I met Lynn last summer on a trip to Venice for the Biennale.  During our time together, her questions and observations reminded me once again of the value of fresh eyes. Lynn has Ph.D in American Studies with a primary academic focus on early Southern American textiles and embroidery.  With this background, she brought a practiced eye and a lively curiosity but no preconceived notions about the merits of what we saw during our week at this premiere contemporary art world event.   This freshness of prospective in turn has led me to want to become better acquainted with her visual world which is as new to me as the contemporary art world was to Lynn last summer.  With that in mind, I have asked her to take us on a brief virtual tour of the art and architecture scene in Charleston, South Carolina.

Charleston, South Carolina boasts of having over 90 art galleries, which offer a broad diversity of genres from modern art to eighteenth-century paintings and sculpture to wearable art.  The city has evolved into quite the art scene, with much to offer a variety of collectors and connoisseurs from tranquil marsh scenes to thought-provoking portraits and modern interpretive art.

The two primary museums in the city are The Charleston Museum (360 Meeting Street) and  The Gibbes Museum (135 Meeting Street).  The Charleston Museum is American’s first museum, having been founded in 1773.  Its mission is to preserve and interpret the cultural and natural history of Charleston.  The Gibbes Museum houses a premier collection of over 10,000 works of fine art, principally American works, many of which have a connection to Charleston or the South.

One of the premier galleries of the American Southern art is the Renaissance Gallery.  It is located in the city’s historic district at 103 Church Street.  In fact, Renaissance is so well–located in relation to historic Charleston that time should be made to also visit a number of nearby historic homes and churches.  These include:

Joseph Manigault House (ca. 1800), 350 Meeting Street,
Nathaniel Russell House (ca. 1800), 51 Meeting Street,
St. Michael’s Church (ca. 1752), 71 Broad Street,
St. Philip’s Church (est. 1682, built 1836), 142 Church Street and
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Jewish Synagogue (est. 1740, built 1840), 90 Hasell Street.

For advance planning in anticipation of a Charleston sojourn, you may want to check out one or more of the following online resources.  Charleston Fine Art Dealers Association(CFADA), a consortium of galleries that have collaborated to bring attention to the contemporary local art scene.  Their website is also a great resource for current art happenings in the city. Other sites include The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Redux Contemporary Art Center and Ann Long Fine Art.

And finally, a tour that you simply must include if you have the ability to get out from town is a visit to Drayton Hall, which can be fairly said to be one of the country’s great architectural momnuments.  This historic home (ca. 1738) is the earliest fully executed Palladian structure in America.  Amazingly, the house remains unaltered with original architectural accents and no modern additions such as electricity and plumbing.  The house and surrounding estate provide a truly rewarding experience, whether you’re looking for a glimpse into our cultural history or inspiration for modern interpretations!

Image courtesy of The Charleston Renaissance Gallery


Near the Atchafalaya, 1881
Oil on canvas, 24 x 20 inches