“Come quick! Have found Heaven!” penned Alfred Hutty, in a letter back home to his wife. The artist had stumbled upon Charleston on his way to Florida in 1919, and it was the beginning of a love affair for Hutty and Charleston, who would stay, to make art and to begin an art school for the Carolina Art Association. His paintings and etchings, at the Gibbes Museum, reveal a hand with true mastery of line.
The Charleston Renaissance has traditionally been defined as the period between the World Wars, when the artists John Bennett, Josephine Pinckney, Beatrice Ravenel, DuBose Heyward, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, Alfred Hutty, Julia Peterkin, Laura Bragg, and Edwin A. Harleston wrote and painted and loved this place. They assisting in the rise of other national movements – such as historic preservation – as well as in recognizing African Americans in the arts. They ‘faced the tensions and contradictions of their time and place’ one writer noted. Charleston’s writing, art, and thought, according to Harlan Greene and James Hutchisson in their book Renaissance in Charleston (2003) had been considered pale and pallid, preoccupied with glorifying the Civil War, until now. The painting above is by Edward Hopper who simply visited the city in 1929 and painted her like he painted many others, with a sense of loneliness, and stark contrasts. She was a city of stark contrasts.
Today, the city is again enjoying a renaissance of art spirit, and artists continue to be drawn to her beauty and hospitality and art scene. Every summer, now, for 17 days, the Spoleto Festival USA fills Charleston, South Carolina’s historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces with over 120 performances by renowned artists as well as emerging performers in disciplines ranging from opera, theater, music theater, dance, and chamber, symphonic, choral, and jazz music, as well as the visual arts. Spoleto Festival USA has firmly established itself as one of the world’s major arts festivals, presenting over 100 world premieres and 93 American premieres since its inception in 1977….. Heaven! Come quick!