Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weekend of the dead - but don't be a zombie

It's the end of July and start of August so it should come as no surprise that the calendar isn't bursting with art events. That said, the last few weeks have been full with art show openings, concerts, theater and so on. I hit the first free Sunday at the Columbia Museum of Art last weekend and it was quite busy.
So maybe it's time for you to just stop watching.

Get the beat

Luke Quaranta of the Asheville-based African drumming group Toubab Krewe is doing workshops in Columbia Thursday, July 30. Sessions will be held at 6:30 for beginners and 7:30 for those with some experience. (Cost is $10 and $20 and somewhere between if you do both.)
It all ends with a performance. If you don't want to play, just listen, that's $5.
Follow the sound to 701 Whaley St.
Email for information.

Time to draw the line

The About Face art group meets to make figurative art at the Columbia Museum of Art Mondays, Tuesday nights and some Wednesdays and Friday. These are not classes - simply professionally-run sessions with clothed and figure models. It is open to everyone and at $7 for a two-hour session it is a deal.
Go to and look under Programs and Events for details

By Lyon Hill from a Dr. Sketchy session

A similar, but slightly skewed art-making project recently developed in Columbia - Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School.
The models are generally in elaborate costumes, the event is very social and drinking is sometimes involved - kind of a cabaret art class. Dr. Sketchy groups meet around the world.
The next Columbia gathering is Wednesday, Aug. 5. The cost is $10 and $7 for students.
For details go to

Music, dance, exercise, history

Contra dancing has nothing to do with arms trading among the United States, Iraq, Iran and right-wing paramilitaries in Nicaragua.
Think of it as a cross between the dancing you see in movies like "Pride and Prejudice" and those done by a bunch of hillbillies with fiddles. Toss in some 1960s back-to-the-land folks from upstate New York and 21st century Asheville hippies and you have it.
You can learn to contra dance at the Lake Murray Contra Hall Saturday, Aug. 1 at 7:30. (A pot luck dinner starts at 6.) Email

Developing a new audience

If you don't want to make art but would like to be a more involved audience member, head to the S.C. Arts Commission and sign up for the New Audience Road Show. The program at developing arts audiences between the ages of 23 and 40. Participants go to museums, galleries, theater, concerts and get many behind-the-scenes views. Other than a $25 charge to help cover the cost of meals it is free for those selected.

For those who wish to remain seated, may we suggest

Although it is summer you will get all "The Seasons" in a concert of Haydn's work of the same name.
The concert is part of the Summer Chorus program at the USC School of Music.
You can hear it at 4 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Music School, Assembly and College streets.

"High School Musical 2" at Workshop Theatre runs through Saturday, Aug. 1.

And it can never hurt to hear Skipp Pearson's jazz jamming night at the Hunter-Gatherer at on Main a block South of the Capitol. Each Thursday around 9.

Check out the re-installed galleries and "Cleve Gray: Man and Nature" at the Columbia Museum and the Robert Courtright retrospective at the State Museum.

"Ancestry and Innovation: African American Art from the American Folk Art Museum" opens Friday, July 31 at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. Among the many self-taught and visionary artists whose pieces are in the show are David Butler, Sam Doyle, Bessie Harvey and Clementine Hunter, are among the self-taught and visionary artist who can be found in the show visiting from the New York museum.

If you already miss Charles Wadsworth, who in the spring retired from the Spoleto Festival and the Wadsworth and Friends, you can hear him again Sunday, Aug. 2.
At least on the radio. Wadsworth will be joined by violinist Chee-Yun, (left) pianist Wendy Chen, cellist Andrés Díaz and clarinetist Todd Palmer on "St. Paul Sunday" playing works by Dvořák, Mendelssohn, Schumann. It airs on S.C. Educational Radio stations at 1 p.m.

Nude Wednesday!

Recent drawing
by Franklin Miller
of Newberry

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Columbia artists making mark from Chicago to Key West to Lifetime Television

Terrance Henderson, artistic director of Vibrations Dance Company, just won the Jazz Dance World Congress Bronze Award for Choreography. His piece "STAND" was performed late last week at Chicago's Millennium Park as part of the Jazz Dance World Congress. It was one of 14 works selected for the event.

Henderson (that's him up front in the photo) is a native of Newberry and a University of South Carolina graduate.
Along with creating original pieces for Vibrations and other companies, he has choreographed Columbia productions of "Dreamgirls," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Guys and Dolls." Henderson also recently received the dance fellowship from the S.C. Arts Commission.

