it – no matter what your political persuasion is.

You can read the article about this exhibit at Carolina Arts at this link.

Claymakers Gallery of Fine Handmade Pottery in Durham, NC, Features Works by Five Asheville Potters

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Here’s a press release we received at Carolina Arts about a pottery show in Durham, NC – a city we don’t hear from much. This came from Ronan Peterson, one of the ongoing potters featured at Claymakers. He is another blogging potter with the blog Nine Toes Pottery.

Here’s the press release:

Claymakers Gallery of Fine Handmade Pottery in Durham, NC, is presenting the exhibit, Asheville in the Bull City, featuring works by five Asheville, NC, area potters, Will Baker, Patty Bilbro, Kyle Carpenter, Karen Newgard, and Lindsay Rogers, on view through Mar. 12, 2010.

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work by Patty Bilbro

Claymakers invites five Asheville area ceramic artists to exhibit their distinctive functional vessels in the Bull City.  This exhibit includes the work of Will Baker, Patty Bilbro, Kyle Carpenter, Karen Newgard, and Lindsay Rogers. Each of these functional potters have developed a singular interpretation of everyday pottery, from the graphic, black on white porcelain of Karen Newgard to the warm, earthy atmospheric stoneware of Will Baker.

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work by Karen Newgard

Each artist employs their own approach to surface and decoration, with Lindsay Roger’s minimal, detailed lines and textures nicely contrasted by the intimate brushwork of Patty Bilbro and Kyle Carpenter’s bold salt fired slip and glaze brushwork.

Don’t miss this special showing near downtown Durham of some of the best ceramics the mountains of western North Carolina have to offer.

For further information check our NC Commercial Gallery listings, call the gallery at 919/530-8355 or visit (www.claymakers.com).

Photography Rules at the Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

We received a press release from the Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC, about a new attendance record set by one of their recent exhibitions – a photography exhibit of the works of Ansel Adams.

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There was a time when fine art photographers had to listen to other artists claim that photography wasn’t really an art form. Well, I agree in principle in that no art medium – painting, sculpture, music, dance, etc. is art for art sake on its own. It takes a creative person to make art – no matter what tool or medium they work in. So, not all photography is art.
Here’s the press release:

The Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC, set a daily attendance record of 2,006 visitors from noon until 5pm, on Jan. 17, 2010, which was a free admission day courtesy of BlueCross BlueShield of SC. Sunday was the last day for the popular exhibition, Ansel Adams: Masterworks, which opened Oct. 23, 2009 and featured many of Adams’ most famous and best-loved photographs that encompass the full scope of his work.

The exhibition attracted many people from outside the greater Columbia area generating strong economic activity for the city. Ten percent of visitors last Sunday were from outside of South Carolina and 55 percent were from outside Richland County.

“We are so pleased that this exhibition attracted such a large audience from outside the city and county, which has a direct and positive effect on improving the vitality of Main Street,” executive director Karen Brosius said. “Our exhibitions and educational programs bring thousands of people to the city center each year, which has an important economic impact as well.”

The Museum’s previous daily attendance record was 1,590 visitors during the Turner to Cézanne exhibition, which was on view Mar. 6 – June 7, 2009.

For further information visit (www.columbiamuseum.org).

You can read what I had to say about the Ansel Adams exhibit at this link.

I must say this might be a case of comparing apples with oranges unless the record attendance day for the Turner to Cézanne exhibition was on a free admission day also. But, either way it’s nice to know, as a former photographer, that the folks in Columbia and elsewhere liked Adams’ works more. I didn’t get to see the Turner to Cézanne exhibition so I can’t make a judgment myself, but I surely liked the Ansel Adams exhibit.

Some Update News on the Mint Museums in Charlotte, NC

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

We have received some updated info on what’s going to be happening this year with the Mint Museums – Mint Museum of Craft + Design and Mint Museum Randolph. We have been talking about the newly opened Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art – mentioning that the new Mint Museum Uptown will be coming later this year.

