Past Comments

March Issue 2006
by Tom Starland

How About That Cover?

Being an old Black & White guy - I have to admit - that color sure looks great on our outside and inside covers. But make no mistake - Carolina Arts is still a newspaper. A little different than any newspaper I've seen, but that's been the case from the start.

I have to thank Tri-State Printing (Piggly Wiggly) for constantly pushing us toward color and our supportive advertisers for making it all possible. Like I've always said from the start - none of this would be possible without the support of our advertisers. And, with more advertisers - we could do more.

That's right - we're printed by The Pig. They do much more than supply those fliers for your daily newspapers.

Our Advertisers

As I mentioned earlier in this commentary - none of this would be possible without our advertisers. Some have been with us forever and some come and go and come back again, but the ones that bother me the most are those who try us out and get no reaction or response. They are all important as each month the size of the paper is determined by the amount of advertising we have each month. This month's issue started out being 32 pages and then at the last minute a few more came forward and now it's 36 pages. That means more articles and more commentary.

Of course it doesn't mean that much to an advertiser if all their money did was make the paper bigger and get them nothing in return.

I know there are some out there who do the advertising for the greater good of the visual art community in the Carolinas and we thank them for their support, but we always hope it pays off for them in some way.

The one group who suffers the most from a lack of response is those who are offering something other than an ad for an exhibition or a gallery.

Recently a furniture maker in Marietta, SC, Robert M. Garrett, did five months of ads with us and didn't get one response. He didn't expect people to come up Duff Mountain to visit his studio, but he was hoping people or a gallery would check out his website ( or at least call, but no one did. That's not good. Garrett is not the first to advertise with Carolina Arts and not have it pay off. Of course some have only advertised in one issue and expected an avalanche of response - it didn't come so they didn't come back. That might be expecting too much, but after five months I think Garrett was justified in stopping his advertising. It wasn't working.

Advertising has always been somewhat of a mystery to me - some work great - some don't.

This month we have a couple of new "service providers" who are going to give Carolina Arts a shot at bringing in some new business. We hope they will get some, and we hope that maybe some of their regular customers who are readers of Carolina Arts will tell them they appreciate the support they are giving us. Campania Fine Moulding in Charlotte, NC, and Mouse House in Columbia, SC, have given us a chance - look for their ads and respond if you can.

I'm still hoping something will come from Robert Garrett's ads. I hope all our advertisers will benefit by supporting us - if not just for the promotion of their business.

Gibbes Names New Director

I have to admit that I'm shocked and amazed that the Board of the Carolina Art Association, which manages the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, went with a seasoned museum professional instead of a smiling young woman to replace Betsy Fleming, former Gibbes director. Apparently all it took to lift the Gibbes out of its disastrous past under the faulty leadership of Paul Figueroa (a story I'll never buy into) was a bouncy, smiling young woman's enthusiasm. At least that's what they (at the Gibbes) have been telling us, over the last 3 years. So why go with an experienced museum director?

Well, frankly, that's what it may take to get them back to the level they were at under the leadership of Figueroa. Here's hoping that Todd DeShields Smith (Todd D. Smith) former director of the Knoxville Museum of Art has what it takes. He's got a lot of ground to make up. Smith's term starts - 1AB (After Betsy).

And, his hands will be tied somewhat from the beginning. Just before announcing the new director, the Board also announced an admission increase to $ 9, from $7 (almost a 30% increase) making the Gibbes the highest admission art museum in the Carolinas and one of the highest in the region - $ 4 above the Knoxville Museum of Art.

As of this writing, here are admission prices for other art museums in the region:
Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC - $ 5
Greenville Co. Museum of Art, Greenville, SC - Free
SC State Museum, Columbia, SC - $ 5
Museum of York County, Rock Hill, SC - $ 5
Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC - $ 5
Asheville Art Museum, Asheville, NC - $ 6
Mint Museum of Art and Mint Museum of Craft + Design, in Charlotte, NC - both for $ 6
NC Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC - Free
Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington, NC - $ 8
Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, GA - $ 5
Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, GA - $ 8
Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, FL - $ 7
Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL - $ 8

Outside the region I found these art museum's under the Gibbes admission.
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN - $ 7
Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO - $ 8
Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO - Free

Many of these museums are larger and in newer facilities. The Gibbes has been in the same building for 100 years - some parts of it could be in a historical museum.

