Charleston has had a vibrant arts and entertainment scene for quite some time, but it was perhaps most notably brought to light when the Spoleto Festival was founded here in 1977.
Classical music in its many forms was showcased throughout the city by locals and non-locals alike, drawing an audience from afar and giving an early boost to local tourism. There was also William Halsey, whose abstract art that he created here has left a legend. It even led to his name on the College of Charleston’s own gallery, the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. These were not the only forms of art popular in Charleston, though.
There were the club-like music venues, notably The Windjammer, King Street Palace and Cumberland’s. Elvis and Bob Dylan were among names who graced Lowcountry stages. There was the Garden & Gun Club with its all-inclusive, diverse parties. And of course, there was Hootie & the Blowfish, the band that really put the local music scene on the map.
Many more great names have originated unique, inspiring and memorable art here in Charleston, whether it’s visual art, music, theater or other creative endeavors entirely.
There was Shepard Fairey, a skateboarder and artist who created activism-inspired murals and brought street art culture to Charleston. He was known for his “Andre the Giant” art, which can still be seen throughout the city today.
Bill Murray’s residency has also brought some film culture to Charleston, inspiring others like Danny McBride to make the plunge and film movies in the Holy City. Movie star Murray has also poured his resources into the local minor league baseball team and food and beverage establishments. McBride has done the same, with a recent monetary gift to MUSC but also by bringing an entire film crew to town that engages with the local economy in a variety of ways.
Stephen Colbert at the West Ashley Waffle House is among iconic images of local celebrities gracing local establishments and bringing them more notoriety.
It would be a dishonor to not mention the modern-day music clubs, art galleries and theater spaces who did so much for the local entertainment scene, pre-coronavirus. Some have been able to open with limitations and restrictions, seeking patrons to help keep them afloat after months of devastating financial losses at the peak of tourist season.
The Gibbes Museum of Art and Redux Contemporary Art Center are among many downtown contributors in the visual art realm. The Charleston Music Hall, Music Farm and The Royal American are among the downtown music venues hosting crowded shows for local and touring artists alike. In the theater world, The Dock Street Theatre, Sottile Theatre, Footlight Players and Pure Theatre have made impactful marks on their stages.
We also can’t leave out big entertainment draws, like the South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston Museum and Patriots Point. In addition, there are ghost tours, carriage tours and historic tours that have entertained thousands across the city.
We must continue to patronize our venues (when safe) to keep them open. And we must continue to find ways to support them during this pandemic to ensure the same outcome.
Reach Kalyn Oyer at 843-371-4469. Follow her on Twitter @sound_wavves.