Pay close attention to the part about the Mint Museum of Craft + Design Shop staying open a few more months. That’s where you can pick up a copy of Carolina Arts in the heart of Uptown Charlotte – as well as some pretty nifty artworks, art objects and art books.

So here’s some news about the Mint Museums.

The Mint Museum of Craft + Design in Charlotte, NC, will close to the public on Feb. 7, 2010, to prepare to move its collections to the new Mint Museum Uptown. Opening in October 2010, the Mint Museum Uptown will house the Mint Museum of Craft + Design collections, as well as significant collections of American Art, Contemporary Art and a selection of European Art in a new five-story, 145,000-square-foot facility located in the heart of Charlotte’s business district.

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The Mint Museum of Craft + Design Shop will remain open for several more months, with a firm closing date to be announced later this spring.

To celebrate the grand opening of the Mint Museum Uptown, the Mint Museum of Craft + Design has launched Project Ten Ten Ten, a series of commissions created especially for the new Mint Uptown galleries by 10 of the world’s most innovative craft and design artists. When the doors open in October, visitors will see spectacular works by glass artist/designer Danny Lane (United Kingdom), conceptual jewelry artist Ted Noten (The Netherlands), furniture maker/designer Joseph Walsh (Ireland) and fiber artist Hildur Bjarnadttir (Iceland). Equally striking commissions by Kawana Tetsunori, Kate Malone, Tom Joyce, Cristina Córdova, Susan Point and Ayala Serfaty are also being planned for the new facility.

The Mint Museum expansion includes the construction of a new building in uptown Charlotte and the reinstallation of the historic US Mint facility on Randolph Road in Charlotte. When the expansion is complete, The Mint Museum’s total combined square footage will grow by more than 60 percent, allowing opportunities to showcase more works from the permanent collection and better accommodate significant traveling exhibitions.

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A postcard of the original Mint Museum – former US Mint facility.

You can see photos of the building progress of the new Mint facility at this link.

The Mint Museum Uptown will be part of the new Wells Fargo Cultural Campus. In addition to the Mint, the completed campus will include the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, the Knight Theater (housing the North Carolina Dance Theatre) and the Duke Energy Center. Following the grand opening of the Mint Museum Uptown, collections at the Mint Museum Randolph will be reinstalled with a fresh new vision. Galleries there will feature the Mint’s superb Ceramics, Art of the Ancient Americas, and Historic Costume and Fashionable Dress collections.

The Mint Museum Uptown is scheduled to open just one year prior to the Mint’s 75th anniversary. Designed by Machado and Silvetti Associates of Boston (design architect), Clark Patterson Lee Design Professionals of Charlotte (architect of record), and George Sexton Associates of Washington, D.C. (museum consultant), the new facility will combine inspiring architecture with groundbreaking exhibitions to provide unparalleled art experiences for its visitors. The Museum expansion will provide larger and more flexible space to showcase the permanent collections and Mint-organized special exhibitions, as well as major touring exhibitions organized by other venues. The new facility will also house a Family Gallery to reinforce the Museum’s dual priorities of art and education.

For more information, visit (www.mintmuseum.org).

Arts Council of Beaufort County (SC) Ask Supporters to Stuff Ballot Box for Top Art Destination

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

We have reported in the past on the results of AmericanStyle Magazine’s (www.americanstyle.com) voting results to determine the Top Art Destinations – including cities in North Carolina and South Carolina. It was my understand that the voting was done by readers of the magazine, but I recently received an e-mail from the Arts Council of Beaufort County in Beaufort, SC, asking their supporters to vote for Beaufort to get them further up the list – and, giving them a link to the voting site.

Is this right or fair game for such polls?