Those with a higher admission:
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX - $ 10
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL - $ 12
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA - $ 12
Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR - $ 15
High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA - $ 15
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY - $ 15

In the statement released about the admission increase, Dr. Layton McCurdy, President of the Board said, "...we found that additional revenue from a slight increase in admission prices would support more world-renowned exhibitions and increased educational programs." I bet it would. Every museum might argue that if they had more money they could present bigger and better exhibitions, but will people in the region pay the price to see them? Especially when other art museums in the region are much less.

Of course some in Charleston always say - the tourists will pay the increased price - as if there is a two-price system for locals and tourists. Everyone is being asked to pay $ 9 - unless they are a member, child, senior or student. Of course you could become a member and get in free, but those costs have been increased too.

And, the use of the word "world" - world class - world-renowned, is over-used by local leaders in Charleston, but hardly ever justified. The Mayor of Charleston calls the local aquarium "world class" but he hasn't visited Atlanta's aquarium and probably never will.

Is this admission increase justified? Well maybe it will be when the Gibbes starts offering BLOCK BUSTER exhibitions. That is exhibitions greater that those being offered by other regional art museums. Is that happening now? Will it happen this year? Next year? That's not for me to decide, but expectations will be raised to go with the admission increase and I won't blame people if they hold the Gibbes to that higher standard and stop paying the higher admission until exhibitions become - at least 30% bigger - not only in size but artistically.

That's a big mountain to climb for a new director who will be strapped with years of exhibits already scheduled by Betsy Fleming.

It's not that Fleming has big shoes to fill, her history may not hold up to all the hoopla that she was made out to be, but she and the board who hired her have set things in motion that will be hard to recover from - so easily or fast. Fleming's real legacy is yet to be seen - other than that smiling face.

I wish the new director well and hope to help the Gibbes be all that it claims it wants to be - that would be great for Charleston, and the greater Carolina community, but I'll not do it with a blind eye - nor will others.

And, I don't like it when one director or a board of directors tries to build up their reputation by rewriting the history of another.

The Gibbes Marketing Director left shortly after Fleming did - so marketing and public relations have been struggling. Until just recently the Gibbes website was stuck on May 2005. It was finally updated seven months later.

It seems that a lot of the wonderful things that were going on at the Gibbes stopped the day the music died - that is the day Fleming skipped off to Converse College - leaving all her big plans for the Gibbes behind.

I wish the new director well and I hope he's the kind that embraces the local art community instead of the kind that stands off, apart from the community from which he will need support. I would suggest the new director look at the Columbia Museum of Art as a model for community relations and not the Greenville County Museum of Art.

Fellowship Update

As we mentioned last month, the SC Arts Commission has had some problems attracting artists to apply for their annual Fellowship award. They have extended the deadline to May 15, 2006 - applications are available on their website at (

The Arts Commission also posted a survey on their website for artists to comment about the Fellowship award and as usual they put a Feb. 17, 2006 deadline for comments. Why?

Why have a deadline for comment - unless you're really not interested in getting a response from artists and why just from artists?

I sent a few observations to Ken May - second in command at the Arts Commission about the Fellowship application. First, I wondered since the Fellowship's selection is to be based on unidentified images alone - I wondered why the application required a resumé? May answered that they need that info for publicity after the award is given - the people selecting the Fellowship never see the resumés.

So if 200 artists apply and only one person is selected - 199 resumés were for 'just in case." I wonder why they can't just ask the winner for a resumé - if it is not important to know who the artist is before the selection. And, what happens to those resumés?

And, as far as that resumé goes - it states on the application that it is "limited" to three pages. Is your resumé three pages long? Does that little factor tell you that if your resumé isn't three pages long - maybe you shouldn't be submitting an application?