Serious zombies in Key West

Sitting outside the Forest Acres Starbucks, Paul Kaufmann, Monica Wyche (left) and Dean Poyner were talking about how early they'd get a start the next day, if anyone needed an air mattress and who would leave who's car where. The three were heading to Key West for a residency and minimal production of Poyner's new play "Homo Apocalyptus."
With them was Chad Henderson, director of the play and carrier of a bad cold. Behind the counter inside, actor Sydney Mitchell was slammed with coffee drinkers and never could take a break to talk. Henderson and Mitchell planned to head South a day after the others once they closed "The Rocky Horror Show," which Henderson directed and in which Mitchell plays Janet.
They'll all be the first theater artists in residence at the Studios at Key West, which invites artists of various sorts in and also operates artists' studios and classes in an old Armory at the end of the continental U.S.
One thing that helped in getting the play and players to Key West is that studios director Eric Holowacz (who has also run arts organizations in Beaufort, S.C., and Wellington, New Zealand) is from Columbia. He and Wyche attended Irmo High School together and worked elbow to elbow in a Five Points frozen yogurt shop.
Poyner, (left) who moved from Columbia to Pittsburgh last year, calls "Homo Apocalyptus" an entry into the 'grossly-underdeveloped zombie genre."
Despite that description the play is a serious drama, with a few laughs, about a handful of people who have escaped diseases that have ravaged the earth.
"There's a lot of information out there about surviving something like this," Poyner said. "It's a psychological thriller."
The characters take refuge in a Key West bar.. Although Poyner was working on a version of the play before the Key West residency developed, setting a play at the end of the world sort of at the end of the world made sense.
"It's also great to do a play in the place where it's set," Poyner said.
The group will work on the show for about two weeks and do one or two public performances.
"The Studios at Key West is only three years old," said Holowacz, "and with a lot of our developments, I tend to fashion them as a pilot programs first, as trials that can be tested, evaluated, adjusted.
Wyche and Kaufmann are well-known actors in Columbia, having starred in many plays, most recently as the leads in "Dangerous Liaisons" at Workshop Theatre. Henderson has directed plays at Trustus and Mitchell is an emerging actor who has done several significant roles.
Poyner, who is at Carnegie Mellon University earning his master of fine arts degree, has had a great run recently.
Last year he won the 2008 Helford Prize in Drama ($10,000) for his play "Losing Sleep." Set in a sleep disorder clinic, the play will be produced in New York by the American Theatre of Actors in August. His play "Paradise Key" was selected by Trustus Theatre as winner of its new play competition; it will have a staged reading there Aug. 15 and get a full production next summer. It is also about a disease that could take on epidemic proportions. If that's not enough, Poyner has also worked a lot as an actor, playing opposite Wyche in "Bug" and in "Take Me Out," both at Trustus.
During the meeting at the coffee shop, Poyner handed script changes around the table. They'll have plenty of time to study them - Key West is about a 14 hour drive from Columbia.

Art show for the Carolinas

Elder Gallery in Charlotte is organizing an all-Carolina art show in November and is accepting entries. The exhibition is modeled after the Springs Art Show which ran for many years in Fort Mill, home of textile maker Springs Industries. A catalog will also be produced. Up to 50 works will be included in the show.
The deadlines for entries - two-dimensional work and sculpture - is Sept. 1. There's a $30 entrance fee. There's a $2,500 prize for best-in-show, first place $2,000, second $1,500 and third $1,000.
The show and the winners will be selected by Brice Brown, an artist and writer who has been published in The New York Times, Art in America and exhibition catalogs.
The Elder Gallery carries work by Philip Mullen of Columbia and Carl Blair of Greenville.
You can find all the details at

Columbia artists have role in New Hampshire chamber music festival

Columbia pianist Phillip Bush, along with being a great pianist, also runs a chamber music festival in New Hampshire. Bush is in his second year as director of The Chamber Music Conference and Composers' Forum of the East, which is quite a mouthful but still a chamber music festival.
This year a couple of other Columbia residents will join him there. Peter Kolkay, a bassoonist on the University of South Carolina music faculty, is playing at several concerts. Kolkay is considered on of the best bassoonists in the country and last year played at the Spoleto Festival USA chamber music series.
Composer John Fitz Rogers, also with the USC music school, has written a six-minute piece "Wondrous Love," for amateur participants. His "Memoria Domi" for clarinet, violin, cello and piano will also be performed at the festival.

Laura Spong's paintings in television show

Paintings by Laura Spong of Columbia can be seen in the television program "Drop Dead Diva" on the Lifetime. The abstract works are in the law office of the main character. The paintings were rented by the show's producers.
If you don't have cable, you can see images of the pieces at and you can see her work in the flesh at if Art Gallery in the Vista and at Vista Studios.

Arts Commission conference deadline coming soon

The S.C. Arts Commission conference is aimed at art providers rather than art consumers. But artists might find some of the sessions helpful and interesting. Session during the September event include big-picture stuff like changes in not-for-profit rules, lobbying state and local government and more hands-on things such as how to prepare photographs for use on the Internet.
It takes place Sept. 15 at the Convention Center in Columbia. If you sign up by July 31 the cost is $75; after that it's $105.

Another looming deadline at the Commission is for the New Audience Road show. It's mainly aimed at introducing people between college and 40 to various arts forms. You get to go to a lot of performances for free and meet mostly cool people. The deadline for that is also July 31. Go to the website above.

