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SCAC Fellow’s new book out Sept. 25

Charleston writer F. Rutledge Hammes, the S.C. Arts Commission's current fellowship recipient for prose, is set to release his debut novel, A Curious Matter of Men with Wings, on Sept. 25. The book has received glowing praise from writers like New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank who writes, “F. Rutledge Hammes is that rare new voice you run across once or maybe twice in a lifetime. His spectacular debut novel, A Curious Matter of Men with Wings, soars! It is a coming of age cautionary tale about power. It’s a mystery and a love story wrapped up in humidity and pluff mud and it is as fascinating as it is addicting.” Set for release by Atlanta-based SFK Press, Hammes’ debut novel tells the story of the Walpole family who fled their sordid past and escaped to one of the nearly 2,000 uninhabited sea islands off the South Carolina coast. The novel opens with the two Walpole boys taking their little sister out on their john boat for the first time to pirate the waterways for beer and loose change. In the process, their little sister goes overboard and appears to have drowned, until two men with gigantic wings swoop down and carry her body away into the sky. The news of her disappearance hits the family particularly hard, and the mother goes so far as to fashion herself wings and tries to fly. The Walpole boys set off in search of their little sister and, in the process, discover the truth behind the centuries-old Gullah tale of the Flying Men as well as numerous other mysteries native to the South Carolina sea islands. A book release party will be held at Blue Bicycle Books (420 King St., Charleston) on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 from 5-7 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Sue Monk Kidd, bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees, writes, “A Curious Matter of Men with Wings is where magic comes to life in a bold story that celebrates the Gullah world of the South Carolina sea islands. With lyrical prose, the novel takes us into a hidden realm where life is still enchanted and storytelling abounds. In these pages, the transfixing Walpole family grapples with loss, the madness of grief, and ultimately healing, while surrounded by a community whose only salvation lies in the ties that bind them.”


"...It’s a mystery and a love story wrapped up in humidity and pluff mud, and it is as fascinating as it is addicting.” - Dorothea Benton Frank, bestselling author


Hammes was born in South Carolina's Lowcountry, where he fell in love with the waterways, the people, and the folklore that inhabit the sea islands. His whole life, he has been writing about the Charleston area and sea island culture and, for the past decade, he has been teaching the young writers who will keep our lush storytelling tradition alive. Having grown up the oldest in a family of ten, stories of family come naturally to him. His grandparents moved out to the sea islands early in their marriage and made friends in the Gullah community, and he grew up enamored by all the stories and folklore his grandmother told him as a child. Hammes says, “I have long believed that magic is at the heart of Charleston, and so magic must be at the heart of the Charleston novel.” Through A Curious Matter of Men with Wings, Hammes hopes readers will see the redemption that comes to people who keep their promises to one another and stand together regardless of ethnicity, culture and class. Hammes earned his MFA in fiction from Old Dominion University, has had numerous short stories, essays and poems published in various journals and magazines around the country, and is a contributing writer in several books. He is also the 2019 South Carolina Arts Commission Prose Fellow and is presently Director of the Creative Writing program at Charleston County School of the Arts, the most awarded middle- and high-school writing program in the nation. For more information on A Curious Matter of Men with Wings, visit frutledgehammes.com.

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The Footlight Players names long-time actor Brian Porter as new executive director

The Footlight Players has hired long-time thespian Brian Porter as executive director of Charleston’s longest-producing theatre company. Porter spent the last decade on staff at Charleston Stage, most recently as director of administration where he oversaw daily operations of the professional theatre company. Porter replaces Jane Broadwater, who retired in January after serving three years as executive director. She also was a member of Footlight’s board of directors before taking on the executive director title. Under Broadwater’s leadership, The Footlight Players expanded its theatrical season while providing opportunities for other theatres and performance groups to rent the Queen Street theatre during its off-weekends and summer season. Porter has been performing on stage since childhood, earning a bachelor’s degree in theatre in performance from Purdue University in Indiana. After graduation, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee, as a member of Playhouse on the Square’s Resident Acting Company. He then co-founded a theatre company in Michigan before relocating to Atlanta to pursue a career in media advertising. Porter maintained ties to local theatre and served as interim executive director of OnStage Atlanta. After several years in Atlanta, Porter relocated to Charleston, working as media director of Davis Advertising before returning to his theatrical roots and joining Charleston Stage. Now, Porter will take on the role of leading one of Charleston’s most prestigious community theatres. He plans to build on Footlight’s mission to provide quality and affordable community theatre as well as continuing to promote the theatre as a unique space for Charleston special events and performances.

