← View All Articles

Congaree Vista District to celebrate 30 years of Artista Vista

S.C. Cultural District's signature event returns April 22-24

This month marks 30 years of Artista Vista, the weekend-long celebration of the Congaree Vista district’s vibrant art scene, happening April 22-24.

The event continues to highlight incredible artists in the Midlands, and encourages locals and newcomers alike to explore studio spaces, meet the makers and even take home their own handmade pieces. A full schedule of the weekend’s events can be found on The Vista’s website. “It’s an experience,” says Clark Ellefson, principal designer and owner of Lewis+Clark, and one of the original organizers of Artista Vista. “It’s a gathering of people from all walks of life who can come together to enjoy and appreciate art and support their community.”
Artista Vista features local artists and their spaces, and brings makers beyond the Midlands to the district for the weekend. Artists and gallery owners will be on-site to chat with visitors, giving attendees insight into their work. Events in store for the 30th annual Artista Vista include:
  • Art Gallery Crawl (April 22, 6-9 p.m.): This signature Artista Vista event is a chance for guests to explore The Vista’s one-of-a-kind galleries and pop-up galleries, as well as the district’s restaurants, bars and shops. Studios involved in the gallery crawl include the following:
    • If ART Gallery (1223 Lincoln St.)
    • Lewis + Clark (1001 Huger St.)
    • One Eared Cow Glass (1001 Huger St.)
    • Stormwater Studios (413 Pendleton St.)
    • Studio Cellar (912 Lady St.)
    • The Columbia Music Festival Association ArtSpace, presenting “Cody Unkart: New Works” (914 Pulaski St.)
    • Pop-up galleries:
      • 911 Lady St.
      • Experience Columbia SC Visitor Center (1120 Lincoln St.)
      • River Runner Outdoor Center (905 Gervais St.)
  • Light and Lantern Parade (April 22, 8-9 p.m.): Another signature event — the Light and Lantern Parade — will kick off the weekend of festivities, and is back in-person for 2022. Guests are welcome to watch or join the parade at the entrance of the Lincoln Street tunnel. A crafts table will be on-site for those who want to create their own lantern for the event.
  • Art Day (April 23, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.): The celebration continues on Saturday with Art Day at the Stormwater Studios campus on Huger Street. Guests are invited to explore the campus, watch art demonstrations, shop for handmade pieces and enjoy food, live entertainment on-site and an artist talk from international, award-winning artist Nora Valdez.
  • Crafty Feast (April 24, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.): The final day of Artista Vista brings Crafty Feast, the juried indie craft fair showcasing 50+ makers from across the Southeast. This open-air craft fair showcases funky, one-of-a-kind offerings and unique gifts available for purchase. This year’s vendor list brings handmade goods ranging from jewelry, apparel and bags to home décor, candles, ceramics and more. The 2022 makers’ list will be posted on the Crafty Feast website.
  • Live on Lincoln (April 24, 5-8 p.m.): Artista Vista concludes on Sunday evening with the Koger Center’s Live on Lincoln. This outdoor, ticketed event presented by LS3P will bring live performances by some of the Midlands finest arts and cultural organizations to the historic cobblestones of Lincoln Street, alongside drinks and dinner served tableside by Blue Marlin. More information and tickets can be found here.
“We’re really excited for this year’s Artista Vista,” says Abby Anderson, executive director of the Vista Guild. “For the last 30 years, this event has been a major part of our community, and we want to keep up that tradition and continue to solidify this area as a prominent arts district.” Artista Vista is produced by the Vista Guild and is made possible through support from sponsors including: the City of Columbia, Experience Columbia SC, Columbia Craft, Steel Hands Brewing, KW Beverage, and Grace Outdoor. For more information about Artista Vista, visit https://www.vistacolumbia.com/special-events/artista-vista.

About the Vista Guild

The Vista Guild is a nonprofit, membership-based organization charged with seeing that Columbia’s Vista, which is an official South Carolina Cultural District, is a vibrant symbol of our progressive Southern city. Led by a 14-member Board of Directors representing a variety of business sectors, the Congaree Vista Guild and its members are dedicated to making the Vista the place of choice for shopping, dining and entertainment, a national and international tourist destination, and a high-energy urban environment in which to live and grow businesses. For more information about the Vista Guild, please call (803) 269-5946 or visit www.vistacolumbia.com. Follow the Vista Guild on Twitter, Instagram and on Facebook @VistaColumbiaSC and #ArtistaVista. ###