Other Arts Commission news. Susie Surkamer retired as director of the agency earlier this year. Considering the economy and the state of state government, it's surprising that the commission is doing a national search for a new director.
It's taking proposals from headhunting firms to look for a new leader and will spend about $10,000 doing so. The commission wants a new director in place by early next year.

Art, music, dance - fire for the weekend

Quite a few things going on in Columbia (and one thing) in Charleston during the next few days. Don't forget to also check out the re-installed collection at the Columbia Museum of Art, see the Robert Courtright show at the State Museum, hit one of the several plays that will soon wrap up around town.

Big Show in a small space

any people have seen Lee Monts' often-small, minimalist
landscape-inspired paintings He has a show of tho
se, pared with
found-object constructions at the Gallery at DuPre starting Thursday, July 23.
"Testimony" consists of 60 works by the
Columbia artist and is his first solo show.
An opening reception takes place from 6
to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23. The show
runs through August 21. The gallery is
at 807 Gervais St. down the little alley to the west side of the building.

Vox Arcana - don't you want to hear something with that name?

The alt-jazz Chicago trio Vox Arcana celebrates the abstract painting of
Cleve Gray at a Columbia Museum of Art concert.
Percussionist Tim Daisy, (left) James Falzone on clarinet and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm will play some of their usual unusual sounds as well as a work inspired by Gray's art. The late art of the later painter is subject of "Man and Nature: 19745 - 2004." ("Turain"from '79 at right.)
Thomas Crouch of Columbia is also doing an improvisational painting for the event.
Doors for the Friday, July 24 concert open at 6 p.m. and music starts at 7 p.m.
Admission to the event is $10 ($3 cheaper for museum members.)
You can read more about the band at

Belly dancing, fire-eating - you know, the usual

can never quite figure out the names of the various groups, performances (Delirium Tribal,
Altercrique) and so on that take place the last Friday of each month at the Art Bar.
So I use the all purpose Crazy Cool Belly Dancing Fire-Eating Sword-Waving Cabaret.
Starts at 9:30 p.m. Friday July 24. Brings cash for the hat which will be passed.
Art Bar is on Park Street, between Gervais and Lady.

They feel love

If that doesn't work for you you can feel the "Love," a night of dance by the Columbia City Jazz Dance Company.
The group will use jazz, tap and some hip hop to explore love and relationships. $15.
Friday, July 24 at the Koger Center.

More of the good guys in Charleston

If you didn't get enough of some of Charleston's hot young-ish artists during the "Contemporary Charleston" show recently, you can see more in "Past Presence."
It has sculptures, paintings, collage and other things byKarin Olah, Jonathan Brilliant, Kevin Hoth, Dorothy Netherland, Seth Curcio, Jarod Charzewski and Tim Hussey (right), Jonathan Brilliant (who recently moved to Columbia) Kevin Hoth, Karin Olah, Dorothy Netherland, Seth Curcio, Jarod Charzewski and Tim Hussey.
Redux is at 136 St. Philip St.
Call (843) 722-0697 or go to
The show is up through Aug. 16.

Folding in on silence

The Folds Experimental Music & Performance Workshop plays Monday, July 27 at 7 p.m. at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art, 701 Whaley St.
The concert, titled "Several Silences," will include four "silences."
$10; $5 for students. (803) 779-4571.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nude Wednesday!

"Birth of Venus," a very recent painting by Chris Bilton
of Eutawville, S.C. For more by Bilton, and his wife Carmen
Bilton, go to

Monday, July 20, 2009

The wide world of bad information on Columbia art

As someone in the business of gathering information and passing it on to the public, and I hope doing a few other things, I’m sensitive to lousy sources of information.

Columbia has way too many lousy sources of lousy information online. As someone who recently set up this site I have a little more and a little less sympathy with others who create and maintain online sites. More because there are a lot of quirky little things you have to know, and less, because if I can do it anyone can.

You paid how much for this web site?

Maybe no one would ever do something stupid like look at the city of Columbia website for information about the arts here. I stumbled upon it by accident – and was delighted that it was there. At least until I looked at it. (It’s on a drop-down menu under About The City.)

Theaters included are the Actor’s Theatre of South Carolina which decamped to Charleston a decade ago. (That's AT director Clarence Felder, right, assuring a young actor she won't have to move to Columbia.)

If you click on the S.C. Shakespeare Company you will be spirited to a site for Scholarship, Criticism and Performance of the works of William Shakespeare” and a review of “Romeo and Juliet” in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Wish I had gotten that assignment.)

You’ll also learn that the Historic Columbia Foundation is a music and dance organization. Does the guy at the left look familiar. He shouldn't. Nicholas Smith hasn't been conductor of the S.C. Philharmonic for two years, but the city doesn't know that. They must have missed all those banners lining Gervais Street bearing the image of Morihiko Nakahara, who just completed his first year as music director. The biggest classical-music making organization in the city – the USC Music School – isn’t even listed.

