The Coalition Carnival: It’s a Bloco

Presented by the Charleston Arts Coalition

Fri. Feb. 20, 6-8 p.m.


City Gallery at Waterfront Park

34 Prioleau St.

(843) 810-9708

In the beginning, Charleston’s arts community was formless and nameless. Darkness covered the abyss while a mighty wind swept over the waters.

That was then. This is now. A new organization has emerged, after an initial misstep and brief period of renewal, to give Charleston’s large community of artists a name, structure, and a unified voice.

But it began with a lot of bluster. Last summer, a group of passionate, well-meaning, and unorganized artists, calling themselves the Charleston Arts Coalition, tried to make the case for a “unified center for the arts.”

The idea was that a building in which artists could gather and work would be an antidote to arts groups being pushed off the peninsula. It seemed right for the time. Redux Contemporary Art Center and the Charleston Ballet Theatre were facing the loss of their venues along Upper King Street. Prior to that, PURE Theatre lost its venue. Cumberland’s shut down. And the American Theater has been redesigned so that arts groups can no longer afford it.

The coalition hosted two public forums on the subject. But they were confusing and discouraging. So it receded from the spotlight to regroup. Meanwhile, the economy went down the crapper in hot pursuit of a tanking real estate market. In the wake of what might be called the Purge of Upper King Street, Redux and CBT, who rent at a discount, found themselves to be valued customers. They’ll be in their current spots probably for the next three years.

And now we have a renewed Charleston Arts Coalition, whose mission is not establishing an arts center (though that’s likely still on its wish list). Instead, its new primary aim is to serve Charleston’s large community of artists — its needs, desires, demands, and more.

First the coalition needs to figure out what those needs are at the same time it needs to get the word out that the coalition exists to serve. That’s the reason for this debut event called Coalition Carnival, whose theme represents the fledgling organization’s spirit, says Jessica Solomon Bluestein, president.

“It’s a street block party for a reason,” she says. “In Brazil, these parties are led by someone in the community, and the entire neighborhood rallies around that person. They come together as one to dance and sing as a unified voice.”

The Coalition Carnival will take place at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park, and it features pretty much what you’d expect from a Brazilian block party — food and face painting for children plus Brazilian art, singing, and dancing, plus shows by the Capoeira Performance Arts and Duda Lucena.

“We are about building community,” Bluestein says. “What better way is there to build than a Brazilian carnival? The theme tells you who we are.”

Back to figuring out artists’ needs: The block party will also feature computerized surveys. Participants can fill them out to send a clear message about what local artists need. At the end of the evening, the results will be revealed, and from those results, the coalition will have a better idea of what direction to go in.

The results of the survey will also inform one of the group’s major projects: a website called, and if all goes well, it will be a “virtual gateway,” Bluestein says, to Charleston’s arts community. It might have a comprehensive calendar of events, artist profiles, and other information. But Bluestein and her confreres aren’t going to dictate anything.

“The event and CAC are interactive experiences,” she says. “We are not going to tell people what they should do or what they should need.

“They should be able to tell us.”

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