THE WORD ON COLUMBIA ARTS JUL // AUG 2013 VOL. 002
A MessAge froM JAsper
on the cover ArtFields People’s Choice Winner Kirkland Smith by Cynthia Boiter
. Essay: Do You Shoot Porn? by Wade Sellers . Film and You, You and Film . Filming in Pairs—Three Columbia Filmmaking Couples by Wade Sellers with Susan Levi Wallach
CENT ER F OLD // MAT COTHRAN
centerfold Mat Cothran and the Chaotic Emotionalism of Columbia’s Bummer Rock Genius by Kyle Petersen
JA S P ER I S
Local Record Reviews by Kyle Petersen with Thomas Hammond
Cynthia Boiter // editor-in-chief W. Heyward Sims // design editor
Forrest Clonts // photography editor
Meet the Staff of Jasper Magazine
Ed Madden // literary arts editor Chris Robinson // visual arts editor
August Krickel // theatre editor
Curtain Up! with August Krickel
Kyle Petersen // music editor Bonnie Boiter-Jolley // dance editor
Kristine Hartvigsen // assistant editor
The Off-Season Season by Bonnie Boiter-Jolley
Susan Levi Wallach // staff writer William Garland // staff writer
JAsper tAkes notice
Kara Gunter // staff writer
Payton Frawley by Alex Smith
Alex Smith // staff writer Jonathan Sharpe // staff photographer
012 ON THE COVER
The Life and Times of the Columbia Music Festival Association
by August Krickel
CO N TRI BU TO RS Kendal Turner
. Interview – Columbia Author James Barilla on his new book
My Backyard Jungle by Cynthia Boiter
. Essay: In the Arms of the Columbia Poetry Scene by Kendal Turner . Poetry by Jonathan Butler and Neha Parthasarathy . Review – Seven Strong: A South Carolina Poetry Book Prize Reader, 2006-2012, edited by Kwame Dawes – by William Garland
Annie Boiter-Jolley // operations manager Dr. Robert B. Jolley, Jr., MD // publisher
Essay: Goodness, Opportunity, and Mediocrity by Chris Robinson
Thomas Hammond // staff photographer
022 JASPER screens Filming in Pairs
guest editoriAl Andy Smith on the Utility of the Arts
JA SPER ON THE WEB
j a s p e rc o l u m b i a . c o m f a c e b o o k . c o m / j a s p e rc o l u m b i a t w i t t e r. c o m / j a s p e r a d v i s e s j a s p e rc o l u m b i a . n e t / b l o g
A MESSAGE FROM JASPER
Dear Friends, made them do it. The friends and family who make up the staff of Jasper Magazine. I made them let us tell you their stories—who they are, where they come from, and the gifts they bring to the Jasper table. I thought the loyal readers of Jasper deserved to know the kind of folks who work selflessly and diligently to bring them the best coverage of the greater Columbia arts community in print. But I may be biased. With among them a total of 15 practicing artists, 7 academicians, 2 Emmy-nominations, a dozen some-odd Addys, decades of experience, and hundreds of published books and articles, not including those in Jasper, I’m proud to call these people my colleagues, contributors, and friends. No one gets rich working for Jasper. But for these folks, money has nothing to do with
their work. Their work is about pride and vision. They’re proud of the members of Columbia’s arts community and the contributions they make, and they believe that given the nurturance of patronage, attention, and critique, this community of inspired artists and arts lovers will continue to grow and, one day, maybe even prosper. To say it’s a labor of love may sound trite, but as clichés go, this one works perfectly this time. Our newest team member is film editor Wade Sellers. Like most of the staff, Wade grew up in and around Columbia and he’s witnessed the most recent renaissance in the local arts scene. And as a filmmaker—that’s right, someone who makes a living making films right here in Columbia, SC—Wade wants to make sure that the film arts are not only equally encouraged, but appreciated for the important part of the aesthetic landscape that they play. To that end, after consulting with our friends at the Nick and various other experts in the area, we’re happy to announce that the Jasper Magazine Second Act Film Festival will be held this fall. Stay tuned for more information about how you can be involved as an audience member or filmmaker yourself.
