Past Comments

May Issue 2007
by Tom Starland

Commentary on Spoleto

This year I'm not going to do a preview of what's going on in Charleston, SC, during the Spoleto Festival and Piccolo Spoleto Festival. We'll be offering a lot of info about the exhibits taking place in the form of articles and gallery listings. You can also find all the info you could want on the internet sites of the two festivals - ( and ( They both also print up program guides.

I need the space this year for commentary.

On The Cover Last Month

Last month I forgot to mention anything about our cover and boy did people let me know about it - in a good way. I'm not always going to mention the covers, but last month there wasn't a lot of info offered about John Moore and his image. Many of the covers have been associated with an exhibition taking place and there is usually a more informative article inside the paper providing info on the artist and other details. I had planned to say something but got carried away with too little space left for comments. That's an editor's life.

Moore's image was our first fine art photography on the "color" cover. I expect we'll see more fine art photography on the cover in the future. For those who still have a problem considering photography an art medium - get over it! Welcome to the 21st century.

I try not to let my personal preferences get in the way of providing wonderful covers for our paper - at least most of the time. Well, sometimes I don't. I try!

Anyway, last month's cover was provided by John Moore. I selected it to show us all that spring was coming, even though for most of us - it seems like it has been here for a few months. Other images of Moore's work can be seen at Corrigan Gallery in Charleston, SC, and online at ( Moore's work at the Corrigan Gallery is more abstract, but none the less, a product of nature.

This Month's Cover

This month we have an image by Eva Carter on our cover. There is an article inside the paper (see Page 14) about her exhibit with her former university art professor and friend of "nearly" 50 years.

I hope you find it to be just another spectacular cover of many more to come. And, remember, I might not always mention our covers - but then again, I might.

Twenty Years Ago

During the month of May, twenty years ago, I was preparing for our first issue of what was then called Charleston Arts. Even then, I knew it was a good thing that I was waiting until after the Spoleto Festival finished to launch the paper.

Throughout those twenty years our May issue has always been our biggest issue of the year, but perhaps not for long. Things change and October is now a close rival.

This year we're presenting readers with our first additional four pages of color ads - for just the month of May - for now. As more people come forward to do regular advertising in color we can do it more often, but when you have to add them four pages at a time - it takes a lot of people to coordinate everything - before deadlines.

So if you would like your ad to be in color on a regular basis - give us a call and get on our list. As soon as we get enough for four more pages - we'll do it.

The End of a Good Thing

Throughout the year we've been telling you about a website created in Raleigh, NC, called Arts Ramble - a sort of online discussion of the visual arts in the Triangle area of North Carolina. You may have seen the ads in the last couple of months. I hope some of you have been checking it out.

Unfortunately, the creators pulled the plug in April - after a year of trying to get folks in that area to respond to the questions posed and react to articles presented. The site was designed to be interactive, but although the site attracted many viewers, there were very few people willing to express their views. Too few people contributed on a regular basis. That put the burden of keeping the ball rolling on the backs of just those people who did.

I understand the feeling of wondering if anyone out there is paying attention to what we're doing here, but after years of wonder - I don't anymore. I learned not to expect reaction - it comes in its own good time - here and there.

I know now that if people weren't paying attention - we wouldn't be celebrating our 20th year in business.

But, I have to wonder why artists and people working in the visual arts are so - shall I say shy - to express their views about any subject dealing with the arts.

Well, they're willing to express their views at parties, receptions, over a few beers, at the coffee house, over the phone - whereever, but when it comes to putting it down in print - that's another whole thing.

Is it because they know people are watching and reading and making lists? There are some people who don't like people who are willing to express their opinions and ideas in public. People who make decisions about funding and other opportunities are afraid of folks willing to express themselves.

Oh, you can talk about approved subjects and take the approved side on an issue, but don't express an opposing opinion - unless you want to work outside the system.

This is America - land of the free - free to go without if you're not willing to play ball with those in charge. So, for some folks, they just feel free-er if they have no official opinions - in public.

Lack of participation was a problem for Andrea Gomez who was the site creator and site administrator for Arts Ramble. Serving as an administrator, cheerleader, content provider, technician, and any number of other positions to keep things going for a year - with little public participation - just wasn't what she had hoped for. Oh, and did I mention that she was a practicing artist?

Gomez tried to provide the art community something that wasn't being offered anywhere else in the media, some responded, but most just sat on the sidelines. She gave it her best shot but now it's time to get back to her studio.

I appreciate what she tried to do. I'll miss the site, and the comments of the people who did participate on the site, and hope some people keep trying to bring something new to the Carolina visual art community. We need all the help we can get.

Speaking of Needing Help!

The Upstairs Artspace in Tryon, NC, is in need of help - financial help. The non-profit is being crushed by the weight of its recent construction debt - in the six figures area. Outside of Asheville, NC, the Upstairs Artspace is the jewel of exhibition spaces in their region. It would be a cryin' shame to loose it now.

The Upstairs Artspace (formerly Upstairs Gallery) has been showing art by Carolina artists - both North and South Carolina, for almost 30 years. Those artists in WNC and Upstate SC have especially looked to this facility as one of the top rated spaces to show their work. That facility now needs your help.

