Past Comments

July Issue 2003
by Tom Starland

Basking In The Limelight

At age 89, Corrie McCallum has to be feeling very good about how her career is turning out. Some of her early works just finished an exhibition at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, she has work in the inaugural exhibition at the City of Charleston's new exhibition space at Waterfront Park (Contemporary Charleston 2003, up through Aug. 31, 2003), and this month, the Greenville County Museum of Art in Greenville, SC, will present the exhibition, Corrie McCallum: Take Note, on view from July 12 through Sept. 14, 2003. McCallum also received the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award, SC's top award in the arts for lifetime achievement.

If these kind of accomplishments don't impress you, McCallum also had a painting sell for $30,000 + at a Charleston gallery.

I just wonder what McCallum will do next.

Spoleto/Piccolo Roundup

Spoleto Festival USA, which takes place in Charleston, SC in late May and early June, offered no visual art exhibition, which seems to be par for the Festival. Having only produced two comparable visual art offerings in its 27 years, it's hard to think of the Festival as comprehensive. Now days, the word Spoleto just brings up a feeling of frustration in the visual art community. Some people are frustrated over the Festival's lack of effort and care in producing annual exhibitions. Some are frustrated over the missed opportunity by regional arts leaders to produce a major exhibition(s) to take advantage of the large arts audience that comes to Charleston during the Festival, while others are just frustrated over the fact that they haven't found a way to profit from the Festival personally. Overall, people would just like to see more in the way of visual arts at the same level we are presented music, dance and opera. But it isn't going to happen and it's all because of money. The Festival has no way to sell tickets to visual arts offered outdoors - and no facilities to do otherwise. And, it's apparently too hard to look for sponsors to pick up the tab.

Moving to the local scene, including offerings by Piccolo Spoleto Festival and Charleston's nonprofit & commercial community - this season was like most, with the exception of a few things. The City of Charleston's new space, first known as the Gallery at One Vendue Range and then changed in midstream to the City Gallery at Waterfront Park, gave excitement and disappointment to various groups. Some people have pointed out problems with the space itself - which seems to be more in tune for receptions than exhibitions, while others complain about the selection of artists featured in the inaugural show. First impressions are always the most lasting and it would seem that the new space will be an expansion of the favored artists program run by the City, but I tend to feel that we're lucky to have anything at all. This new space is a vast improvement over Charleston's normal exhibition spaces - City Gallery at the Dock Street Theatre, Visitor Center lobby, Gaillard Auditorium lobby, Marion Square Park, Washington Park and Wragg Square - not to mention the sidewalks of King Street.

As much as I hate to - I have to give credit to Mayor Joe Riley for coming up with the ingenious plan to make one of the requirements of developing City land the construction of a new reception center overlooking Waterfront Park and Charleston Harbor and then using it as a gallery space. That's real leadership and vision. And, you can be sure that no developer will be touching Anson Field without writing a new Symphony Hall into its plans. You've got to give the Mayor credit.

My only curiosity about the exhibitions offered is why do people try to hide what they are doing with explanations that don't match what is presented? Why can't the people who organize these shows call them what they are - our version of what we want to call art. Whether it's the City of Charleston, SC Arts Commission, Columbia Museum of Art, Mint Museum of Art - whoever - why can't they just say, "we're showing the artists we like and so what. If you don't like it - get your own space." The only reason I can figure why they don't do that is that most of the time they are using public money or facilities to present such exhibitions. So they have to be disguised as something more general - in the public's interest. The reality is - people in control of the public spaces and money call the shots and they get to do what they like. If you don't like it, do something about it, but don't just complain to fellow-minded artists and friends.

I personally had no problem with the lineup of artists presented in this first show other than the description of why they were selected - rarely seen. What a hoot. Of course you could say they have never been seen at this particular facility before. It's like when the Arts Commission has its Triennial show for "emerging artists" and ends up presenting many of the most exposed artists from their own personal favorites list.

Let's just be up front with each other. It's all about who's in control and what they want to do - it's the same way in the commercial world - except they don't get to play with public funds. If you want to call the shots - get some control.

The other new element this year was the increased amount of thievery which took place during the festivals this year. Commercial galleries who carry smaller items displayed about their spaces had to deal with shrinking inventories. Some clever thieves defied three off-duty City of Charleston Police Officers and got away with a half dozen paintings from one of the outdoor shows - under the cover of darkness and rain. So you know your art is good when it attracts - "international art thieves".

Now to give some "unrecognized" attention to some award winners from two shows from the Piccolo Spoleto Festival.

The Top Award Winners from the 2003 Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Show held in Marion Square were: the City of Charleston Mayor's Purchase Award went to Honor Marks for a painting entitled, Amaryllis; First Place went to John Michiels for a photograph entitled, Drayton Hall #8; Second Place went to Detta Cutting Zimmerman for an oil painting; and Third Place went to J. Michael Kennedy for a painting entitled Peaceful Dreams.