Jasper // as in Johns, the abstract expressionist, neo-Dadaist artist as in Sergeant, the Revolutionary War hero as in Mineral, the spotted or speckled stone as in Magazine, the Word on Columbia Arts
And speaking of film, you may notice that we made film something of a mini-theme for this issue with it cropping up several places throughout the magazine. We hope that, in so doing, we’ll be able to encourage you to bring the role of film in your daily lives to the forefront of your thoughts for a while. Not just what’s your favorite film, but why is it your favorite, for example? Who is that director who can make you laugh and cry—or feel naughty and nice—all at the same time? What great movie line can you repeat time and again even in your sleep—and why does it haunt you so? There is so much more to great film than car crashes and special effects. And there’s so much more to artists than the finished product—the dance, the painting, the composition, the photograph, the play, the written word. It’s our job here at Jasper to make sure you have the whole story about the arts and artists you love. We’re here to serve.
Jasper Magazine – www.jaspercolumbia.com – is dedicated to the promotion and support of Columbia, SC artists and arts lovers. Jasper Magazine is copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any manner without the publisher’s written consent. Jasper Magazine is a division of Muddy Ford Press, 1009 Muddy Ford Road, Chapin, SC 29036.
guITAR ART Launched in October of 2010, the Caroline Guitar Company is one of those odd, exciting niche companies which Columbia has the privilege of calling our own. Founded by Philippe Raymond Herndon, principal product designer and branding director, the company calls itself a “small batch distortery,” a clever description for the producer of boutique electric guitar pedals which have created a mini-buzz in the industry at-large. In addition to the many prominent local players who make use of his pedals, Herndon’s work also graces the stage of headline acts like Wilco, Gomez, and Toro y Moi, lending some serious credibility to the relatively small business. The principles the company lives by as a boutique, according to Herndon, are: the product must be American-made, hand-made, and easily serviceable. Caroline Guitar Company’s pedals—which there are now four of—fit this bill to a T. The serviceable part is clearly one of the biggest concerns for Herndon, who was originally inspired to start fiddling with pedals based on his collection of vintage pedals from the 60s and 70s which he bought used and broken and fixed up into usable status. “I would never had been able to afford [those pedals] at market rates, but I could buy them broken and then repair them because they are [so] serviceable,” he says. On that principle, Herndon began building pedals inspired by those vintage pedals he loves so much—first the Wave Cannon, a distortion pedal, followed by the Olympia booster (“based on the tone bender kind of stuff from the 60s and 70s”) and the Icarus buzz. Their latest effort, the digital delay Kilobyte, debuts this month in stores. Herndon, the face and personality behind the pedals, is a compelling mix of enthusiastic rock and roller sophisticate and detail-oriented technerd. In between mechanical jargon and industry talk, he casually quotes Malcolm Gladwell in one breath and champions the brilliance of latter-day Fast and Furious sequels films in the next. During the course of our interview, he takes time out to talk dog-washing strategies and a failed attempt to corral Free Times editor Dan Cook into joining his new musical project on bass, a group tentatively inspired by “Air and Midnight Vultures-era Beck.” And, of course, his passion for guitar pedals knows no bounds. “It feels great not to throw something away, but actually have something for a lifetime,” he insists. “It gets worn down and beat-up, and
THE ART AND APPLICATION OF ImPROV WITH VICky SAyE HENDERSON
