Posts Tagged ‘Charleston Visitor Center’

Another Look at Piccolo Spoleto Visual Arts in Charleston SC – June 4, 2011

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Linda, my better half, had to work the whole weekend so I decided it was a good time to run down to Charleston, SC, again to catch a few more visual art exhibits taking place during the Spoleto/Piccolo Festivals. I knew it was going to be hot on Saturday so I had planned to get an early start to avoid the hottest part of the day. But I made the mistake of checking out the Facebook pages.

A few items on Facebook caught my attention, which led to making a few comments and then checking out a few items there that took me to a few blog entries and before you know it that early start was lost. And of course Mickey Williams – Charleston’s Facebook DJ had reminded me of a group I hadn’t listen to in a while so I had to listen to a few songs by the Zombies.

I could tell when I finally got to the I-26 exit for Meeting Street that it was going to be another crazy day of navigating through traffic in downtown Charleston. I was hoping to get to the Charleston Visitor Center where the27th Annual Piccolo Spoleto Juried Art Exhibition is on view through June 10, 2011. After circling a few blocks and finding no available parking spaces I decided to head to my second destination first at the other end of the peninsula – Lowcountry Artists, Ltd. The area around Marion Square seemed to be in grid-lock – much worst compared to last Sunday. Good for the artists in the parks – I hoped.


Lowcountry Artists, is located at 148 East Bay Street and I found an almost empty parking lot next to the Exchange Building just a half block away. Not a good sign for that part of town, but good for me. Lowcountry Artists is presenting the exhibit, The Power of Glass, featuring works by Robert Clair and Stephen Hazard, on view through June 11, 2011.

The gallery had promoted this exhibit to be perhaps the largest showing of art glass ever to be seen in the area, which I think just might be true. The exhibit featured blown glass by Robert Clair and fused and etched glass by Stephen Hazard, two local artists.

A display of Stephen Hazard’s works

Now Charleston isn’t Western North Carolina and fine art crafts in this town take a distant second, only in numbers, to paintings hanging on the walls of Charleston’s galleries, although most galleries use crafts to fill in spaces where they can’t hang or place a painting. You’ll find some outstanding galleries presenting a variety of works in various craft media, but it is paintings that rule Charleston, and works in glass in large numbers are rarely presented here. It’s too bad, but that’s the facts, Jack. Go to Asheville, NC, and that case is reversed.

Works by Robert Clair

Lowcountry Artists had done a good job of making space for a lot of glass works to be displayed in this exhibit. And there is nothing like seeing a lot of colorful glass objects clustered together – it’s like viewing a Christmas tree for the first time of the season. Glass can shimmer in light like no painting can and being 3 dimensional it can do it from all angles.

Many of Clair’s works were clustered in one big display that was like being in a candy shop during Christmas. The many colors in many shapes was a festival in itself for the eyes. And, the real wonder is that the basic ingredient, besides the artist’s skill, is molten sand.

Works by Robert Clair

For Clair, this show represented four years of working as an assistant in the hot shop of his teacher and glass blowing mentor, Herman Leonhardt, being paid in hot, clear glass and studio time. Leonhardt, whose studio is located deep in the swamp off the Edisto River, comes as close to being the Lowcountry’s resident glass artist as anyone.

Works by Robert Clair

In a press release we offered in our May 2011 issue of Carolina Arts, it offered that, “Steve Hazard’s art draws upon Africa’s rich and diverse artistic traditions from the past, but thrusts the viewer in the present and the future. From patch work quilts of the South, West African sculpture and ceremonial masks to the complex patterns of multi-cultural textiles, Hazard creates iconic art works that captivate the viewer and transports him to sacred, ancient and/or lost cultures, while allowing the viewer to possess a bit of history in functional contemporary glass art.”

Detail of one of Stephen Hazard’s works

I found that a lot of Hazard’s works did remind me of quilts, with so many patches of different colors and patterns thrown into a mix, but a mix that was engaging to the eye and mind.