“I am delighted to be a part of such an historical and dynamic theatrical fixture in Charleston,” Porter said. “I look forward to working with this exceptional team of artists to create something truly unique and beautiful for Charleston. I am confident I can bring a lot to the company and infuse it with my passion and love of the performing arts.”

Porter is also the co-founder of the local theatre company What If? Productions, which is now in its eighth season in Charleston. A celebrated artist and vocalists in Charleston (and current Best Actor nominee for the Charleston City Paper Best Of award), Porter has appeared on stage in many memorable roles in Charleston, including “Peter & the Starcatcher,” “Cabaret,” “Hedwig & the Angry Inch,” “The 39 Steps,” “Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story,” “Shear Madness” and “Hairspray.” He recently headlined his own sold-out cabaret show, “An Evening With Brian Porter,” as part of What If?’s popular Piano Bar Series.
About The Footlight Players The Footlight Players launched in 1931 with a series of one-act plays directed by Lt. Commander Charles Russell Price at the Charleston Navy yard. The series was such a success and drew such a following that The Footlight Players formally organized and incorporated in the fall of 1932. To this day, The Footlight Players continues to provide professional quality, affordable community theater for the Lowcountry at the historic Footlight Players Theatre, 20 Queen St. in Charleston. For more information, visit footlightplayers.net or call 843-722-4487.

Charleston painter receives 2018 South Arts State Fellowship

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 14 February 2018   ATLANTA, Ga. – Kate Hooray Osmond of Charleston is the South Carolina recipient of one of nine South Arts State Fellowships for 2018, the consortium of southern state arts agencies announced yesterday. South Arts, the organization advancing Southern vitality through the arts, has named nine visual artists from the South to receive State Fellowship awards of $5,000 each. These nine artists are now in consideration for the Southern Prize, which includes an additional $25,000 cash award and a two-week residency at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences. The winner of the Southern Prize and a $10,000 Finalist award will be announced at a ceremony celebrating the State Fellows on April 16 in New Orleans. The 2018 State Fellowship award recipients are:

  • Amy Pleasant, Birmingham, Alabama, Painting.
  • Anastasia Samoylova, Miami Beach, Florida, Photography.
  • Paul Stephen Benjamin, Scottdale, Georgia, Multidisciplinary.
  • Garrett Hansen, Lexington, Kentucky, Multidisciplinary.
  • Jeremiah Ariaz, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Photography.
  • Dominic Lippillo, Starkville, Mississippi, Photography.
  • Meg Stein, Durham, North Carolina, Sculpture.
  • Kate Hooray Osmond, Charleston, South Carolina, Painting (above)
  • Vesna Pavlović, Nashville, Tennessee, Photography.
South Arts Now in their second year, the South Arts Southern Prize and State Fellowships celebrate and support the highest quality artistic work being created in the American South. Nearly 700 visual artists submitted work for consideration, and a panel of jurors reviewed each application with the sole criterion of artistic excellence to determine the nine State Fellows. A second panel of jurors is currently reviewing the State Fellows to determine the Southern Prize awardee and the Finalist. “We are very proud to support Southern artists,” said Susie Surkamer, executive director of South Arts. “These State Fellows reflect the richly diverse arts and culture of our region, and each offers a distinct viewpoint with their work and background. The Southern Prize and State Fellowships are an important vehicle for artistic and professional growth of artists in the South.” The State Fellowship juror panel included Ade Omotosho with the Pérez Art Museum Miami; Jan Davidson, former director of the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina; Mark Scala, chief curator at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville; and Scott Stulen, director and president of Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Visual artists living in South Arts’ nine-state region and producing crafts, drawing, experimental, painting, photography, sculpture, mixed media, and multidisciplinary work were eligible to apply. The awards will be presented to the artists as unrestricted funds. To view the 2018 State Fellows’ submissions and learn more about the competition, visit www.southarts.org.
ABOUT SOUTH ARTS South Arts advance Southern vitality through the arts. The nonprofit regional arts organization was founded in 1975 to build on the South’s unique heritage and enhance the public value of the arts. South Arts’ work responds to the arts environment and cultural trends with a regional perspective. South Arts offers an annual portfolio of activities designed to support the success of artists and arts providers in the South, address the needs of Southern communities through impactful arts-based programs, and celebrate the excellence, innovation, value and power of the arts of the South. For more information, visit www.southarts.org.
ABOUT KATE HOORAY OSMOND Kate Hooray Osmond is a painter and installation artist whose work expresses bold architectural lines and bright, shiny colors. She rides in a helicopter to capture much of her subject matter: highways, agricultural structures, industrial plats, container ships, etc. to offer a new perspective of our familiar everyday existence. Energy, optimism, and the use of gold leaf are the hallmarks of Kate’s work. She believes in the unlimited curiosity and creativity of the human race and is fascinated by our relationship with the land. Kate resides in Charleston, South Carolina and was recently awarded the Lowcountry Artist of the Year by the Coastal Community Foundation. Her work has shown in galleries and museums from the U.S. to South Korea. She is an MFA candidate at Maryland Institute College of Art and is probably chasing her kids around the front yard right now. Learn more at KateHoorayOsmond.com. Image credit Kate Hooray Osmond on Instagram.
ABOUT THE SOUTH CAROLINA ARTS COMMISSION The South Carolina Arts Commission is the state agency charged with creating a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their location or circumstances. Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts by providing services, grants, and leadership initiatives in three areas:
  • arts education,
  • community arts development,
  • and artist development.
Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the Arts Commission is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources. For more information, visit SouthCarolinaArts.com or call (803) 734-8696.

