Meet the Charleston locals who host Spoleto artists during the festival each year 

"It's almost always, without exception, a deep pleasure"

Daniel and Erica Lesesne house artists in their upstairs suite.

Ruta Smith

Daniel and Erica Lesesne house artists in their upstairs suite.

Did you know that there's a contingent of Charleston locals who open their doors to Spoleto artists before, during, and after the festival every year? It's a generous act that's led to plenty of stories, lifelong friends, and a memorable experience for visiting artists. We chatted with several local homeowners to see what it's been like to house folks they've never met before.

Daniel and Erica Lesesne
Radcliffeborough

The Lesesnes have housed Spoleto artists since at least 2003 — which is as far back as Daniel's records go. "It's been a big variety," he says of the types of artists the couple houses, "but lately we've had almost exclusively opera singers."

Yes, those singers do practice in the house. And it's just as cool as you'd think. Currently, a singer for this year's sole opera, Salome, is staying with the Lesesnes, who put up artists in an upstairs suite. With its own set of stairs, this part of the house is a cozy spot for artists to keep to themselves — or join Daniel and Erica whenever they please.

"There are people who want to get involved," says Daniel, remembering a time that one visiting artist helped Erica make loquat preserves.

Local homeowners never know who they may get during Spoleto, which is all part of the fun. The Lesesnes have hosted a number of opera singers, Spoleto's director of chamber music, Geoff Nuttall, and even a makeup artist who specialized in prosthetic masks.

"It's almost always, without exception, a deep pleasure, a kind of adventure," says Daniel. "Most people are taken with Charleston."

Calhoun Witham
South of Broad

Calhoun Witham worked for Spoleto's housing department back in 1994, so he's long been aware of the needs of the fest when it comes to hosting artists.

"Almost anyone can do it," he says. "I've been doing it for a long time. The artist is like a roommate. We share the kitchen and living area and when I'm gone they take care of the cat."

Witham has had shy roommates, drunk (but very fun) roommates, and folks he now refers to as lifelong friends.

"I had a guy that was really wild, a lot of fun, he broke a lot of stuff in the house. But he was probably the most fun house guest I've had," says Witham. All that breaking is balanced out by some guests who are keen on fixing things, like one artist who made some unsolicited home improvements in Witham's old home while he was out of town.

Witham has had moody artists — being miscast in an opera can lead to dark days and a new nicotine habit — but for the most part, he's enjoyed his guests. "Sometimes they come back and visit," says Witham. "It's a different relationship when they come back as friends. Not a bad deal, to have connections and friends all over the world."

And while Witham recommends housing artists, he does know a horror story or two. One comes from his time working at the festival.

"Somebody South of Broad had a beautiful 18th century dining room table and the director staying in the house threw this wild party. All these women with stiletto heels were dancing on the table and they ruined it — there were divots in the top of the table," says Witham. "The fest had to pay for it. You never know, it depends on the artist's personality."

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