Work by Stephen Hazard

Fused glass is something I’ve always been interested in – thinking that one day I might try my hand at it, but I’ve seen and learned enough about it to respect the really skilled artist. Like all art – anyone can make a quilt, melt some glass together, mold some clay into a shape and brush some paint on a canvas. But, unless you are totally blind, it’s easy for anyone who takes a close look before they open their mouths and say those infamous words – “I could do that” – to see it takes time and skill to reach a level before something they make becomes art.

Work by Stephen Hazard

And, it’s not hard for me to recognize that Hazard is working at a high level in creating these works. Maybe I’ll stick with my day job.

Although Lowcounty Artists may be featuring works by these two artists on a regular basis, you won’t see so many glass works presented together, so it is advisable that you make an effort to see this exhibit before it is over. It might be some time before Charleston is offered another display of so much glass art.

Works by Robert Clair

On the way back to my car I popped into Mickey Williams Studio Gallery to razz him about delaying my trip for me. Mickey wasn’t in, but his wife, Jenlu, was and I talked with her a while. The back room door was closed so I suspected that Mickey was in the back taking one of his cat naps. Jenlu and I talked about our respective children, the job market for college students, the cost of having children in college and Mickey’s addiction to Facebook. I needed to find out how to control Linda’s growing problem. If you want to know the hard truth about someone – you go to their spouse.

While taking with her I remembered that I had gotten an e-mail card about the fact that during Spoleto Susan Mayfield (West) was going to be showing works with Mickey at the gallery. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her work and what I was seeing was very different. My mind was telling me Mayfield did pastels, but these were works in oils. Although the works are a little darker than the way pastels look I liked what I was seeing and according to Jenlu, so were others who had seen the works displayed.

If you go see the show at Lowcountry Artists, you should stop in and see both works by Mickey Williams and Susan Mayfield. Mayfield has moved out West I think and you might not get a chance to see her work that often in Charleston.

Next stop – the Charleston Visitor Center at 375 Meeting Street, but the closer I got to Marion Square or Wragg Square where the 2011 Piccolo Spoleto Crafts Fair was going on – the traffic and lack of parking spaces increased. After a few times around the area I found a space on King Street – not too far from the Visitor Center.

I got to the Visitor Center just in time. I wasn’t spending a lot of time out in the heat, so my body fluids were not being sweat out and by this time of the day I needed to make water. What a saying. If I can say anything nice about the City of Charleston – the government – not the city itself – they keep a clean set of rest rooms at the Visitor Center. They probably need to double the size of the women’s facilities – there is always a line up there when tour buses are in the house, but as far as I know they are clean too. But from comments my wife says about public rest rooms, she gives me the impression that some women have very bad habits. Men probably do too, but fortunately for me it’s a big difference in the physical process in making water.

Oooh – potty talk during a blog about the arts – how real.


Excuse this abrupt transition, but… So, I’m looking at the 27th Annual Piccolo Spoleto Festival Juried Art Exhibit, on display at one end of the Visitor Center. The show is co-sponsored by the Charleston Artist Guild and the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs, and it’s divided into two categories – paintings and photography. I don’t like that subtle slight toward photography and don’t know why they are doing this, but it’s their show. I would think that now that the Charleston Artist Guild has photographers as full members they would change this about the show and have all the art judged on the same basis.

Photographers everywhere – one day you shall overcome too! Just not anytime soon.

I’m noticing that this exhibit has several things in common with the juried art shows presented during the 2011 North Charleston Arts Festival – bad lighting, ID tags which are placed in positions which are hard to read, and for a statewide opportunity – very few entries on display from around the state of South Carolina. This fact probably really burns the folks at the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs as they always assume they are several levels above anything in North Charleston. But, I’ll give them credit for having an informative program available for viewers. It’s so important.

After looking through the show once I looked over the program and confirmed my suspicions that beyond a few entries from the Columbia area and the Pee Dee area, most works were by artists from the Lowcountry. I can’t imagine that all the works from the Upstate and other areas of SC didn’t make the cut, but both jurors were from the Lowcountry, but I doubt that Alex Powers, who judged the paintings and Rick Rhodes, who judged the photography would be that biased. So my conclusion is – they didn’t enter this show.


Again, I think the problem is that the show’s cash prizes and the exhibit venue are not attractive enough to draw artists from that long a distance to enter this show – even if it does expose you to the Spoleto/Piccolo Festivals audience. But does it? More about that later.

