Carolina Arts logo

Feature Articles

May 2011

Sumter County Gallery of Art in Sumter, SC, Features New Exhibits

Sumter County Gallery of Art in Sumter, SC, is presenting two new exhibits including: Carolina’s Got Art!, a traveling exhibit of this 2010 juried exhibit, and The Sumter Iris Festival: A Pictorial History, both on view through July 1, 2011.

During the 1980s Larry Elder, owner of Elder Gallery in Charlotte, NC, found himself standing in line with scores of other artists delivering artwork to the Annual Springs Art Show in Lancaster, SC. “Those were some exciting times,” says Elder, about what many considered to be one of the premiere art events in the Carolinas. After thirty years of hosting the exhibition Springs Mills discontinued the event. “Artists felt as if a portion of their hearts had been removed,” says Elder. “I can remember the sadness created by the loss of the Springs Art Show.”

The recent economic downturn dealt another blow to the visual art scene. Exhibition opportunities for artists dwindled. Elder found it difficult to stand by without taking positive action. In a conversation with a group of Charlotte artists, Elder expressed his desire to create an exhibition that would re-engage the spirit of the Springs Art Show and in October 2009 the inaugural exhibition of Carolina’s Got Art!, a juried show of North and South Carolina artists working in all media, opened. Carolina’s Got Art! was an immediate success. “During the first year of the exhibition over 1100 entries from 435 artists were received,” says Elder. The juror selected a diverse show that represented the variety of art being created in the Carolinas.”

The Juror for the 2010 exhibition was New York art writer, critic and artist Mario Naves who reviewed 1800 entries. Naves stated that: “I was very impressed with the progressive nature of the work and must admit that it was a grueling experience to select 136 pieces.” For the 2010 exhibition awards and prizes totaling $12,000 were presented during the opening reception in Charlotte, that was attended by over 1200 people. The following artists were presented awards: The $2,500 Best in Show award was presented to Lee Sipe from Columbia, SC; $2,000 First Place award to Ashlynn Browning of Raleigh, NC; $1,500 Second Place was presented to Lindsay Brown of Pendleton, SC; $1,000 Third Place award went to Greg Siler of Raleigh, NC. Six $500 Honorable Mention gift certificates were also presented.

Elder had not finished expanding his vision for Carolina’s Got Art! and his team selected 44 pieces from the show to comprise the traveling exhibition to be exhibited in selected venues across the Carolinas throughout 2011.

In the Fall of 2010, Karen Watson, Director of the Sumter County Gallery of Art, got a call from Elder who wanted to bring Carolina’s Got Art! to the Sumter Gallery. Watson remembers how highly Elder spoke of the Sumter County Gallery of Art. Watson states: “Larry told me that he specifically wanted Carolina’s Got Art! to be shown at the Sumter Gallery because of its reputation as one of the best exhibition spaces in the Carolinas. Another reason we were interested aside from the fact that it is a first rate show, is that Lindsay Brown had won second place, and we were also excited about the opportunity to exhibit two stunning baskets by the “Best in Show” winner Lee Sipe.” Watson further states: “Like the South Carolina Watermedia Society Show, one of SCGA’s most popular shows, Carolina’s Got Art! will have something for everybody. There is a wide variety of art from abstract to traditional, 2-D and 3-D and all of the highest quality.”

For more information on Carolina’s Got Art! and to view the online catalogue, visit the website ( or (www.facebook/carolinasgotart/).

Perhaps more than anything else, Sumter is defined by its Swan Lake Iris Gardens and annual Sumter Iris Festival. Sumter County Gallery of Art is proud to present The Sumter Iris Festival: A Pictorial History. Working with the “tireless” Sumter Item historian and archivist, Sammy Way, the gallery has put together a show of 45 photographs spanning the festival’s beginning in 1940 through the 1990s, and paraphernalia such as an Iris queen ribbon, trophies and newspaper articles, some courtesy of The Sumter County Historical Museum.

Much like the 2006 exhibition at SCGA, Sumter’s Greatest Generation: A WWII Photo Exhibition, with the gallery again working closely with Way and his “Hands on History” class at Sumter High School, Watson states: “that The Sumter Iris Festival: A Pictorial History, which is more history than visual art, is a gift to the Sumter community.”

The Iris Festival was launched in 1940 on the eve of WWII, the brainchild of J.J. Brennan, a local businessman, to pay homage to the beautiful gardens of Sumter. The Iris Festival is one of the longest running festivals according to Way. The heyday of the festival was the 1940s, 50s and 60s, when it was regularly attended by Governors, Senators, dignitaries and Hollywood personalities. Way noted: “in 1948 the Iris Festival garnered national attention as newspapers across the US hailed it as the South’s most colorful floral festival. This was due to the efforts of T. Doug Youngblood a local radio station owner who convinced the producers of the popular radio program (later a television program) Queen For A Day to have the ‘Queen For a Day’ attend the Iris Festival and preside over the festivities. Crowds during this period exceeded 50,000. The parades were elaborate, the floats magnificent and the statewide competition for Queen Iris rivaled larger beauty pageants.”

Many of the photographs include members of some of Sumter’s oldest families.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call 803/775-0543 or visit (


[ | May 2011 | Feature Articles | Carolina Arts Unleashed | Gallery Listings | Home | ]



Carolina Arts is published monthly by Shoestring Publishing Company, a subsidiary of PSMG, Inc. Copyright© 2011 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© 2011 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.