Two thousand thirteen is on its way out, and it's been an interesting year for Charleston's arts organizations. Here's our look back at a few of the biggest moments, from crazed tween literary fans to new developments in City Paper's own neck of the woods.
Our favorite performing arts center hides a deep, dark secret.
Back in February, demolition crews who were working on the Gaillard Auditorium unearthed parts of a human skull, jaw, and teeth, setting in motion a pretty exciting — if you're an archaeologist, that is — investigation. Once the bones were found, a team of archaeologists got to work on the site and found more than 35 graves with human remains and coins that appeared to date back to the late 17th or early 18th century. The bodies were eventually moved to a cemetery to be re-buried. Archaeologists also found a cannonball believed to date back to the Revolutionary War.
YALLFest restores faith in humanity.
When Blue Bicycle Books' hugely popular young adult literature festival, YALLFest, brought in the also hugely (maybe insanely) popular author Veronica Roth, kids wanted to know if they could camp out in front of the Charleston Music Hall in order to get good seats for her keynote speech. Roth is the author of the Divergent series, a dystopian trilogy that's been compared to The Hunger Games. Sadly, the eager readers were not allowed to pitch their tents, but the fact that they wanted to brightened at least one policeman's day. When Blue Bike's Jonathan Sanchez went to the police station to secure permits for the festival and check on the whole camping-out thing, the helpful officer said, "They're going to be camping out? For a literary event? I can't believe it. This just renewed my faith in humanity."
Ballet leaves and then returns to the Lowcountry.
When the Charleston Ballet Theatre called it quits for good in January, the Holy City was left without a dedicated ballet company — not that it came as much of a surprise, since the CBT had been a pretty dysfunctional enterprise for at least a year by then. But then in October, the Columbia City Ballet stepped in to fill the void, announcing that they would perform four ballets in Charleston during the 2013-14 season, beginning with Dracula: Ballet with a Bite. The CCB has also performed a regular season in Savannah for several years now, so it's plausible that they could add Charleston on their rotation.
But that's not to say that locals haven't stepped up as well. UNED!TED's Laura Ball recently partnered with the Charleston Dance Institute's Jonathan Tabbert to create the original ballet The Little Match Girl, which was performed at the Rose Maree Myers Theatre. Here's hoping we see more partnerships like this in 2014.
The Charleston Symphony Orchestra seeks a maestro and an executive director.
After being without a music director for more than two years, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra is finally in the home stretch. This fall, the CSO launched their Meet the Maestro series, which invited the six final candidates to Charleston for a kind of public audition. Each is conducting one of the CSO's Masterworks concerts, which began in October and run through April of 2014. The candidates are also participating in a Meet the Maestro coffee and conversation event while they're in town, to allow the community to ask questions and get a better feel for the candidates' musical outlook and background.
We're reviewing each and every Masterworks performance and its respective conductor this year, so keep an eye on our website to stay informed.
And that's not all that's been going on in the CSO administration. In November, the orchestra announced that first trumpet player Michael Smith would be leaving his musical post to take the helm as executive director, filling a spot that had been vacant since the departure of Danny Beckley seven months earlier. Once the CSO decides on their new musical director, they'll have a fully staffed administration for the first time in quite a while.
Enough Pie lands in the upper peninsula.
Creative placemaking group Enough Pie has been on the upper peninsula scene now for almost a year, beginning with a discussion on "tactical urbanism" that they hosted in January. Creative placemaking is a little hard to define, but it basically means working with artists and community members to add things like artist-designed bus benches, arts-oriented gathering spaces, and murals in a specific neighborhood or area. We wrote about them back in August, questioning whether they had worked hard enough to understand the area's demographic — most of the neighborhoods in their area of interest are traditionally African American and working class, while Enough Pie's events have generally attracted white, upper-middle-class Charleston residents.
The group spent much of 2013 in fundraising and outreach mode and have just recently started taking proposals for their Community Project Grants program, which offers small grants to community members for projects that are arts and culture based. We'll be interested to see the kinds of projects they end up supporting, as well as what shape the group's work takes in the coming year. Will they enhance the neighborhood by responding to the needs of all residents, or will they get stuck in the trap of working mainly with those people who are just like them?
Halsey announces Shepard Fairey-Jasper Johns show.
Even though the Fairey-Johns exhibit won't go up until May 2014, and even though it's to celebrate the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art's 30th anniversary — which also doesn't begin until 2014 — we had to include this one because, well, both artists are a pretty big deal. Jasper Johns is one of the 20th century's most important contemporary artists (plus he's technically a local, hailing from Allendale, S.C.), and Shepard Fairey's Obama poster for the 2008 presidential campaign rocketed him to street artist megafame. Although we don't have any details on what Johns will be showing, we do know that Charleston native Fairey has been seen around town scouting locations for murals throughout the past year. His work will encompass several locations throughout Charleston, in addition to pieces that will hang in the Halsey.
We think the most interesting thing, however, will be seeing how the Halsey's outstanding curatorial staff connects the two artists, both of whom could be said to work in pop art despite their totally different styles.