The Top Award Winners from the two 2003 Piccolo Spoleto Crafts Shows held in Wragg Square were: Overall, the City of Charleston Mayor's Purchase Award went to Jean YAO, a basket maker from Ft Lauderdale, FL, and the Slide Juror's Choice Award went to Judy Goskey, a jeweler from Burton, OH. Winners from the May 23-25 Crafts Show: First Place went to Judy Goskey, a jeweler from Burton, OH; Second Place went to Chris Ailes, fiber artist from New York, NY; and Third Place went to Nathan Rose, wood artist from Charlotte, NC. Winners from the May 30 - June 1 Craft Show: First Place went to Obayana Ajanaku, a jeweler from Decatur, GA; Second Place went to Phil Chapman, a clay artist from Fredericksburg, VA; and Third Place went to Ron Phillips, a photographer from Lithonia, GA.

Congratulations to all these winners. We'll have a complete list of winners on our website under ART NEWS - Juried results.

Bonus Commentary (See on the website only.)

Before we go on too far from the mention of some Top Award Winners at juried shows I want to add those of the 2003 Piccolo Spoleto Festival Juried Art Exhibition, held at the Visitor Center in Charleston. We didn't mention these winners in the printed version of the paper - mainly due to space shortages, but also because we were never sent the results. The Charleston Artist Guild, the coordinators of the exhibit sponsored by the City of Charleston's Office of Cultural Affairs has a long history of not communicating their activities - probably due to the yearly changing of officers of the organization and the fact that they are volunteers. The CAG has a part-time employee, but I don't know what they do for their salary.

The winners were: First Place Award ($1,000) went to Janet Orselli of Columbia, SC, for High Chair; Second Place Award ($500) went to Jim Darlington of Sullivan's Island, SC, for Portrait of David B.; and Third Place Award ($250) went to Alvin Staley of Orangeburg, SC, for Revelation 3:20 #3.

You can find the rest of the Award Winners from this show in our ART NEWS section - Juried Results.

As far as all the other shows and exhibitions offered during the Spoleto season - I didn't see them all - there is never enough time to do so and I mentioned most of them in our May issue before the Festival started. Of the ones I saw - I didn't see anything that wasn't worth the effort or that was so bad that it required a mention. Which as Martha Stewart would say - that's a good thing!

What does still bothers me after all these years of Spoleto Festivals - now having gone through 27 of them, is the fact of how unprepared some people are in presenting exhibitions during this season. of course those people won't be reading this comment, but I can't believe that they can't get themselves organized enough to get publicity out in time for publication. All we require is a three week notice before we're on the street. I know these show aren't just pulled together in that time-frame - so what gives?

My basic philosophy about exhibitions still stands firm - If you're not going to publicize it - don't do it!

You Say You Want A Revolution?

I'm beginning to think they have a real Revolution on their hands in Columbia, SC, where heads are rolling. Museum directors, the Vista Guild director and now the Arts Council director - dare I dream that they'll make it to the ramparts of the Arts Commission. Hope! Hope!

Dot Ryall, the iron maiden of Columbia's cultural community and "former" executive director of the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties is the latest. I guess it's true- if you live by the sword - you die by the sword, but I can't believe Ryall fell on her's willingly. There's a story here and I wish we had it to share with you. And, if I was someone involved in Ryall's demise - I would be looking over my shoulder for some time. You can bet Ryall is already planning her revenge. And, she may not wait to serve it up cold.

Last month I predicted Cultural Wars to begin soon in Columbia due to the city and county's passing of a 2% tax on eating out in Columbia to go toward funding cultural activities - but who gets the money, who decides who gets the money and how big a piece of the pie will pit cultural groups at each other's jugglers. Perhaps we're seeing some of the first blood drawn in this War.

If they think things are getting crazy in Columbia now, just wait until EdVenture opens its doors and finds out that its supporters vastly over estimated its popularity and ability to generate its operating expenses.

EdVenture alone will probably kill off the SC State Museum which caters mainly to children - EdVenture's main target market. And, they share the same parking lot. School trips won't have time or money to do both and the Zoo too.

And, while we're mentioning the SC State Museum - can someone tell me why the State of South Carolina is charging rent to its own State Museum? What's that all about? Are you telling me we have an official state museum in South Carolina that has to pay rent to the State for use of the building. How can this be?

The State of South Carolina should be picking up the full tap in running a state museum and admission should be free - at least to its citizens. The North Carolina Museum of Art is admission free except for special exhibitions. The SC State Museum also charges extra for special exhibitions on top of the regular admission charge. Of course in NC, they have separate museums for its history and natural history. Face it, SC, is a cheapo -state. Yea, NC has more money, but SC just spends its money in the wrong places.

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