Sunday, January 31, 2010

African-American artists have to walk a tricky line

I can’t remember the last time there were so many exhibitions around that appeared to make a nod to Black History Month.
The main ones are at the Columbia Museum of Art and the McKissick Museum at USC. Oftentimes, it’s the smaller art places that make a point of putting up an African-American show during February because a lot of the bigger places say don’t set aside just one month to shows works by and about African-Americans. And I’ve found that’s the case. The good places don’t stick artists in what I call the “February ghetto.”

“The Chemistry of Color” at the art museum and “Grass Roots: African Origins of An American Art,” an exhibition of Lowcountry and African baskets later this month  at the McKissick, just happened to land in this place during this particular month. It wasn’t completely accidentally, but it wasn’t all that planned out either.

Most black artists I’ve talked to during decades of writing about the arts don’t care much for what happens during February. Too often, they’ll get a call in November or December or maybe even January to see if they have some work available for Black History Month. 

They don’t hear from anyone the rest of the year. I’ve even known some artists who will not participate in Black History Month shows. They figure if they’re good enough to show in February they should be good enough to show in September.

I’m not as dead set against showing African-American artists during Black History Month as I once was when it seemed like that was about the only time they were shown. The playing field feels a bit more level; it’s not perfect but it is better. Most art institutions and galleries I deal with are pretty open-minded when it comes to race. (African-American artists may disagree with me on that.)

One thing that’s long been encouraging to me is how many African-American actors, dancers and artists we have (a little lean on the classical music front.) The representation doesn’t reflect exactly the 30 percent African-American population in the state or the nearly 50 percent in Columbia, although on it does on theater stages from time to time. I also find that more and more art events, including openings at the Columbia Museum and S.C. Philharmonic concerts, appear to have more and more African-Americans attending as well.

It’s been a good trend. We could and should do better on the showing and attending end, but it’s been going in the right direction.

The other problematic issue when thinking and talking and writing about African-American art is its very definition.

A couple of years ago a co-worker asked me about finding some African-American artists for some story he was working on. The conversation went something like this:

“What do you mean by African-American artists?” I asked him
“You know, people who do painting of black people and with African themes,” he said.
“That’s pretty insulting to all the black artists who don’t do that kind of art,” I told him.
(He happened to be black.)

My only definition of African-American art is that it was done by an African-American. Actually, I don’t like to think of it as that. I’d rather just say that it is art and that the artist happens to be African-American. (The South Carolina baskets in “Grass Roots” are made by African-Americans and their rich history is tied closely to race, but there’s nothing about them that tells you these were made by black artists.)

One of the artist in the “Chemistry of Color,” which is from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, said he doesn’t believe African-American art exists.
“I am part of the mainstream of artists,” Stanley Whitney is quoted as saying in the exhibition catalog.

Of course nothing is that simple. As the catalog points out many African-American artists have long been caught between two worlds. They were questioned when they didn’t express their “blackness” in their art. One teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy accused them of ignoring their culture’s “fine aesthetic heritage” making their work lack “personal integrity.

Then they were taken to task (sometimes by other artists) for “using their art as political tools, instead of vehicles of free expression,” artist Raymond Saunders says in the catalog. He calls these artists “a drag.”

I’d like to think that artists regardless of race could pursue whatever avenues of inquiry through whatever means they wanted – a “by any means necessary” for the art world. 

And most do. I see art that is a joyful expression of African roots and some that spits in the face of oppression and racism. There’s art by African-Americans that takes other African-Americans to task for doing self-destructive things. Others examine the both tragic and triumphant strains of African-American history.  Some black artists, like white artists have done for centuries, serve up rather stereotypical, picturesque and nostalgic images – which seem to have plenty of buyers.

Many black artists have found that no one wants to show their art unless it has some reference to race (usually a positive one.) Others won’t show it because it speaks to race. It's often hard for a black artist to just be an artist because regardless of the content of the art the color of the maker influences perceptions.
A lot of the art in in “Chemistry” is just art. Many viewers, regardless of race, will be surprised by what they see in this show. Their expectations may be dashed and in many cases, such as this, that’s a good thing.

"Fine as a Cobweb" by Sam Gilliam and "Spontaneous Accord" by Moe Brooker are part of "Chemistry of Color" coming to Columbia Museum of Art. The show opens Friday.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tiptons saxophone quartet concert tonight canceled

The concert scheduled for tonight at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art has been canceled. The band is stuck in the storm somewhere to the north.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pounding nails pounding drinks pounding marimbas pounding prose pounding paper pounding prostitutes

Thursday, Jan. 28
Pounding nails again
Steve Harley is back at Trustus Theatre for the first time in a dozen years to take on about a dozen characters in  “Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead.” Harley originally did the play at the theater in 1997.

In the play by Eric Bogosian (who wrote the play for himself and performed it many times) Harley takes on the guise of characters ranging from a subway drunk to a self-satisfied suburbanite to a fire-breathing radio preacher and a self-help guru. The play provides an entertaining and provocative commentary on the state of the United States. Even though it is a decade old it still rings true. 

