Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Some housekeeping.

The morning of March 10 I learned that I would be losing my job as arts writer at The State – just four months shy of 20 years. One thing that never crossed my mind was leaving town. Columbia has been my home longer than anywhere else and it’s a good place with mostly good people and pretty good art. I like it so much I have two houses here.
Some of those good people helped me get this blog going. I’m not a complete computer idiot ( the operative word being “complete”) but without the technical support of Janna McMahan, Susan Lenz, Kevin Bush and Kathleen Robbins (who took the photo at the top of the blog) it wouldn’t have happened. (I know there are some glitches here for which I take responsibility.)
The moral support from dozens of people I’ve run into during the past two weeks has also been amazing and humbling.

So as I was saying, I lost my job which I’m not happy about. For the last five years or so, I’ve been more engaged and excited about my job than ever before, which is rare to find with someone who has been doing the same thing for so long. I will always be grateful for that.
I’d love to still be there doing what I did – and people in hell want ice water.

Although I said earlier that I didn’t think about leaving town, that’s exactly what I did because I had a vacation planned for two days after I found out I was being laid off. Between the time I got my notice and left town I wrote four stories, packed two decades worth of stuff and started over.
Next thing I knew I was in San Salvador, El Salvador, just in time for my godson Max’s birthday party and the presidential election. I spent two weeks in El Salvador and Honduras looking at the volcanoes and Mayan ruins, wandering through the markets, taking very long bus rides, mangling a perfectly straight forward and lovely language and playing Captain Hook (good mustache, bad hook) at the Peter Pan-themed birthday party. I was killed many times by small children.

Catching up
I missed a few concerts, plays and art shows while I was away but jumped right back in when I returned. One of the first things I hit was the last S.C. Philharmonic concert – which was the best of the season. The orchestra’s rendition of the oft-performed “Enigma Variations” by Edward Elgar was sublime and Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concert with soloist John Bruce Yeh of the Chicago Symphony supercharged.
I just listened to it again on ETV Radio’s “Carolina Concerts” Monday. Sounded great the second time around too.
Then it was off to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church for a choral concert. The main reason I attended was to hear USC music school dean Tayloe Harding’s “The War Prayer,” with text by Mark Twain. A moving piece of music to a convoluted story by Twain.
The next stop was a double bass concert by USC faculty member Craig Butterfield. Not all that many people would rush out to hear a double bass concert, but then again those folks have probably never heard Butterfield. It was worth fighting with the Hootie and the Blowfish ballet crowd next door at the Koger Center to hear him play, especially Franz Schubert’s Sonata in A major (Originally written for the arpeggione, an extinct six string instrument played with a bow.) He was accompanied for part of the concert by Charles Fugo, whose performance of Beethoven’s “33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli” earlier this year is in my top 10 concerts of the last five years. And I’ve been to a lot of concerts.
I’ve also gone to a few art shows: Kara Guther’s sculptures at the USC art department (pig heads and real lemons) and Nikolai Oskolov’s paintings that are a Russian take on the South. The latter show can be seen through April 21 at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, 808 Lady St. If you didn’t make it to opening night you missed the bluegrass and balalaika music.
The USC art department gallery has final shows by graduate students up or upcoming. These should be well worth checking out, even though with the gallery hours you’ll have to take time off work to see them.
Huy Chu, whose exhibition is up through Saturday (April 18) does odd little figurative sculptures some based on well-known cartoon characters. They’re funny as all get out and well made. Following that is an installation of abstract, organically inspired work (at least that’s my best guess from looking at some of her earlier work) by Amanda Ladymon, running April 21-25.
Coming up:
New, and old, music on Chamber Innovista.
Living artists in the dead space of the Columbia Museum of Art.
What the hell is the problem with the University of South Carolina art department?
Review of the Robert Courtright retrospective at the S.C. State Museum.
Why Columbia gets Michael Feldman instead of Ira Glass, David Sedaris and Garrison Keillor.
Bad web sites. Bad! Bad!


  1. So good to see you back in action, doing what you do best, my friend. Hope you are doing well.

  2. Congratulations, Jeffrey, on your new venture here. Though I moved away nearly three years ago, I still like to keep up with the Carolina arts scene. Best wishes! - Teri Tynes, New York, NY

  3. Good to see you grabbing the New Media bull by the horns. Am looking forward to reading it.

  4. Very glad you're doing this, Jeffrey. Hopefully Columbia will come to be aware of your blog and check in regularly. It deserves to be read, and we're lucky to have you continue to do what you do so well for "free" after being paid to do it for so long.

  5. Good, good -- now how about a little ranting, please?


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