Past Comments

July Issue 2008
by Tom Starland

Give Me A Break - Please

Do you know awhat it cost us to deliver last month's paper? I drove over 2,300 miles in North and South Carolina to pick up the paper from the printer and deliver it to all our destinations. Ouch!

Do you know what it is going to cost us to deliver this issue so you can be reading this? Unfortunately, a lot more than last month. Ouch!

We also mail a lot of papers to areas where it wouldn't be efficient to drive to, but those mailing costs just went up again too.

We're all feeling the pinch of rising costs due to speculation of crude oil prices. The cost of a barrel of oil is much less than what we are paying for it at the pump. Greedy middlemen are making a fortune driving up the cost of oil - taking advantage of the world's thirst for more oil - here and in China and India.

Hopefully our leaders in Washington, DC, will do something about this soon, but don't hold your breath. The current administration is friends with the people in the oil business and they're happy with the way things are going.

We need change - real change, and we need it fast.

On The Cover This Month

On the cover we have several images of artworks by artists participating in the South Carolina State Museum's 20th Anniversary Juried Art Exhibition, on view through Sept. 7, 2007.

We're doing our part to help promote this exhibition in hopes that a lot of people will make an effort to go see this exhibit. Even with high gas prices, it is worth the effort to make a trip to Columbia, SC, to see a very diverse cross-section of works being produced by South Carolina's visual artists.

Make a day of your trip and go visit other visual art offerings in Columbia. There is a lot to see between commercial and institutional offerings - just check out our gallery listings in the back of this paper.

Jeffrey Day, arts reporter for The State newspaper in Columbia said this show is not an exhibition, but only a display.

In his view, exhibitions are curated and documented while juried shows are just displays of artworks. Maybe so, I won't argue with him on that point - or maybe I will. See my blog, Carolina Arts Unleashed on our website at ( I have an argument posted there.

But this show, exhibit, or display is much more than that. The artists in South Carolina made a statement when 500 artists delivered 1000 works of art to the State Museum - just for the chance to get into this - display.

The opportunity to participate wasn't even widely promoted and still 500 artists made the trip from all over the state - just for a chance to have their work on display in a facility like the State Museum's Lipscomb Gallery.

Out of that group, the two jurors for the exhibit selected 122 works by 116 artists.

Now, anyone can argue that the works on display are not the best works in the State that could be put on display or selected for an exhibition - especially the 384 artists who didn't make the cut. You could even say that a better display could have been selected from the 768 works of art that did not get into this display. You could say a lot of things, but you'd be just wondering - what if?

The reality is - a call for submissions went out, some artists delivered their work by the stated deadline and two jurors selected works to be put in the display. The art curator at the State Museum then arranged a display of those works. The organizers - the State Museum - hope people will come and pay an admission ($5) to see the display of art.

But Jeffrey Day hopes you won't. He wrote a bad review of this display before it was even opened to the public and later wrote another bad review when he discovered that it was not an exhibition, but nothing but a display of art.

As I wrote in my commentary last month, Day misses the SC Arts Commission's Triennial exhibitions - which were more controlled, curated and documented. In his opinion these exhibitions were much more worthy of filling the Lipscomb Gallery space instead of a display of juried works. But, as I show in his writings over a 15 year period - he was not always so fond of the Triennials and on occasion compared them to nothing more than just another juried exhibition.

Get the full story at Carolina Arts Unleashed and be prepared to do some reading. I don't have any space limitations there.

I also offered my own - layman's review of the juried art exhibition on the blog. But I can tell you here - I liked the exhibition.

I'll admit that I have no formal training in the visual arts, only my 20 plus years of experience in publishing a visual arts newspaper, but I'm not sure we're being offered much more than an opinion by many publications offering reviews of exhibits taking place in the Carolinas.

But, I found the exhibit to be well worth my effort to go see it. I found many examples of well crafted, stimulating, and meaningful art presented. And, I found a few unexpected surprises. Although some works were not of my particular tastes and some went right over my head, I know others will enjoy them. I have no problem with that.

I have found that I do not have to like all the art I see or include in this paper or on our website and don't have to hate what I don't like. I can enjoy what I do like and lust for art that I would like to own - without pressing my views on others.

Some could argue that my commentary is an effort to press my views, but it's just my opinion - take it or leave it. In this country we still enjoy the right to express our views and express our opposition to other people's views - in a civil manner.

I wish more people would express their views in public.

A plaque at the entrance of the gallery space states that the South Carolina State Museum has mounted 70 art exhibitions since opening in 1988 and that they will continue to offer at least two major art exhibits annually focusing on SC art.

That may not be enough for some people's liking, but I'm sure they're doing the best they can - without any real help from the SC Arts Commission.

I thank them for their efforts and I'm sure so do a lot of SC's visual artists.

Carolina Arts Unleashed

In a very short period of time - the blog - has become our number one visited page. The blog is receiving almost twice as many hits as the next ranked pages. It hasn't been up long enough, as of this writing, to tell what effect it will have on our website's overall viewership - which was averaging 200,000 hits a month.

I myself have enjoyed the freedom of being able to express my opinions on a variety of subjects - whenever and for as long as I like, but I'm trying to keep it short - believe me I'm trying. I'm even adding some reviews and descriptions of art travels.

What's On The Blog?

Well, as mentioned here we have my own review of the State Museum's exhibition, a survey of writings about the Triennial exhibits made by Jeffrey Day - with my comments and observations - plus some comments about a few problems with the State Museum's exhibit.

There is an entry about the financially failing SC Aquarium in Charleston, SC. There's an entry about an effort by people in Charleston's art community to find more affordable space in Charleston.

There is an entry about a last minute tour of visual art exhibits being offered during the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, some comments about a national magazine's ranking of cities in America that are art destinations, and comments about how the SC Arts Commission makes public notice about board meetings.

Who knows what you'll find there now as there is a lot of time between when I write this commentary for deadline and when the paper gets in your hands. But, you can be sure there will be something new. I don't start things I can't continue.


One of the entries I didn't mention was about some announcements I found on the website of the NC Arts Council about upcoming Fellowship selections.

One was about an exhibition of Fellowship winners taking place in Rocky Mount, NC, and two others were about lists of artists who are on a final list for selections of Fellowships in visual art and for craft.

This year the NC Arts Council had over 400 applications for the two categories of Fellowship awards - of $10,000 each.

Not too long ago the SC Arts Commission had to make a recall for applications because less than six artists applied.

If you've been following the Fellowship program in SC, you'll find this blog entry very interesting - or maybe very depressing.

Here is just another example where a SC state arts agency lags way behind a NC state arts agency - in a similar program. Yet, I've often been told by officials at the Arts Commission that they do things certain ways because this is the way they do it in neighboring states. Oh really!

Well I've got news for you - they may have the same programs, but in SC the bang for the buck is a whimper. Artists in SC are being shortchanged by the Arts Commission and they're slowly learning it - every day.


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