Harley was a staff actor at the theater for several years in the '90s. I never tired of watching him work and miss his presence on stage. This is a show that proves, all in one place, how versatile and talented he is.

You can find all these guys at the Trustus black box theatre tonight through Feb. 6. Performances are at 7:30 Thursday and 8 p.m.  Friday and Saturday. $12. Call (803) 254-9732.
(Saw this Thursday night - kicks butt still.)

Island reading
Jamaican writer Colin Channer is the author of the novels Waiting in Vain, a critics’ pick by the Washington Post, and Satisfy My Soul, and the novellas I’m Still Waiting and The Girl with the Golden Shoes.  His work is considered some of the most important to come out of the Caribbean during the last 15 years.

He’ll read tonight as part of the Minority Writers Series at USC.

A resident of New York, he co-founded the Calabash International Literary Festival Trust with poet Kwame Dawes of USC.

A reception at 6:30 p.m. will be followed by a reading at 7 p.m. in the Gambrell Hall fourth floor lounge. (803) 777-0307.

The series continues Mach 19 with readings by young writers Reginald Dwayne Betts, Randall Horton, Marcus Jackson and John Murillo, and Tracy K. Smith, a poet with two books to her credit, who teaches at Princeton University, April 23.

Friday, Jan. 29
Warm up at "Whorehouse"
There’s nothing like a musical about a cathouse to ward off the winter chill. Workshop Theatre is saddling up “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” which was last done at the theater a decade ago.
Back on board is Scott Blanks as the sheriff who is “friends” with the madam of the house played by Caroline Jones Weidner. Hunter Boyle in a god-awful blond wig is filling the role of the television reporter trying to shut the place down. He played the role 20 years ago.

Jeanette Arvay Beck is directing the show – the first time she’s done a play at a community theater in 12 years.  It’s choreographed by Cindy Flach and William Shuler is musical director.

The 1978 show is based on a true story about a bordello that operated for about 100 years before being shut down in the 1970s.
The show opens tonight at 8 and runs through Feb. 13.
Tickets are $20 for adults and $14 for students. It’s not for little kids. (803) 799-6551.

Inspired by Lorca
USC theatre student Sydney Mitchell is staging an original one-act play inspired by the work of Spanish poet and playwright Frederico Garcia Lorca.
“Lorca: Alone in a Dream” will be done in the catacomb-like basement of Longstreet Theatre (you really have to see this place.) Mitchell has acted in many shows at USC and Trustus. 
8 p.m. tonight, 8 and 10 Saturday and 3 and 8 Sunday.
Free. The theater is at Sumter and Greene streets. (803) 777-4288.

Saturday, Jan. 30

Young fiddlers
The Indiana Violin Virtuosi have played at festivals around the world, have been the subject of an Emmy-nominated documentary, played the public radio programs  "A Prairie Home Companion" and "From the Top." 
If you know public radio shows the last one will give you a hint about what sets this group apart - they're pretty much kids.
The musicians from the String Academy of Indiana University are all between 13 and 19, They'll play the music by Bach, Bartok, Vivaldi, Teleman and others (including works written specifically for the group) at the USC School of Music at 7:30. Call (803) 777-4280. Free. 

Pitch in and drink up for music students
Strangely the same night the School of Music is holding a scholarship fund raising event. “Steel into the Night” by the Friends of the School of Music. Music by the Ross Holmes Band and the Palmetto Pans steel drum band along with drinks and hors d'oeuvres.  
Admission is $25; $10 for students and alumni although you have to be 21. It starts at 8:30 at 320 Senate St.  
For those who want to spend and eat a little more can ante up $150 for dinner and drinks starting at 5:30.  
For tickets call 777-4280 or email

Dancing on thin ice
The junior and apprentice company of the Carolina Ballet will present the charming “Les Patineurs” (The Skaters) which is set on an (imagined) skating pond where a snowball fight breaks out as does romance. Several of the main company members will dance, but this is a showcase for the younger talent.
The ice storm takes place at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. today and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Columbia Music Festival Association space, 914 Pulaski  Street.  $10. 771-6303.

Jazz, gospel and so on at museum
Last-minute addition at the Columbia Museum of Art from 11 - 3: jazz, gospel, visual arts. That part is free but regular admission to galleries. (803) 799-2810.

Sunday, Jan. 31
Paper pleasures
Jocelyn Chateauvert of Charleston does wonderful things with paper. 
She makes it float, dance and take on forms one normally doesn't connect with this material that's so much a part of our daily lives (even in this alleged paperless society.)
"Within and Out," an installation of her work, can be seen at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art starting today. A first look can be had at a reception today from 3 to 5 at the artist-in-residence space at the center. (You can also see the big show "Olympia" while you're at the center.) Admission to the event is $5.
"Within and Out" remains on display through Feb. 28. Contact the center, 701 Whaley St., at (803) 779-4571

New and old from USC musicians
During her concert violist Constance Gee of USC will play a new works by Reginald Bain also of USC. The piece “Tilings” will be part of a program with Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Unaccompanied viola, Zoltan Kodaly’s “Elegy” and Sonta for Viola and Piano by Rebecca Clarke.
The free concert is at 3 p.m. at the USC School of Music, College and Assembly streets.