In 2008, Beaufort was #14 on a list of 25 Top Art Destinations in the small town category and in 2009 they reached up to #12. Was this a lift by actual readers of the magazine or by supporters in the Beaufort area? Who’s to know now that we know the arts council is asking folks to stuff the ballot. Not much was added to the community during that year to make it a better art community.

In 2009, in the small town category, Asheville, NC, was #2, Beaufort, SC, #12 and Chapel Hill, NC, #13. I’d have some problem comparing Beaufort over Chapel Hill in any arts category. It is a great small art town, but ranking over Chapel Hill – home of the University of North Carolina and all its art offerings – come on.

I don’t hold much stock in these kinds of rankings – mostly because we never know any details about the voting process or the final totals the rankings are based on. Like many of these kind of rankings by publications – for all we know – 10 votes could make you a “Best of” in some town and we never know if you get extra credit for advertising with the publication.

Like most announcements presented these days stating that drinking wine is good for your heart and drinking milk is good for your diet – without knowing who is presenting the report, who paid for it, and seeing the full details of the report – we can’t be sure what to make of the headlines. And, I don’t think a lot of people want you to go beyond the headlines.

I agree that Beaufort, SC, is a great small town arts destination, I have compared it as a mini Charleston at times, but on a national ranking, #12 might be stretching it some – without knowing more facts and who participated in the process.

I guess we’ll see how successful their campaign was when the 2010 rankings come out.

I think these polls are designed more to generate something people can advertise in the publications that host the polls. Why not just sell them to the highest bidders? For all we know – that might be what’s going on now.

Some Information about SC’s Verner Awards and its Gala Event

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

After my first posting about the opportunity for SC’s visual artists to participate in an art auction during the Gala for the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards – I got some inquiries, comments and it started me thinking. That can’t be good!

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The Verner Award

So here is some info I found on the pages for the SC Arts Foundation on the SC Arts Commission’s website. Hopefully this will give folks some more info about this Award and the events associated with it.

The Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Awards

To recognize outstanding achievement and contributions to the arts in South Carolina, the Arts Commission annually presents the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Awards, the highest honor the state gives in the arts. These awards honor South Carolina arts organizations, patrons, artists, members of the business community, and government entities who maximize their roles as innovators, supporters and advocates of the arts. In 1980, the Verner Awards took on a special significance with their designation as the official “Governor’s Awards for the Arts.”

The symbol of the awards is a hand-crafted bronze statue, designed by Columbia-based artist Jean McWhorter, and presented to each recipient.

A diverse committee, appointed by the SCAC Board of Commissioners and made up of members of the South Carolina community at large, reviews all nominations and makes recommendations to the Board for final approval.

Elizabeth O’Neill Verner

Elizabeth O’Neill Verner achieved an international reputation for her etchings and pastels, many of which capture the spirit of the South Carolina Low Country. She was also a teacher, writer and historian. Throughout her 96 years, Mrs. Verner traveled extensively through Europe and the Orient. Drawings of South Carolina residences, churches and street-life portraits are Verner trademarks recognized throughout the world for their artistic merit and unique color hues. Mrs. Verner’s studio, located on Tradd Street in Charleston, is open to visitors as a living memorial to this outstanding South Carolinian.

South Carolina Arts Gala

Join the South Carolina Arts Foundation May 6 to celebrate the pillars of South Carolina’s arts community with celebrity artists, a fabulous art auction, delicious food and more!

Special guests will include Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Pat Conroy and Jonathan Green.

Best-selling author Pat Conroy has published five novels, including his most recent, “South of Broad,” named for his favorite city, Charleston. Celebrated artist Jonathan Green is best known for depicting the people and landscapes of the Lowcountry. His work has been exhibited in major venues throughout the nation and abroad.

The gala will include an art auction featuring works by some of South Carolina’s finest artists. A wide range of original one-of-a-kind artworks, including functional and non-functional craft, paintings and sculpture provide many choices for both seasoned and beginning collectors. A list of artists will be available at a later date.

