From oil paintings of local marshes to reimagined civil-rights-era photographs to paper cuttings made in front of your eyes, the Piccolo Spoleto festival has styles — and prices — to fit the needs of any and all visitors. Piccolo will feature some 200 artists, the vast majority of them local, in free shows ranging from large juried exhibitions to smaller installations created by students.
The Juried Art Exhibition at City Gallery at Waterfront Park was selected by Marie Carladous, the curator and director of the Gap Gallery. The juried show is the first that Carladous, a photographer from Nice, France, has curated by herself. Choosing 88 artists from 185 submissions took three weeks as she focused on highlighting a variety of mediums and styles, including photography, a medium often neglected by galleries around the city.
“I really tried to pick pieces that are not usually represented in galleries around Charleston,” she said. “It was really challenging to narrow it down and say ‘no’ to artists that deserve to be represented.”
All but three of the 88 artists featured in the show are from South Carolina. This is the first juried show for Jeffery Dull, a trucker turned photographer, and only the third for City Paper cartoonist, Robert Ariail. Starting a new chapter in his career, Ariail said his work in oil in the show is inspired by a photograph he took of Elliott Millpond in Clarendon County before it flooded in 2016.
“When you’re a cartoonist, the feedback you get isn’t as nice,” he laughed. “It’s nice to hear that people really like my work.”
Anne Quattlebaum, gallery manager at City Gallery, said she has a different favorite among the works each day. “We are always thrilled to have this exhibition and work with artists, many of whom have never shown their work before,” Quattlebaum said. “It’s a vibrant exhibition to visit on a hot day to introduce yourself to our local community of artists.”
In Wragg Square, the Craft Show presented by the Charleston Crafts Gallery features local artists from June 3 to June 5. And just steps away in Marion Square is the Outdoor Art Exhibition, a juried collection of 54 artists specializing in painting, paper, woodcuts and everything in between. Meandering through the tent-lined square is a great way to meet the artists or pick up the perfect gift.
“I’m always floored every time I see what these artists do every year because they always push themselves to do something different,” said abstract painter Elaine Berlin, a committee member for the Marion Square exhibition. “It’s such a nice blend of artwork, and we will be out there rain or shine.”
Berlin has been part of the festival for 32 years. Drop by her tent to chat or pick up some of the fans she gives out to beat the heat.
A number of smaller exhibitions will be on display around the city, too. Running from May 27 to June 11 are The Art of Discovery at Circular Congressional Church and An Exercise in Empathy at the James Island Arts and Cultural Center.
An Exercise in Empathy, created by fifth-grade teacher Shelby Joffrion, is a collection of photos from the civil rights era recreated by her students at James Island Elementary School. Each student chose a photo they connected with, posed for the photo themselves and wrote about why it is meaningful to them. The original photographs will be displayed with the recreations as well as what each student had to say about them.
“As soon as I saw it, it brought me to tears because it’s so powerful,” said Caroline Self, director and development coordinator for the James Island Arts and Cultural Center. “I didn’t hesitate to include it in the festival. Seeing the students recreate some painful images is very moving. It’s a great lesson in empathy and it is so well done.”
Self said she is so moved by the exhibition that she may even extend its run beyond Piccolo.
Other shows include Ocho Festival 2022 on May 28 at the African Redemptive Struggle Museum, I Love You Sculpture on view May 30-31 in Marion Square, and silhouette artist Norman Owens will do live paper cuttings June 3 and 4 at George C. Birlant & Co.
Nat Bono is a graduate student in the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications Program at Syracuse University.
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