Trustus Theatre, according to the city, is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Math has never been my strong point, but the company was founded in 1985, which I believe makes it more than 10 years old.

This is a web site that was chosen late last year when the city mistakenly had two city web sites created at a cost of about $30,000.The city has known about the problems since February. The city public relations office said at that time they'd try to fix it. What is looks like now is the product of a city that doesn't know and doesn't care.

The Culture Council or Arts Fund or Get Cultured

If the city isn’t up to date, maybe that’s because neither is the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties.(The city website link for the Cultural Council is a dead link.) The Cultural Council is an umbrella organization that raises money and distributes it to local arts groups. It’s often seen as the city’s arm in the arts.

Just what art groups exist in Columbia and which ones belong to the Cultural Council is unclear from the Council’s web site. In fact, it’s pretty tough to even find the Cultural Council on the web. If you look for the Cultural Council you will find a site, but that's not the organization’s site any longer. The Council has started calling itself the Arts Fund of the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties at some point. For some reason the group's website is you won’t easily find that by searching for Arts Fund of the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties either.

If you do make it to the site, you'll find a list of “affiliates.” From what I understand anyone or any group that asks to be made an affiliate will be made one. It has nothing to do with getting funding from the council.

“Affiliates” include the Columbia Museum of Art, The Columbia City Ballet, several school districts, the Dale Mastro School of Art, S.C. Export, Elite Framing, The Riverbanks Mozart Festival (you ever heard of it?), Gallery 701 (but not the 701 Center for Contemporary Art) and the USC Office of Media Relations that has a hyperlink that takes you directly to USC athletics. There's no listing for the USC music school, but is one for the marching bands. At least two galleries and two theater companies that have been out of business for years are on the list.

The main main item under "News" is a holiday market by an art guild that took place in November - I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume November 2008.

The Council isn’t even very good at promoting its own events. This is the total of what its website said about “Palette to Palate” - Mini art festivals with tasty food for the palate and local art created from a palette in Richland County, Forest Acres, and the City of Columbia.” No dates, times, place.

Cultural Council Andrew Witt says a new site will be up by October. Regarding what groups are on the site, he said non-art groups are on the site because the council is tied to economic development and that it's up to the arts groups to notify the council they exist.

He suggests Carolina Culture write something asking artists and arts groups to submit information. Consider it done. But consider me baffled that this is the way the primary cultural organization in the Midlands gathers information about the groups it is supposed to serve.

The worst-looking award

The most embarrassing arts web site belongs to the University of South Carolina’s Koger Center for the Arts. If not terribly inaccurate it is often incomplete. I challenge anyone to come up with a more useless and uglier website. You can actually find three photos if you really dig around. This is the work of THE performing arts center run by THE university. The plumbing in the building isn't so hot either.

How not to attract students

Another university site that ranks high on the low scale is for the department of art website. This is the sort of place students, parents, those interested in the visual arts, usually go to get a feel for what the place is like – the feel you get is it is a mess. Click on the department gallery and you get an odd new window. There’s no listing of events taking place

Among the highlighted events on the main page you find information about kids art classes which ended two months ago, a faculty member’s film screening which took place two years ago, a notice of the annual art auction held in April. Just one click away you can learn who won the Media Festival Awards in 2007 and the atelier which hasn’t existed for more than a year. I’d bet a lot of people would like to know about these things going on with art department faculty members: Laura Kissel in China working on a movie; Virginia Scotchie teaching and lecturing in Australia and New Zealand; Sara Schneckloth showing in California and Texas and just idd residency in Georgia; Dawn Hunter an artist-in-residence at the Vermont Studio Center; David Voros, Bob Lyon and their students had a local show recently.

The department also has trouble adding new faculty members to the site or removing those who quit or retired several years ago. You can find a picture of art historian Laura Voight on the site (right) - she left the department more than a year ago.

Department chair Cynthia Colbert says the department doesn't have the person on the money to do anything with the site. Maybe not, but the art departments at every other college in the state, as well as various departments all over the university, seem to be able to do this.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Scenes from the museum re-opening

There wasn't a huge turnout for the re-opening of the permanent collection galleries at the Columbia Museum of Art Saturday, but a steady stream was flowing through looking at old paintings in new spots and some very old art, such an 1,500-year-old Chinese sculptures for the first time.

This is the first major - and it is major - change in the upstairs gallery since the museum opened a decade ago.
If you're a regular at the museum you won't see much you haven't seen before but you will probably see it in a new way.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blog news - but not about this one

Apparently I missed this, but the Columbia Museum of Art has a blog. A new posting just went up on it about an upcoming concert at the museum. You can also read curator Todd Herman's piece about the museum's collection re-installation and public program manger tour of her recent art trip to new work. But that's it for now.
One thing I really like about the blog is that they write even longer than I do.
You can find it at

For more on the re-installation - which is unveiled Saturday, July 18 at 10 a.m. check the Weekend's On posting below or, if you want more, head to the website of Columbia' alt-weekly Free Times.