Monday, Feb. 1
All-American flute
Jennifer Parker-Harley’s concert called "Lyrical American Flute" is made up of music by Robert Beaser, Joseph Schwantner, Jennifer Higdon, and Aaron Copland. The free 7:30 concert is at the USC Music School.

Tuesday, Feb. 2 
Wind and woods  
Not to play favorites, but this sounds like a great concert.
The RoseWind Duo – that's USC music school faculty members Clifford Leaman on saxophone and percussionist Scott Herring– play “Shadows of Wood” by Eckhard Kopetski; “Frame” by Graham Fitkin; “Subliminalization” by John Valerio (also of the USC School of Music faculty); and “Memoriale” by Paul Siskind. Herring will go solo for “Virginia Tate” by Paul Smadbeck and Leaman does the same on “Twice Removed” by Shi-Hui.
Free at 7:30 at the Music School. 

Wednesday, Feb. 3 
 In and out of the galleries
Artists Gwylene Gallimard and Jean Marie Mauclet, who created the exhibition "Olympia" at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art, will talk about art inside and outside galleries. It's at 7:30 at the center, 701 Whaley St. 238-2351.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Artist asked to take down show in Bishopville

                                       Installation at the Bishopville Opera House

Alejandro Garcia of Columbia was told Wednesday to remove his exhibition "An Alien at the Opera" from the Bishopville Opera House.
"They told me I had to come and take it down today," Garcia said.
A call to the opera house was not immediately returned.
The exhibition included an installation like work of boxes with mirrors and statements about immigrants and paintings of nude male and female figures. 
"No one complained about the female nudes," he said. "I think it was too political or something."
The opera house invited him to show and he showed the staff and board images of what would be in the show before it was installed, he said. The exhibition went up about two weeks ago and was scheduled to run two more.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nude Tuesday! and some literary news

Nude figure by Bonnie Goldberg of Columbia
(We always need more nudes. Send them to

Fiction Project "suspended"
Just heard that the S.C. Fiction Project, run by the S.C. Arts Commission has been canceled this year. The 10 winners have been getting $500 awards and publication in a special section of the Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston since 1993. Most of the commission staff was unavailable Monday to say what had happened, but we'll check into it.

In the meantime here are some other opportunities for writers in S.C.(Although they sure don't replace the Fiction Project.)

The S.C. Poetry Initiative is holding its annual poetry awards contest with the winners getting cash prizes ($100 - $400) and publication in The State newspaper.
Deadline for entries is Feb. 26. There's a $5 entry fee.

The organization is also taking chapbook submissions (45 to 95 pages) with one writer picked for publication. The deadline is March 1 and there's a $15 entry fee. 
For all the details on both go to

The Piccolo Fiction open is accepting short story entries of up to 1,000 words. This year's theme is "present tense" and the deadline is March 10.
The winners will read at Blue Bicycle Books during the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in May and June. Stories can be submited via email to and or go to

And more bad news 
The last executive director of Workshop Theatre lasted nine months. The new one has gone after about two months. Joe Reuter, whose background was in hotel and casino marketing,  resigned last week saying "he wanted to go in a different direction," according to Jack Jansen, Workshop board president.
The theater is attempting to raise about $4 million to build a new facility.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Art shows, classical to crazy concerts, dance and more to do during the coming days


Thursday, Jan. 21.

The artist, the pigs, the (former) president
I’ve always felt that Tarleton Blackwell’s paintings of pigs, dogs, wolves had a political or at least a social commentary, but that hasn’t ever been completely clear in his paintings and he hasn’t been one to talk about it. For 20 years the Manning resident has mined and mixed images from fairy tales like the “Three Little Pigs,” kids’ drawings, hog butchering and art history to create rich tapestries of paint that tell a story, but exactly what story was never was quite clear. (Nearly ever work he has ever done is part of his ongoing “Hog Series.”)

One can’t say that Blackwell has exactly opened up, but in a few of his new paintings– on display at City Art with some work dating back a decade– are right in you face.
The Cowboy in Chief George W. Bush  and his sidekick Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld draw guns in “Come on with It." Others paintings are titled “Off Shore Drilling” and “Clear and Present Danger,” although the danger and the drilling are not obvious. And that’s fine – if we wanted to read an essay instead of looking at a painting that option is available elsewhere.

Blackwell said he was responding to the various awful things happening in at the end of the Bush administration – the crash of the economy, skyrocketing gas prices and the wars that appeared to have no end.

“I know some of my students are heading off to war and some of them are not coming back,” he said. Those are strong words for the mild-mannered and soft-spoken artist, but he added, characteristically, “I paint from my heart. And these are no different.”

The show open last week, but it gets an official kick off from 6 to 9 p.m. City Art is at 1224 Lincoln St. (803) 252-3613. The show is up through Feb. 20.

