Lowcountry way of life conducive to artists' dreams

lisa@beaufortcountyarts.comOctober 3, 2013 

Actor-playwright Bill Patton of St. Helena Island


Ideas are the bridges that take artists from day dreams to action. When I work in the schools I get to see creativity boil over, and at ARTworks I get to hear the thundering brainstorms that lead artists to implement and create.

Ideas are not promises, but rather the fun part when impracticalness can be savored. After that it's all up-hill work, the sweat of business plans and the squeeze of funding.

Lately I've heard about compassion as a theme and goal, recording sessions for musicians, a feminist magician performance, a downtown walking tour of artists' studios, a fashion show partnering sewists with artists, anatomical drawings to advocate mammograms. Jeremiah Smith, a new, young architect in town is brewing ideas for public art. Rhonda Jordan at Tabby Fabric & Studio has a big idea about to hatch, I don't want to give it away yet, but I will say she's a great idea bouncer-collaborator-small business owner. ARTworks curator Deanna Bowdish has ideas about freedom. JW Rone is collaborating with Andy Tate on turning a Lowcountry story into a play. "To do something I've written in the theater I built is exciting," he said.

Erika Pyle is hoping to direct a play at ARTworks in 2014, because "the team at ARTworks is supportive and open, and allows me the freedom I want as a director." She's investigating plays now, such as "Surviving Grace," about Alzheimer's and running now with Carol Burnett. Pyle feels "drawn to plays that bring social issues to the forefront and get people talking." She understands the relevance of health issues and works at Belfair Gardens, an independent living community.

"I love the intimate stage at ARTworks. For a topic such as this, the play will hit home more. I've been involved with ARTworks for four years now, and it's home," Pyle said.

One idea coming to fruition this month is "One for the Road" by actor-playwright and St. Helena Island resident Bill Patton. I asked him why he chose ARTworks as his stage.

"I love the layout, with the studios, it's a terrific thing, it's a working gallery. The show I'm doing is intimate," he said of his performance, subtitled "Lust vs. Love, Faith vs. Doubt, Racism vs. Freedom." "Intimate" is often used to describe ARTworks' 300-square-foot stage and 110 seats on a rake.

"Close to the audience. As an actor that is appealing to me," Patton said.

I asked Patton why he settled on St. Helena Island.

"I looked from Florida to Charleston, and this place is conducive to writing," he said.

Exactly. This art town and this "Slowcountry" pace are conducive to ideas, the way the estuary eco-system breeds our dinners and habitat and scenery.

Nov. 15 is the deadline for individual artists to apply for small grants from the South Carolina Arts Commission. The grants are funded in part by the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation, which means that private citizens chose to support the arts this way. Artists are funded up to $1,000, an empowering amount for "specific arts activities that promote individual artist's professional development or career advancement. Projects that promote excellence in an arts discipline and make such excellence accessible for general community-wide audiences are also encouraged." The application is short compared to most grants. The only flaw I see is that artists are reimbursed after the project is done, which is not especially helpful to the people who most need seed money to compete in our creative economy. But that's what fortitude is for, right? If November is too soon for you, the next deadline is Feb. 15: www.southcarolinaarts.com.

However an artist finds support, the luckiest are actually the audiences and collectors. I certainly prefer my part in a play to be a seat in the audience. "We enjoy theater very much," said Anita Mahoney, a practiced audience member at both University of South Carolina Beaufort Center for the Arts and ARTworks. "I always look forward to new productions."

Lisa Annelouise Rentz is the transmedia publicity leader for ARTworks, where she awaits feedback and discussion on any arts idea: 843-379-2787 and lisa@beaufortcountyarts.com.


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