Anna Hyatt Huntington created that huge sculpture of the man on the horse across from the University of South Carolina Horseshoe and you can find other work by the early 20th century sculptor around the state - especially at Brookgreen Gardens on the South Carolina coast.
Huntington and her husband Archer Huntington created the gardens and built a home - Atalaya - just behind the dunes in what is not Huntington Beach State Park.
Archer Huntington had another great project (as did many of the tycoons or sons of tycoons of the era) - the Hispanic Society of America in New York. The museum not one that's on the usual rounds - its north of Harlem and I've only visited it, and it's great Spanish art (Francisco de Goya, El Greco, and Diego Velasquez) and down at the heels demeanor - once.
Former Columbia resident Teri Tynes takes a look around in her blog Walking Off The Big Apple.

Weekend up

The second installment of the new "Playing After Dark" art event takes place Friday, July
17 at and around the Columbia Marionette Theatre. What, you missed the first one? You missed the very difficult mini-golf course? The puppet show?
Not sure how they're going to fit all this stuff in this time, but it includes artists Thomas Hammond, Thomas Crouch (painting below), Sammy Lopez, Dre Lopez, Jennifer Hill, dolls and so forth. (See her work at Nude Wednesday just a little ways down there) musicians Preach Jacobs, Liesl Downey, Matt Corbin, and performances by theater folks Michael Downey and Lyon Hill.

No golf this time - ping pong.

It starts around 8 and costs $3. It's at 401 Laurel St., jammed between Huger and the river.
(above left, Michael and Liesl Downey, preparing to pick and boil corn while overdressed.)

The big thing this weekend (yes and I know I've been going on about it for a year) is the reopening of the permanent collection galleries at the Columbia Museum of Art. It starts Saturday, July 18 at 10 a.m.
This is the first major re-installation of the second floor galleries since the museum moved to Main Street 11 years ago. In fact, Saturday is the 11th anniversary of the museum opening on Main Street.
The museum has a very good collection of paintings from the Renaissance and the Baroque periods and they should look better and be more informative in the new layout. Additions to the galleries are those focusing on 18th-century American art and furniture and Asian art.
The museum has various things going on all day and admission is free. The first volume of a collection catalog has also just been published.
(upper left, "Charity of St. Nicholas, 1580 by Johannes Stradanus, in the museum collection.)

Looking for an excuse to go to Charleston to see art or eat food? How about both? Charleston Fine Art Dealers’ Association’s Fourth Annual Palette and Palate Stroll. Among the gallery/restaurant pairings are Ann Long Fine Art & Oak; Carolina Galleries and Circa 1886; Charleston Renaissance Gallery and High Cotton; Corrigan Gallery and Cypress, Helena Fox Fine Art and Carolina’s; Robert Lange Studios and FIG and several more. Tickets are $30 and the walking and eating starts at 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 17. Call 843-819-8006 or go to

The next day (Saturday, July 18) in Charleston the public is invited to help take apart and take home part of the installation "Prop Master" at the Gibbes Museum of Art. The installation by North Carolina artists Juan Logan and Susan Harbage Page uses art from the museum collection to explore issues of race, class and gender.
The piece that needs taking place consists of about 10,000 small boxes - most white and a few black representing white and black artists in the museum collection. The artists will be on hand to sign boxes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Find some sustance in Free Times stories

This doesn't fall completely under the heading Shameless Self Promotion.
I have two big stories in this week's Free Times about the re-installation of the collection at the Columbia and the collection catalog.
The museum unveils its new second-floor design, which includes new Asian and American galleries, Saturday, July 19.
You can pick up Free Times in the purple paper boxes around town or go to

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nude Wednesday! (Something differnt)

Dolls by Jennifer Hill of Columbia.
She's been making these crazy dolls for a decade - and makes kid-friendly ones as well.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Counting the money at the College of Charleston

For the second time in just a few weeks, the College of Charleston School of the Arts has received an $80,000 grant. This time it's for the Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art to support a series of exhibitions.
The grant is from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for 2009 and 2010.

