The Arts Issue

It’s been a long, sleepy summer in Charleston’s art world, but we’re about to be shaken out of our reverie with a whole new season of events and a slew of fresh faces. City Paper’s annual Arts Issue takes you through the next few months of concerts, festivals, plays, art exhibitions, and more, allowing you to plan your season in one fell swoop. We’ve listed every schedule we could get our hands on while highlighting the stand-out events, from Michael Ian Black at Theatre 99 to Liz Miller at Redux to young adult book festival YALLFest at Blue Bicycle Books and the College of Charleston.

In addition to the all-important calendar, we’ve selected nine Ones to Watch, a group of creatives that have stayed mostly under the radar but appear poised to make a big impact on the local scene. We found many of them thanks to the suggestions of gallery owners, theater directors, authors, and, in one case, a run-in at Trader Joe’s (that’s where Managing Editor Chris Haire discovered comic book artist Christopher Hanchey). We sat down and picked the brains of people like Erik Johnson, who at 40 years old decided to quit his job to paint full time. And F. Rutledge Hammes, who joins the ranks of Charleston’s award-winning authors, and Tahlia Robinson, one of Theatre 99’s brightest comedic stars. Filmmaker Lee Waldrep, artist Marshall Thomas, actor Gabriel Wright, designer Alesya Opelt, and creative house Lunch and Recess round out the mix. We also tracked down a few former Ones to Watch from as far back as 2006 — we’re happy to report they’re all still living the dream, whether in Charleston or beyond. —Erica Jackson Curran

Checking in with "Ones to Watch" from past years
Checking in with "Ones to Watch" from past years Where Are They Now?

We channeled our inner Carmen Sandiego to track down and check in with a couple of our past "Ones to Watch." — Amy Stockwell Mercer


Alesya Opelt's innovative bags make businesswear chic
Alesya Opelt's innovative bags make businesswear chic Bag It Up

Designer Alesya Opelt describes her ideal client as a powerful woman who works in a boardroom. Though often surrounded by men, she's confident in her femininity. "She's not trying to be a man in a man's world — she's being a woman in a man's world," Opelt says. — Maggie Winterfeldt


A love of Optimus Prime kickstarts a well-drawn career for Christopher Hanchey
A love of Optimus Prime kickstarts a well-drawn career for Christopher Hanchey Sketched Out

When you're a comic book artist, you take what you can get. As Charleston-based illustrator Christopher Hanchey learned one year when he took his portfolio to Comic-Con in San Diego, no one breaks into the industry without paying some dues. — Paul Bowers


Erik Johnson turns pro with a stack of ideas
Erik Johnson turns pro with a stack of ideas Independence Day

Erik Johnson's life changed dramatically on June 30. That's when he decided to leave his 15-year career as a vendor for a coffee company and start painting full-time. At 40 years old, Johnson's decision has been a long time coming. — Erica Jackson Curran


Writer F. Rutledge Hammes helps shape the minds of the Lowcountry's youth
Writer F. Rutledge Hammes helps shape the minds of the Lowcountry's youth O Captain! My Captain

F. Rutledge Hammes is the literary version of Clark Kent — creative writing instructor by day, award-winning poet and novelist by night. "I've always felt that the most important thing an artist can do, if they love their art, is to pass it along to the next generation," Hammes says. — Lisa Ryan


Actor Gabriel Wright thrives on the dark side
Actor Gabriel Wright thrives on the dark side The Wright Stuff

Gabriel Wright has a knack for playing villains. Over the last few years he's portrayed a demon, a sociopath, a ghost, and a ladykiller. But when you meet the cheerful, outgoing actor, you'd never guess he'd be so good at being bad. — Erica Jackson Curran


It's all in the details for filmmaker Lee Waldrep
It's all in the details for filmmaker Lee Waldrep A River Runs Backward

Like many that came before it, Toogoodoo is the story of a man scorned. In Lee Waldrep's short film, we meet the protagonist, Jackson, as he's being left by his fiancee. He retreats to a friend's home on the Toogoodoo River, where he grins and bears it and privately copes with pills. And then, what Waldrep describes as a simple day-in-the-life tale dissolves into something unexpected, something a bit jarring, possibly upsetting or possibly uplifting, certainly surreal while simultaneously meditative, and ... we're not going to give the ending away. Even if we could — Waldrep intentionally left it open to interpretation. — Susan Cohen


The Lunch and Recess crew have their priorities straight
The Lunch and Recess crew have their priorities straight Out to Lunch

About four times a week, at some point in the afternoon, the three men of creative house Lunch and Recess — Ryan Cockrell, Ethan Jackson, and Dorian Warneck — will stop what they're doing and commence with a hip-hop dance party. It is the only part of their week that is ever typical. Some days they may be meeting with clients, on others they may be traveling to far-off locations to shoot material, and on others they may be taking whatever footage they've gleaned, hours worth, and undertake the painstaking process of whittling it down to a few minutes. They still always manage to find time for the hip-hop dance parties in their Broad Street office. — Susan Cohen


Marshall Thomas strives for transparency
Marshall Thomas strives for transparency Adventures in CMYK

Like a movie director, artist Marshall Thomas transforms his models into warriors with slashes of red paint on their faces and pieces of twine wrapped around their necks. "I have my own ideas of who I want this person to be and how I want them to pose, but it's up to the model to bring their own unique emotions, style, and personality to the shoot," he says. "I don't tell my models why I'm painting them a certain way, and I don't tell them what emotions I expect from them — I want them to be as authentic as possible. That contrast, tug, and pull, between myself and the model, I think, makes the most interesting photographs." — Amy Stockwell Mercer


Comic Tahlia Robinson skips the gimmicks
Comic Tahlia Robinson skips the gimmicks Straight Out of Charleston

Tahlia Robinson is an energetic asset for Theatre 99. The 28-year-old trained with the comedy collective for a year before officially joining the company in 2009. She's now a regular part of Laugh for a Lincoln on Wednesday nights. — Nick Smith


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