A midsummer night in midwinter
Fighting fairies, rude mechanicals and men turned into asses (as if that’s unique) are all part of William Shakespeare’s magical “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
The South Carolina Shakespeare Company is doing the play in the midwinter and not in the cheerful (and apparently crime-ridden) wooded glen of Finlay Park, but at Hammond Academy.
The play revolves around a spat between the fairy king and queen Oberon and Titania as well as a bunch of (as usual) confused, young people trying to undermine the love lives their parents have planned for them.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. tonight through Sunday. The school is at 854 Galway Lane.
Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for students.  Visit or call (803) 787-2273.

Friday, Jan. 22

Four artists celebrate a decade
Hard to believe but painters Stephen Chesley, Mike Williams, David Yaghjian of Columbia and Edward Wimberly of St. Matthews are doing their tenth annual group show.
The work ranges from the more traditional landscapes, abstract drawings and small studies by Chesley, to expressionist landscapes, kind-of-abstract and other less-easily defined work (top) by Williams, figurative pieces by Yaghjian and Wimberly’s Southern gothic take on surrealism.(right)
The show opens tonight from 6 to 9 and continues through Feb. 3 at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, 808 Lady St. or call (803) 252-6134.

Art beyond the classroom
If you missed Tarleton Blackwell at the City Art opening Thursday, he’ll be at the art teachers invitational opening tonight at Columbia College. Blackwell, who teaches at Scott’s Branch High School in Clarendon County, is one of ten artist/teachers in the show that runs through Feb. 7.
The reception is from 5:30 to 7 at the college art gallery. The college is located at Main Street and Columbia College Drive (that’s helpful isn’t it?). That is about two miles north of downtown (not, as the college would like you to think, downtown proper.) (803) 786-3899.

What’s that burning?
TOAST -  not just for breakfast. Have a late-night helping of this improv comedy company at Trustus Theatre.  At 11:15 p.m. the actors will be deal with audience suggestions no matter how many times someone yells “tampon.” $5. (803) 254-9732.

Small group big sound
The minimalist guitar/drum duo Lulo from Asheville gets the music started around 10:30 p.m. at Hunter-Gatherer.
I can’t really tell you anything more about the group. If you like this kind of thing (and I usually do) it’s the kind of thing you’ll like. A bigSphinx production if that helps. If it doesn’t I’m sorry.  $6. 900 Main St. or  (803) 957-5565.

Saturday Jan. 23 

Good, cheap reads

If you don't mind a little dust and maybe dust-ups between those after that John Grisham collection, to to the Richland County Public Library book sale. It runs from 9 to 3 at the library operations center, 130 Lancewood Road (that's just off Bush River Road.) (803) 799-9084.

Sweet sounds
Begin the night with Strings in Silhouette a benefit concert with dessert (I’m there) with chamber music by the USC music school faculty and students. The $5 admission charge goes to benefit the American String Teachers Association chapter.
6:30 USC School of Music. (803) 777-4280.

Lots of dance and dancers in one place


The annual “Life Chance” performance by the Columbia Classical Ballet may be the closest you’ll get around here to seeing the Boston Ballet.

Five Boston Ballet dancers (including two principals and one soloist) are joined by two from the American Ballet Theatre II and dancers from Idaho, Japan and several spots between.eturning as usual is hometown dance hero Brooklyn Mack, top, who has won several big awards and is now with the Washington Ballet. The Elgin native began studying ballet at the advanced age of 12 with Radenko Pavlovich, artistic director of the Classical Ballet.Along with the guest artists the entire classical company will be on stage for a couple of really huge works.

Although this is a performance for and by the Classical Ballet, the dances are quite wide-ranging. You’ll get a selection of classic classics, a portion of “Who Cares?” by George Balanchine, (danced by James Whiteside of Boston, above left) and more contemporary pieces.

Based on my experience “Life Chance” is usually one of the top two or three dance events in Columbia. It’s not bad, it’s not boring, it’s not campy and it’s not filled with college students who don’t want to be there taking notes.
The performance is preceded by an auction of various donated goods at 6:30 and starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Koger Center. Tickets are $5 to $32.
e pieces.
(803) 251-2222

Shake it
And after you see the ballet, head to the big bellydance  (not Big Belly Dance) extravaganza. At the Art Bar you’ll find Alternacirque and Delirium Tribal from Columbia as well as dancers and groups from Greenville, Atlanta, Knoxville, D.C. and, of course, Asheville.
Things start shaking around 10 at the Art Bar. $5.

Sunday, Jan. 24
Found footage festival

Ever wonder what happens to all those VHS tapes?
The "Found Footage Festival" stops in Columbia today. The festival is run by two guys who travel around the county showing weird videos they've stumbled upon. It all started with a training video "Inside and Outside Custodial Duties" they found nearly 20 years ago. This is the fifth year of the festival and the first time it has landed here.
The sceenings of these often-hilarious and sometimes painful videos takes place at 8 p.m. at the Nickelodeon Theater,l 937 Main St. $9.