Tickets are $50 per person and may be reserved online with a credit card or check. Reserve tickets at this link (https://events.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07e2nrdmbbe7b02002&oseq=).

The South Carolina Arts Gala
Date: Thursday, May 6
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: The Columbia Museum of Art
Dress: Business attire
Tickets: $50 per person

Proceeds from this event benefit the South Carolina Arts Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting the education and arts development programs of the South Carolina Arts Commission.

OK – that’s the end of the info found on the SC Arts Commission’s website– which has pages of info for the SC Arts Foundation – two groups I have a hard time keeping separate due to the fact that the address, phone, website and staff for the SC Arts Foundation – are found at the SC Arts Commission – including using SCAC staff members to send out their e-mails.

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Even in the info offered about the Verner Awards – which is supposed to be a program of the SC Arts Foundation – the Arts Commission and its Board is all over it. By what I read I guess the Foundation handles the South Carolina Arts Gala. It’s their words not mine that adds to this confusion.

Also, in the info offered about Elizabeth O’Neill Verner – the Verner Studio on Tradd Street in Charleston hasn’t been open to the public for several years. But, I guess they didn’t know that. I don’t know everything either. Plus folks in Charleston like to call it the Lowcountry not Low Country. They used the word Lowcountry when describing Jonathan Green’s work.

Nominations for award winners in five other categories are also being taken (well, not any more) including: Arts in Education, Organization, Government, Business/Foundation, Individual, and Individual Artist. They don’t have a category for Gadfly – so I guess I’ll never get a Verner Award, but then again I don’t think Elizabeth O’Neill Verner would have either – they just used her reputation to give this award some standing.

The big question I have about this event and the gala is – What’s different about this year? Last year the awards and the gala was cancelled due to state budget cuts – cuts are still going on, and more are coming, but here we are again giving awards and having a party. I’m not even going to go into the art auction thing – that would take too long and it’s meaningless to me – I’m not an artist being asked to help support this event.

Art auctions are the problem of artists – if they don’t like them they don’t have to participate, but can they live with the phrase found in the info about the South Carolina Arts Gala – “The gala will include an art auction featuring works by some of South Carolina’s finest artists.” There’s the rub.

But, again – where has the money come from to do the Verner Awards and the Gala – that wasn’t there last year? And, how can it be there this year with even more cuts over the past year and more coming?

In the journalistic investigating world – the best plan is to follow the money, but good luck to anyone interested in doing that with these two groups. I’m wondering if the difference between last year and this year lies with the new art auction at the Gala, the Gala itself, or a SC business who wants to receive a Verner Award and is willing or has made a donation to the SC Arts Foundation to make it possible. I don’t know, but it makes me wonder where the money is coming from.

And, this is what the South Carolina Arts Foundation says they are on the SC Arts Commission’s website.

“Established in 1972, the S.C. Arts Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to recognizing, encouraging and supporting the art and artists of the Palmetto State. Throughout its history, the SCAF has pursued creative ways to help the business community and private citizens contribute to a thriving arts community in South Carolina. The organization is led by a diverse board of directors comprised of statewide business and civic leaders, artists, educators and others interested in supporting the rich variety of artistic expression found in the Palmetto State.”

I’m not sure another art auction falls into the – recognizing, encouraging and supporting – categories – nor is it a very creative way for the business community and private citizens to contribute to the arts.

Visiting The Marion and Wayland H. Cato Jr. Center for the Arts in Charleston, SC

Friday, January 15th, 2010

The title of this entry could be – Old School Photography at the College of Charleston’s School of the Arts, but I don’t know how to do a subtitle or if you can do a subtitle in WordPress.

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It was a cold day to drive down to Charleston to attend an open house for a new arts center (the high for the day was 36), but after reading a story in The Post & Courier about a reception for the Cato family on Friday – it was the first time I had read details about the center and what we would find there – what I read sealed the deal. So we (Linda and I) went despite the cold. I mean it’s been cold – too cold for sunny South Carolina – even for this old Yankee.

