Monday, June 8, 2020

30+ black artists and arts organizations in Charleston to follow right now

Art when we need it most

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Mon, Jun 8, 2020 at 1:01 PM

click to enlarge Local artist Chris Johnson works under the name Kol Peace - RUTA SMITH FILE PHOTO
  • Ruta Smith file photo
  • Local artist Chris Johnson works under the name Kol Peace
The Charleston area is home to a great number of black artists, from quilt makers to poets. We've compiled a list of local black artists with links to their websites where you can purchase their work, learn more about what and how they create, and donate to their projects.

We're working hard to keep this list as comprehensive as possible, so please send us info on any missing artists or arts organizations to connelly@charlestoncitypaper.com.

Arts Organizations, Galleries & Festivals

Art Forms & Theatre Concepts
AFTC was founded in 1995. A frequent participant at local arts festivals including MOJA and Piccolo Spoleto, past AFTC productions include Miss Dessa, The Bluest Eye and A Tribute to Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Black Ink Book Festival
Presented by the Charleston Friends of the Library, the City of Charleston's MOJA Arts Festival and the College of Charleston's Race and Social Justice Initiative, Black Ink celebrates African-American literature and local and regional authors.

Charleston Black Theatre

Yvonne Broadus formed Charleston Black Theatre in 2013. Past productions include Boxing Day, Under Jack's Hat and All's Well That Ends Well.

Charleston Gospel Choir
Founded by Lee Pringle in 2000, the Charleston Gospel Choir is an-volunteer, racially diverse group of musicians. The choir's productions preserve gospel's authenticity and educate audiences on this African-American tradition.

Colour of Music Festival
The Colour of Music Festival, founded by Lee Pringle (who is also the founder of the Charleston Gospel Choir), showcases some of the top black classical musicians in the country.

Free Verse Poetry Festival
Created by Marcus Amaker, Free Verse is the city's only poetry festival, holding programming throughout the year as well as a concentrated week of events each fall. This year's festival returns Oct. 11-18.

Neema Gallery
Founded by Meisha Johnson in 2019, Neema Gallery features the work of top African-American southern artists both living and deceased. Earlier this year Johnson announced plans for a second gallery, Gallery Elevate, which will feature the work of new and emerging African-American artists from all over the world.

Visual & Multimedia Artists

Dana Coleman
Coleman captures Charleston-centric scenes in his paintings from weathered homes to local beaches and marshland.

Beki Crowell
Crowell is a local visual artist — she specializes in 'soul portraits' — as well as an author and vibrational healer.

Arianne King Comer
Arianne King Comer is a textile artist who specializes in wearable and installation art. Passionate about indigo, Comer has studied under renowned Batik artist Nike Olyani Davis in Nigeria.

Richard Drayton aka Concept RXCH
Multidisciplinary artist Concept RXCH creates stunning collages and album artwork. In 2018 Drayton created a series of protest pieces that spoke to the injustices of marginalized people in Charleston, "Gentrification (is a disease)."

Jonathan Green

One of the Lowcountry's best-known artists, Green's work has been exhibited internationally. In 2016 Green designed the set and costumes for Spoleto's production of Porgy and Bess.

JaQuan Hicks
Hicks is a Charleston-based painter and clothing designer. Follow him on Instagram @goat.hicks and @weird_illvisions (where you can find his latest T-shirt designs).

Christopher Johnson aka kolpeace
Johnson is a passionate painter who uses fire to create his lightning fast portraits. (Check out his Instagram videos to see for yourself).

Joseph "P-Nut" Johnson
Joseph "P-Nut" Johnson creates works on cardboard and canvas, documenting Charleston's history through images of local businesses, homes, and street scenes.

Ment Nelson
Ment Nelson has been creating work in response to the world around us for years now — from a portrait of Trump and Kanye West to an image of Trump reading an anti-virus manual. Nelson uses social media to promote his work and the work of other South Carolina black artists and businesses (he created the Twitter account Black-Owned SC).

Makeda Parchman
Summerville-based artist Makeda Parchman (LMA Originals Art) creates hand-drawn originals. She's currently working on a relaunch and will begin taking business inquiries again on June 21.

Jirah Perkins

Multidisciplinary artist Jirah Perkins (UJORII Fine Art) experiments with different mediums and styles, focusing the theme of her work on women empowerment. Her most recent collection, Miss Mary Mack, focuses on the representational meaning of childhood hand games, depicting "the flair and unadulterated joy of black girlhood."