If there was a better exhibit venue in Charleston I would think that this would be the perfect opportunity to have a knock-out statewide juried show, but that might take the involvement of a strong state arts agency, but we all know I don’t think we have anything like that in SC.

Both the painting and photography presented were very strong. And, I only recognized a handful of the artists’ names in this exhibit – which is a good thing – meaning we have a lot of talented artists in SC working their way up the ladder.

I did take note that Denise L. Greer, who has been the Queen of juried shows lately, only received a Honorable Mention in this show, but watch out next year.

From the Ashes by Christopher E. Murphy

The 1st place winner in the painting category was Christopher E. Murphy of Mt. Pleasant, SC, for the work, From the Ashes. And the 1st place winner in the photography category was Ellen Yampolsky of Charleston, forColorful Canoes. But I, as usual, had different favorites.

The work that attracted my eye on this day the most was a pen and wash work titled, St. Peters Rome, by Hank Pulkowski of Myrtle Beach, SC. In second favorite was the work, Thoughts, an oil on canvas by John Tecklenburg of Edisto Beach, SC. It was an abstract/ realism work – go figure. I can’t help myself.

Thoughts by John Tecklenburg

Like I said before, the lighting was bad and it’s not the best place to try and get photos of works, but I got a few, but not of the ones I really would have liked to show in this blog.

Spoleto IX by Betty Thalheimer

I found Betty Thalheimer’s paintings to be interesting. Her color pallet was different and if I had to describe why I was drawn to it I might just say – the noses of the women in the works. Ron Anton Rocz had a compelling photograph titled, Cityscape Havana, which was drawing a crowd while I was there. I liked it too. And, I found a work titled, Jelly Ball, by Matt Broome in the photography grouping, but it had that crossover look of a photograph made to look like a painting. I didn’t find the image that interesting, but I find it interesting that photographers are doing this. Can you blame them – trying to get just general respect from the public? But I wouldn’t have entered it in the photography category if I was trying to fool anyone. Of course, he might not have had the choice or not been trying to fool anyone.

What really amazed me about this exhibit was how people could just walk right past it without even giving it a glance. A lot of folks were flowing through the Visitor Center on this day, but very few took the time to look at the exhibit, and many who came in the building from the other end, probably never knew it was even there. I didn’t notice any banners outside the building or in the main info part of the Center announcing that the show was there. Actually a few signs in the rest rooms would have been the best place to announce this show – hardly anyone coming to this facility would have missed those signs. It’s just another sign that all the folks coming to Charleston are not really here for the festivals.

While I was at the Visitor Center I picked up a card for Art For Charity, which when you look at it would give you the impression that this is some sort of non-profit, but what you’re looking at is a commercial business that is now using charities to draw people into the door of a commercial gallery – in this case the Michael Mitchell Gallery, located on King street near the Visitor Center. I’m told that this is the new trend in galleries. I don’t care for it myself. I always have to wonder how much of the sale of a work of art goes to the charities and we all know that most charities are not too concerned about how much money they receive from these relationships with collectors of such funds -as long as they get some money and are getting the publicity generated.

When I went to the web address on the card I found this statement – “What started as a pop-up for Art for Charity has evolved into one of Charleston’s premier galleries.” I don’t think that is true – I only seem to hear about this gallery during the time of Spoleto. Where are they the rest of the year? I’d think you’d have to have a higher profile to be one of Charleston’s premier galleries. The gallery doesn’t exactly have a big footprint on the Internet either beyond it’s activities surrounding the festivals since 2010. Yet already they call themselves one of Charleston’s premier galleries.

The gallery does seem to be the entry port into Charleston’s art market for many artists from Columbia, SC – which is a good thing. But the strong tie to charities would concern me. I found nowhere on the website for the gallery/design shop which tells how much (what percentage of a sale) goes to charities. That’s something I’d want to know as a consumer. And, nowhere did I find how much they have raised for any of these charities last year.

This mingling of charities with buying art reminds me of a gimmick – much like the official “Certificate of Authenticity” offered in some galleries. And I’m sure it doesn’t make the charities who rely on art auctions as fundraisers happy.