We first had lunch with our goddaughter, Zelda Ravenel, previously known as Emma Ravenel in this blog, but I have granted her an unofficial name change by request – so will from now on refer to her as Zelda. She’s a recent graduate of the Savannah School of Art and Design in Savannah, GA, in Sequential Arts (animation), and much like our son Andrew – a recent graduate of the College of Charleston in Geology, has yet to find a job in her field.. If anyone knows of any opportunities – contact us – please.

Anyway, I was happy to learn that Zelda’s plans had changed and she could go to the art center opening with us after all. It’s always nice to have her young perspective on the arts. Our eyes and minds (Linda and mine) are a little generationally challenged. I’d say more grounded in reality, but young folks would say – so old-school or outdated. Whatever – I think there is room for both views when tackling today’s challenges for the arts world.

So, after a lunch – West of the Ashely – we headed to downtown Charleston. That’s right folks, West Ashley, as some call it, is not another town – it’s a part of the City of Charleston. And, as usual, it took some time driving around the College of Charleston before we found a parking space. As cold as it was there seemed to be a lot of folks walking around Charleston. I hope they were buying something – buying art would’ve been great.

On the first floor of the five story building we revisited the exhibit, Aldwyth: Work V. / Work N. Collage and Assemblage, 1991-2009, on its last day in Charleston. I’ve stated my feeling on this exhibit in previous entries and Zelda gave it a thumbs up. There we ran into Michael Haga, Assistant Dean at the School of the Arts, who teaches there and is a long-time friend. He also taught our son Art History. Haga gave us his must see highlights and as a true supporter of the School of the Arts when asked if he knew when the new science center at the College would open – he said sometime, but today was the real important opening. What a party-line player.

Well, after some hot chocolate and a chocolate-chip cookie on the first floor reception area, we headed up to the third floor – represented by the Theatre and Dance Departments to see if John Olbrych would be there. We found his new office space, but no sign of him. Olbrych was the first person featured on the cover of our July 1987 issue of Charleston Arts – our first arts newspaper. Not our first newspaper as Linda and I did a stint producing the Congaree Chronicle, a monthly newspaper for SC’s Sierra Club – way back when, and I had co-authored the Glass Onion, an underground newspaper, back in high school with longtime and still friend – James M Wichlacz – brother Jim. And, now we both do Carolina Arts.

Volume 1, Issue 1 of Charleston Arts opened with an interview with Olbrych – South Carolina’s Man Behind the Scenes. At that time, Olbrych had been the Resident Designer and Professor at the College since 1979 – that’s 31 years now. How time flies.

We checked everything out on all floors and all was impressive – there’s just something about a brand new facility. Most of the rooms seemed fairly sparse – yet to have that moved in character – which will come much later I’m sure. If anything a few faculty offices looked well moved in. And, we already talked about the new art gallery.

We checked out the views of Charleston’s skyline on the fourth floor in the painting studios, a huge cavernous space – with windows that started five feet up from the floor? I explained to Zelda why the windows had to be placed so high up – unstable artists – some have been known to cut their ears off in frustration. That got me a punch in the arm.

What surprised me the most about The Marion and Wayland H. Cato Jr. Center for the Arts was found on the fifth floor, the home of the new photography facilities at the School of the Arts. Yes, the digital photography room was impressive with wall to wall Apple computers with extremely large monitors, large digital printers and scanners, but it was the “old school” darkroom facilities that got our attention. Zelda’s into old school photography too. This was totally unexpected. It wasn’t just a token darkroom – this was a blast from the past. This could have been a facility at the Eastman School of Photography – back in 1970. The only thing I missed was the smell of an old darkroom – this facility had state-of-the-art ventilation. Be assured moms and dads of photography students at the College of Charleston – your children won’t be losing too many brain cells to toxic chemicals. Well, not as much as it would have been in the old days. But you need to get some of those chemicals in your blood to be a really good photographer.