The show must go on – Charleston’s Colour of Music Festival to open as scheduled

Note: The Colour of Music Festival receives a General Operating Support grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission. Adieu, Matthew. Charleston's five-day Colour of Music Festival will open as scheduled Oct. 19, despite Hurricane Matthew's visit and the aftermath. The 2016 festival runs through October 23 at various venues throughout historic Charleston. “This is the second year the festival has opened two weeks after a tropical storm or hurricane, and our organizers, the City of Charleston’s Office of the Mayor, Office of Cultural Affairs, Charleston Area Visitor and Convention Bureau and Gaillard Center management are notifying locals and visitors alike that Charleston is ready to welcome them – we are very appreciative of how everyone is helping us get the word out,” says Lee Pringle, festival founder and producer. Now in its fourth year, the Colour of Music Festival presents a musical kaleidoscope of black classical composers, performers, and artists from across the globe and offers symposiums, organ and piano recitals, vocal recitals, a chamber series, an evening Masterworks series and a gala. Acclaimed black chamber ensemble players and artists from Canada, France, Britain, Colombia, the Caribbean and other locations form the Masterwork Series’ Colour of Music Festival Orchestra. Internationally renowned conductor Marlon Daniel will again serve as festival music director with leading black maestros serving as guest conductors to lead the orchestra. The festival's motif, All Things French (Toutes Les Choses Françaises) is highlighted with the début of African-French composer Chevalier de Saint Georges’ only discovered opera, The Anonymous Lover, featuring Magali Léger, native of Saint Georges' birthplace, the Isle of Guadeloupe. Find the complete schedule and ticket information online. About the Colour of Music Festival Based in Charleston, South Carolina and organized in 2013, the Colour of Music Festival, Inc. presents a diverse classical repertoire of baroque, classical and 20th century music at the highest of musical standards to diverse audiences throughout the Lowcountry, regionally and nationally. www.colourofmusic.org

Marcus Amaker named Charleston’s first poet laureate

From the Charleston Post and Courier

marcusamakerpoetlaureateMarcus Amaker, a local poet, musician and graphic designer, was named Charleston’s first poet laureate Tuesday evening, a month after the position was established by City Council.

“We established the position of Poet Laureate to encourage the appreciation of poetry throughout Charleston,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said in a statement. “Marcus is a well-known artist in our community who has the drive, passion and talent to make poetry accessible to everyone.”

Amaker, who once edited Charleston Scene for The Post and Courier, is an active collaborator and a tireless performer, often organizing and participating in spoken word events. He is the author of seven books of poetry, and he has contributed poems to a variety of volumes.