The art industry is like all industries – buyer beware at all times. That’s why it’s important to have a good relationship with your gallery. Don’t be afraid to ask what might seem like hard questions and pay attention to the response you get. Don’t assume details.

There might be nothing wrong with this way of selling art, but it concerns me. Perhaps it’s a way of fighting back against the charities who use art for fundraising.

In my own experience I’ve learned that not everything involving a charity is a good thing, but this in no way is a reflection on the greater charity community. It just means that the word “charity” or “non-profit” is not a certificate of good and up and up. That’s all I’m saying.

First Look At Piccolo Spoleto Visual Art Events for 2010 in Charleston, SC

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Right off the bat we have a few corrections to my preview of the Piccolo Spoleto visual art offerings taking place in Charleston, SC. It seems for some reason on the second day of the festivals two of the rest rooms at the Charleston Visitor Center were under “construction” – whatever that means beyond a reduction of rest rooms by 50%. Why now, I can not answer, but a staff person said they hoped they would be open soon. Me too – as well as a lot of other folks.

And, after a slow start, Amelia (“Mimi”) Whaley’s blog from the 2010 Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Exhibition at Marion Square is now up and running with info from the inside. She has pictures and a list of the winning entries from this show. Visit this link to keep up with this show.

Our first stop was to see the 2010 Piccolo Spoleto Juried Art Exhibition. It just seems that this juried opportunity isn’t as important as it once was or should be to the visual artists of the greater Charleston area or for South Carolina’s visual artists. It’s not the best location for an exhibit (Charleston Visitor Center) – although it has a high rate of traffic – especially with the only public rest rooms within blocks in downtown Charleston. The lighting is bad and the displays are a little too tight.


My first impression is that photographers have started taking this show over. Not so according to the show breakdown (49 photographs and 63 paintings), but it sure seemed that way to me. One of the judges is a local photographer – the show has two – one for photography and one for everything else, but I’m not sure why the Charleston Artist Guild – organizers of the exhibit feel they need two judges. Why not just find one judge – well rounded in the visual arts – from outside the area (out of state would be better) to judge this show and treat all the visual art works entered – equally?

Of course the big problem with commenting about a juried show is that we will never know what was entered and what didn’t make the cut. Is this the best of what was entered or just what reflects the taste of the jurors? But, then that’s the way all juried shows are. Where the artists who made the cut are from isn’t given, but if I look at area codes for phone numbers listed – this is a Lowcountry or coastal SC show. My guess is that also reflects where most of the 463 works entered came from. Why more artists from around the state are not in the show is a puzzle. Did they not enter the show? Was it too difficult for them to enter due to distance? I don’t know why these kinds of shows always seem to be local. I think all areas of SC have great artists, – too bad more artists from other parts of the state aren’t represented in this show.

One of the good things about this exhibit was that I didn’t recognize a lot of the names of the artists. There is nothing worse than an annual juried show which seems to include the same folks – year after year. And, since names which are included in solo exhibits, group exhibits, and juried exhibits come across my radar on a regular basis at Carolina Arts – this show may have become a great opportunity for the up and coming artists of the area – with some of the veterans of the art community still giving them a run for the money.

I only found a few things hanging that made me wonder – was this the best they had to select from? But that is a very subjective feeling on my part knowing what doesn’t appeal to me may be other folks’ favorites. Like all art.

A lot of the other Piccolo Spoleto visual arts exhibits tend to feature artists who are not always so new to the area, nor unseen. I’ll go as far in saying that some should take a break if their egos can take it and give some others a chance, but here the problem stems from the question – who selects these special invitational shows. Do they know many artists to begin with and can they stop selecting folks who are “connected” in one way or another.

When you have been around as long as I have and seen as many Piccolo offerings as I have – you can recognize the cycles that keep recurring – every four or five years. Lately, we’re being offered some artists – every year. That practice needs to stop.

But, that’s not always a bad thing. When it comes to the outdoor art and craft shows – visitors look forward to seeing the new work their favorite artists are offering. Those shows actually bring visitors to Charleston on a regular basis – whether they return for the festivals or not. Visitors come to see known artists. Again – these words are offered with the recognition that these shows are also regular supporters of Carolina Arts. Would I heap such praise on them if they were not? I guess it’s a matter of my word and the trust in it.

