Friday, May 24, 2019

Spoleto Festival USA 2019 kicks off with a call to embrace the arts from Joe Cunningham

"Art has never been more necessary than it is right now"

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Fri, May 24, 2019 at 2:53 PM

Mayor Tecklenburg cheers to a 43rd year of Spoleto. - CONNELLY HARDAWAY
  • Connelly Hardaway
  • Mayor Tecklenburg cheers to a 43rd year of Spoleto.
There's something comforting in knowing that Spoleto Festival is going to open the same way every year. The large black banner announcing the festival, strung across City Hall, has barely visible moveable patches designed to accommodate the year's particular show dates. This year, May 24-June 9.

The bells ring in St. Michael's Church. A local religious leader offers an invocation. A Spoleto performer sings the national anthem (this year: bass baritone, Erik Van Heyningen from Salome).

Predictable? Sure. Taken another way: comforting. It's nice to see an arts fest survive and even thrive after 43 years. It's nice to have some hope for the future of arts and culture in a rapidly developing city.

U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham approached the podium to a good deal of cheering and applause, perhaps for his politics, or maybe just for the hint of something new that he brings to the table as the area's first Democratic representative since the '80s.

"Art has never been more necessary than it is right now," said Cunningham. He talked about the division he sees in the country, and the way that art can connect people, transcend boundaries.

"Art elicits strong reactions," he said. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. "And forces you to reckon with it."

Cunningham spoke of discomfort, of growing, and of challenging ourselves to seek out more art, participate more in the community.

Getting comfortable with getting uncomfortable is an admirable goal for any of us. And maybe it sounds a little head-in-the-clouds, but I agree with the congressman wholeheartedly — we really need the arts right now.

Whether you're catching a show from Shakespeare's Globe — based on their brief preview today, their shows will be an absolute delight — or just strolling through Marion Square during the Piccolo's arts exhibition, challenge yourself to look at something new. Speak to someone you've never met (with artists visiting from all over the globe, that shouldn't be too hard).

And when the curtains fall and the festival ends, keep showing up in art galleries and theaters, at comedy shows and live music venues. These city-wide opportunities aren't going anywhere — for now.

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Mary Jackson hosts sweetgrass basket demos during this year's Spoleto festival

Two chances to hear from the world-renowned artist

Posted by Caylin Gregory on Fri, May 24, 2019 at 7:40 AM

Mary Jackson holds two classes at the Gibbes during this year's festival. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Mary Jackson holds two classes at the Gibbes during this year's festival.
Mary Jackson is a world-renowned artist known for mastering the Gullah tradition of sweetgrass basketry, one of the oldest art forms of African origin. On May 29 and June 4, Jackson will be showcasing her talents at the Gibbes Museum of Art from 10-11 a.m.

These two in-studio sweetgrass basket demonstrations are a great way to get a feel for all that Spoleto has to offer in 2019. The Gibbes Museum of Art even has a gallery named for Jackson and dedicated to her work, containing both modern and contemporary art. (And, of course, a sweetgrass basket.)
If you’ve ever wondering about this age-old art form, now is your chance to find out. Attendance to Jackson’s sweetgrass basket event is $10 for members, $15 for non-members.

Witness her demonstrations, listen to her inspiring story, and grab your tickets online.

If you can't make it to a class, be sure to swing by Theodora Park (across from the Gaillard Center) for a pop-up showcase of Jackson's baskets, May 24-25.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Artisanals and Benny Starr will take the stage in North Charleston at the Spoleto finale

Local love

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Tue, May 21, 2019 at 12:14 PM

See Benny Starr on Sun. June 9 at Riverfront Park. - JOSEPH NIENSTEDT
  • Joseph Nienstedt
  • See Benny Starr on Sun. June 9 at Riverfront Park.
Spoleto Festival USA has announced the local bands performing at this year's festival finale, headlined by Curtis Harding. On Sun. June 9 at 5 p.m. The Artisanals and Benny Starr will be among the artists you'll hear at North Charleston's Riverfront Park.

The Artisanals, comprised of Johnny Delaware, Clay Houle, Nick Recio, Ian Klin, and Eric Mixon, bring their "Americana charm and southern rock swagger" to the stage at 6 p.m. and local hip-hop artist and activist Benny Starr performs at 7 p.m.

