Madeleine Payne (above) gets ready for a backyard art show.

The artists who founded Big Blade Press said limited opportunities for emerging artists to show work inspired them to create the art collective. It began hosting pop-up shows in February, highlighting Charleston’s diverse community of emerging artists and artisans. 

The collective has so far hosted three well-attended group shows in its Gordon Street backyard, which the group transforms into an outdoor gallery space, as well as pop-up shows at establishments such as Estadio, LO-Fi Brewing and Bar Rollins. 

The group of artists behind Big Blade Press are Cecilia McGuinn, Alexander Kohel, Gray Schmitt and Madeleine Payne.

Alexander Kohel (left) and Cecilia McGuinn (right) are founding members of Big Blade Press | Provided

“We created Big Blade because as a group of friends and artists, we felt uniquely positioned to pool our resources and create a cooperative art space that we hope to expand into a physical printing press,” McGuinn said.

“We’ve all had experiences attempting to market, reproduce and sell our art (to varying degrees of success), and when we had conversations about our experiences, they really all came back to the same plea: Where was a space for artists that were not fully established? Artists with limited money and time?” McGuinn said. “We came to the conclusion that we could be that space, for ourselves and for others, if we dedicate ourselves.”

Big Blade Press is creating a much-needed space for emerging artists, made evident by the outpouring of support it has received. 

“The response has been amazing,” McGuinn said. “We feel that first and foremost, it’s been incredible to know more artists in the area and become closer to them by doing these art shows. We’ve had our challenges, but those drawbacks are vastly overshadowed by the sheer amount of beautiful art that we come into contact with.”

The long term goal is to secure a physical space to show art and start a printing press, McGuinn said. Big Blade Press hopes to publish prints, comics and more.

Big Blade typically offers a “call for art” for shows, allowing artists of all mediums to submit work for free. The backyard shows have featured a diverse lineup — from artisans making one-of-a-kind crochet pieces, jewelry and zines to more traditional artists making paintings, drawings and sculptures. There’s space for everyone at Big Blade. 

“In the immediate future, the collective is putting out a variety zine with interviews, a short story, artist spotlights, a few coloring pages and more,” McGuinn said. 

“It especially makes us happy when an artist tells us how much they were able to sell at our shows. It’s a wonderful thing to know that we are making it possible for people to have their art hung in homes, which we feel is so much more intimate than any gallery.”

Follow the collective on Instagram @big_blade_press for more information.

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