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.


  1. Oh, but an emotional and spiritual impact study would justify the existence of arts organizations, thereby undermining efforts to disqualify them for continued financial support strictly on the basis of their inability to demonstrate substantial economic impact. (I think maybe that's written somewhere in the legislation.)

  2. Rhonda HunsingerJuly 10, 2009 at 9:48 PM

    Now THAT'S a good idea.

  3. Jamie..i don't know who you are but you hit the nail on the head.


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