Monday, Jan. 25

Author Daniel Wallace kicks off the literary series at the Richland County Public Library. Wallace, who is also an illustrator, is best know for his 1998 book "Big Fish"which was made into a movie by Tim Burton.
A native of Alabama, he lives in Chapel Hill. His most recent novel is "Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician" from 2007.
Other writers in the series are Brian Ray, Feb. 8, Percival Everett,  Feb. 24, Pamela Duncan, March 18; Robert Inman, April 1; and Margaret Maron, April 15.
Wallace's talk is at 6 p.m. at the Main Library, 1431 Assembly St. For information call (803) 799-9084.

Reeds in red
"The President's Own" United States Marine Band Saxophone Quartet not only plays well they have some very spiffy red uniforms.  They'll be playing everything from George Gershwin to Radiohead. I'm not kidding.
The free concert is at 7:30 at the USC School of Music. (803) 777-4280

Tuesday, Jan. 26

Stir it up
Unless you are like me (vaguely employed looking at, listening to and watching the arts) this might be your only chance to experience Jonathan Brilliant’s sculpture show at the USC art department gallery.
The artist, who relocated to Columbia from Charleston last year, has a pretty amazing installation of sculptures made of coffee-related things, the centerpiece piece being constructed of 50,000 wooden coffee stirrers.
He’ll give a talk at 4 p.m. which will be followed by an opening that runs until 7 p.m.
Why is this the only time you might see it? Because the gallery is only open from 9 to 4:30 on weekdays. Call (803) 777-4236.

Piano pizzazz
Long-time USC piano professor Charles Fugo is playing quite a set tonight: . Twelve Variations on the Russian Dance from “Das Waldm├Ądchen” by Ludwig van Beethoven; “Kreisleriana, Op. 16” by Robert Schumann; two etudes by Franz Liszt; Scherzo in A-flat Major by Alexander Borodin; Etude in F-Sharp Major by Igor Stravinsky and several more works. Should be a full and fine  concert. 7:30 p.m. School of Music.  (803) 777-4280.

Wednesday, Jan. 27
 Digging into the mill town
The next installment of the series connected to the exhibition “Olympia” at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art is “Art and the Culture of Mill Villages,” a presentation led by Jonathan Leader, an anthropology professor at USC. The 7:30 event is free at the center, 701 Whaley St. (803) 779-4571.

(By the way if you've read this far why don't you sign up as a follower to the right. Also, I'm looking for feedback about what you'd like to see more of at Carolina Culture.
More stories on artists or arts organizations? Stories? Reviews? More of what kind of arts coverage - theater, visual arts, classical music? Commentary?)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Columbia arts and the recession - not as bad as it might be

Even though times are hard and artists have really suffered, the local arts community appears to be holding up pretty well.
See my cover story in this week's Free Times.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nude Tuesday!

Untitled nude by Roy Paschal of Columbia

(Any suggested titles?)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Only little stuff today

It's been a busy, cold and sick week or so for me so I can't offer any great stories today. (Other than the fact that my windows are open and I've stopped coughing.)
I will have a big piece about the recession and the arts in Free Times this week, so I haven't been goofing off.

In the meantime, here's a little news.

Bud Ferillo of Columbia (who also happens to be chairman of the S.C. Arts Commission and a long-time arts supporter) just won the Harvey Gantt Triumph Award. The award is named for the man who became the first black student at Clemson University.
Ferillo is the first white person to win the award, which has been given for 25 years. Ferillo was mainly recognized for his work on the documentary "Corridor of Shame" that shows the pathetic condition of eduction for many children, most of them black, in South Carolina.

Ferillo is a native of Charleston and spend some of his younger years working on Civil Right issues throughout the South. He served in state government and for a number of years has run a marking and public relations firm. He's also running Steve Morrison's campaign for mayor of Columbia.

Dewey Scott-Wiley just finished directing "Rent" at Trustus and has several other plays under her guidance there soon.

But right now, she's leading her USC-Aiken students in taking "The Clean House" to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for this region. The quirky comedy by Sarah Ruhl is one of four works selected from about 200 and will be performed early next month at Middle Tennessee State University.

The theater is warming up and raising money for Tennessee by doing the play at USC Aiken Jan. 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. $5.Call (803) 641-3305.

The Factor Prize, administered by the Gibbes Museum of Art, bestows on some lucky, good and young artist from the Southeast a whopping $10,000.
The deadline for this year's award has been extended from the end of January to the end of

The winners will be selected by a panel last including last year's winner the photographer Stephen Marc. The award was created by Elizabeth Factor, an attorney who was on the board of the Drawing Center and on the Whitney’s Photography Committee, and Mallory Factor, a banker who serves on the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the American Theatre Wing boards.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The weekend is here - but oddly nothing tonight

Friday, Jan. 15
 It worked in the summer
Last summer some folks got together to beat the summer and art doldrums with several Friday night events that of visual art, music, theater and a goofy and impossible games.
“Playing After Dark” is back in a cold-weather edition. And before it even got rolling the organizers had to add another day due to heavy response. (No advance tickets so get there early).

