Post-Spoleto blues got you down? Needing a creativity injection? Sometimes there’s no cure like getting out of town for a day or a weekend. We’ve compiled a few sights and scenes from surrounding cities to help jump-start you on the road to recovery and satisfy your craving for all things arts. (And don’t forget that although our local offerings do slow down during the summer months — just like they do everywhere else — many Charleston theaters, galleries, and concert halls are hosting special summer events. Check out our event listings for more.)
Just two hours south of Charleston, this elegant Southern town is home to a world-class art school, excellent museums, and amazing food. As an added bonus, Savannah’s also got some of the spookiest graveyards you ever did see. Grave rubbings, anyone?
SCAD Museum of Art
The Savannah College of Art and Design’s museum has an excellent permanent collection that includes African-American art, contemporary art, and 19th- and 20th-century photography, among others. This summer, the museum is presenting exhibitions by photographer Matthew Brandt, sculptor Jason Middlebrook, and fashion designer Stephen Burrows.
This historic downtown theater dates back to 1921, and it just might be the swankiest place you watch a movie this summer. They’re screening classic favorites like The Producers and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory through August, as well as hosting several musical cabaret nights each month. Audience members sit right on stage with the performers, making for an intimate evening. Tickets to the movies are $8 for adults and $5 for students, seniors, and military; tickets for the cabaret are $30.
The Telfair group of museums is perfect for the split-personality art lover — there’s the Jepson Center, which displays contemporary art; the historic Owens-Thomas House; and the Telfair Academy, which has a collection of 19th- and 20th-century European and American art. The museums are showing too many exhibitions to list here, but here’s a sampling: paintings by the late Ray Ellis, works by internet artist Rafaël Rozendaal, and interpretations of Marilyn Monroe.
This college town boasts a booming live music scene and the lively shopping and nightlife district Five Points, not to mention fun day-trip destinations like the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. And, perhaps surprisingly to some, Columbia’s not lacking in the arts, either.
Columbia Museum of Art
The Columbia Museum of Art hit it big-time last fall when it was the only Southeastern museum selected to exhibit Annie Leibovitz’ exhibition Pilgrimage. That kind of recognition is in keeping with this museum’s high standards — the institution owns pieces by masters as varied as Botticelli and Jasper Johns, and regularly hosts major traveling exhibitions. This summer, they’ve got a couple of lighter exhibits: Animal Instinct – Paintings by Shelley Reed, and Cheers for the Home Team! Animal Mascots in the collection. If those don’t suit your fancy, wait until October, when the museum will present paintings, drawings, and photographs by Norman Rockwell.
If, after you’ve wandered the halls of the Columbia Museum of Art, you’re not quite ready to head home, give the Trustus Theatre a try. This professional theater is still going strong after 30 seasons, presenting Obie- and Pulitzer-winning works as well as absurdist pieces and comedies like their current offering, Evil Dead, the Musical. We haven’t seen any reviews yet, but we’re willing to bet it makes for a pretty badass night at the theater.
S.C. State Museum
You might know that the State Museum has lots of cool, kid-friendly displays of dinosaurs and arrowheads, but we bet you didn’t know that it offers solid art showcases as well. The museum hosts two exhibitions per year, featuring art by local and regional artists. On view now, you can see Civil War-era paintings by the Confederate soldier and artist Conrad Wise Chapman.
Escape the humidity and head to this eccentric mountain town for a weekend. After you’ve had your fill of beautiful Blue Ridge vistas, check out the western North Carolina art scene, which is heavily influenced by craft and folk arts like woodworking and weaving.
Asheville Glass Center
Glassblowing could be the most dangerous form of art-making there is. There are chemicals that can explode, a furnace that’s heated to 2,000 degrees, and, of course, all that molten glass. It also happens to be really fun to watch, and you can do that at the Asheville Glass Center, a working studio that offers classes to the public as well. You can stop by any time between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., seven days a week.
Stories on Asheville’s Front Porch
In the heart of Asheville’s charming downtown, Pack Place is an arts, education, and science center that hosts a storytelling festival each summer. The events run Saturday mornings from June 28 through July 26, and feature area storytellers like Tim Lowry, Wallace Shealy, Kathy Gordon, and others. All the events are free and, in typical mountain fashion, take place rain or shine.
Asheville Art Museum
Although the museum is rarely high on visitors’ lists — if you’re a tourist in Asheville, chances are you’re there to hike, see the Biltmore House, and/or eat out a lot — it’s worth a visit, if only to see the Black Mountain College Collection. The college was an experimental educational and artistic community that lasted from the 1930s through the late 1950s, and attracted mavericks like Robert Rauschenberg, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, and Buckminster Fuller. The museum collects artworks by artists associated with the college and offers plenty of research and information about the community as well.
Atlanta’s not generally known as an arts destination, but that’s probably because it’s known for so many other things first — urban sprawl being numero uno. If you’re up for the four-and-a-half hour drive, plus all the driving you’ll be doing once you actually arrive (thanks, urban sprawl), you’ll find tons of opportunities to soak up some culture.
High Museum of Art
With 14,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the High is one of the most important art museums in the Southeast. They have extensive collections of 19th- and 20th-century American and European art, and they’re currently growing their collections of African-American, modern, and contemporary art, as well as folk art, works by Southern artists, and photography. Speaking of which, one of their most beautiful exhibits this summer looks to be works by photographer Wynn Bullock, whose black-and-white images of nature are stunning in their otherworldliness.
Atlanta Journal Constitution Decatur
OK, this one doesn’t take place until August, but it’ll be worth the wait. In addition to welcoming more than 1,000 authors to Decatur (which is just outside Atlanta), the festival will host Joyce Carol Oates as the keynote speaker. The incredibly prolific and accomplished author — she’s written 40 novels — will be sharing the stage with her biographer, Dr. Greg Johnson, as well as launching her newest story collection, Lovely, Dark, Deep: Stories, at the festival. If we know Oates, that title will turn out to be a perfect description of what’s inside the book — emphasis on “dark.” Her short story about a young girl seduced by an awkward and menacing killer, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?,” still haunts our nightmares.
Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University
This university museum happens to have one of the best collections of ancient art in the Southeast. Their holdings include objects from ancient Egypt, Nubia, the Near East, Africa, Asia, Greece, Rome, and the ancient Americas — which just about covers the globe’s ancient civilizations. Once you’ve had your fill of marble statuary and ceramic burial urns, head to their collection of works on paper, which spans the Renaissance to today.