We can feel it now — the slow, dragging heat of summer pulling us into our beach chairs, or perhaps back onto the cool side of our pillows. Things slow down in Charleston during this season, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat your brain to a little bit of culture — in an air-conditioned environment, no less. We did some research to see how you can get the most bang for your buck at three local art institutions. Read on for hot tips for cool spots.

Gibbes Museum of Art

The recently renovated Gibbes is a stunner in its own right — you need only step foot inside to get a dose of art therapy. And you can do just that; the first floor of the Gibbes is free and open to the public, so you can peruse a gift shop, sure, but you can also peek your head into visiting artist’s studios as well.

If you are in fact, paying to check out the Gibbes’ art, might we suggest timing it so that you can go on a public tour? Most public tours are led by museum docents, but every once in a while the curator of a current exhibition will take you through their process, which is a rare behind-the-scenes look. These tours are free with price of admission. Upcoming tours include one of current exhibition, Out of the Wild: Animals in Contemporary Art today, Thurs. June 8 at 2:30 p.m. with curator of collections, Sara Arnold, and a museum-wide tour on Fri. June 9 at 2:30 p.m. with a museum docent.

Speaking of behind the scenes, you truly can get back there with the Gibbes’ storage facility tours. At 5:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month director of collections administration Zinnia Willits leads a tour through the storage facility, showing you how pieces of art live when they’re not on display.

Museum admission is $15/adult, $13/senior and military, $10/college student, $6/youth ages four-17.


Charleston Museum

Like the Gibbes, the Charleston Museum hosts a number of complementary programs in addition to its rotating and current exhibits. The museum recently launched a monthly program, storeroom stories, which brings historic facts out of hiding, presented and discussed in the museum and an online blog. Past artifacts include ceramic creamware, Japanese armor, a Bachman needlework sampler, and Eliza Lucas Pinckney’s gown.

Other informational opportunities include Conversations with a curator, which are typically held on the second Friday of each month. Conversations are included with the price of admission. The next convo is this Fri. June 9 at 10:30 a.m. with natural history curator Matthew Gibson who will discuss the exhibit Just Below the Surface: Digging Deep into Rocks and Minerals.

Tour the museum after hours with the aptly titled After Hours Access, which has museum staff leading guests through their top 10 museum artifacts. This special event is $35 and the next tour on Thurs. June 22 features two times, 5:15 and 6:15 p.m. Director Carl P. Borick will take guests on their tour on June 22; chief of education Stephanie Thomas leads a tour on Thurs. July 13; and chief curator Grahame Long shows visitors his top 10 on Thurs. July 27.

Museum admission is $12/adult, $10/ages 13-17, $5/ages three-12.

Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art

Unlike the Gibbes and Charleston Museum, the Halsey Institute is completely free and open to the public. The Halsey, part of the College of Charleston, is a non-collecting museum, so their exhibits are constantly rotating and refreshing.

The Halsey’s current exhibit is Tom Stanley’s Scratching the Surface and you can learn more about it on Sat. June 17 at 2 p.m. during an artist talk and gallery walkthrough. These artist talks are always free; look for the next one on Sat. Aug. 26 for artist Riccarda de Eccher’s Montagna.


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