E“We are thrilled that the Warhol Foundation will be partnering with us on our next two years of programming,” Halsey Director Mark Sloan state in a press release. “On their site visit last spring, the Warhol program officers were quite impressed to see such ambitious programming generated by such a small staff. This funding comes at a critical time for us, as state funds and individual giving have been in decline since October 2008. In a very real sense, this grant is a life-line.”
The art gallery at the college has long been one of the few places in South Carolina to see imaginative and top-shelf contemporary art exhibitions.
The grant will help fund "Call and Response: Africa to America—The Art of Nick Cave and Phyllis Galembo;" " David Stern: The American Years;" "Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait," P"Photographs by Chris Jordan;" "Leslie Wayne: New Paintings;" and "Present Tense: Vestiges of the Civil War in America" during the next two years.
This fall the School of the Arts and the Halsey Institute move into the new Marion and Wayland H. Cato Jr. Center for the Arts.
Earlier this summer,
Matthew Canepa, a College of Charleston art history professor, received an $80,000 award to complete research for his book "Iran between Alexander and Islam."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Some fairly random art notes

At City Art the other night, I was asked how I thought the various arts groups were faring in this horrible recession.
OK was my answer.
The S.C. Philharmonic had a bit of a budget shortfall at the end of the season, but that wasn't a surprise considering how much time and effort it put into Morihiko Nakahara's first year as music director.
The theaters seem to be doing ok, although Trustus still has a heck of a time getting people to come to it's serious shows, but that's always been a problem.
Somehow this led to a question about the Columbia Museum showing local artists - and old question. And it came up again the next day when I was talking to someone who was trying to help and artist find a place for a show in Columbia.
My answer is always, that's not what the museum does. It is in the business of doing or hosting bigger artists and bigger art movements. (I DO wish the museum did more of its own shows.)
The museum that's supposed to show South Carolina artists is the S.C. State Museum. But it only does a couple shows a year and by and large they do not include contemporary South Carolina art.
During the past few years, the State Museum has mounted very good retrospectives by Robert Courtright (up through this summer), Brian Rutenberg, and the husband and wife William Halsey and Corrie McCallum. It also has an exhibition of South Carolina pottery, but that is a historical show that will be up for a couple of years.
There's a real lack of regular, thematic (subject matter, geographic location, medium, whatever) exhibitions by South Carolina artists at the museum. And it's something the state really needs and the museum really should be doing.
But with the workload the museum staff already has with the various budget cuts, such shows are unlikely.

I'm probably more excited about the Columbia Museum of Art's re-installation of its permanent collection than the people at the museum. That's because I didn't have to do all the work.
I got an almost-finish preview of the galleries and overall it looks terrific. If you haven't been in a while, now's the time. The galleries open Saturday, July 18.
I'll have a story about the re-installation and the new museum collection catalog in Free Times next week.

As you may have already heard the Columbia Museum is raising its admission prices from $5 to $10.
Yes, it sounds ugly. At the risk of sounding like a PR person for the museum, it's not as ugly as it sounds. (The museum sent out a statement saying the price increase would enhance museum visitors' experience, which maybe wasn't the greatest way to put it.)
Let’s take the big picture view.
The museum has been free every Saturday - a prime money-making day - for the past several years. The free day has moved to Sunday, which will cut less into the museum's cash flow and will probably be just as attractive to visitors who don't have the money, or don't want to spend the money (even if they have it), to get in.
This is especially true for people with kids who often have a lot of things to do on Saturdays, unfortunately few of which have much to do with art. You know like going to the $500,000 skate park.
The museum is also making the Friday each temporary exhibition opens a free day as well.
So that's a total of nearly 60 free admission days a year. Two months. Not bad.
The museum has not raised its membership fees. So, as with the $15 ticket charge for the recent "Turner to Cezanne" exhibition, the museum is using the price hike to drive membership. Memberships are $35 for singles, $50 for two and $60 for a family of four.
All that said, including the fact that the price hasn't gone up since 2001, I still think $10 is too steep. The Gibbes Museum of Art in expensive, touristy Charleston is $9.
(I noticed looking up membership levels at both the Columbia and Gibbes museum took several clicks through a website and now I'm wondering why they'd make it so hard.)

Also on the Gibbes site I found an interesting photo. It shows a woman in a '60s-looking dress carrying a couples of piece of art.
One of the artworks is by Tarleton Blackwell of Manning. He might have been making art in the '60s, but he was doing it
in elementary school. I took a closer look and discovered that the woman carrying the artwork is Charleston artist Corrie McCallum (who died earlier this summer).
I don't think Corrie ever carried one of Tarleton's artworks and she certainly didn't carry one of his artworks made in the 1990s during the 1960s.
And the way her arm is photoshopped in the image just ain't right either.
Ok, that's the end of my arcane information.

The Columbia Museum of Art just had an economic impact study done.
I hate economic impact studies for arts groups and I don't think they mean much of anything, but everyone has to do them to justify their existence and continued financial support by government and businesses.
I'd like to see an emotional and spiritual impact study.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The weekend and beyond. Not bad for July.

I got a call a few months ago from someone I know who lives in the Still Hopes retirement community in West Columbia looking for suggestions about doing some art shows there or connected with that place.
Looks like things worked out because tonight a photo exhibition that's a collaboration between Still Hopes residents and photo students, or recent grads, at the University of South Carolina opens at City Art.

