Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tis the Season

It's that Spoleto time of year again! For 10 days in late May/early June, the city is abuzz with all that the arts world has to offer - art shows in the park, dance performances at the Cistern (College of Charleston), concerts on the steps of the U.S. Custom House, chamber music in the churches and theater at the Dock Street Theater. These are but a few of the venues - there are dozens more. I remember when the festival began 35 years ago. Our mayor (still in office to this day) had hit upon a brilliant idea, borrowing from the European festival of the arts in Spoleto, Italy (outside of Rome). However, locals here were a bit skeptical. But after the first two years of operating in the red, the festival took off and has been a booming success every year since - bringing hundreds of performers and followers of the arts to the city. Piccolo (or little) Spoleto offers the chance for artists and performers on a less renowned scale to show off their stuff - and at a smaller ticket price (and sometimes for free). The "Charleston Renaissance," back in the 1920s and 30s, was a great time for artists in Charleston - with not only painters but performers, writers, and musicians bursting forth at a rather unlikely time, since the city was not yet the shining star that it is today. But out of that Renaissance came Porgy (and Bess), the dance the Charleston, the jazz of the Jenkins Orphanage Band, and painters such as Alice Smith, Anna Heyward Taylor and Edwin Harleston (to name but a few). So today's Spoleto USA could have found no better home than Charleston, and the arts remain alive and well here not only during early summer but all year long! Spoleto just gives us a reason to celebrate the art heritage of this city!

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