At what's being called “The Free Form” tonight and Saturday you can see dance done by Sherry Warren with choreography by Journy Wilkes-Davis and original music by David Wright, film by Wade Sellars and photography by Kirill Simin, dancers with the Carolina Ballet and Vista Ballroom, painting on site by Karen Storay and Marianna Simina, poetry by Charlene Spearen accompanied by dancer and choreographer Stephen Ferguson.

Good lord there’s more: alt-metal band The Noise, photography by Thomas Hammond and bits of the musical “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.”

“Free Form” takes place both nights from 8 to 10:30 (although I bet with all this it goes later) at the Columbia Music Festival Association, 914 Pulaski St. $5. For information call (803) 456-6822 or (803) 800-7716

Art and coffee
“Sticks, Straws, Sleeves and Lids: An Installation by Jonathan Brilliant” can be seen starting today at the USC art department gallery. (See Sunday story below for more details.)

Classic comedy opens at Town
Town Theatre brings to stage the tale of two unlikely roommates (the slob and the priss) in “The Odd Couple.” Stage vets Scott Stepp and Lee O. Smith play the two middle-aged guys trying to make a new life late in life.
“The Odd Couple” runs through Jan. 30.
(803) 799-2510 or

Young dancers
The Youth America Gran Prix ballet competition comes to Columbia for the first time. It's for dancers from 9 to 19 from throughout the Southeast and takes place at USC's Drayton Hall Theatre. The event runs through Sunday and admission is $5. For all the details you'll have to go to

Saturday, Jan. 16

Dress down or up for Phil
S.C. Philharmonic music director Morihiko Nakahara is away on another gig this weekend. Guest conductor Erin Freeman will lead the orchestra in its annual “Beethoven and Blues Jeans” concert. (The title is a nod to the quaint notion that people actually dress up to go out, but don’t need to for this one.)
The associate conductor of the Richmond Symphony, Freeman will lead the Philharmonic in Beethoven’s Second Symphony; Russian composer Mikhail Glinka’s Overture to “Ruslan and Ludmilla;” English composer Frederick Delius’ “The Walk to the Paradise Garden” and piano works by Prokofiev played by winners of the Southeastern Piano Festival competition held at USC last summer.
For tickets (803) 251-2222 or

Sex, violence, racism
It's all there in Georges Bizet's opera "Carmen." The Metropolitan Opera production gets a live broadcast at 1 p.m. locally at the Regal Sandhill Cinema. Call (800) 638-6737,

Sunday, Jan. 17
Sing out
You don't have to read music or be a trained singer to take part in “Wide Open Spaces: A Sacred Harp Gathering” at the Columbia Museum of Art. The event a kind of educational sing along of what's called shape-note singing. It's fun and it's easy and its free at 3 p.m. This educational sign-along is being held in conjunction with the Ansel Adams exhibition at the museum. And this is the last day to see that show. Expect crowds. 
(803) 799-2810.

Monday, Jan. 18

Kid’s opera for free

Here’s a free taste of opera for both you and the kids. “Pinocchio,” an original opera by FBN Productions, Inc., uses music by Mozart, Offenbach and Rossini to tell the story of the marionette boy who wants to become a real boy.
FBN Productions/ Opera for Kids is a 15-year-old professional company specializing in bringing operas to children throughout the Southeast and is headed by Ellen Douglas Schlaefer, who is also head of opera studies at the USC school of music.
The show is at 11:30 a.m. at the Columbia Music Festival Association, 914 Pulaski St. (803) 237-1849. 

Show closes, catalog opens 
A retrospective exhibition by Columbia artists Jeff Donovan sort 0f wraps up tonight  from 7 to 9 at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios with a release of a catalog about the artist and his art.  The show is up through 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Tuesday, Jan. 19
Slide zone
Trombone player Michael Becker, principal trombonist of the Tucson Symphony and Visiting Professor at the University of Georgia, gives a free concert at 5:30 at the USC School of Music. 777-4280.

Wednesday, Jan. 20

Saxophone from France
Saxophonist Philippe Geiss has been playing all around the world for two decades in a whole bunch of styles and on 20 recordings. His "Saxophones and Percussions" won the French Recording Award for Chamber Music.
The teacher at the Strasbourg Music Conservatory gives a free concert at 7:30 p.m. at the USC music school. 777-4280.

Talking about Olympia
The second installment of a series of event connected to the exhibition "Olympia" takes place at 7:30. "I Remember When" is composed of stories about the Olympia mill village by the people who live and have lived there. The free event is s at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art, 701 Whaley St. 238-2351.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Brilliant story in Free Times

By me. About Jonathan Brilliant's installation at USC.
Purple boxes. And on the FT website

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nude Tuesday!

"Sarah" by David Phillips of Columbia. 
(That's David's thumb in the
upper left. Blame me - I took the photo.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Novelty aside coffee-shop art beautiful

I can't remember when I first saw one of Jonathan Brilliant's coffee-stirrer sculptures. I just know I was impressed.