Jason Rapp

Vista Studios celebrates 25 years of anchoring arts district

From The State Article by Erin Shaw; photos by Matt Walsh

[caption id="attachment_23493" align="alignright" width="300"]Laurie McIntosh Laurie McIntosh works on a piece at Vista Studios[/caption] For 25 years, Vista Studios has been a place for art, where art was talked about, created, and spilled out into the community that grew around – and because of – it. This month, Vista Studios is celebrating its artists and the vital role they’ve played in revitalizing the Vista. The thriving arts hub that Columbians know today, which was just designated a state cultural district, would not exist without the early action of pro-arts visionaries – and might not exist in the future without safeguards against commercial encroachment, the artists say. “Vista Studios really helped establish an arts presence in that area when it was trying to create an identity for itself,” said Harriett Green, director of visual arts for the S.C. Arts Commission. The story starts in the late 1980s, when a group of artists, arts administrators and city leaders began searching among the defunct warehouses in the Vista for a spot to house affordable artist studios. Several artists already had trickled into the former industrial neighborhood, but there still wasn’t much going on. Hardly anyone lived there, and you could count the number of restaurants on one hand. The group first set its sights on the old Confederate Printing Plant – now a Publix – at Huger and Gervais streets. Construction and financial issues prevented that project from moving forward, but eventually, the warehouse behind Molten-Lamar Architects on Lady Street was selected for the studios. Through a joint partnership of the S.C. Arts Commission, the Columbia Development Corp. and Molten-Lamar Architects, which owns the building, Vista Studios was born. The opening exhibition of the original 13 studio artists took place in February 1990. “We used to keep the doors locked all the time. You didn’t want to be here at night at all,” said Laura Spong, a longtime artist at Vista Studios. “The whole area has changed completely.” Today, there are nearly 30 arts organizations, galleries and performing groups in the Vista, along with 12 arts-oriented festivals a year. The area is also home to more than 80 public pieces of artwork including paintings, sculptures and monuments. That art couldn’t have been created if artists didn’t have space to work. “For years, the biggest need artists had was for studio space – affordable studio space,” said Kirkland Smith, an artist at Vista Studios. Smith used to work in a spare bedroom that she converted into a studio. Moving to Vista Studios has given her visibility that she didn’t have working from home, she said. For artist Michel McNinch, Vista Studios was a place to be inspired by other artists. McNinch came to Vista Studios 10 years ago because she loved the work of fellow artist David Yaghjian. “I wanted to be around people creating that kind of work. It’s made me a better artist,” she said. “And I think it’s made Columbia a better art town, to have this kind of collaboration around.” The gallery space is an invaluable addition to the 13 studios, which any artist in the community can rent for a nominal fee. Rather than squeeze their art into a working studio, artists can properly display their work in a well-lit space with enough room for viewers to stand back and observe it. “We probably have some of the best exhibition space in town besides the museums, and that’s a jewel that people need to know about,” artist Sharon Licata said. The Vista Studios artists say they’ve done their job helping revitalize the area. Maybe a little too well. Businesses are attracted to the Vista because it is funky and artsy. Yet the explosive growth of business has raised the property costs so much that artists fear being forced out financially. “You’ve got to be careful not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg,” artist Laurie McIntosh said. “Artists are sort of like priests. They’re supposed to bring something to the community … because they’re driven to,” added artist Yaghjian. “They offer insight and inspiration. And when a country or community doesn’t value that, it’s in danger of going all the way to commerce, all the way to business.” One alternative is to create a new artist colony on Pendleton Street down by the Congaree River, Columbia Development Corp. Executive Director Fred Delk said. Plans already are underway for Stormwater Studios, a space where only artists can own the studios. The development follows artist Clark Ellefson’s move to the Vista’s western fringe several years ago. “The idea is to create additional activity near the river, next to the future riverfront park,” Delk said. S.C. Arts Commission director Ken May said he hopes the Vista’s recent designation as an arts district will act as a sort of check on the increasing bar and restaurant scene in the core of the district. “Part of the reason for doing that is to remind people the roots and focus is still as a cultural and entertainment district. An entity like Vista Studios is very important to the identity of the neighborhood,” he said. But is it enough? More safeguards need to be put in place to maintain the Vista’s cultural heritage, said Vista Studios artist Stephen Chesley. “Do that, and we will stand alone 50 years from now. If we don’t do it, we will just disappear.” Image above: Kirkland Smith displays a piece she made for the Richland County Library at Vista Studios.