Charleston, SC: A City of Stories and Shadows.
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Artist Resource Page for Charleston, South Carolina.
Directly below you will find the Following
An Interactive map of Charleston, SC.
Interviews with local artists and gallery owners, including:
Maya Simmons of the Old Slave Mart Museum
Mr. Hatt of Revealed Gallery
David Mann of Edward J Bednar Fine Art
Rick Reinert of Reinert Fine Fine Art and Sculpture Garden Gallery
Mark Kelvin Horton of Horton Hayes Fine At Studio
How to use This Artist Resource Page
This series of videos explores surrounding the art scene of Charleston, South Carolina.
These interviews were conducted during a short sojourn through the heart of 'Low country",
Arts Resource Map
The interactive map is comprised of neighborhood galleries we visited with, active galleries of note, and other important local companies that share our vision. Please message us with any updates or additions you would like to see.
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Introduction to Charleston, SC
Charleston is a beguiling beauty; a city where the streets are paved with untold stories. Every simple glance is a postcard home. There is consistent genuflecting to its antebellum past which creates a veneer of authenticity. The narrative is one of a manicured past; a city firmly in charge of its own story.
This page will explore the Charleston art scene from a historical perspective, and hope you come away with an appreciation for this fantastic art scene.
The Battery and White Point Garden
Our first stop is the large park at the end of the peninsula. There is generally parking to be had, and right along with it, big bay views, with a peak beyond into the Atlantic ocean. The park, named White Point Garden, features many military relics, and is canopied with fantastic oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. A statue to commemorate the confederate defenders of Charleston in habits the south corner of the park.
The bay is lined with an unforgettable raised pedestrian walkway surrounded by well manicured lawns and idyllic streets that extend from the park. In 1708, Charleston was already the largest slave society in North America, with a higher population of slaves than residents and owners. Through its new found wealth, Charleston residents invested heavily in beautification. This opulent architecture masks the dark side of its history and hints at wealth produced through slavery.
Charleston has direct access to the ocean therefore making it a much more formidable economic port than river towns such as Savannah. This access ultimately allowed for this city to become one of the richest cities in the United States before the Civil War.
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The Evening Charms of Charleston.
It was a short walk to the only slightly busier downtown area. The real magic begins at sundown, when the gas lights strewn around the oldest parts of town begins to flicker. Its charms are reminiscent of a time before electricity, that is to say, there is a distinct lack of significant nighttime illumination, and it enlivens the mystique of Charleston. It begins to feel like the kind of place where one might run into pirates down an alley way.
This oldest area of Charleston is Known as the French Quarter. It's affectionately referred to as “Prep School New Orleans” for its well maintained streets and sidewalks. Instead of Shotgun houses, one finds three level homes with open staircase systems providing maximum ventilation. This is the traditional style of architecture found throughout Charleston proper.
Downtown Charleston aka The French Quarter
Charleston is actually full of little galleries and art facilities. Some of them are colder than ice while some people and facilities are more approachable. We will steer our readers towards those galleries who were more welcoming. Our goal is to work with galleries that promote a sense of community with its visitors.
The Historic Charleston City Market is a long building with many arts and craft shops, packaged food displays and Charleston themed gear. We were on the look out for the Gullah art gallery just inside known as the Gallery Chuma. The space was bright and colorful but not well stocked. It exuded a "picked over" vibe; one where the proprietors hadn’t the time to bring in more art and artists. I was left asking questions that the facility did not necessarily answer, like; what is Gullah culture?
To learn more about Gullah culture, please visit this link.
Coming out the east end of the market, we made our way south past St. Phillips Church. This has a fine cluster of art galleries, including the Revealed Gallery. This contemporary art space has a lovely outdoor area, and four rooms displaying an array of mostly local talent. It was a visually entertaining space. We spoke with sales associate jimi on his experiences working in the Charleston art scene over the last number of years.
Horton Hayes Fine Art Studios
One of the most approachable galleries we encountered was a block away at the intersection of Queen and State St. It's approachable because Horton Hayes Fine Art has two locations, katy-corner to each other.
The buildings are lovely and have historical significance. To hear Mark Kelvin Horton explain his move to Charleston, is to understand the allure of living in this captivating city.
Edward J Bednar Gallery
Next door to Horton Hayes is the Edward J Bednar gallery space. This facility deals with recognizable names and pieces. All these galleries inhabit fantastically well preserved buildings. Every street is lined with beautiful plants of all kinds. This is mainly due to its role as a popular international port during its hay-day.
A block east on Queen Street, is a street seemingly overflowing with restaurants and hotels. It also has a number of great art facilities. This is two short blocks from the lovely waterfront Joe Riley Park, with its wide, expansive views of the harbor. Its main feature is the Pineapple fountain, one of two water features in this lovely park. Behind the park is one of the largest galleries in town: the City Gallery.
Charleston Artist Guild and Gallery
A block west from the City Gallery, we come upon the Charleston Artist Guild and Gallery. The Guild has over 600 members and is well over 50 years old, making it one of the largest and oldest art collectives in Charleston. The gallery space is administered by members of the guild.
Reinert Fine Art
King Street is a busy thoroughfare replete with name brand stores and their well heeled clientele. We were slated to meet with the owner of Reinert Fine Art and Gallery. and we were not disappointed to find two adjoining physical locations with a, unforgettable sculpture garden. Photos by the fountains are a must. The facility is quite inviting, and the sales people are attentive yet inviting enough to let visitors appreciate the space as a whole.
Charleston in Context
There were a few questions remaining; who is selling their art here and where do they live? In many ways it reminded me of the most expensive art markets in the world that is out of reach for many artists to access. This may explain why many galleries accept work from artists outside of the area.
This notion of an exclusivity mindset is not new to Charleston. There is one trait that is shared by many of the residents of the waterfront areas of Charleston, it is money. Intergenerational wealth has shaped this community just as much as any municipal planning board.
Interview at the Old Slave Mart museum
It's history as one of the single largest slave trading ports in the United States speaks to
its opulence. The wealth was staggering. In downtown Charlestown, numerous slave auction houses existed. The Old Slave Mart Museum (OSMM) was one of two acknowledged open air auction spaces in Charleston, the other one being the Slave Auction Site Memorial just North of the Exchange Building.
We spoke with Maya Simmons of the OSMM regarding how the continual effects of the slave holding class can be traced to modern Charleston, SC.
Charleston Wrap Up
It’s possible to visit Charleston and not think about the city’s difficult past, to marvel at the beauty of the Old South, to experience its art, food, and the honor it gives to certain parts of its past. When it comes to working in Charleston, one thing id for certain; the galleries do a great job of creating a fantastic vibe in the down town art scene.
The really encouraging thing about visiting these galleries first hand is that they really do stock talent from all over the country. The circumstances are such that, many of the featured artists in Charleston come from far and wide. This is at odd with my findings of other major coastal cities who tend to feature regional artists almost exclusively. This opens the door wide to artists from all over to find a like minded gallery and submit their works for consideration. An art show in Charleston is unlike anything else in the world.
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