“This honor is not just for me, it’s for every poet in Charleston,” Amaker said. “Poetry is such an important and vital art form. I’m looking forward to working with nonprofits, businesses and schools to give literacy a bigger platform. It’s going to be fun to come up with creative ways for poetry to be spread throughout Charleston. I’m also excited to be an advocate for the City through my words. Charleston has inspired me since the minute I decided to move here in 2003.”

Cities are increasingly embracing poetry. Across the U.S., cities large and small have named an official bard. Doing so clearly is a win-win: it gives poetry (and, by extension, poets) a boost, and it adds an artistic sheen to municipalities otherwise preoccupied with budgets, infrastructure, public services, construction and other matters of urban life.

As poet laureate of Charleston, Amaker will do much more than write and recite. He will work in conjunction with the Office of Cultural Affairs implementing a community outreach and education program to encourage the writing, reading and performance of poetry within the city. He will also participate in civic events, promote literacy through poetry in schools and foster the development of a youth poetry initiative.

And Amaker will commemorate the city by composing poetry that speaks to, for and of the region, to be presented at an annual city-sponsored event.

The ordinance establishing the post authorizes a small honorarium funded by private sources, according to city spokesman Jack O’Toole. That honorarium likely would amount to a few thousand dollars.

A poetry reading and reception featuring Amaker is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 29 at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park. Armed with an old-fashioned typewriter, Amaker will be at the Charleston Farmers Market on June 25 with other local poets. He will also be presenting the inaugural Charleston Poetry Festival, in late October.

Halsey Institute receives $40,000 grant from National Endowment for the Arts

Halsey InstituteAs part of its first round of funding for fiscal year 2016, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded more than $27.6 million, including an Art Works grant of $40,000 to the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, S.C. The grant will help support a major exhibition featuring photography of and about the South, to be exhibited in 2017. Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South, is a multi-media project comprised of some 50 photographers' visions of the South over several decades at the turn of the 21st century.  Accordingly, it will offer a composite image of the region. The photographs echo stories told about the South as a bastion of tradition, as a region remade through Americanization and globalization, and as a land full of surprising realities. The photographs will be complemented by a commissioned video, an interactive digital mapping environment, an extensive stand-alone website, and a comprehensive exhibition catalog. This publication, as well as additional programming, will draw on expertise from disciplines in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Southbound is co-curated by Mark Sloan, director and chief curator of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, and Mark Long, professor of political science, both at the College of Charleston. NEA’s Art Works category supports the creation of work and presentation of both new and existing work, lifelong learning in the arts, and public engagement with the arts through 13 arts disciplines or fields. In its first 50 years, the NEA has awarded more than $5 billion in grants to recipients in every state and U.S. jurisdiction, the only arts funder in the nation to do so. Image: John Hathaway, Little Stony Creek, Watauga Lake, 2012 Via: Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art

Gibbes Museum renovation creating a new work of art

From the Post and Courier Article & photos by Robert Behre

The Gibbes Museum of Art now sits devoid of all its paintings and sculptures, but an ongoing renovation is revealing a different, long-hidden work of art. The structure at 135 Meeting St. should be one of Charleston’s most celebrated buildings: It’s the South’s first structure built specifically for use as a museum and is the city’s premier example of the Beaux Arts architectural style. But the recent decades have not been kind. As heating and air conditioning were added, its once grand ceilings were dropped, window openings boarded up and other additions redirected the flow to dampen visitors’ sense of arrival into the grandest rooms. While the building had a nice garden off King Street, there’s was no direct link between it and the building. Angela Mack, the Gibbes’ director who has worked with the Gibbes since the 1980s, is intimately familiar with the building’s aesthetic and practical drawbacks, and with the institution’s long-standing desire to tackle them. “The place had been morphed so much over the years that no one could see it anymore,” she says. Then, about six years ago, not long after the Gibbes named Mack as its new director, there was a stroke of good fortune. [caption id="attachment_21848" align="alignright" width="225"]Gibbes Museum renovation All four window openings along Meeting Street, including those on either side of the Gibbes’ main entrance, are being reopened as part of its ongoing renovation and restoration. Robert Behre/Staff[/caption]

The building’s blueprints were found rolled up in a corner of the city of Charleston’s archives (the city co-owns the building because it actually received the bequest from James Gibbes that led to the building’s construction in 1905). And the long process of demorphing could start.