Standing in these rooms I felt like mixing up some D-76 developer, fixer and stop bath and running a few rolls of black and white film.

Linda and I have quite a photography history in Charleston. When I first came to Charleston in 1974 one of my first jobs was selling 35mm cameras at Sam Solomon’s, then I went to work at Howard R. Jacobs, a full service camera store, photo supply, and photo processing lab – that’s where Linda and I first met. Later, she went to work in the photo lab at the Medical University in Charleston and I went to work for Pro Foto, a custom B&W and color photo lab with photo supplies. We did the first color Cibachromes in Charleston at Pro Foto. After that, Linda and I opened our own custom B&W photo lab called IF Labs which we ran for 16 years. We even opened one of the first fine art photography galleries in Charleston with a few friends – Photogallery. At one time I ran the South Carolina Photographer’s Guild. So, old school photography was in our blood.

Linda was a master custom black and white printer, who could do spotting on prints like a master art restorer, and I was a wizard at B&W film processing. I could process a 5-reel and 4-reel stainless steel tank – both at the same time. Good old days.

I’ve been in the old darkroom, a converted bathroom, at the Simons Center for the Arts and this will be a major step up for students.

We ran into Michelle Van Parys who teaches Photography at the School of the Arts in the darkroom area and I expressed how impressed I was and surprised to see this much emphasis on the old ways of processing prints and film. I told her a story of one day sitting in one of our old galleries, when a graduate from the Savannah School of Art and Design came in to show me her photography portfolio. She had some pretty nice images, but all were printed on Xerox paper. I asked if she ever printed on “real” photographic papers and she explained that her professors were not into the old ways of photo processing. I told her what a shame that was in that some of these images would look so much better on photo paper – not just paper.

Of course today, with new technologies and materials – the quality of digital cameras, inkjet printers, printing papers and inks are so much better – digital photography is great. It’s no longer debatable that the old ways are better – even though some still want to fight that fight. I’ve seen digital prints that could never have looked so good made the old way, but like William Halsey (the man the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art is named after) once told me – in arts education, it’s best to learn the old ways before you start to break away from them – not start out that way. And, I believe that too.

So, its amazing to see the School of the Arts put so much into these new darkroom facilities, but even then there were shortfalls. Some of the accessory equipment is “cheap” – all they could afford or find. Plastic and bamboo where stainless steel and glass was the norm. The good stuff – even if you could find a supplier these days would be cost prohibitive and might soon disappear – for future darkrooms – off campus.  It’s too bad.

Unfortunately our state of the art darkroom equipment was lost in a fire shortly after we retired from photo processing and insurance didn’t cover much of it. We also lost most of our collection of personal photography in that fire too – insurance covered none of it. It’s not a subject I like to talk about – emotions run high when I even think about it.

A few years back I found some of our old equipment that survived and made a donation to the darkroom at the Redux Center for Contemporary Art. If I find any more I might take it over to the new facilities at the College of Charleston.

Here’s a suggestion to any old school photographers (or their spouses who would like to clean up) who no longer use any of their old darkroom equipment – you could get it out of the closet and give it to the College – they don’t need enlargers – they have plenty of new ones, but they could use stainless steel film processing tanks and film reels, stainless steel tonges, film clips and weights, etc. You might want to give them a call (Michelle Van Parys at 843/953-7653 or e-mail at vanparysm@cofc.edu) to see if they need or want anything you have first, but it would be a better use for it than collecting dust – that’s if you’ve gone digital. If you’re still using it – march on, but if not – think about giving a new photographer a chance to hold some of the real stuff – from way back when.

