Feature Articles

April Issue 2000

Artista Vista Art Weekend in Columbia, SC

by Tom Starland

Artista Vista is an annual art event organized by the purveyors of visual arts located in the historic "Congaree Vista" area of Columbia, SC. On Fri., Apr. 28, from 5 to 9pm there will be opening receptions of new works at the participating galleries and museum. Then on Sat., Apr. 29, from 10am to 5pm, the events continue with various activities. Some people claim to like the more relaxed feeling of the day after the party atmosphere of Fri. evening to make purchases, but you should be warned - the smart art buyer makes their purchases on Fri. - party and all. The participants in this year's Artista Vista include: Cameo Fine Art Gallery, Carol Saunders Gallery, City Art Gallery, The Gallery at Nonnah's, Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, Lewis and Clark, One Eared Cow Glass, I. Pinckney Simons Gallery and The South Carolina State Museum.

Some people wonder why they should go to one of these kinds of events, whether it's called an Art Walk, a Gallery Crawl or Art Stroll - you can go to these same galleries Monday through Saturday. What's the big deal? Well, if you're a person who only goes to these events to have a good time - feel lucky, the galleries are picking up the tab, but if you're one of the select few who actually buy art and appreciate if for one of the wonders of the world - you couldn't ask for a better deal. Buying art at a gallery can be a special experience, but buying art during Artista Vista can be an experience in itself. How often can you buy something of note where 50 to 100 people will know instantly. How often can you witness that glazed over look of an artist who just realized that they will be able to pay their studio rent this month. By the time the ink has dried on your check the news of your purchase will have traveled through several other galleries by way of the roaming crowd - now thousands know of your investment. For one shining evening - you're a patron of the arts and you get to keep the artwork. That's a better deal than making a donation to the local theatre group or symphony where they ask you to buy a ticket to hear the performance.

So what will you see at this year's Artista Vista? Our cover articles this month tell about the exhibits at Cameo Fine Art Gallery and City Art Gallery. (See page 1) Cameo Fine Art will be presenting a one-man show by Jamie Blackburn featuring 30 works from the series, Lake Murray's History Beneath the Waves. This exhibit will be on view through May 19. Over at City Art in the Main Exhibition Hall will be an exhibit of recent works by Bruce Nell-Smith, Chairman of the Department of Art at Newberry College. In the Art Weekly Gallery there will be a special one-time exhibit of etchings by Yugoslavian artist Katarina Zaric. And as always, works by many more artists will be featured in the side and upstairs galleries.

Staying in the Lincoln Street area, Lewis and Clark will feature the works of seven artists working in a wide variety of mediums, which include, Lewis and Clark (contemporary furniture and lighting), Jim Creal (fine art prints), Jackie Keane (drawings, prints, and collage), Jeanne-Marie Kenny (paintings), Tom Ogburn (Paintings), Suzy Pike (photography), and Ed Shmunes (photography). The exhibit will present a variety of themes by each artist, ranging from pop culture commentary to contemporary lighting and design. The works will be on view through the end of May.

Around the corner on Lady Street, the artists at the Vista Studios will present an exhibit entitled, Art: We Do It, in Gallery 80808. This exhibit of works will continue through May 10. The artists of Vista Studios and the art they "do" include: Mike Williams, paintings and metal constructions inspired by SC's swamps; Carol Barks, intuitively-carved stone sculptures; Robert Allison, figurative sculpture; Janette Grassi and Laura Spong, non-objective paintings; Ethel Brody, non-objective prints and paintings; Charles Dillingham, figurative and fantastic paintings; Pat Callahan and Robert Kennedy, figurative drawings; Frances Perkins, metaphorical paintings and pastels; and Reuben Gambrell and Yvonne Ruff, portraits.