Those blueprints — once carefully unrolled, flattened and studied — would be crucial in one of the main goals of the renovation: recapturing a sense of the building’s original grandeur. The other goals were creating new spaces for art instruction, which was one of the museum’s original purposes, as well as making a higher quality, better functioning space that would generate more income. The currently $13.4 million project, now about halfway through, is working toward all those goals. A recent tour of the construction site shows the success here might stem more from rearranging the building’s flow than restoring its higher ceilings, original tile flooring and Meeting Street window openings. The first floor will house a cafe and gift shop near Meeting, and while visitors will buy admission there, the rest of the first floor will be studio space for adults and children. And an even more dramatic move will be opening up new glass connections between the building’s modern 1978 addition and its spacious garden. The public not only will be able to see through to the garden while standing on Meeting, they’ll be able to walk through it at no charge. [caption id="attachment_21853" align="alignright" width="225"]The Gibbes Museum of Art originally had a porcellain tile floor that was covered over by carpet years ago. The tiles, which are in good condition, are being restored as part of the ongoing work. Robert Behre/Staff The Gibbes Museum of Art originally had a porcellain tile floor that was covered over by carpet years ago. The tiles, which are in good condition, are being restored as part of the ongoing work. Robert Behre/Staff[/caption] “People will walk through us instead of around us,” Mack says. In fact, the completed interior will be considered the preferred path for those doing the Charleston Garden Walk, a public pathway that begins at the church cemeteries on Archdale Street and winds eastward through the Gibbes’ property and across Meeting to the Circular Congregational and St. Philip’s churchyards. That’s largely because the Gibbes has relocated its offices from 135 Meeting directly across the street, where they will remain. What was office will be exhibit space, and there’s also a 5,000-square-foot addition closer to Queen Street that will handle new public restrooms, storage and other support functions. Those entering the museum will go up either the old grand stair on the southern side, or its mirror image freshly replaced on the northside (thanks to the blueprint), or a nearby elevator. Mack says that will let visitors enter into the Gibbes’ greatest galleries first. The good news is that adding all the artistic instructional space on the first floor won’t curtail the museum’s exhibit space, which will actually grow by about 33 percent. The collection, now stored at the Charleston Museum, the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, will begin moving back next year, with a projected reopening in the spring. “There are going to be works of art that people haven’t seen in 50 years,” Mack says. Perhaps the most important of them all will be the building itself. Image above: The view of the garden behind the Gibbes Museum of Art. One major change to the building is reworking its 1978 addition to create a much stronger link between the building and the garden.

Coastal Community Foundation seeks Communications Intern

The Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina, based in Charleston, is hiring a Communications Intern. This part-time, hourly position reports to the Communications Associate and is responsible for assisting with the print and electronic communications and public relation efforts of Coastal Community Foundation. The Communications Intern may assist with researching best practices, tracking the impact of communications efforts and project management of special initiatives and events. Priority will be given to drafting copy for press releases and advertisements, researching and writing stories for publications, creating content for social media accounts and other projects as assigned. In the fall semester, the Communications Intern will be expected to work between 10-15 hours per week, while in the spring semester the time commitment will be 15-20 hours per week. The Communications Intern earns an hourly wage of $10/hour. Communications Responsibilities

  • Contributes content to Foundation social media outlets including but not limited to the Foundation blog, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts.
  • Gather and help maintain biographical files for Fund Establishers.
  • Archives earned media mentions, Foundation publications and photographs.
  • Assist in formatting basic layout and production of newsletters, forms, flyers, and other Foundation-related collateral as needed.
  • Assist with special events and community projects as needed.
General Responsibilities
  • Assist donors, Board members, grantees, Professional Advisors, and the general public in a courteous, helpful, and respectful manner.
  • Support the Coastal Community Foundation’s practice of encouraging diversity, equity, and inclusiveness.
  • Pursue and apply professional and academic knowledge as necessary for the position.
Knowledge, skills, experience, and education needed
  • Must be pursuing a college degree.
  • Must be proficient in Microsoft Office Suite.
  • Excellent verbal, interpersonal, writing, organizational, and communication skills a must with the ability to multi-task.
  • Must be able to work in a fast-paced production environment with proven success handling overlapping deadlines.
  • Proficiency in social media tools: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.
  • Video editing capability or Adobe Creative Suite knowledge a plus.
Submit a resume and cover letter by Friday, August 28 at 5 p.m. to Monica@CoastalCommunityFoundation.org. Must be available for in-person interview during the week of August 31. Via: Coastal Community Foundation