Colin Quashie
Quashie has been creating thought-provoking work in Charleston for a long time. In a 2012 interview with the City Paper Quashie said: "Art is my op-ed. It is how I respond to things, and that's what I'm passionate about — responding to things around me that make an impression on me."

Alexandria Searles
Alexandria Searles, also known as Morowa Mosai is a Charleston-based visual artist whose work has appeared in a number of local exhibits as well as on a mural on Reynolds Ave. in North Charleston. Searles has also collaborated with Free Verse poetry festival, hosting open mic nights.

Carlton Simmons
A nephew of master blacksmith Philip Simmons, Carlton Simmons creates free style design in iron. Simmons' modern ironwork is included in a permanent display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution.

Andrea Stubbs
Stubbs, represented by the Neema Gallery, is a contemporary wood-burning artist who creates everything from frames to ornaments.

Torreah "Cookie" Washington
Local quilter and arts supporter Torreah "Cookie" Washington is a talented quilter who curates quilt and art shows in Charleston, including the annual African American Fiber Art Exhibition during the North Charleston Arts Fest. She curated a Mother Emanuel-inspired exhibition in 2016 and A Dialogue in Black and White Visual Arts Experience at Piccolo Spoleto in 2018. In a 2018 interview with CP Washington said: "I'm trying to create change in a meaningful but gentle way. One art show is not gonna make you not a racist if you're a racist, but it might help you see my point."

Casso Washington
Casso Washington (Casso's Creations) is a visual artist who creates pieces inspired by both pop culture (a portrait of Mac Miller) and his own poetry (lush, sensual imagery). Check out his Instagram for new pieces, time lapses of his work and more.

Fletcher Williams III

North Charleston native Williams is an interdisciplinary artist whose work is rooted in the southern vernacular. Last year Williams presented a project, Revising Divisive Phrasing, highlighting Charleston's palmetto rose sellers as artists.

Sweetgrass Basket Makers

The sweetgrass basket craft has been passed down from generation to generation since the 1700s, brought to the Lowcountry from West Africa through enslaved peoples. There are many sweetgrass basket makers in Charleston. You can find more resources about these artists at Mount Pleasant's Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Pavilion; by driving North on Hwy. 17, known as the 'sweetgrass basket makers highway'; by visiting the Charleston City Market, which is home to over 50 resident Gullah artisans and by attending the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival.

Sweetgrass artists can be found in local galleries too, including the work of Antwon Ford at Neema Gallery.

One of the city's best known sweetgrass basket artisans is Mary Jackson, a 2008 recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and a 2010 NEA National Heritage Fellow. You can find her work on permanent display at the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Poets, Authors & Writers

Marcus Amaker
Perhaps best known as the city's first and only poet laureate, Amaker is also a talented graphic designer and electronic musician who uses his platform to amplify the voices of other black artists. You can buy his latest poetry book online.

Alphonso Brown
In addition to owning and operating Charleston's Gullah Tours, Brown is the author of A Gullah Guide to Charleston.

Regina Duggins
Duggins is a poet, activist, and middle school teacher and the author of two poetry books: Black Coffee, No Sugar, No Cream and Black Magic. She's also the founder of Charleston Black Pride. Duggins is currently on the ballot for the State House of Representatives, District 111.

Sharon Cooper-Murray
Sharon Cooper-Murray aka the Gullah Lady is a professional storyteller who focuses on language, folk art traditions and music.

Sherrikka Myers
After struggling with stuttering while growing up, local author Sherrikka Myers wrote her children's book, Herbie's New Home, about a kid who struggles with stuttering and learns to overcome bullying. You can follow Myers' YouTube channel, Lil Herbie Series.

Courtnay Nicole aka Courtnay The Poet
Courtnay Nicole is a local entrepreneur, poet, author, event host and owner of Vibez Charleston. Check out some of her work on her YouTube channel.

Michael Smallwood
Charleston City Paper's theater critic, Smallwood is also a core member of PURE Theatre. He's had roles in the Charleston-filmed TV series, The Inspectors, as well as the Charleston-filmed remake of Halloween (as well as its sequel, which filmed in Wilmington last fall).

Chase Quinn
A frequent City Paper contributor, Quinn is a writer and culture critic whose work has appeared in Bon Appetit, Vanity Fair and The Guardian US. Quinn is also the program and tour coordinator at the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Joey Tucker aka Mr. Enlightenment
A fifth-grade language arts teacher, Tucker performs regularly at open mics and recently hosted his first solo show.

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