Past Comments

December Issue 2005
by Tom Starland

Buy Art For The Holidays!

Each year at this time I make my annual suggestion for people to think about buying art for the holidays. Original art makes a unique gift for that special loved one, friend, family member or even yourself.

Original art can be purchased in all price ranges - many at prices equal to or not much more than the latest fad gift. But just remember, even a gift of art can be just as lame a gift if you don't put some thought into whom you're giving the gift and what they might like. Become a thinking giver. Become the giver on whose list everyone wants to be.

As a Christmas present to all who have sent us articles this month, I've made the paper a little larger than it would normally be - to fit all we had in. We even included some that wouldn't usually make the cut - articles received after deadline, articles about events only lasting a few days, articles about events ending too early in the month, some from people (galleries) who had articles in last month, and articles about places outside our normal area of coverage.

Now when we say all, we mean all we received by printing time - that is. We couldn't wait for those who think that our deadline is whenever they get around to sending us something.

Those people still won't figure it out as they don't read the paper. They just scan the pages looking for their names and they're never going to be there. They're too late - out of touch and most of the time don't have much to say except - "look at me!"

A Starving Artist Moves On

Nicholas J. Drake, Nickolas to some, a fixture of Charleston, SC's art scene, died on Oct. 25, 2005, at the age of 52. He was a man of many interests and many talents. Some of you may know him from his radio program, TalkAbout, which aired on SC public radio on Tuesday evenings at 6:30pm.

I call Nicholas a starving artist not because of his eating habits - it's more because he, more than anyone I know, would fit the picture of what most people would call a "starving" artist. He didn't have a conventional job, lived a life that was more about creating than building up wealth, and paid the price of expressing his opinions without thought of whom or what he might offend.

We were not friends, but I don't think we were enemies either. I haven't seen Nicholas in a number of years, but we shared something - our frustrations and anger over the climate artists have to endure in this great state called South Carolina. At one time we both lived in the great art city in SC - Charleston. It's the city that is home to the Spoleto Festival USA, the city with the Mayor who "cares" about the arts, the city with a deep history that at one time was considered the "Paris of the South," the same city where Rhett Butler was going to send his daughter to the finest schools - Charleston!

It's also the same city that eats creative people alive and spits them out for breakfast, and asks for more by dinner time.

Nicholas created art in almost all mediums, he exhibited art in many venues and even created a moving exhibition for one Piccolo Spoleto Festival. He was a writer on the arts, an art critic, and book reviewer. He had interests in music, film, science and the media. Nicholas participated in the arts to the point that he was still attending art functions weeks before his death.

Nicholas was also opinionated to the extreme. He burned a lot of bridges and made a lot of people mad. That's just one of the things I liked about him.

He once told me about his first contact with the SC Arts Commission. He went to register as an artist. They handed him one form and he said he would need about a dozen more forms. The person said the Arts Commission only needed one form. Nicholas said he had a lot of interests in various types of art expression. The guy had a lot of talent. The Arts Commission's representative stated that he couldn't have that many areas where he could be that good - the Jack of all trades and master of none theory. That was Nicholas' final chapter with the Arts Commission. So much for being the supporting arts agency.

Perhaps Nicholas' toughest job was being an art critic for the Post & Courier newspaper in Charleston for several years. It's a thankless job - everyone wants you to review their shows, everyone wants you to give them a good review - so most people end up hating you or kissing up to you to a point where you don't know who your true friends are. You have power, but power corrupts. It's a no win situation, but it was good that he did it - not many people are willing to express their opinions and take the heat that goes with it.

I don't really know what kind of life Nicholas had. I hope he was happy, but I know he was starving - starving to live in an environment that was more about yes than about no. Starving to be supported for his talents. Starving to have someone show him the way instead of standing in his way.

Nicholas, I hope you find that place and eat your fill.

