Past Commentaries

August Issue 2000
by Tom Starland

Getting Bad Info

There's nothing more that I hate than getting bad information and then reporting it to our readers. What makes it worse is when it comes from "paid" PR people - people I'll never listen to again.

Last month I reported that the new Tippy Stern Fine Art gallery in Charleston, SC, would close its doors after its first exhibit and not open again until this fall. That information was not true. Although my info came directly from one of the paid PR consultants hired by the gallery. You can only imagine the surprise of the gallery owners. Of course, I've been told those PR consultants no longer work for Tippy Stern Fine Art.

Frankly, I can't understand why anyone opening a gallery in Charleston, or the Carolinas for that matter, would need to hire someone to represent them and their gallery to local media. No one can represent you or your vision better than yourself. Adding someone in-between the process always seems to lead to problems. Hiring someone knowledgeable to consult you about a local community and its trends and habits - that's another thing altogether.

Then again, this isn't the first time we've been given information that wasn't totally correct or changed before our printing. Many times, we've been sent press releases, from individuals, commercial businesses, and institutions, which contained information that was changed later and no update of such changes was followed up to the media. People have a "bad" habit of changing titles of exhibits, ending dates of exhibits, adding or deleting artists in a group, and even substituting one exhibit for another - without informing the folks they previously sent the information to of such changes.

But then, that's the nature of publishing - trying to get readers the best info by printing.

Some Left Over Spoleto News

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Don't worry this isn't going to be as long as a Dicken's novel - even if I'm telling the story.

As I stated in my last commentary, this year's Spoleto/Piccolo Festivals in Charleston offered some challenging times to area visual artists. Overall, artists showing work in outdoor venues and in commercial galleries did very well, but some paid a high price for it. One of those artists was Billie Sumner, one of the coordinators of the Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Show which took place "this year" in Washington Park.

We don't have time or space to go into all the problems presented to this group of outdoor exhibit "nomads" who never know from year to year where they will be presenting their art, but this year it was Washington Park - the original location of the Outdoor Art Show until a messy problem developed with some nesting birds. You don't want to go there.

For Sumner, this year's problems didn't seem any different from any other year, but Washington Park would do and after all, the park was right across the street from Sumner's gallery on Chalmers Street.

The Festival started out on a high note as one of Sumner's entries for the Piccolo Juried Show was going to be used as a poster image for this year's Spotlight Chamber Music Series. The artists in the Park seemed to like their temporary location. Visitors seemed to like the location - they were showing their pleasure by purchasing lots of art. But someone didn't like the show being in Washington Park a whole lot.

Sumner's landlord of 16 years was out of his mind over that show being in Washington Park - so much so that he gave Sumner till the end of the month to vacate the premises. Now that's a high price to pay for being a coordinator of a show that takes place once a year for 17 days.
Looking for a new gallery location in the middle of Spoleto, or anytime in Charleston is not an easy thing to do. But change, although often unwanted, can lead to better things, and it did in this case too.

Sumner is now showing her works and greeting visitors like no one else can at the newly opened Spencer & Sumner Art Gallery at 55 Broad Street - almost less than a block away from her old location. She's sharing space with fellow artists, Catherine Brandt-Spencer, Sandra Baggette, Martha Sharp, and Jerry Spencer.

I just wanted readers and artists to know that some people pay a high price for being Piccolo Spoleto event coordinators, yet they do it year after year - sometimes without a lot of thanks and a lot less glory than some individuals.

More Changes

Broad Street is seeing a lot of changes as far as galleries go. Besides the new Spencer & Sumner Art Gallery, at 55 Broad Street, Mickey Williams opened a new studio/gallery last month at 54 Broad Street, just above the John Carroll Doyle Art Gallery, and just down the street towards St. Michael's church, another new gallery called the Terry Katz Gallery opened at 65 Broad Street.

That's a lot of activity in a very small area, but unfortunately change comes in all forms - while some galleries are opening - others are closing. By Sept. 1, Bartholomew's Gallery at 7 Broad Street will close their doors for the last time. Sandy and Ron Phillips are going to really retire - this time. So you've still got a few days left to get your picture taken with the troll or gnome that stands guard outside their gallery.

Say, is Charleston the only place where galleries open and close? No! But, it does seem to be one of the only places where people report their arrivals and departures. I don't know how many times I drive up to deliver papers to a gallery that was there only a month ago, but is gone today - there's no moving sign, no good-bye sign - nothing.

If you're coming - hello! If you're going - good-bye.

Giving Back Or Helping Out

For the past three years we have reported on a special event called "A Month For CERF". CERF is a national organization, the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, which helps out craft artists in their time of need - relief from disasters, illnesses, unexpected emergencies vs. expected ones, etc.

Once a year, during the month of Sept., CERF invites galleries to pledge either 1% of their sales that month or 10% of sales from a given day. This year 62 galleries across the country will be participating in this program. Only 7 from the Carolinas are participating and none of them are from South Carolina.

Now, I know there is probably a 50 to 1 ratio of craft galleries in NC compared to SC, but I also know that CERF has assisted artists in SC - some in Charleston after Hurricane Hugo hit. It just seems that galleries - even non craft galleries in SC should be pitching in.

The galleries that are participating in NC are: Accipiter (Raleigh), Blue Spiral 1 (Asheville), Grovewood Gallery (Asheville), Moondance Gallery (Durham), New Morning Gallery, (Asheville), The North Star/ Anderson Gallery (Wilson), and Penland Gallery (Penland). I also know that the members of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild in Asheville make donations to CERF.

I know that those who have benefited from CERF's help thank these galleries and all the others who participate in assisting CERF in helping others. I know I do. I also hope that those who have received assistance - if today they are on their feet again - are helping CERF or are at least encouraging others to do so.

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