Which brings us to the 2010 Piccolo Spoleto Crafts Shows.

From the very beginnings of Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto Festivals the craft shows have been an annual “must see” for Linda (my better half) and I. We went when it first started in the middle of Marion Square Park under this huge tent – where it must have been 100 degrees under that tent at times. We started our art collection there and added to it almost every year – depending on the economy. It didn’t hurt that our anniversary and my birthday come in the same month the craft shows happen. It used to be called the craft fairs back then.


An image burned in my memory of those days out in the middle of the park was of a local blacksmith – Ira DeKoven who used to do demonstrations outside the tent in the hot sun. Man, that was going beyond the call of duty to let people see the process.

These days the weekend shows take place in Wragg Square, within a half block of Marion Square – mostly under the shade of live oak trees. During the walk from our car on the third floor of the Visitor Center parking garage to the ground floor we were able to give a half dozen folks the remainder of our free tickets to the craft show which we receive in the mail each year. One happy recipient was so glad – as she couldn’t find one in a gallery that she usually picks up each year. Timing is everything.


I’ve got to say, this year’s craft offerings were as good as ever – maybe a bit too many jewelry booths for one husband to take, but a well rounded selection of fine crafts. I paid special attention to potters from the Carolinas this year collecting info for an upcoming project. Most were from North Carolina. I always hate to point out favorites, but if I had won the lottery the day before I would have gotten something from Flying Pig Pottery(Suzanne Rehbock) of Greensboro, NC. Hey, if I had won the lottery the day before I would have put a smile on a lot of faces of the artists showing in this show. Unfortunately – I didn’t.

If you missed the craft show this weekend – you’re in luck. They will hold another one next weekend – same place, same times – June 4 – 6, 2010.

Parking cost for this day – $3. Not bad. We only had a limited time – I had to go to bed early so I could deliver some newspapers.

More info later.

“25th Annual Piccolo Spoleto Festival Juried Arts Exhibition”

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

I’m not sure you’ll be able to call this a review, but I went by the Charleston Visitor Center (Charleston, SC) today and viewed the 25th Annual Piccolo Spoleto Festival Juried Art Exhibition. The Exhibit is organized by the Charleston Artist Guild for the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs. After viewing all the works once, I picked up the official program for the show and began to go over it. The program stated that 140 artists submitted 3 works each = 420 works of which the two jurors for this show selected 37 photographs and 63 paintings/2D = 100 works in the show. My first reaction was that there couldn’t be 100 works in this exhibit, but I’m sure there were. I may not have seen some works as well as I would like as they were nearly on the floor – not the best angle to view art.


I also looked through the program to see if this was really two different shows – one being the Piccolo Spoleto Festival Juried Photography Exhibition and the other being the Piccolo Spoleto Festival Juried Painting/2D Exhibition. You see, the photography was displayed all together on one side of the room and the paintings/2D were displayed together on the other side. Why was this done I wondered? Was it to make for easy comparison against the works that won awards and those that didn’t in each media? Or, was it not to confuse the public who might not be able to tell the difference between mediums? It couldn’t be that as the media was printed on each work of art’s tag. The organizers of the exhibit brought in two different jurors to select works in the two different categories for First, Second, Third, and Honorable Mention awards in each category.


Is this still the old thing that photography is just not worthy to stand up next to a painting/2D? Is this art segregation in the old South? If this was not the intention of the organizers – all the signs were there. Can’t we all just get along? Not sure on that one.

This juried opportunity is open to artists from all over South Carolina, and it had some very good works by some of the states’ well-known, well-exhibited, and award-winning artists. It also had a lot of good work by artists I’ve never heard of – which is a good sign for South Carolina. There were some works that I wouldn’t have put on display, but without seeing the other 320 works submitted – that’s hard to say, but I bet some really good works didn’t make the cut. Which is the usual case in a juried show. But fitting 100 works into the space allotted was a disservice to many of these artists. I like the venue of the Visitor Center because many people will view this exhibit, just passing through, but the show no longer gets the space from the Center this exhibition needs. And, like it or not – this show might be the first and only impression of the visual arts in Charleston and of what’s being offered during the Piccolo Festival. It’s like a gateway exhibit. It should be our best foot forward. This show offered some good glimpses.

