Past Comments

September Issue 2002
by Tom Starland

Second Thoughts

When the article first appeared in the Post & Courier, my reaction was - here were go again. By the time it showed up in The State I was ready to go to war. It seemed to be the season of economic impact studies. Someone was fishing for funding.

It seems our old friends at the SC Arts Commission had contracted, to the tune of $25,000, the crack researchers at the University of South Carolina's Moore School of Business to do a study to show the "Economic Impact of the Cultural Industry on the State of South Carolina".

I shouldn't use the word "show" because that infers facts. The proper word is "estimate" the economic impact - or better yet, make an "educated" guess.

I can not even begin to "estimate" how high my blood pressure got. You can "guess" how long it took for me to start September's Commentary. But, before long it was filling several pages. Then it hit me.

I was reacting to newspaper reports - reports probably based on a press release, NOT the actual study report. Maybe someone made a mistake copying down numbers? So I went to my computer and under Red Hot Links on our website ( I pulled up the Arts Commission's website and there I found the link - Economic Impact. An ink cartridge and 60 sheets of paper later - I had the entire report. I haven't stopped laughing since.

At that point I decided it wasn't worth pages of valuable space for a rebuttal of their "estimate" on the economic impact of the "cultural industry" on SC. You can read that on our website. It's a real hoot!

Museum Membership?

I recently had a reason to contact the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, about my membership. A membership I have due to an exchange of services. I traded some ad space for a membership with the Gibbes. They have always supported us with advertising and we wanted to return the support.

I hate to say it, but for the first year of this arrangement, I didn't use my membership much - not at all. As a member of the press, I can usually get into most art museums and art spaces who charge admission free. This year I wanted to exercise my privileges, so I started investigating what I was due.

All membership levels at the Gibbes and probably most museums include the following:

· Free admission to the Museum
· Invitations to openings and previews
· Discounts at the Museum Shop
· Discounts on classes
· Special tour opportunities
· Reciprocal membership at other Museums and attractions
· Subscriptions to Museum publications

Well, at first look there didn't seem to be much that would be of benefit to me. As I said, I can usually get in free already, I get a million invitations to exhibition openings, have an ongoing collection of original art, I have taught classes at the Gibbes school, don't have time for tours as I travel 2,500 miles around the Carolinas every month, and receive publications up the ying yang from institutions all over the country.

But, I'm not your usual member. And, I don't have a general membership. Like all memberships - the more you contribute - the more you get. Suffice it to say there are benefits there which justify the commitment of my money.

But what about other people? Why should anyone purchase a membership at an art museum? It's a deal at some! A real bargain!

If you have a sharp eye or mind, you may have noticed I missed brushing off the - reciprocal membership at other museums and attractions. The Gibbes, like many other art museums and attractions belongs to an organization which offers people with memberships at certain institutions - a reciprocal "free" admission at many other similar institutions. To anyone reading this paper - and we do assume you are interested in the visual arts - even a basic membership in the Gibbes would be worth the price - once you exercise your privileges.

Membership at the Gibbes is like having a membership at the Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC, and the two Mint Museums in Charlotte, NC. Of course, if you are a member at the Mint - you're a member of the Gibbes and the Columbia Museum of Art too. Just look at the list of art museums you can be a member of - for the price of one membership.

I bet there are a lot of existing members who do not know of this one little privilege. It's a pretty good deal, especially if you travel around or live in one of the border areas of the Carolinas. Many of these museums are just a few hours away.

Gibbes members also receive free reciprocal admission to the following museums:
In Alabama: Birmingham Museum of Art, Huntsville Museum of Art, Mobile Museum of Art, and Montgomery Museum of Art.
In Florida: Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, Bass Museum of Art, Miami, Center for the Arts, Vero Beach, Cummer Museum of Art, Jacksonville, Deland Museum of Art, Deland, John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, The Lowe Art Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, The Museum of Arts and Sciences, Orlando Museum of Art, Palm Beach Community College, Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, Salvador Dali, St. Petersburg and Tampa Museum of Art.
In Georgia: Atlanta History Center, Columbus Museum, Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Museum of Arts and Sciences, Macon, and Telfair Academy of Art, Savannah.
In Louisiana: Alexandria Museum of Art and Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
In Mississippi: Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, Laurel, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, and Walter-Anderson Museum of Art, Ocean Springs.
In North Carolina: Greenville Museum of Art, Hickory Museum of Art, and Mint Museum of Art & Mint Museum of Craft + Design, Charlotte.
In Ohio: Dayton Museum of Discovery
In Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia & James A. Mitchener Art Museum, Doylestown, PA
In South Carolina: Bob Jones Museum & Gallery, Greenville, Columbia Museum of Art, Greenville County Museum of Art, and Historic Columbia Foundation, Columbia.
In Tennessee: Cheekwood Fine Arts Center, Nashville, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, Knoxville Museum of Art, and Tennessee State Museum, Nashville.
In Virginia: Art Museum of Western Virginia
In West Virginia: Huntington Museum of Art and Sunrise Museum, Charleston, (WV).

Besides being a savvy bargain hunter, membership in one of these institutions would also show your support for the visual arts in your town, state or region. Membership also provides an opportunity to get more involved in these institutions and can eventually put you in a position to shape the institutions future - if you exercise your privileges and rights as a member. Not to mention the fact that you can go everyday they are open.

And, one more point. Have you ever been in downtown Charleston in need of a rest room? The rest rooms at the Gibbes are right at the entrance. On that day you'll be glad you are a member of the Gibbes or another institution.

Website Update

Since we first launched our companion website, 'Carolina Arts Online, found at (, over three years ago we have received over 579,410 visitors from around the world. We have over 2,180 pages of content on the site. That info attracts a lot of browsers. About eight months ago, the country with the most viewers was Taiwan! But recently they have been knocked off by France as our number one viewing country. Go figure - Jerry Lewis and Carolina Arts?

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Copyright© 2002 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© 2002 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.