Ever since native son Joseph Allen Smith began one of America’s first art collections in Charleston in the late 1700s, the Holy City has been fertile ground for visual artists.
For most visitors, the center of visual arts activity is in the French Quarter between South Market and Tradd Streets. Thirty galleries reside there within short walking distance, including: Charleston Renaissance Gallery (103 Church St., 843/723-0025, www.fineartsouth.com, Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.) specializing in 19th- and 20th-century oils and sculpture featuring artists from the American South, including some splendid pieces from the Charleston Renaissance; the city-funded City Gallery at Waterfront (34 Prioleau St., 843/958-6484, Tues.–Fri. 11 a.m.–6 p.m., Sat.–Sun. noon–5 p.m.); the Pink House Gallery (17 Chalmers St., 843/723-3608, http://pinkhousegallery.tripod.com, Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.), in the oldest tavern building in the South, circa 1694; Helena Fox Fine Art (12 Queen St., 843/723-0073, www.helenafoxfineart.com, Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.), dealing in 20th-century representational art; the Anne Worsham Richardson Birds Eye View Gallery (119-A Church St., 843/723-1276, Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.), home of South Carolina’s official painter of the state flower and state bird; and the more modern-oriented Robert Lange Studios (2 Queen St., 843/805-8052, www.robertlangestudios.com, daily 11 a.m.–5 p.m.).
The best way to experience the area is to go on one of the popular French Quarter ArtWalks (843/724-3424, www.frenchquarterarts.com), held the first Friday of March, May, October, and December between 5–8 p.m. and featuring lots of wine, food, and, of course, art. You can download a map at the website.
One of the most important single venues, the nonprofit Redux Contemporary Art Center (136 St. Philip St., 843/722-0697, www.reduxstudios.org, Wed.–Sat. noon–5 p.m.) features modernistic work in a variety of media, from illustration to video installation to blueprints to performance art to graffiti. Outreach is hugely important to this venture, including lecture series, classes, workshops, and internships.
Part art gallery, part artsy home goods store, Plum Elements (1611/2 King St., 843/727-3747, Mon.–Tues. and Fri.–Sat. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Wed. noon–6 p.m., Thurs. 10 a.m.–7 p.m.) is the labor of love of Andrea Schenck, who was inspired to open the shop by her time in Asia. The shop offers lots of absolutely unique gift items with an Eastern twist, plus there’s a bona fide art gallery in the adjacent space.
For a more modern take from local artists, check out the Sylvan Gallery (171 King St., 843/722-2172, www.thesylvangallery.com, Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.), which specializes in 20th- and 21st-century art and sculpture.
Right up the street and incorporating works from the estate of Charleston legend Elizabeth O’Neill Verner is Ann Long Fine Art (177 King St., 843/577-0447, www.annlongfineart.com, Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–5 p.m.), which seeks to combine the painterly aesthetic of the Old World with the edgy vision of the New.
Farther up King and specializing in original Audubon prints and antique botanical prints is The Audubon Gallery (190 King St., 843/853-1100, www.audubonart.com, Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.), the sister store of the Joel Oppenheimer Gallery in Chicago.
In the Upper King area is Gallery Chuma (43 John St., 843/722-7568, www.gallerychuma.com, Mon–Sat. 10 a.m.–6 p.m.), which specializes in the art of the Gullah people of the South Carolina coast. They do lots of cultural and educational events about Gullah culture as well as display art on the subject.
By far Charleston’s favorite art supply store is Artist & Craftsman Supply (434 King St., 843/579-0077, www.artistcraftsman.com, Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun. noon–5 p.m.), part of a well-regarded Maine-based chain. They cater to the pro as well as the dabbler, and have a fun children’s art section as well.
© Jim Morekis from Moon Charleston & Savannah, 4th Edition