Who: Art Gilliard, soft-spoken and brimming with memories, is a major player in the Lowcountry’s cultural arts scene in general, and the black drama scene in particular. Not too long ago, there were no opportunities beyond church programs for black artists in Charleston. So Art called Dallas and New York City home from 1967-86. Returning to Charleston in ’86 to make a movie, he noticed a real effort to create a “City of Festivals” and decided to stay and direct the Moja Festival for three years. He poignantly recalls being given an office in the Dock Street Theatre, where, prior to 1967, blacks weren’t even permitted to enter the building. For Piccolo 2006, Art is directing the musical Hambone is Hot at the Footlight Players theatre. Art says playgoers will enjoy dynamic “hambone” dancing â€” the forerunner of hip-hop. The playwright is Javon Johnson, of Anderson, S.C., whose mentor is the godfather of black dramaturgy, August Wilson.
Favorite Spot: Saffron, 333 East Bay St. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. Art’s reasons are simple: the place is convenient to his office, free parking is available, the food is delicious and affordable, and because Art’s metaphorical plate is almost always full, he enjoys the fast, efficient service. Working with the schools, he sees many familiar faces from nearby county school district headquarters, including a former high school teacher visiting that day.
Favorite Dish: Most times he lunches here, Art orders his favorite, the belly-busting “Classic Reuben.” But lately, to shed a few pounds, the director has been selecting salad as a side and water as a beverage. Classic. â€”Roy Freeman