On Saturday night, with less than a week remaining until all hell officially breaks loose, Piccolo Spoleto held opening receptions for no fewer than four of its high-profile visual arts exhibits — an effort to get out in front of the chaos of opening weekend and avoid being lost in the kerfuffle. Charleston’s visual arts population was out in force, acknowledging two of its senior statesmen (statespersons?), knocking back shot-glass-sized servings of wine, and poking through more fruit and cheese trays than you could shake a toothpick at.

Downstairs at the Dock Street Theatre, in the tiny City Gallery, Charleston doyenne Eva Carter’s vibrant abstract expressionist oil

paintings filled out one of the little festival’s three invitational exhibits, which shares a title with the green-shaded work she created

for the Spotlight Concert Series’ official poster: Songs of the Earth. Ann Long, owner of Ann Long Fine Art, and artist Jill Hooper were there, “paying their respects” to Carter after having stopped by Candace Ivy’s site-specific installation at the Old City Jail, Murmer. There, Ivy had reprised her multimedia exhibit from last year’s Nextwave Arts Festival in Sumter, which created a sort of Southern Gothic atmosphere in the crumbling old building — a mazework of mylar panels, drawings, a flooring of irregular planks (apparently salvaged from her grandmother’s burned-down home), and tiny cells filled with dirt, wandering greenery, and audio and video footage that created a surrealistic Southern vibe.

The real action of the evening, though, was over at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park, where Piccolo was honoring local William McCullough with a restrospective exhibit. Somehow, McCullough’s daughter Currie, proprietor of 53 Cannon Gallery, managed to round up more than 100 of her father’s works from museums and private collections around the country, and the huge two-story gallery was packed top to bottom with McCulllough’s remarkable brand of Southern

realism. The crowd at the reception was a veritable who’s who of local artists and gallery owners, schmoozing their hearts out. And the chees trays were definitely the best of the evening.

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