Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Art against the tide

Please forgive me in advance. Eventually there will be room and time for substantial stories on this site. Right now, there are a whole lot of interesting arts events taking place. We're in the regular spring blast of everything happening at once. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t get much rest last weekend and don’t plan on getting any this weekend.

Way back in the Pleistocene, or maybe it was 1992, the Congaree Vista was largely a wasteland. Empty buildings. A working rail line down the middle of Lincoln Street. If you wanted to go to the river you’d have to fight your way through the kudzu - but you really wouldn't have wanted to get to the river.

Like so many similar places the first people to move into the area were artists. Some got studios, a few galleries were born. Even before much of anything else had happen, a really good restaurant, the Motor Supply Company, opened in what had been the Motor Supply Company. They didn’t have to make up funky names.

And like so many similarly once-blighted areas the artists mostly got priced out. If it wasn't for Vista Studios, there would be almost no artists working in the core of the Vista. It's a small miracle that any artists or galleries remain.

This is the time of the year when the remaining art enterprises and quite a few that do a little art on the side open up the doors for the Artista Vista gallery crawl. I’m completely shocked that the arts haven’t had a big crawl to a more welcoming part of town.

There was a time when Artista Vista really offered something you couldn’t find other places, especially when artists moved into run down buildings and did installations. That’s all gone now, but the art shows that are held during the event are usually solid if not all that exciting

What this year’s event has that many haven’t is that it’s heavy on performances, although not of what one would call the performance art kind (pity too.) Here are most of them: Wideman/Davis (pictured at right), a dance company at 701 Center for Contemporary Art; Elizabeth Foster not only did the delightful bird paintings at the Carol Saunders Gallery, she’ll also sing about them; the S.C. Contemporary Dance Company performs at Gyrotonic Vista; and if you don’t think glass blowing qualifies as some kind of dance they you’ve never seen it done and you can at One Eared Cow Glass.

Exhibitions not to miss:

“Perceptual Painters” at City Art is made up of seven painters tied in some way to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. It’s organized by painter Brian Rego, of Camden, who is also in the show. I made a quick run through of the not-quite-finished show Wednesday: the art is well done technically and full of emotion. (at top of page is "Model Undressing" by Scott Noel.)

“Wings,” the bird show mentioned above. Apparently the last time paintings by this artist were shown, I loved them.

Brett Flashnick’s photographs - some journalism, some art - are at the Columbia Music Festival Association.

This should be the out of the way gem: Nic Ularu, head of theatre design at USC, has an art show at Gyrotonic (which is some sort of machine-oriented gym.) He manages to do paintings that are shown internationally, designs plays around the world, and writes plays. Don’t expect to see him in the Vista because his play “The System” opens that night at LaMaMa in New York.

For the past few years the S.C. Philharmonic has invited local artists to pick up cheap violins and transform them. Figuring that just about everyone who needs a painted violin has one (although cellos, clarinets and at least one drum are involved as well) this will be the last such offering for a while. And unlike years past, the works will NOT be shown and sold at the final philharmonic concert.

You can check them out during Artista Vista at Whit-Ash Rug Gallery. A reception and auction will take place from 6 to 9 p.m.Friday April 24.

Among the artists who painted – and pulled and twisted and turned – the instruments are Scott Hallyburton, pictured left, Christian Thee, Dylan Fouste, Mana Hewitt, Roy Paschal (whose piece will completely freak you out), and (full disclosure here) me.

The main night walk runs from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 23 and most of the places will also be open Friday and Saturday April 23 and 24 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Everything is officially free until 9 p.m. Thursday night, including admission to the art gallery at the State Museum.

For more info go to


  1. What an incredibly busy arts weekend! I'm glad to be able to stay up on what's happenin' in town. Did you write about Indie Grits or do they have their own blog?

  2. Am so glad that you are covering the art scene in Columbia.Thanks!


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