Now any regular reader of my commentary should know by now that I am not the biggest fan of art auctions as fundraisers, but if there was ever a good reason for artists to donate works of art to help themselves out in the future - here is the prime example.

Every artist who has had work shown there in the past 30 years and every artist who would even hope to show there in the future should call this organization and get their name added to the list of artists willing to stand up and donate a signature work of art to help this organization get out from under this debt and continue doing the wonderful work they do so well - show very good contemporary art in an excellent setting. They are open Tue.-Sat., 11am-5pm - call 828/859-2828. If no one answers or the phone is busy - make sure you call again and again until you get through.

You can see by the ad next to this commentary that they are a class organization, but don't be fooled into thinking - well if they can pay for ads, they can't be hurting that much - we're paying for that ad.

I hope that other members of our greater Carolina visual art community who know about the Upstairs Artspace feel the same as me - that this facility can not just slip away without fighting for its survival.

Even if you are not an artist you can help. You can write them a check. You can become a member. You can even call and tell them you want to be on the list of people invited to this art auction so you can show support by buying a work of art - not at a discount of market value, but for a price above it. That's how charity auctions are supposed to work - not as a discount outlet.

I hope by next month's commentary I can report that artists and supporters have been ringing the facility's phone off the hook - with good news.

We should not let an organization that has served us so well for 30 years become something we talk about in the past tense.

A Nice Place to Show Your Work

The Saul Alexander Foundation Gallery in the Charleston County Public Library announces a call for submissions for art exhibitions, solo or group, beginning Oct. 2007 at the Main Library in Charleston, SC. Preference is given to work reflecting experiences and viewpoints of South Carolina residents. Deadline for completed applications is May 31, 2007. Applications are available at the Main Library, in the Administrative Office, or on our web at ( under About Us, Saul Alexander Gallery. For further information, contact Cynthia Bledsoe, 843/805-6807.

This is a heads up to Charleston area artists - not that we have anything against artists from other areas of SC, but not many local artists are applying to show in this space. I don't know why - it's a great little space that is seen by many more people than most art galleries in Charleston.

The only drawback is that you can't have a reception where people can sip wine and talk loud about art community gossip. The gallery is just a place to look at art. Is that so bad?

Throughout the years, I've seen many good shows there - some have led to exhibits elsewhere. So Charleston artists, don't overlook this intimate exhibition space.

Turtles on the Town

The SC Aquarium will present it's public art "fundraiser" exhibit, Turtles on the Town, during the Piccolo Spoleto Festival - continuing into August. Oh boy!

Much like the aquarium came too late to have any real "positive" impact on Charleston's tourism market (20 years too late), this first public art project is way too late for Charleston. This way too over done form of public art is not what I would like presented to visitors coming to Charleston for the Spoleto Festivals. We should have human-sized Palmetto Bugs roaming the streets of Charleston. Now there would be an exhibit, but don't!

It fits my standard description of Charleston to outsiders - 300 years of history - 20 years of progress. Good ideas always arrive late in Charleston.

But, what really burns me about this project is the gross amount of publicity the Post & Courier has given this fundraiser. The only thing missing is some tie-in to the Charleston Symphony. Both institutions are losing money like I'm losing hair - constantly - and the local newspaper has decided to cram them both down our throats - as something we dare not lose in this community.

The P&C could have used that space to report on the real visual arts going on in this community. The annual outdoor art show in Marion Square going on during Piccolo Spoleto never gets any coverage unless someone breaks in at night and steals some art. And, this year, that might not even happen as the P&C fills their pages with pictures of kids petting "dead" turtles on the streets of Charleston.

Charleston and its artists deserve better public art projects than this fundraiser designed to help the aquarium's bottom line - not turtles.

Save the Cheerleader - Save the World?

Excuse me, but the folks at NBC TV have got it wrong. It's - Save the Environment - Save the World!

I've been hearing a lot of talk on NPR radio and CNN News lately about how people can help save the environment. Fluorescent lightbulbs and fuel-efficient cars always come up. Changing your lightbulbs is easy enough, but when it comes to people giving up their big gas guzzling cars - there seems to be some misinformation on the high cost of hybrids.

My wife and I purchased a hybrid car this year and we didn't pay a lot of money for it. We purchased a Honda Civic Hybrid - made in Japan. And, for someone who comes from Michigan and once was a card carrying member of the UAW - that's a big deal for me.

The car lists for $22,600 and it comes with everything. The only option was a navigator. I don't need something to tell me where to go - people do that all the time - and it's free.

Some people might think $22,600 is expensive, but this isn't a little stripped down box car. It has a lot of features that are options in other cars.

This car gets 49/51mpg and only costs $1,000 more than the PT Cruiser we purchased five years ago that only gets 20mpg.

Oh, and did I mention it came with a Federal tax deduction of $2,100 and a rebate on the sales tax from the state of SC - for buying a fuel efficient auto.

Of course I feel like I'm getting another rebate every time I drive past a gas station when I would have been stopping to fill up with my old American gas guzzlers. I didn't exactly like buying a car not made in America, but when American auto makers start making fuel efficient cars - I'll give them my money again.

The Civic Hybrid is also the cleanest car as far as emissions go - driven in America. So we're saving money and saving the air we all breath.

We did the lightbulb thing too.

Save the Environment - Save the World!


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