"Connections through Light" pared a student with a resident. Each wrote a story and then the other interpreted it with photographs. Five students and five residents, ranging in age from early 20s to middle 80s, took part. The show opens Thursday, July 9 with a reception from 4 to 7 pm. It will be on display through July 31. City Art, 1224 Lincoln St. (Upper left photo by Kari McIlwain,)

Take a stroll a few blocks east and you can see an exhibition of paintings by Pamm Collins at Frame of Mind on Main Street across from the art museum. An opening reception takes place from 5:30 to 8 Thursday, July 9.

While the cross-dressing, rock 'n' roll aliens continue doing "The Time Warp" at Trusuts Theatre, more family-friendly fare hits the stage at Town and Workshop theaters where it's all Disney.

Town opens "Beauty and the Beast" and Workshop "High School Musical 2" Friday, July 10.

"Beauty and the Beast" started as a fairy tale, was published in the mid-1700s, made into an animated Disney movie which became the stage show.

It's about Belle, the Beauty, who falls for the Beast and in the stage version there are lots of dancing napkins, cutlery and so on. It should not be confused with Jean Cocteau's 1924 film. The show is directed by Shannon Willis Scruggs and stars Kristina Kusa as Belle, Greg Pipkin as the Beast.

The musical runs through July 26. or (803) 799-2551.
"High School Musical" is based on an ancient Greek myth and was first turned into a stage play by Bertolt Brecht in 1952 in the East Germany. Oh, no wrong show.

Walter Graham is directing this ensemble piece that taps into the Midlands' young talent in a story about young life. Through July 25. workshoptheatre. or (803) 799-6551.

For those who are not all that fond of either old or new Disney, you can head to the Columbia Museum of Art Friday, July 10 for The Columbia Guitar Orchestra.
The eight-members of the classical guitar groupo will play "Kemp's Jig" and "Yellow Bird" by the always-popular Anonymous, the three-movement "Rodriguesca" by Javier Riba, "Trio Facile" by Leonard Von Call and other works. The Guitar Orchestra has been around since 2005. The concert starts at 7 and is free with museum admission.

Speaking of the museum, if you haven't heard yet, free admission day is now Sunday rather than Saturday.
Starting next month, the the museum will be open only the first Friday night of the month, but will almost always have some event going on that night.
Also, museum admission is doubling, going from $5 to $10, so it might be a good time to either buy a membership or write a letter of complaint, although you could do both.

Phil Garrett of Greenville has been a significant figure in South Carolina art for several decades. He's long been a painter and printmaker, often chosing as his subject matter plants, horses and fish.
A decade or so ago he also started King Snake Press and artists come from throughout the region to make monotype prints there.
You can see a new batch of his horse paintings at if Art Gallery, 1223 Lincoln St., starting Tuesday, July 14. The artist will be there that night from 6 to 9.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nude Wednesday! And more

"Battle of Cascina" by
Lee Swallie of Columbia. It is based on drawings
for a never-completed painting by Michangelo.

Artists showing entrepreneurial spirit with class offerings

In these tough times what’s an artist to do but invent?
Lee Swallie, (see his drawing above) a recent University of South Carolina grad, is opening a small art school in Lexington. "Artists at Work Studios," as the name implies also has studio - seven and they're already full. It also has a small exhibition space. Artists at Work Studios starts offering art classes later this month.
Six-session classes are $165 to $185; a four session etching course is $135 including materials; and you can set up custom classes.Classes start July 24. Go to

Another recent USC graduate, Amanda Ladymon is starting classes at 701 Center for Contemporary Art in mixed media drawing, recycled material sculpture, altered books and various other things (for adults and kids) running $110 to $125 and meeting three days. For information or to register go to

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pretty Brilliant artist arrives in Columbia

One of Charleston’s higher-profile artists recently moved to Columbia.

Jonathan Brilliant is a curly-haired man of 32 who is confident and also quick to say he’s still trying to figure out what he’s going to do when he grows up. It’s a good artistic attitude.

Most recently the Charleston native, who earned a master of fine arts from San Jose State in 2007, has been making huge wooden sculpture out of little tiny pieces of wood. The wood he uses is those thin, six-inch long sticks you’ll find in all the better coffee shops. He brings his boxes of coffee stirrers (about 70,000 fit in a stack of boxes about four feet tall and three feet wide) and starts working, feeling out the space and the artwork as he goes along, finding the right fit.

“I just get in there and go,” said Brilliant, sitting in the Gervais Street Starbucks. (Starbucks is where he used to “liberate” materials, but now he buys them.)

These tightly packed shreds of wood then grow into something that is 20-by-20 feet in size. Someone told him that his sculptures are “studies in inefficient storage.”

He’s done the pieces in several places and in late summer will head on the road to create works in Oklahoma, Tennessee and New York (the last will

mostly likely be a woven acrylic piece.)

In late July, he’s in a group show at Redux Contemporary Art in Charleston for which he is creating a piece that uses a vibrating table and coffee cups. (An early version at right.) It’s for the ears as well as the eyes. He plans to have the sound “phase” in which the sounds shift out of time with one another. It’s a technique developed by Steve Reich of whom Brilliant is a big fan.

