It's an unlikely story. An out-of-towner with little knowledge of Charleston's slew of galleries sets up his own studio in an area that's far from the tourist track. He pours his savings into converting a boarded-up building on Hagood Street into a progressive gallery and pottery studio complete with kiln. Against all odds, the venture survives the slow summer months and starts to thrive. However unlikely, the tale is true; the artist is contemporary sculptor Danny McSweeney, and he's making a good go of running the Spark Studios and Gallery.
Now presenting Oddities, his second group show, the enterprising McSweeney still finds time to create his own work. A keen canoeist, he says that he's "at the water a little bit too much" but once he knuckles down to work he gets totally involved in his pot-slinging.
McSweeney's output straddles functional, marketable pottery and unique designs inspired by "characters, people, and emotions." Recent forays into more abstract wall hangings suggest a new direction for the artist. "I'm working on a couple of things more in that direction," he says, "much larger, more involved."
As word of his shows spreads, more artists are approaching him with work to exhibit. Most recently, local artists Philip Hyman and Ted Pickering are contributing wall-mounted sculptures and paintings to Oddities. As if that's not enough, the gallery owner teaches, too. Spark's night classes are small – three nights a week, four students per group – but popular, and a new children's course has just begun.
"I have a big variety of crowds coming into the studios," says McSweeney, "including a lot of children from the neighborhood. Some of them haven't ever been into a gallery before." As a guy who plans on "staying here for a long time," that ties in with one of the artist's long-term aims – to attract and nurture viewers new to art. –Nick Smith