Jazz Artists of Charleston seeks executive director

Jazz Artists of Charleston seeks a dynamic leader to serve as Executive Director to advance the mission and agenda of the organization. Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for the organization including, but not limited to, fundraising, staff oversight, programmatic development and implementation, marketing, strategic planning, financial management, and constituent cultivation. Duties and responsibilities:

  • Develop and expand all organizational fundraising activities.
  • Cultivate new relationships and opportunities for revenue generation.
  • Deepen and refine all aspects of organizational communication including traditional outlets as well as web presence and social media.
  • Ensure ongoing programmatic excellence, rigorous program evaluation, and consistent quality of finance and administration, fundraising, communications, and organizational systems.
  • Oversee all budgeting activities for JAC including development, implementation, and monitoring activities.
  • Work with the bookkeeper and treasurer to maintain and refine accounting procedures for managing and tracking JAC finances and funds. Communicate JAC’s performance and financial information with the board monthly and with funders as appropriate.
  • Work with the Board of Directors to refine policies and practices in fundraising, marketing, public relations, accounting, information systems, ticketing, and human resources.
  • Work with the Artistic Council and the Board to develop and implement all JAC programming efforts.
  • Ensure all regulatory compliance.
  • Hire, train, and evaluate employees. Ensure that job descriptions are developed and that regular performance evaluations are held consistent with organizational policy.
  • Be an accessible advocate in the community for JAC and all area live jazz music.
Qualifications:
  • 5+ years of senior management experience.
  • A proven track record of successful fundraising through events, grants, corporate solicitation, and individual donor cultivation efforts.
  • A passion for jazz and a desire to further develop a nonprofit organization in pursuit of mission.
  • Strong managerial, motivational, and organizational skills.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, including public speaking. Proven ability to generate professional quality written materials.
  • Proven financial management experience including budgeting, forecasting, and reporting.
  • Knowledge of nonprofit boards and best practices.
  • Proficient at multi-tasking, prioritizing, problem solving, delegating, and taking initiative.
Compensation commensurate with experience. Application process:
  • Electronic submissions are required and only complete submissions will be considered. Please submit as a pdf file.
  • Qualified candidates should e-mail a current resume, together with a cover letter indicating interest in the position and salary requirements to Chris Burgess at Chris@charlestonjazz.com. Candidate screening will be ongoing until the position is filled. Priority given to applications received by July 20, 2015.
About Jazz Artists of Charleston Jazz Artists of Charleston (JAC) is a South Carolina-based, nonprofit organization incorporated to foster a professional environment for jazz musicians, artists, students and enthusiasts in the Charleston area. Its mission is to develop, promote, and support a vibrant and creative jazz culture through concerts, special outreach events, and educational programs. JAC endeavors to preserve and bolster Charleston’s rich musical history and legacy as it explores the various realms of jazz in terms of how it is created as well as its stylistic expressions. Via: Jazz Artists of Charleston

Charleston’s new Gaillard Center prepares for community engagement

From the Charleston Post and Courier (Article by Adam Parker; photos by Brad Nettles)

Professional concert presenters tend to take a long view. They work a year or two, sometimes three or four, in advance in order to ensure that their performance halls are booked. Spoleto Festival USA is already putting the pieces in place for its 2016 arts extravaganza, even as it finalizes the details of next year's 17-day event. The Charleston Symphony, too, is charting its programs and other offerings for the 2015-16 season, the first to include newly named music director, Ken Lam. The recently formed Gaillard Management Corporation, responsible for booking the concert and exhibition halls, is faced with a unique challenge: It must ensure that construction is completed by spring and the facility's crew is ready for action in time for the April 2015 gala. It's got little time. The first full season begins next August. Going forward, GMC will strive to present 10-15 concert programs and other events each season, relying on local arts groups to fill out the rest of the schedule, according to Tom Tomlinson, who was named the organization's first executive director in March. Two weeks ago, GMC hired its new education director, Rick Jerue, former head of the Art Institute of Charleston.