I told May that the Arts Commission in a hundred different, but "subtle" ways - was sending out the message to tell artists not to bother with the Arts Commission - you're not the artists they are interested in giving awards to, much less assisting you in your career.

When the Arts Commission selects college and university professors and museum curators to be on the panels to select Fellowships - is it any wonder they always select artists who create the kind of work they are used to seeing on a daily basis. What would happen if they had a panel of three commercial gallery owners? Or, at least a mix of jurors who dealt with all kinds of art - not just art on the cutting edge or art falling off the edge.

If they are truly selecting art based only on the images artists send in - should it matter if the artist has a degree or even went to college. Should it matter if they are self-taught? Should it matter if they have never exhibited their work, won another fellowship or given a grant before? Should it matter if the artist paints landscapes or still-lifes or assembles a bunch of found objects that remind them of their grandmother who fed the chickens from the porch?

What does it mean if you are selected for the SC Arts Commission's Fellowship? Does it mean you are the best artists in the state? Does it mean you are the best artists selected from the pool of applications - which could be five or six applications? Does it mean that your career will change? Does it mean you'll end up in jail or be singled out to be the subject of one of my commentaries?

Frankly, I'm not sure what it means in SC other than the fact that other state arts agencies do it so why shouldn't we. NC offers Fellowships - many more than SC and for more money, and they also organize exhibitions of the artists' works selected.

I used to think of the Fellowship program in SC as a lottery - the only catch is, you have to buy a ticket, in the form of sending in an application - by deadline, to have a chance to win. But, now I think of it more like a video poker machine - the game is rigged for the house to win.

The Arts Commission's survey deadline has passed, but you can still send your comments to the Arts Commission's board (commission members) and you can still submit an application by May 15, 2006.

Imagine if every member of the SC Watercolor Society sent in an application and every member of all the artist guilds around the state sent in an application. What would happen if every commercial gallery got their SC artists to send in an application? Would it be so easy to ignore these artists if the Commission received 500 applications by painters and ten by people who assemble found objects?

Don't fool yourself - numbers mean nothing to the Arts Commission. They have been ignoring the majority of artists in this state for years. They can still say the work sent in by these artists was just not as good as the one they selected - not in their opinion, it was the jurors who turned you down. But, they selected the jurors.

So what should you do? Ask for change and when it doesn't come demand change. When they don't listen, talk to your local legislators. By all means send in an application and make them deal with your presence. By not sending in an application you are making them smile and playing their game of exclusion.

When you boil it all down - shame on them for doing what they do, but shame on you for letting them get away with it. The Arts Commission is supposed to serve your needs and the people of this state - they are not doing it and because you look the other way and say "it's not worth my effort" or "they don't want artists like me" - you let them get away with everything they do and don't worry - they are not losing any sleep over it. Stand up for yourself and say, "I deserve recognition. I deserve to be rewarded. I deserve to participate."

The Interview

Back in January I said we would have the Interview with Myself - Part II up on our website - we didn't make it. First I didn't get it finished and then the color cover got in the way of our normal schedule. But, it's up now - under the heading of Special Features.

Cover Images

I hate to say this because I know what will happen to my e-mail file, but we will be looking for vertical images for our cover. Images connected to upcoming exhibitions. We will need them a month or more before the exhibit would take place. Send us small images (no more than two) at first, if we want to use it - then we will ask for a larger, high quality image. If you send 20 large megabyte files - you will be eliminated right away - forever.


[ | What got printed | What didn't get printed | What no one would talk about | Past Commentaries | Home | ]


Carolina Arts is published monthly by Shoestring Publishing Company, a subsidiary of PSMG, Inc.
Copyright© 2006 by PSMG, Inc., which published Charleston Arts from July 1987 - Dec. 1994 and South Carolina Arts from Jan. 1995 - Dec. 1996. It also publishes Carolina Arts Online, Copyright© 2006 by PSMG, Inc. All rights reserved by PSMG, Inc. or by the authors of articles. Reproduction or use without written permission is strictly prohibited. Carolina Arts is available throughout North & South Carolina.