Past Commentaries

October Issue 2000
by Tom Starland

First Friday

The first Friday in Oct. (that's Oct. 6th) will be a big event for the visual arts throughout the Carolinas. There will be art walks, art crawls, strolls, hop & stops, and driving tours in cities like Charlotte, NC, Charleston, SC, Asheville, NC, and elsewhere. But, the big show will be in Charleston, SC, where the French Quarter Gallery Association will kick off it's Fall ART WALK. Twenty-eight galleries and the Gibbes Museum of Art will be opening their doors to the public (5,000 strong during past walks), offering food & drink, new exhibitions, an opportunity to meet artists, meet old friends and make new ones.

What makes this art walk so special? Two things - first and foremost is the fact that it only takes place three times a year. That's important. It keeps the event from getting stale and commonplace. Having an art walk every month doesn't make it very special and people begin feeling -"if I don't go - I'll catch the next one."
Second, the twenty-nine stops are all within a four-block area of historic Charleston - you can't get that anywhere else. Some of the galleries are right next door to each other and although no one can visit them all within the three hour time-frame (I've tried) - it makes it easier on the walker to visit as many as time allows. In some areas there are 6 to 8 galleries in a single block area. Many of Charleston's finest and most popular restaurants are also located within this area.

During the last year, other galleries on peninsular Charleston have been opening their doors during the ART WALK too, making it an unofficial citywide event. I've got one recommendation for the evening beside wearing comfortable shoes. Although the Footlight Players Gallery, at 20 Queen Street, isn't part of the official French Quarter walk, it is within the district and will be offering a rare exhibition of some of the most amazing nature photographs by Luke Platt - our cover artist this month (see page 1 for details). The doors of the Footlight Players Workshop will be open that evening from 5 to 7pm. So when you're walking around the the FQ, stop by and check out this exhibition. You might even decide to pick up tickets for that evening's performance at the Footlight Players - after the ART WALK.

Steel Palmettos Run by Steel Fist

Who's most important when it comes to Columbia's Palmetto Tree Project - the artists who created the trees or the organizers? No one who really knows the Cultural Council of Richland /Lexington Counties is surprised that the artists' needs and desires come second to the will of the "steel magnolia" leader at the Cultural Council, Dot Ryall.

When it came to presenting a tree to a sister-city in Germany - who went along with the tree? The artist who created it? No, the head of the Cultural Council went. Why not, after all the Cultural Council is the one entity that put the least into the Project and will take the most out of it. Makes sense to me.
Perhaps the final act of the Tree Project will show the Cultural Council for what they really are - friend of all artists. Throughout the Project, it has been stated that all the trees will be auctioned at the State Fairgrounds in November. Now, artists are learning that only a select number of the trees will be auctioned at a live event - the rest of the trees will be offered on ebay, an internet auction site. Why the switch and how did the Council determine which trees would be reserved for a live auction and which would be sent to ebay? Are some artists in more favor than others? Are some trees not as attractive to Columbia bidders? Will some trees bring more profit on the world wide market? Who knows! The word from the Cultural Council is, "The auction committee made these decisions based on many different factors, and the decision is final."

What we see here is the standard two-tier level operating in South Carolina. Some artists are allowed to participate at one level, while others participate at another - things are never equal. Here again, I think that is something that the public should be deciding - not the folks in the back room.
So, will the Palmetto Tree Project, "ensure that future art projects have every opportunity to thrive in our area (Columbia)," as stated by the Cultural Council in their promotional materials? Oh, it probably will - for some artists.

For those who are interested, the ebay auction will begin taking bids on Oct. 4 and continue through Nov. 5, at ( A month on ebay is a long, long time for people to make bids or lose interest - it all really comes down to the last seconds and I'm sure the Cultural Council will have computers set up at the live auction.

I wonder if all though this project the Cultural Council has gotten calls from people interested in purchasing certain trees? I wonder if they have a good idea of which trees are more popular than others? I wonder if that's considered the same thing as "insider trading" - trying to control the market with inside information. Just wondering.

Nudes "R" Us Around the World

Remember last month when we told you about the City of North Charleston removing a few works from a member exhibit by Print Studio South. Apparently the City has a policy about not showing inappropriate art. In this case it was nude images. The rest of the artists in the show decided to withdraw their works for the exhibit- so no exhibit.

Well as we said before - this doesn't only happen in the Carolinas. At about the same time, over in Delhi, India, a work of art was ordered removed from an exhibit by the culture ministry which depicted a naked Greek mythological figure (Icarus) perched on top of India's national emblem - the Ashokan pillar. And, just like here in the Carolinas - all 25 artists participating in the exhibition also withdrew their artworks. Solidarity!

Here's One From Ripley's Believe It Or Not

Perhaps you saw the notice for submissions to the SC Arts Commission's Triennial 2001 to be held at the SC State Museum in Apr.-Aug., 2001. It states, "Artists working in all media & styles encouraged to apply in order to reflect the stylistic diversity of art produced in the state." That's SC artists only, or at least those you can prove six months residency prior to the deadline - Oct. 20, 2000. I guess after six months in SC you can be part of the "stylistic diversity" even though some artists who have lived here 20 and 30 years can't seem to make the cut.

This "should" be one of the most important exhibits in SC and the call for submissions was less than 100 words. Big on details, right. This notice says more by what's left out, than what is included - typical for the Arts Commission, but the key word in the whole notice is "contemporary". It calls for work by contemporary South Carolina artists. Do you think your definition of "contemporary" matches that of the Arts Commission? Based on the past three Triennials, it doesn't match mine or perhaps three-quarters of SC's working artists.
All that aside, the Arts Commission is counting on you thinking you don't have a chance so you won't submit - that's the best situation for them - you not throwing your hat in the ring. Then they can't be accused of being biased against certain types of art.

Since they only give their address for responses - there must be some further materials you'll need to apply- of course the clock is ticking. Deadline is Oct. 20, 2000.

As I said above, the Triennial "should" be one of SC's most important exhibitions, but it isn't because it's just a "who does the Arts Commission like this year" exhibit. They pay for the exhibit, they select the jurors, they control everything. The State Museum is just a location. A lot more people will view the SC State Fair's Fine Arts Exhibition in Columbia, SC, this Oct. 5 through Oct. 15 - and they'll see a lot better art. The art that you'll see at the Fair Exhibition is more representative of that being produced by SC artists.

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