Another observation – the lighting or portrait studio was too small and the backdrops were hung too low and I didn’t see any electronic lighting equipment – just old – very old school, light bulbs and lighting cones. I hope they will eventually have better equipment than that. What they have will teach students about lighting, but that’s a heck of a way to learn – and someone’s gonna get burned eventually – I know I did many a time. They might want to think about moving that studio down to the fourth floor where there are what looks like 20 ft. ceilings.

After all, they are competing with the Art Institute of Charleston and the Charleston Center for Photography for photography education these days.

I also got dripped on from a leak in the ceiling outside that lighting studio on the fifth floor – not good for a brand new building. Hopefully it’s just a small leak in the sprinkler system – not the roof. But I’m sure someone was on that early Monday morning – if not sooner.

It will be interesting to see the next student photography exhibit at the College to see if these new facilities produce improved results – not to say the results haven’t been good, but there won’t be room for excuses about lame facilities anymore.

The new Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art has already seen the rewards of new digs as the Spoleto Festival USA has now taken them under their wing as a visual art venue for the big festival. A step in the right direction, but still short of making the visual arts a full fledged partner in the arts festival. Maybe one day Spoleto will be back in the visual arts biz. Anything’s possible.

SC Arts Foundation in Columbia, SC, Seeks Artworks for 2010 SC Art Auction

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

I received this e-mail from the SC Arts Commission today about a call for artists to submit works for an “art auction” to be held during this year’s gala celebrating the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards. In the past, at least to my memory, there has been an art sale of selected works during the gala – with the idea of giving SC’s visual artists exposure to the high end audience attending this gala, but now SC’s artists are being presented with another auction opportunity. This is not quite the same opportunity as a sale – even though in the past – artists were asked to place a lower than normal price on their works.

I’m not making a judgment here – I’m just pointing out the difference from past opportunities compared to this one. We’re lucky a public call is being made at all, since that was not always the policy – select artists were just invited to participate in the past.

And, again, I appreciate the Art Commission sending me this notice (It’s nice to be back on the media list.) so I can turn it over to my readers, but I hope they don’t mind the extra historical info provided. It may be more than they get with other media outlets, but that’s what you get with Carolina Arts – a wealth of history about the region’s visual arts. You can see details about the auction at the link offered by the Foundation – they’re very up front about this opportunity.

Here’s the press release:

S.C. ARTS FOUNDATION SEEKS ARTWORK FOR 2010 SOUTH CAROLINA ART AUCTION

110verneraward
Verner Award

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Arts Foundation seeks excellent quality artwork to include in the South Carolina Art Auction, the centerpiece of the 2010 South Carolina Arts Gala, an evening celebration of the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards for the Arts on Thursday, May 6 at the Columbia Museum of Art. Interested artists should submit the following by Feb. 22 to Art Auction, S.C. Arts Foundation, 1800 Gervais Street, Columbia, S.C., 29201:

- DVD or CD-ROM containing up to 10 images in a jpeg format with a maximum resolution at or less than 1024 x 768 pixels of representative or available works.
– Checklist including title, date, medium, size and price
– Resume or bio
– Artist statement (not to exceed 250 words)
– Self-addressed stamped envelope for return of materials

Additional submission guidelines are available at (www.SouthCarolinaArts.com/verner/call.shtml) or by calling 803/734-8696. A panel composed of members of the S.C. Arts Foundation and arts professionals will select the artwork for the auction. For more information, contact Harriett Green, 803/734-8762 or e-mail at (hgreen@arts.sc.gov).

About SCAF
Established in 1972, the S.C. Arts Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to recognizing, encouraging and supporting the art and artists of South Carolina. Throughout its history, the SCAF has pursued creative ways to help the business community and private citizens contribute to a thriving arts community across the state. The organization is led by a diverse board of directors comprised of statewide business and civic leaders, artists, educators and others interested in supporting the rich variety of artistic expression found in the Palmetto State. For more information, visit (www.SouthCarolinaArts.com/Foundation) or call 803/734-8696.