“My wife wants me to get it out of the house,” he said. “She finds the sound really irritating.”

The artist actually started out as a musician and played drums with a bunch of bands during his high school year. After graduating he worked for several years before starting at the College of Charleston as an art history major. As part of that, he was required to take a drawing class – and at 21 he knew nothing about making art. He spent two years studying with a professor known for his meticulous old-fashioned technique.

Brilliant and his wife Brooke moved to Columbia this summer where she is working on a master’s degree in anthropology at the University of South Carolina. He was most recently a preparator at the Gibbes Museum of Art where he worked on the “Prop Master” installation art project. Since coming to Columbia he’s set up shop in his house and carport and has been looking for a simple, cheap studio.

From top: Sumter installation, City Gallery in Charleston, in-process vibrating coffee cup piece which will be at Redux in Charleston later this month. Brilliant at work

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Charleston art historian looks at Iran's deep past

(I noticed this posting from early in the week had some overrun text issues, so I'm posting it again. If you couldn't read, it here it is; if you missed it, here it is. I think it's important news.)

For the past several weeks most of us having been watching and reading with great interest about the protests in Iran. But in a recent interview on National Public Radio, a former CIA field officer for the Middle East said “We know virtually nothing about Iran.”

Then there’s Matthew Canepa, a College of Charleston art history professor. He knows a lot about Iran, although his expertise is in the Iran that existed from 333 B.C. to 663.
Canepa just received an $80,000 award to complete research for his book "Iran between Alexander and Islam." The harles A. Ryskamp Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies is funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation. “This book will be the first in-depth study in decades,” said Camepa, who has been at the college for five years, “and is especially important at a time when Iran is playing an ever increasing role on the world stage.”
Since the 1979 revolution which overthrew the U.S.-backed Shah in 1979, access to Iran has been difficult and scholarship has lapsed. Canepa is a part of a new generation exploring the region. During the past three years Canepa has done research in Turkey, Iran, and India and this year and next he’ll go back to Turkey as well as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan all of which were part of the vast Iranian empire. Developments in the Mediterranean area and Western Europe are known as are those in India and China.
“Iran has been the black box where everything that doesn’t fit came from,” Canepa said. During the time he’s looking at ideas and images moved into and out of the
Iranian kingdom which included places and people as widely separated as today’s Saudi Arabia and Georgia. Ideas developed during this time about divine rights of rulers have continued unabated since including the iron-handed Shah and the current regime, he said.
“I can’t think of a time when Iran was not ruled by a despotic regime,” said Canepa, who holds a doctorate from the University of Chicago.
The current protests in Iran are one of the few times such a thing has happened in more than 2,000 years, he said.
“It is an important uprising,” he said.
The period he’s examining includes the Arsacid, Sasanian and Kushan dynasties which began after the death of Alexander the Great who had conquered the region and the rise of Islam and its rapid sweep through the area. It is, he said, “one of the most important, yet least understood periods of Iranian history.”
This fall his book “The Two Eyes of the Earth” will be published by the University of California Press and will be the first to analyze the artistic, ritual and ideological interactions between the Roman and Sasanian empires.
Not one to just toot his own horn, Canepa is a cheerleader for the College of Charleston
art history department – the only free-standing art history department
in South Carolina and one of the few in the Southeast.

Things for the weekend (not much).

It's the middle of the summer, July 4th weekend, you'd rather stay at home with the AC cranked up or be outside on a bike in a boat or in the mountains .But if you're looking for something else here are the slim pickings

Opening an enveloping exhibition
An opening reception for the exhibition "Cleve Gray: Man and Nature" takes place Thursday July 3. The artist was noted for his large abstract paintings and you can see 50 of them at the Columbia Museum of ArtThe reception runs from 6 to 8 and the museum's chief curator Todd Herman will give a talk at 6:45. It's free for museum members.
Buy the way - the free admission day at the museum has moved from Saturday to Sunday starting this weekend.

It's just a jump to the left and then a step to the right
Break out your dancing shoes and nice underwear. The radio station WXRY99.3, called The Independent Alternative, is joining forces with Trustus Theatre to try to set a dancing record. They'll calling on anyone and everyone to fall in and do "The Time Warp" from "The Rocky Horror Show," which is running at the theater. Organizers hope to set a world record for the largest dance group to ever do "The Time Warp" - it will require about 5,000 people which may be why none of those involved is mentioning a number.Still it should be fun and prizes will be awarded for best costumes and group dancing.The event takes place at Trustus, which seats about 100, Saturday, July 4 around 6 p.m. And remember - it's the pelvic rock that really drives you insane

Contemporary Art Center show wrapping
These are the last few days to see Anne Boudreau's exhibition of fabric sculpture,"A Delicate Balance," at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art. It ends Sunday, July 5.