Thursday, May 15, 2014

Charleston as a Muse

            You never know what will spark someone’s creativity.  Justine Post says of her childhood growing up on Sullivan’s Island, “I would sometimes open the freezer to get some ice cream and a frozen bird carcass would fall into my lap.”  Her ornithologist father and artist mother surrounded the family with nature and creative experiences.  A poetry workshop at Creative Spark with poet laureate Marjory Wentworth and an elementary school classroom visit from Jack Tracey began her interest in poetry but it wasn’t until she attended a Piccolo Sundown Poetry reading by Mark Strand as a teenager that she discovered her own creative voice.  “I had been reading the classic poetry in high school but seeing a poet that was living and that I responded to writing in a contemporary voice opened up my eyes.  Oh! Poetry can be written in the Charleston:  “The water rises with the feel of clasping, the familiar bit of salt…” Having published her first book “Beast” to critical acclaim, she’s thrilled to be a featured poet on May 27 at the Sundown Poetry Series at the Dock Street Theater courtyard this year. “Poetry is to be read aloud, off the page which gives it different meanings.  It transforms the poetry and gets the audience excited about it,” she says.    
language we speak in today instead of being antiquated,” she remembers thinking.  Birds and sea creatures populate her poems which tell of her connection to
  Piccolo Spoleto was created to celebrate local talent, but don’t let that make you think “second rate”.  Several local artists have catapulted to national fame.  The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art will welcome home prodigal son Shepherd Fairey for his first major exhibition in his hometown.  His new body of work is on the subject of power.  Many remember his ubiquitous “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” project consisting of enigmatic stickers that were posted everywhere.  From that humble beginning he’s launched a successful career as a graphic designer, illustrator, activist and artist including his controversial and iconic “Hope” portrait of Obama.  It’s easy to imagine Fairey’s irreverent, edgy, political images igniting artistic fires in developing minds of young viewers who may relate to Fairey’s background as a local skateboarder.  He’s sharing the bill with one of the country’s most prominent artists, Jasper Johns who was long-time friends with William Halsey for whom the gallery is named.
            Another local art celebrity will be exhibiting nearby on the peninsula.  Mary Edna Fraser’s batik Our Common Thread: Environmental Awareness” in cooperation with the local Sierra Club.  Mary Edna’s art depicts our area’s fragile natural beauty and her activism supports local environmental causes.  An avid patron of the arts and musician herself, she never misses the Sunset Serenade at the US Customs House, a free performance by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra on May 23.  
exhibit at Ann Long Gallery is based upon thousands of aerial images she’s photographed.  Her batiks have appeared in over 100 solo exhibitions including at the Smithsonian Institution.  A large one graces the ceiling at the Charleston International airport concourse.  She’s also presenting a free slide show of her work “
            Charleston has long been a center for jazz and the scene is now thriving.  Locally cultivated trumpet player Cameron Harder Handel developed her chops in Wando High School’s band program and has toured the world including a current gig with Michael Bolton.  Catch her in the big band at one of the many Charleston Jazz Orchestra concerts at the Music Hall or at Kiawah.  Repertoire ranges from Latin to swing to Duke Ellington. Want more jazz?  The jazz cruises are not just for tourists.  Catch Lonnie Hamilton’s  grooving sax or Franklin Ashley’s smokin’ piano rendition of “Summertime” while cruising under the Ravenel Bridge in the moonlight.  These are “Chamber of Commerce moments”.  They make you fall in love with Charleston.

      What could be more inspirational than stepping out of the heat and humidity into one of Charleston’s majestic churches to hear magnificent music played by stellar musicians? Local actress Dana DeMartino recommends attending one of the dozen Spotlight Concerts. “I absolutely love organ music and the experience of being in a church and hearing this instrument resonate off the walls of a large cathedral reminds me of my youth in Paris so this is always a must.” A highlight this year is The Choir of St. Martin-in-the-Fields on a world tour from England. They’re stopping at Grace Episcopal Church on June 6 to present a diverse program inspired the British Isles with music ranging from Vaughn Williams to George Shearing.
Piccolo Spoleto will have over 700 performances in seventeen days beginning May 23, 2014. Many are free. There’s theater, comedy, drama, music, children’s activities and literature. The festival is a toast to Charleston, the muse. It’s a celebration of our city’s engaged audiences, its stellar talent and of those who carry the city in their hearts as they rise to artistic success.

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