Yes, there's a kind of "Holy Sh--" factor to the work, but these enormous but airy works really are simply beautiful and well crafted. The fact that they're made out of common materials makes them even better in some ways, although at times it seems a distraction. I fear the novelty might block the view. It has for me from time to time, as has Brilliant's clever self-promotions such as stickers that read "F....king Brilliant. I have one on my car visor.

Still I like a completely serious artist who has a sense of humor.

See what you think. Brillaint's show “Sticks, Straws, Sleeves and Lids” opens Friday at the USC art department gallery.

The completed stirrer sculpture fills the center of the gallery from floor to ceiling. It’s about 15 feet wide and slightly deeper. Also in the show are to-go cup lid wall pieces, a green straw sculpture along with prints made using similar objects.

I stopped by the gallery a couple times while he was working to see how it was going. He's rather nonchalant about the whole affair, just doing the work of weaving stirrers together and letting the thing grow. It looks damn tedious.

Several years ago, Brilliant was struck by the usual stuff one finds in a coffee shop and set out make art using these things that he knew well and were around him all the time. At first he carried off supplies from
cafes but now purchases by the case.

Since then, he’s done about a dozen installations, about five of those during the last six months from New York to Berlin to Memphis.

Last summer he moved to his hometown of Charleston to Columbia (his wife Brooke is working on her master’s degree at USC) so we have him for a little while.

Brilliant will give a talk at the art department, located at Senate and Pickens streets, Jan. 26 at 4 p.m. followed by a reception. The show is up through Feb. 23. The gallery is open 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. weekdays only. Call (803) 777-4236.
There's a little video of the process at 
I'll also have a story about him and this show in this week's Free Times.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New weekend, new year, new art

Thursday, Jan. 7

The mill town as art 
The artist duo Gwylene Gallimard and Jean-Marie Mauclet have been working for several months on"Olympia."

They've been doing this art show, but in a sense they really have been working on Olympia, the big mill village in Columbia.

The multi-media works (drawings, wood and metal and resin structures and more) are based on the mills, the people who have lived in the village and even the place where the show is being held, The 701 Center for Contemporary Art which was was originally the mill town community center.

The Charleston couple run the Fast and French restaurant on Broad Street which has made it possible for them to pursue their extensive art projects that have often involved an community collaborations, unusual mediums and most of the world.
Every Wednesday night at 7:30 through Feb. 22 a forum will be held with Olympia residents talking about the village, what makes this show art, and an open discussion about the arts in Columbia.On the final day, part of the show will be sold in a public auction.

"Olympia" opens tonight with a reception from 7 to 9.
The first Wednesday event will be by art historian Frank Martin giving a tour and talk called "But Is It Art?"
Free for 701 center members; donation of $5 for non-members. 701 Whaley St. Go to or call 238-2351.

Art, poetry and music at Frame of Mind

Frame of Mind opens an exhibition by Susan Lenz with a poetry reading by Cassie Premo Steele, Melissa Buckner, Kristine Hartvigsen, and Christopher McCormick and Heidi Carey playing cello tonight.
Lenz will be showing photographic transfer and fabric pieces that are portraits of people who have made significant life changes or taken a bold stance.
The opening, poems and music are from 6 to 9. The exhibition is up through January. 1520 Main St. 988-1065. 

"Rent" reopens 
The musical about artists and lovers on the Lower East Side ofNew York during the '80s is back up at Trustus after the holiday break.As you can see by the costumes the show doesn't actually take a holiday break. Through Jan. 23. 254-9732. 

Two shows in Sumter
 “South Carolina Watermedia Society Traveling Exhibition” and “Sumter Artists Guild Winners Show” opens today at the Sumter Gallery of Art. An opening reception will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and the show runs through Feb. 4. The gallery is at 200 Hasel St. (803) 775-0543.

 Those who teach also do

The South Carolina Art Teachers Invitational Exhibition at Columbia College is always filled with pleasant surprises. The exhibition, Jan. 6 to Feb. 7, is composed of works by 10 artists from around the state. (One of Tarleton Blackwell's "Hog Series" artworks pictured.)
A reception with many of the artists attending will take place at Jan. 22 from 5:30–7 p.m. 786-3899.

Friday, Jan. 8

Cowboys and Devils
 The Devil Music Ensemble sometimes does soundtracks for scary movies, but at the museum it will be providing live sounds for the silent western comedy “Big Stakes.” The concert and film, collaboration with the Nickelodeon Theatre, is one of many such performances the Boston-based classically-trained trio playing synthesizers, guitars, violin and various percussion instruments has performed around the U.S. and on a recent tour of Europe.
Admission is $8 for members; $10 general admission and $5 for students. It’s at 7 p.m.

Columbia artist retrospective
A show by Columbia artist Jeff Donovan covers several decades of his sculptures and paintings. 
It opens tonight from 5 to 9 at Gallery 80808/Vista
Studios, where he artist works. 
The show organized by if Art Gallery runs 
through Jan. 18. Call 238-2351.

