Steph Emge wants to pack the building at 1813 Reynolds Ave. The owner of Park Circle Creative wants his art space to host markets, wine tastings, maybe even some kind of blind date event. He’s open to any weird stuff you throw his way.
“It’s a little homegrown but I kinda like it,” says Emge of his approach to building an arts community on Reynolds Avenue. Emge has owned the building for a while now, temporarily leasing it to experimental art space Tua Lingua earlier this year. When Emge and Tua Lingua owner Nathan Petro parted ways, Emge figured he’d continue trying his luck at an art-focused center.
“I don’t think we’re ever gonna be a King Street gallery, I don’t even want ‘gallery’ in our name,” says Emge. “Because it’s not just a gallery and it’s not just a studio space — I want it to be a lot more things.”
Emge isn’t naive; he knows that “talk is cheap” and all of his ideas may not come to fruition. “I hate myself for saying all this,” says Emge. “Like, how is that gonna work? But you gotta try.”
Park Circle Creative (PCC) offers artist alcoves starting at $285 a month, with the option to go bigger for an extra $140. There’s a working darkroom, a sitting area (with plenty of room for expansion), and a small gallery space in the front of the building. Oh yeah, and parking.
“I don’t want to make my entire thing off of the backs of the artists. I want them to pay rent for value given; this is a nice place for them,” says Emge. “But that is just core stuff. I don’t want to live off of having to sell stuff every week, that just pressurizes everybody.” Emge is trying to find the balance that most art spaces are constantly weighing — encouraging creativity versus, well, making money. At the end of the day, Emge says he’s a numbers guy.
If someone walks into PCC and spends several minutes admiring a piece of art, Emge’s got a plan for them. “If you like something here, I’ll see you at the register. Don’t just stare at it,” says Emge. “If they’re saying ‘oh, that’s really nice,’ I say ‘OK, so, what’s the number?’ If you like it on this wall you’ll like it even better at your house.” The value of art in Park Circle Creative goes both ways; Emge expects his artists to price their works reasonably. As he says, “If it’s $500, then that must mean you want to keep it.”
Emge’s no-bullshit attitude steers his plans for Park Circle Creative. If you want to collaborate with him, he’s happy to hear what you have to say. Like, right now. “My attitude is, I get it done. I want things to happen,” he says. “So you wanna meet? Well, I’m free now.” When Emge and I spoke in the middle of October he had high hopes to have a “November filled with activities.” He’s making good on that getting-shit-done mantra by holding an Artket — arts market, natch — this Saturday from 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. The event features music from DJ Mike; food from Foodbox food truck; beer, wine, and cold-pressed coffee; live interactive art from Landon Carter and Luck Endicott; art available for purchase; local merchants like Black Octopus Mercantile and Charleston Hemp Company; meet and greets with PCC’s artists; and entertainment like nude body painting. Nude painting? Why not. It’s all part of Emge’s plan to get people in the door.
“I want to have pop-up markets here regularly, but with a twist,” says Emge. “Somebody’s gotta get arrested or maybe forcefully tattooed.” He likes to think weird tactics will help with Park Circle Creative’s presence in Charleston. It’s like that bar in Texas. Haven’t heard of it? Well, according to Emge: “There was a bar in Texas one time that actually hired a guy to ride his horse into the bar and around the bar and out,” he says. “And they didn’t tell anybody they hired him but he came in there, raised all kinds of hell, then out the front door. From then on out, the rules as you come in said, ‘no horses allowed.’ It must have given them five years of marketing. Maybe I can rent a kangaroo or something.”
And who knows, maybe he will.
The Artket is held on Sat. Nov. 17 from 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. The event is free to attend. Park Circle Creative is located at 1813 Reynolds Ave., North Charleston.