At this point you might want to jump in your car to visit One Eared Cow Glass and the SC State Museum, as long as you haven't enjoyed too many lively spirits, then the walk might do you good. But, in order to save time, a designated driver would be suggested - Gervais Street is no place to be without your total faculties at hand. One Eared Cow Glass is just off Gervais on Huger Street - this is where the action is - molten glass being transformed into works of art - right before your eyes. Tommy Lockart and Mark Woodham will be in residence doing that dance that they do - shaping, blowing, pulling, and transforming glass into whatever the imagination can bring up. Warning - Don't get caught spending the entire evening watching them work. Spend some time in their gallery selecting something to take home and remember, they'll be there Saturday too.

The South Carolina State Museum, further down Gervais, just before you get to the Congaree River, will be presenting installation art by local artists in the Atrium of the old cotton building which houses the Museum and the State Tax offices (don't worry, they'll be closed). Included in the offering here will be video artist and current USC Graduate student, Stephen Slappe. On Sat., at 10:30am, the Museum will host a panel discussion on outdoor installation art.

Returning up Gervais Street back to the heart of the gallery district of the Vista we find three galleries - all in a row: Carol Saunders Gallery, I. Pinckney Simons Gallery and The Gallery at Nonnah's.

Carol Saunders Gallery will be presenting an exhibition of abstract paintings by Scott Upton. The paintings range from bold color to the sheerest transparent washes, creating a sense of pushing back and pulling forward through the use of color and light. Upton uses pencil, acrylic and metal as his mix of media. The artist has been represented in numerous exhibitions and galleries in the Carolinas and Georgia over the past two decades. His show will be on view through May 27. The gallery will also offer a two day special showing of hand made jewelry designed by the late Ronald Hayes Pearson. The Friday evening reception will honor the artists' widow, Carolyn Hecker. Pearson's career spanned fifty years, during which he designed thousands of pieces of jewelry in silver and gold, including the President's Medallion by the University of South Carolina. Examples of Pearson's designs can be found in numerous museum and private collection including the American Craft Museum, Renwick Gallery, Museum of Modern Art, and Museum of Contemporary Craft. Pearson was truly a seminal person in the Contemporary American Crafts movement. He was a prominent figure from the beginning of the movement, actively designing, teaching and exhibiting.

I. Pinckney Simons Gallery will be offering works by South Carolina artists: Craig Crawford, Michael Gray, Johnson Hagood, Susan Luke, Chip Myers, Anna Onufer, Mickey Williams, and Rick Wells. New works will also be offered by Peter Pettegrew of Orlando, FL, and Dennis Sheehan of Boston, MA. The gallery also features sterling jewelry by Cindy Saad, bronze sculptures by Doris Lamb, and works by Bill Davis.

We end the evening at The Gallery at Nonnah's, which will be featuring the works of eight local artists. This is a good place to end the evening, especially if you've had too many lively spirits - you can get a good cup of coffee at Nonnah's. The artists being featured are: Bonnie Goldberg (watercolor, pastel, and mixed media), Michele McNinch (nudes and pastel still-lifes) McNinch will be working on location that evening, Ray Douglas (oils and sketches of local landmarks), Eric Lake (sketches of historical murals), Jan Fleetwood Porter (acrylics centering around equestrian subjects), Eddie Biddle (acrylics in colorful abstracts and impressionistic landscapes), Mike Bayly (objects of everyday life in brilliant colors and fun formats), and Betty Cooper (geometric abstracts in brilliant colors).

I've gone through the lineup of offerings to date, reminding you that between this writing and Apr. 28, other offerings may be added - Artista Vista is a hard event to pin down over details. Artists by nature tend to be spontaneous and oblivious to deadlines - this leaves opportunities for surprises.

If there is one point I'd like to leave in your subconscious, it is that Columbia is just two hours drive from just about anywhere in South Carolina and many cities in Georgia and North Carolina. The event starts at 5pm and ends at 9pm - you can go and be back in your own bed for the 11pm news or you can stay overnight and enjoy the events of Saturday.

I recommend the trip. I've made it before and always enjoyed the evening and you just might see me dodging cars while crossing Gervais Street. What an opportunity!

For further information check our SC Commercial Gallery listings or call any of the participating galleries. Phone numbers can be found in ads in this issue or in those listings.

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