Saturday, Jan. 9
An invite to check out new art school
The new School of the Arts opens this afternoon at the College of Charleston. The $27-million facility is home to a big new gallery, classrooms and studios. The event takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. (843) 953-8222 or go to

Sunday, Jan. 10
A first look at "Prince of Tides" opera
We get a sneak peak at an new opera based on Pat Conroy's novel "Prince of Tides." The opera by Andew Fowler, a USC graduate, is a production of Opera at USC and FBN Productions, Inc. with the Carolina Master Chorale at the USC School of Music.
The recital version will be made up of scenes from the first and second acts of the opera, with music director Timothy Koch of the Master Chorale. Among the cast are Janet Hopkins, Walter Cuttino, Jacob Will and Jeffrey Jones.
The 5 p.m. performance at the USC School of Music is free. (Look for a full story posted Tuesday, Jan. 5.)

Minimalist art talk 
 USC art history professor.
Brad Collins. 50 artworks. 
Given by Herb and Dorothy Vogel. 
3 p.m. Columbia Museum of Art.

Tuesday, Jan. 12
Solo show by Tarleton Blackwell
 Tarleton Blackwell, a life-long resident of Manning, Blackwell has made a big mark with his paintings all over the country during the past 20 years.
Much of his work is related to animals and children which he paints with both technical and emotional care. The works are rich with metaphor and symbolism, as well as paint application. He often works quite large - huge in fact - but will have some new smaller pieces in this show.
He has a solo show opening today at City Art Gallery, 1224 Lincoln St. 252-3613.

Wednesday, Jan. 13
Humanities head heading here
 Jim Leach, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, will deliver a public lecture on at the University of South Carolina.
Leach’s 7 p.m. talk in Gambrell Hall Auditorium is one of a series the university is holding on the subject of civility and discourse. Leach became NEH chairman last summer. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa for 30 years and founded and co-chaired the Congressional Humanities Caucus.
Leach is a graduate of Princeton University and earned a master’s degree in Soviet politics from the School of Advanced International Studies at The John Hopkins University. 
"But is it art?"
A talk and tour of the "Olympia" exhibition at 701 Center for Contemporary Art. (See first item.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A more in-depth look at the upcoming Spoleto Festival

My story is in Free Times which is in the purple boxes around town or at

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A sneak peek at "Prince of Tides" opera Sunday

Tim Koch, Pat Conroy, Andy Fowler

This is quite a coup for Columbia – a sneak preview of an opera based on Pat Conroy’s novel The Prince of Tides.
Portions of the opera by Andy Fowler, of Myrtle Beach, will be performed Sunday at the USC School of Music. Tim Koch, director of the Carolina Master Chorale in Myrtle Beach, suggested the 1986 novel of an extremely dysfunctional family as the subject for an opera. Fowler is composer-in-residence for the chorale.
"I loved the idea, and when I re-read The Prince of Tides I knew that it was a perfect selection for an operatic setting,” said Fowler, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from USC and doctorate from the University of Texas.
“I spoke with Pat and he gave his complete blessing to the project. It uses Pat's words almost verbatim."
The Prince of Tides is the the Beaufort-based author’s most acclaimed novel. It tells the story of Tom Wingo, an out-of-work teacher in South Carolina who is an emotional wreck from a family of wrecks. He goes to New York to help his sister who has attempted suicide. They are both holding back the family’s deepest, darkest secret.
“I have been trying to get Pat Conroy’s prose into an important piece of music for more than 10  years,” Koch said.
“The stars have finally aligned with this project, which, in the long run, has the potential to be the most exciting one of my professional career to date.”
The duo have been working on the opera for several years along with Ellen Schlaefer, director of opera studies at USC.
“The music is charming, dramatic, tuneful, eclectic, jazzy, and greatly varied,” Koch said. “It is a people’s opera, taken from a people’s novel.  Already we know that people are compelled by the story.  Andy Fowler has done an amazing pairing the prose with compelling, listenable, incredibly dramatic music. “
 “The music is lyrical,” Fowler said. “I love the 19th century grand opera tradition. It uses the techniques and devices perfected by Wagner and Verdi (cross-motivic connections, arioso, duets, arias) and makes extensive use of the chorus. I am steeped in music of popular culture, so there are strange derivatives from genres like the blues, jazz, and rock that work their way into the musical texture."
Images of paintings by Brian Rutenberg, a well-known artist and Myrtle Beach native, will be used in the opera.
“Andy discovered Brian’s work on line and we both flipped over it,” Koch said. “The landscapes, particularly, dovetail in total sync with Conroy and Fowler.  It is an extraordinary match of parallel literary, musical and visual artistic languages.”
Along with chorale members the event stars singers Janet Hopkins, Walter Cuttino,  Jacob Will,  Jeffrey Jones, Rebecca Krynski, Marc Rattray and  Linda Lister.
The free performance takes place at 5 p.m. at the USC Music School.