Speaking Of The Arts Commission

Last month we mentioned the problem of keeping up with the Board meetings of the Arts Commission. We're trying to let people know when and where they take place so they might be able to attend one and see what goes on there. They are public meetings - open to the public, so people should go to them.

The first one we announced in our paper was last year during the Spoleto Festival in May. That meeting was canceled without explanation. Then we printed the latest schedule after we received notice - less than ten days before the first meeting, but we had the other upcoming dates. Next we receive notice of the change of one of those dates - again no reason given.

Now the previously scheduled Nov. 30, 2005, meeting in Columbia has been changed to Dec. 13, 2005. It's still taking place in Columbia at the Arts Commission's office at 1800 Gervais Street. For last minute changes or directions call 803/734-8696.

The Arts Commission has a problem with communication. They're just not communicating much at all.

Their idea of communication is posting notices on their website - somewhere; sending e-mails to media outlets who are mostly not interested in spreading their news; and sending out mailings with an outdated mailing list. In some cases they are trying to communicate with the dead and those who have moved on. You can only get an address correction if you use first class mail.

More about this in the new year.

Young Artist of the Year

Julie Jacobson of West Columbia, SC, was awarded the second annual Young Artist of the Year award (2005) in an evening soiree and silent auction hosted by the Contemporaries, the young professionals affiliate membership group of the Columbia Museum of Art, in Columbia, SC, on Nov. 3, 2005. Jacobson was selected out of 48 artists' applications between the ages of 18 and 35 in the state of South Carolina. A committee of three art professionals selected 24 artists to display up to two artworks at the Columbia Museum of Art for the evening soiree and silent auction.

As Young Artist of the Year, Jacobson received a cash prize of $500, a Columbia Museum of Art Contemporaries' membership, and a reception in her honor at City Art Gallery in Columbia on Nov. 17, 2005, in conjunction with Columbia's Vista Lights celebration. Jacobson's artworks remained on view at City Art through Nov. 26, 2005.

Wendy Wells, owner of the gallery told me, "City Art Gallery is honored to be working in conjunction with The Young Contemporaries to showcase young and emerging artists. Although City Art Gallery is a 'commercial' gallery, it is primarily interested in the integrity of art and those who make it. City Art Gallery is also interested in helping to define and nurture the young collectors and arts supporters of this next generation."
We have a full story on our website in the November Feature Articles.

It's nice to see the non-profit sector working with the commercial sector - for the good of the artists. If only that was so with state art agencies.

From the Wow Factor

Smith Coleman, owner of Coleman Fine Art, in Charleston, SC, has donated $25,000, a percentage of the proceeds from watercolor artist Mary Whyte's newest exhibition of paintings, to the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston. Private donations of $1,000 from collectors of Whyte's work were added to the total amount.

This is not a onetime event. Since 2001, donations to non-profits have been given from proceeds of Whyte's Fall shows - which sell very well. This is the second donation to the Gibbes.

Exploit Me!

Again - how nice it is when the non-profit and commercial sectors can work together.

What am I hinting at?

The point is - the commercial sector of the arts - galleries, artists, arts supply stores, and yes, even art newspapers and other publications give a lot to the non-profit sector of the arts, yet they don't often get much credit or recognition for it.

Some do, some don't, but what's really bad is when some in the non-profit sector expect it - automatically, as if it is their right and the commercial sector's burden - for their exploitation of the artists.

All I can say is - if exploitation is what we do - there are a lot of artists waiting in line to be exploited, as the non-profit sector is just not handing out that much money to that many artists. The artists are thankful we are here.

Commercial enterprises also earn their money by providing goods and services. Arts agencies get their money, which they are supposed to distribute to the public - from taxes.

Not Exploitation - Believe Me

We have held back the tide of rising costs and we are having to increase our prices once more - in many cases less than 7%.

You can see the new rates on our website ( under the heading "How the Paper Works" then check ad rates. We even had to raise our subscription rate to $20 a year.

See you in 2006!


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