'Maturing of the arts'

GMC board member Luther Cochrane said the opening gala will be a 10-day affair that begins April 17 and concludes two Sundays later. It will include "someone or a combination of people who will be nationally and internationally significant," he said. The concerts all will be acoustic. "The whole point is to showcase the hall," Tomlinson said, adding that negotiations with performers are still underway so details can't be publicized yet. Cochrane said the programming will likely include concerts for children, gospel music and presentations by local artists and ensembles, including the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. The concert and exhibition hall both will be used. "We will try to make it as diverse as we can," he said. The show featuring "internationally significant" artists will be an opening night fundraiser. "As programming for the building is done, it will be done in such a sensitive way as there will be something for everybody," GMC board member Renee Anderson said. Looking further ahead, the Gaillard could host holiday concerts, New Year's Eve galas, opera productions, touring orchestras, popular entertainers and more - in addition to performances by local groups, of course. Jason Nichols, director of the Charleston Concert Association said he was once concerned about whether and how his presenting organization and GMC would work together, but after a series of "very positive discussions," he is happy and optimistic. "I think things are going to work out beautifully for the two organizations," Nichols said. "I think what we'll see with the development of the new Gaillard under (Tomlinson's) leadership is a maturing of the arts community in a very positive way." Work on the building, a $142 million project, continues, now at a frenetic pace. Cochrane said the facility will be ready for public use in April, even if a few punch list items remain unfinished. In May, Spoleto Festival USA takes control of the Gaillard and is planning its own opening festivities, according to General Director Nigel Redden. "We will do our own celebration when we open the festival, trying to show it off in a variety of ways," Redden said. "We are planning a festival that will take full advantage of the Gaillard. We want to test its possibilities." That means a big opera production, dance, classical music concerts and amplified popular music shows. "And we've very excited about it," Redden added. "I think it's going to be a wonderful theater."

'A true civic center'

Jerue, like his GMC colleagues, hit the ground running. He is meeting with leaders in Charleston's arts community, gathering information about education programming here and elsewhere and thinking about ways in which the Gaillard can facilitate stronger outreach. "We don't want to duplicate what others are doing," he said. "We should find out the areas that aren't being served, (where) we might have the unique ability to move in and serve those areas." Eventually he will devise a plan of action. "My philosophy is that the Gaillard needs to be a true civic center that's embraced by the community at large, so I'm going to find ways to try to make that happen," he said, emphasizing the need to be inclusive so that all arts organizations, large and small, have a chance to collaborate with the Gaillard and, potentially, one another. "If it's done right, it's going to provide long-standing direction for the Gaillard." Meanwhile, Tomlinson is (among other things) working to schedule events. Already, 268 "use days" have been booked for the Gaillard Center's first 12 months of operation. Of those days when either the concert hall or exhibition hall is in use, about 170 are "public days" when the Gaillard hosts a performance or event, he said. (The rest are days when rehearsals, set-up and other activities are underway.) He's in discussions with a group in the Southeast that might hold its 2017 convention in the Holy City, and he's actively negotiating with local organizations, including the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Concert Association and Jazz Artists of Charleston. Leah Suarez, executive director of Jazz Artists of Charleston, said she is "happy to be at the table" discussing opening festivities and other opportunities. "It says not only that the Gaillard is important but the whole musical landscape," she said. From her organization's perspective, the Gaillard presents some intriguing possibilities. "There are lots of opportunities to utilize the performance hall, as well as the exhibition hall and the outdoor spaces - pretty much the entire building," she said. Jazz Artists of Charleston produces the big band series featuring the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, among other initiatives. The CJO has made its home at the Charleston Music Hall on John Street since its inception more than six years ago, and that's not going to change, Suarez said. But that doesn't mean the CJO and other groups associated with Jazz Artists of Charleston can't present a variety of concerts, education programming and community outreach events in collaboration with the Gaillard, she said. The potential opportunities for engaging young people and drawing them to a major, centralized performance space, are particularly attractive, Suarez added. And the interest the GMC has shown in working with a variety of arts organization is encouraging. "We have a responsibility to make sure Charleston's imprint is diverse and inclusive, and that artists' integrity is intact," Suarez said. "There's plenty of room for everything. That's the feeling I'm getting. It challenges us to be creative as a community, and inclusive, and to collaborate."
Via: Charleston Post and Courier (more images available here.)