There was a time when the Piccolo Spoleto Juried Exhibition was the major visual art attraction of the Piccolo Festival, but after 25 years, it seems a disinherited cousin squeezed into a smaller and smaller space. An exhibit of 50 works would have looked much better in the space. In a better, more expansive space this exhibition could be a major display of some of South Carolina’s best works by its best artists – on the level of the 2008 juried exhibition at the SC State Museum in Columbia, SC. After all, the Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto Festivals are this state’s major art events. Why isn’t it the major showplace of the state’s art creators?

Let’s get back to the jurors. Why do you need two jurors to select works for an art show? Shouldn’t one well qualified person be able to judge paintings and photography alike? I think they should. In this case each juror was only selecting works in the two separate medias (Photography & Painting/2D) – so you don’t even get the advantage of jury by committee – if there is such an advantage. In the past, I think this show even had a third juror to select craft items. I think it’s time to try the one juror system. After all – all juried shows are just the results of one person’s opinion at that time. One added thought – wouldn’t it be nice if all juried shows featuring artists from throughout the state would be juried by an out of state juror? It’s not easy jurying a show in an area where you work and live.

By the way, Dr. Leo Twiggs juried the painting/2D works and Stacy Pearsail juried the photography.

So let’s see – I didn’t like the way the two media were separated and displayed and I don’t like the format for the jury system. And, the venue is good, but too little space is given up for this exhibit. How about the artworks – what about them?

Well, this is definitely a show worth the effort to go see – there are some very interesting things to see. It’s a good thing I took my own notes as I later realized that the exhibit program only listed the last names of the artists.

Bruce Nellsmith

I liked works by Bill Buggel, Toni Elkins, Carolyn Epperly, Susan Lenz, Edward Shumes, Amelia Rose Smith, Janet Kozachek, and Kathleen Pompe, but my favorite this day was a painting by Bruce Nellsmith – which was hung a little too high on the wall, but I really liked it. Now in this case I’m not a juror – picking works over others, but like a juror – these selections are works I liked based on my opinions and feelings at the time. A week later and a repositioning of works in the space and I might have a totally different list of works. And hopefully that’s the way others viewing the exhibit will look at this exhibit too – picking their favorites.

There were a few other works that stood out. One was a photograph by Chris Tertzagian – it was not framed – no frame at all. I’m sure all works were supposed to be framed. I hope it makes it through the life of the exhibit. Also in looking at the program I noticed a few area codes for a couple of artists’ contact numbers were (347), (404), (406) and (603). The 347 code is for New York City, the 404 is for the Atlanta, GA, area, the 406 is for Montana and the 603 is for New Hampshire. I hope these were artists who have moved to SC and still have old cell phone contracts in those states. If not, someone should have wondered why these artists had strange area codes for SC. If these artists pulled the wool over the organizers’ eyes – they also screwed real SC artists.

One name I saw at the exhibit took me back a few years – Cheryl Baskins Butler. If this is the same Cheryl, and I’m not sure it is, because she used to do printworks – woodcuts and such, but this was a traditional acrylic painting. If it is the person I hope it is – Cheryl, it’s nice to have you back in the area.

So there you go. This show will be on view through June 5, 2009. If you get a chance go see it and see how my opinions stacks up with yours.

I also stopped by the Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Exhibit 2009 in Marion Square, but I didn’t have time to check it all out so I can’t say much about it other than things seemed to be going well. I heard that some artists were doing really well. Anytime you gather 100 or so artists together you’re going to hear a wide spectrum of stories on how things are going but I didn’t hear any real complaints – at least not yet. This was before the halfway mark. This show will be there till June 6, 2009, but that doesn’t leave a lot of time. So go check this show out too. The Juried Exhibition and the Outdoor Exhibition are within a block of each other.

I talked with Vickie Ellis, one of the show’s coordinators and I’m mentioning her name because we talked about blogging and searching people’s names and events and how that all works. So for the record that was Victoria Platt Ellis, one of the coordinators of the Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Exhibit 2009. The other coordinator is Billie Sumner.