Welcome to King Street, Charleston, S.C. If you’re lucky enough to own a piece of property in this stretch of town, well, you’re lucky enough. If you’re renting a spot, though, your luck is a little more … uncertain. Take The Vault (284 King St.), for example. King Street’s newest arts space, with photographer Teeny Morrison at the helm, may not be around longer than six months. And for Morrison, that’s pretty OK.
“Everybody knows that’s how it is in Charleston — that’s why we worked our asses off and immediately got in here,” she says. Morrison and crew — an all-women entourage of painters, photographers, designers, and even an event planner — painted The Vault themselves, speeding up the process of setting up shop.
The Vault, formerly leased by College of Charleston, was sitting empty on King Street, part of a building that’s being renovated for luxury apartments and retail space. “It was just sitting here,” says Morrison of The Vault. “They [building owners] didn’t have a vision, and the national franchises don’t want a short term lease. This is the perfect chance for us to give it a go.”
And all that give seems to be working; Morrison says that The Vault, in addition to a decent amount of foot traffic, also sees a number of actual in-house purchases, a boon for any arts space/gallery. “Everyone’s art is always changing all the time, and people have been buying things,” says Morrison. “Whitney’s crushing it,” she says, arms sweeping toward the work of Whitney Stoddard. “She does these amazing vintage women, staining the paper using Charleston tea bags.”
“Julie is an amazing photographer,” continues Morrison, as we take our grand tour of The Vault. Julie Livingston is a local photographer specializing in wedding photography. At The Vault she’s also curated a selection of goods, candles, and pottery that complement her photos. This arts space is in a sense a kind of art-inspired shop, too.
As we walk toward the back of The Vault, event planner Reagan Barnes takes calls on her phone, utilizing the already existing office space in the building. That’s how The Vault is set up — some open spaces, some offices — in an ideal, organic way that works for each participating artist. “Reagan’s pregnant with her second baby,” says Morrison. “We all have lives beyond The Vault.”
And in case you were wondering, The Vault is in fact named for a bank vault — located at the back of the building. “We hold this open for pop-ups of any sort,” says Morrison of the literal hole in the wall venue. “We had a sculptor who had just graduated from CofC and she sold some pieces. She was so excited. We have trunk shows lined up. There’s going to be a runway show for Bastille Day,” she says. “It’s kind of anything goes. It’s a creative playground.”
This creative playground, while quiet on a Thursday morning in late June, is the home of emerging and established artists, a space for artists to both create and do the real work — sell their pieces to make some money. “People are here on their days off. The painters come in and paint. Whitney comes in when her kids are at daycare,” says Morrison. “A lot of art is a second job or passion. It’s fun that we can all come in here together, I think it’s everyone’s happy place.”
Morrison considers The Vault a “breath of fresh air” on Lower King Street — a spot for local artists that isn’t a Starbucks, a J. Crew, or an Apple Store. “After six months, we’ve maybe got another six, or three, or it will be month to month,” says Morrison of The Vault’s lease. “There’s a little piece of my heart and soul that says maybe it will work out. We’re here now, we’re not going anywhere for a little while. We’re going to enjoy it while we can.”