Curtis Harding performs at 8:30 p.m., followed by the fest's signature closing fireworks display.

This is the first year that the festival finale is being held at Riverfront Park, and like in years past, guests can bring their own picnics to enjoy. Alcohol can be purchased onsite  only, and this year's selections include beer from Edmund's Oast and wine selections from Vintage Lounge.

Tickets ($35/adults, $15/children ages 6-12) can be purchased online. Onsite parking is $10.

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Spoleto announces 2019 'engaging the community' outreach and education endeavors

ETC, etc.

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Mon, Apr 29, 2019 at 3:48 PM

Area students will get to go behind the scenes at some local theaters. - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Area students will get to go behind the scenes at some local theaters.
Today Spoleto Festival USA 2019 announced this year's schedule of community engagement, with a focus on education. Spoleto ETC (engaging the community) connects Spoleto artists and Charleston residents, with an emphasis on building audiences of the future.

Spoleto looks to give back to Charleston through tailored education programs for area students, a discussion series and partnership with area organizations, and investment in the professional advancement of young artists.

In a press release festival general director Nigel Redden said, "From my personal experience, I know that an introduction to the performing arts at a young age can certainly be life-changing."

This year's education outreach includes visits from Bank of America Chamber Music artists to local schools including Sanders-Clyde Creative Arts School and Memminger Elementary. Local students will also get the chance to see where these artists perform during a special trip to Dock Street Theatre and Emmet Robinson Theatre.

A number of Spoleto artists and administrators will also work with student-focused organizations outside of schools like the Charleston Symphony Youth Orchestra and CofC's arts management program.

This year's community outreach efforts include its Open Stage Door program, which every year provides over 800 complimentary tickets to community-based and nonprofit organizations in the area.

The fest also presents a free concert for families and caregivers of individuals with Autism, the Azure Concert, organized by pianist Stephen Prutsman and held at Dock Street Theatre on Sat. May 25 at 10:15 a.m. This is a free event, but be sure to register ahead of time by emailing Sara Bennett at
Visiting artists will give free talks throughout the festival. Find the full schedule online. - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Visiting artists will give free talks throughout the festival. Find the full schedule online.
As always, the festival hosts free salons (there's one tomorrow, Tues. April 30), a discussion series that illuminates elements of the upcoming season.

Throughout the festival you can head to free artist talks, from conversations with festival director of choral activities Joe Miller to jazz talks with artist David Virelles to master classes with visiting dance companies.

Rounding out the festival's ETC programming is its work with the professional advancement of young artists including the young pro musicians in the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra and the singers of Westminster Choir. Spoleto also offers an apprenticeship program, a short-term internship opportunity that allows college-age students to work under the guidance of professional arts administrators and technicians.

Learn more about the festival and all of its ETC programs online at

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Spoleto Salons kick off Tues. April 30

Free and open to all y'all

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 11:30 AM

  • Spoleto Festival USA
Spoleto Festival USA 2019 begins so soon, Fri. May 24. Before then, though, the fest features three pre-season discussions, Spoleto Salons, that are free and open to the public. Did we mention free? The fun starts on Tues. April 30, with additional talks on Tues. May 7 and May 14. Reserve your seats ahead of time online.

Each talk takes place at the Spoleto Festival offices at 14 George St.

Spoleto Salons are designed to go into some behind-the-scenes elements of this year's season. Each salon is moderated by CofC professor Edward Hart. This year you can look forward to:

The Ripple Effect
Tues. April 30, 5:30 p.m.
Learn more about how Spoleto has helped preserve some of Charleston's theaters and buildings, and how the festival has served as a catalyst for creating new performing arts spaces throughout the city.

Salome, featuring directors Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser
Tues. May 7, 5:30 p.m.
Salome, Spoleto's sole opera this year, will feature a brand-new version of the classic story, set in modern times. Salome is the ninth festival production from directors Caurier and Leiser and at this Salon they'll talk about how time has influenced their career in storytelling.

Meeting Melanie
Tues. May 14, 5:30 p.m.
Soprano Melanie Henley Heyn sings the title role in this year's production of Salome, making her full-length opera debut.

Learn more about Spoleto and the upcoming season online at

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