A few weeks ago, Charleston got a peek at what may turn out to be its newest big refurb project, the old Trolley Barn at 665 Meeting St., not far from City Paper‘s offices. The building’s been deeded to the City of Charleston by the state DOT, its original owner, and the Charleston Civic Design Center is working with the Clemson Architecture Center to figure out what to do with the cavernous space, which is nearly 13,000 square feet huge.

Among the possible uses being tossed around are a market, a museum, a recreation center/gymnasium, retail space, and a transit hub. I have my own thoughts on what to do with the facility, though, and they sure don’t involve junking up downtown with still more retail space– not in the traditional sense, anyway. I’m thinking Charleston officials might consider looking to, well, Spartanburg for inspiration.

Hub-Bub.com is an arts and events production movement founded there earlier this year by a handful of young Spartanburg artists, musicians, writers, and rabble-rousers in association with the Hub City Writers Project, an independent publisher. The City of Spartanburg recently granted about $480,000 from its hospitality tax revenue to renovate a former Cadillac-painting plant on S. Daniel Morgan Avenue, just a couple of blocks from downtown.

The first floor of the three-story building will house a multipurpose venue for film, music, and literary events, as well as a large exhibition space. The second will be home to the Hub City Writers Project and Hub-Bub. The third floor will consist of four big apartments. Last week Hub-Bub sent out word that it’s seeking four progressive artists who can live and work in the building as artists-in-residence for 11 months starting next summer. It sounds like a gig to die for: the apartments are all about 1,000 square feet and have ample studio space. Hub-Bub will cover all rents and utilities, and resident artists will also earn about $150 a week managing the building and the weekly events and exhibitions there — which will include regular showings of the artists’ work, according to Hub-Bub director Kerry Ferguson.

“We want to concentrate four pre-professional, edgy young artists in one area so they can exchange ideas, views, skills, and stories,” Ferguson says. “Second, we want to provide them with an extended time period to produce their artwork and part-time jobs so their portfolio can grow and evolve without time and money constraints. And finally, we want to work with these residents to create the most dynamic, diverse, and different arts complex around.”

While the building and Hub-Bub are funded primarily by the city, the residency itself — about $50,000 — has been underwritten entirely by four private donors in the area.

The residency program is open to artists aged 20-30 everywhere, says Ferguson, who says they want three visual artists (which could include filmmakers) and one creative writer.

“Hub-Bub is a website for young emerging artists,” Ferguson says. “We use those words a lot, and we’re looking for challenging, progressive artists creating new work. There’s not a lot of opportunities for them around here.”

Although there are exceptions, you could say the same thing about Charleston.

The Civic Design Center’s Michael Maher says another proposed use for the Trolley Barn is an “innovation incubator.” I can’t think of a better way to incubate innovation locally than by modeling that facility and an associated program after Spartanburg’s and Hub-Bub’s lead.

(Find more info on Hub-Bub’s artist-in-residence program at www.hub-bub.com or call (864) 582-0056.)

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