With Nikki Haley’s veto of funding for the S.C. Arts Commission at the forefront of every art patron’s mind, we went into this week of events a bit unsettled about the state of culture in the Lowcountry. It didn’t help that our first stop on Thursday evening was to wish local artist Scott Debus farewell as he leaves Charleston for Austin, Texas. Debus was hosting a studio-clearing sale of his paintings, prints, and T-shirts with prices drastically slashed. We scored several new pieces for well under $20. Many familiar faces showed up to support Debus; Colleen Deihl of the now-defunct SCOOP Studios lamented the end of an era.
Spirits were high in the back room of Big John’s Tavern as friends gathered to recall their favorite stories about working with the artist. As we left, the regulars at the front bar seemed oblivious to the happenings around them — perhaps a metaphor for the common citizen and the state of art in S.C.?
On Upper King, the scene was more rambunctious at Rebekah Jacob Gallery for the reception celebrating Ways of Seeing: Phoneography. The space was packed with patrons looking to see what sort of art could be created with a smartphone. Much of the crowd we spoke with was attending in support of a friend that had a photo chosen for the show. It was also a good chance to grab a John Duckworth, Alice Keeney, or Karen Myers print for much lower than their regular work sells for. As the sangria ran low, the crowd thinned out and everyone went in search of their next Instagram subject — most likely a well-plated meal.
By Friday, we reached the tony spectrum of art scenes and prices as we attended the Charleston Fine Art Dealers’ Association’s Palette and Palate Stroll. While we knew we couldn’t afford anything on this high-end art tour, we could at least admire the view as we sampled cuisine from local restaurants. Orange sticker in place to let those manning the doors know we were “in” for the evening, it was a race to visit all the galleries in the allotted two-hour time frame. Each CFADA gallery was paired with a local chef, and our favorite dish of local shrimp and corn kimchee served in a bibb lettuce wrap came from chef Sean Brock and McCrady’s at the Smith Killian Fine Art Gallery. While the event was a bit crowded at times, we were happy that the wine continued to flow and the lines went fairly quick at each stop.
By the end of the night, we got the encouraging sense that, despite the political climate, Charleston does still care about supporting the arts. Much of the crowd may not know of Scott Debus or care much for iPhone art, but there is still support and money being funneled to organizations contributing to the culture of Charleston. Here’s to doing our part at every level. —Erin Perkins