Some of the most renowned, awe-inspiring pieces of art take months — even years — to complete. But what about an artist's daily or practice works, from doodles to sketches to small paintings? They're often overlooked and discarded, paling in comparison to more epic creations.
Local art promoter Allison Williamson sees the potential in these smaller pieces. "I was working with a lot of different artists who painted every day — they would do dailies or just little sketches," she says. She recognized that these artists ended up with studios full of practice work and believed there was a market for it. "I had the idea that we should do a website where people can log in at any time, and these works would be available." She tinkered with the idea for several months, and finally launched the Charleston Artist Collective last August.
What began as an outlet for eight local artists to sell those smaller pieces has grown substantially. The artists — including Anne Parker, Dee Schenck Rhodes, Mary Hoffman, Everett White, Lynne Hamontree, Zach Collins, Elizabeth Middour, Ann Keane, and Susie Callahan — work together to create new and unique pieces specifically for the site.
Each month, Williamson picks a different theme for the artists to work under, from still life to mixed media. The theme often pushes the artists to work outside their comfort zone, venturing into realms of art that they may not have necessarily attempted before.
While working within the parameters of the collective's "abstract" theme several months ago, Williamson says that many artists, particularly Rhodes, had a difficult time. Yet Rhodes created a beautiful blue and orange abstract piece entitled "Gold Marsh," and she was so thrilled with the results that she entered her painting into the Piccolo Spoleto poster contest — and she won. "That was fun, because she found her inspiration from doing one of the monthly themes," Williamson says. The painting became the official image of the festival's 2011 season and was seen on posters across the Lowcountry.
Each of the unique pieces is available at affordable prices, ranging from $75 to $500, with 15 percent of the profits of each sale going toward local charities. "When it can be an art-based donation, we try to do that, but we're pretty open to all Charleston-area charities," Williamson says.
Since its inception one year ago, the collective has raised more than $16,000 for charities including the Carolina Youth Development Center, Carolina Studios, Yo Art Project, Camp Happy Days, Operation Home, and Lowcountry Orphan Relief. The selected charity changes every few months, and the collective is currently raising funds for My Sister's House.
The collective also hosts several physical art shows each year to raise money. It currently has a Broad Street show in the works for September, in addition to a December show at Footlight Players Theatre.
Williamson hopes to continue to build the collective in Charleston and see it thrive as a viable business, in addition to garnering interest in other cities. Her goal is to develop similar collectives across the Southeast in thriving arts centers like Asheville, creating a large and welcoming community of artists dedicated to supporting local charities. But so far, she's just thrilled with the local results. "We have one year under our belt, and it seems to be going pretty well," she says.