Local Life: Beaufort artists putting their muscles to the test

lisa@beaufortcountyarts.comApril 23, 2012 

"Unless you have creative people who really want to deliver outstanding products or outstanding customer service, all the bean counting and financing isn't going to do you any good. The problem is when you have the wrong people in charge. Then the business goes down hill because all they look at is the spreadsheets, and they forget the customer."

So said rusty Bob Lutz when he appeared on the "Colbert Report," leaving the comedy up to the able host, Stephen Colbert. Bob, who is the former vice chairman of General Motors, as well as an executive with Ford, BMW and Chrysler, then proceeded to beat the master of satire in a pushup race.

As businesspeople, artists shoot for outstanding products and customer service. That's the nature of working on your craft (perfecting glass-cutting techniques, memorizing lines). And that drive is also there when typing up programs for plays such as "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," by Steve Martin, which opens in June at ARTworks, and primping for shows such as Benton Lutz's "The Feminine Mystique" at the Charles Street Gallery through May 6.

Residents and visitors of Beaufort benefit from the muscles artists develop from all the metaphorical push-ups they do.

Terry Brennan, for instance, gets a workout by gathering marine debris and Dumpster junk, transforming it into art as you stand there wondering, "When did that happen?"

For his next piece, "Locomocean" for World Oceans Day in June in Beaufort Town Center, I plan to donate a fascinating round metal-plastic tubular part from my washer that cost me $75 to replace. In his afterschool class at ARTworks, he said he "gets people to notice shape and size and forget what the junk was tossed into the world as, and then realize what you, the artist, want to inflict on it."

In his play "80th Reunion," local playwright Jim Herring is "inflicting" the comedy of the health care system on us. (I can already see the majority opinion from the Supreme Court: "Since laughter is the best medicine, we find ...") A staged reading will be in the black box theater at ARTworks on May 6. Herring has also had his plays produced at Yale, back when "the roles were played by men, the hairier the legs the better," he said.

In the meantime, stop by ARTworks' gallery to see allegorical, vivid work by James St. Clair, which happens to contain many representations of comedy's favorite prop, the chicken -- chickens in a hot tub, chicken crossing a bridge. His work is also notable for his use of detail and sunbeams, and the artist has stretched his considerable muscles to include being a finalist for his script "The Test" in the Charleston International Film Festival.

Photographer Donn Young was in town earlier this month for ArtSee magazine, covering a sightseeing piece that compares our Beaufort with Beaufort, N.C. He had genuine good sense of humor while posing actors and studio artists at ARTworks, but when I asked him about his thoughts on Beaufort, he was a serious arts professional.

"There is a sophistication and organization to the presentation of the downtown area that is attractive and responsive and civilized," he said. "That's what most artist communities should really strive for ... And then there's the funky side of life where you get in the laid-back arena. That's what ARTworks seems to have developed. It's human, it has dents and imperfections, and it's attractive." I don't mind that Donn pointed out our dents, as an art photographer he has an advanced, appreciative eye. "And it's really where community arts start, it's really what every community, again, should strive for, if you want to develop a community awareness and structure that brings even more people."

More people, creative people, humorous insightful people -- civilized Beaufort is lucky to have plenty. Two of them are getting married next month, artist-carpenter Moon Longo (both his pieces in the ReNude show earlier this spring were purchased by astute collectors) and scientist Samantha "Caretta Caretta" Campbell. I wish them well in all matters in their meticulously renovated cottage in the historic district, good muscle tone always and smiles forever.

Lisa Annelouise Rentz is the transmedia publicity leader for ARTworks, the community arts center in Beaufort. She is the author of "Dr. Aa's Pennyroyal Tabules." She works at ARTworks and can be reached at 843-379-2787 or lisa@beaufortcountyarts.com.

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