also better and better.” He compares his products with the cheap alternatives at Best Buy with a simple analogy: “Yeah you can buy a suit for 60 dollars nowadays, but is that suit you would wear to your wedding?” The analogy speaks not only to the company’s dedication to quality, but also to their discerning style and sense of distinction. Caroline Guitar Company pedals are often given unique artwork or individualized writing and numbers, in part just to demonstrate that “someone put their heart and soul and craft into getting it exactly right.” The pedals themselves take between 1-2 focused hours to assemble, although the designing and implementation of that design can take much longer. Herndon estimates he spent 6-8 months working on the design of the Kilobyte, although he admits a digital delay is more complicated, with more moving parts, than a standard pedal. A more typical design period, he estimates, is 1-2 months. And setting aside the uniqueness of its creation or the novelty of locally-made guitar equipment, Herndon firmly believes that his company’s best-selling quality is their sense of sonic judgment in the construction of no-nonsense, easily-serviceably pedals. “I feel unbelievably confident that if you grab a Caroline pedal, and you grab another pedal—there is no way you can’t say that the Carolina pedal sounds good,” he asserts. “That’s the minimum. And, inevitably, a lot of times we get that ‘oh my god’ reaction.’” //KP
Vicky Saye Henderson has been leading classes and workshops in improvisation as an acting technique for much of the last decade. Now in her new position as director of education and outreach at Trustus Theatre, she is offering improv to the professional community as an innovative corporate training and team-building tool. Local theatres often get calls looking for outside-the-box training opportunities; Henderson found her first client when Workshop’s Paula Peterson referred an HR manager for the Target distribution center to her, saying “I just got this really weird request, and you were the first person I thought of.” She drew some inspiration for structure and presentation from an Atlanta-based company with which she worked on a training for USC staff, but went in her own direction, developing a multi-layered, interactive program which borrows from “the way artists work, which sets a premium on collaboration, and in which the tenets of improv easily cross-pollinate, and can be applied to real-world, every-day situations.” Her program for Target was a six-hour retreat for 40-plus employees, and involved dividing the participants into small teams, identifying specific needs, and then creating a program using the individual strengths within each team. Subsequent clients and topics have included SCANA (focusing on customer service), the Richland Library (innovative thinking), the Saluda Shoals Foundation board (personal empowerment in the context of fund raising), and Richland One School District theatre educators. Training can be a one hour session, a retreat for one day or one week, or even ongoing quarterly sessions. As teacher and facilitator, she feels she simply creates the laboratory, while participants create the solution. First Henderson identifies a clear objective with the client, then makes an initial visit to assess the participants in their own group environment. She makes an inventory of relevant history, past successes, challenges faced, the current culture of collaboration, and how this training will serve the bigger picture or goal. Following the event, there is an evaluation discussion with the planners. Henderson uses three tenets from Dan Diggles’ Improv for Actors: 1) Make your partner look good and feel smart, 2) “Yes, and...” i.e. agree with your partner, but then build on it, and 3) Train your brain to go with your gut, i.e. honor your intuitive reasoning. She notes “the world around us doesn’t Photo above by Thomas Hammond
Photo by Vicky Saye Henderson
world application within 24 hours. People find “how unintimidating and freeing the medium can be, how impacting the experience can be, and how easy it is to integrate it into other areas of your life.” She also leads a Teen Improv Explosion once a month, for younger actors. Up next is Improv for Non-Profit Leaders, focusing on communitybuilding and networking, as well as stress relief and decompression. Other programs in various stages of development include an adult playwriting class, an “Actors’ Library,” (i.e. an actor borrowing system, where Trustus company members can be made available for one-time events or programs) and an expanded array of youth programs and summer camps. For information on these or any outreach or education programs offered, Henderson can be reached at email@example.com. //AK
encourage the principles of collaboration,” whereas in a stage/acting context, one can’t “beat” the other person—two partners have to create something on stage together, which fails if either one looks better than the other. “Since we are small,” Henderson says, “we’re told not to do or say the first thing that comes to mind, and so we think about too many possibilities.” Instead participants are encouraged to go with their gut instinct. Ultimately, improv is “the power of two, not one,” in other words, the most quintessential of team-building, out of necessity. In fact, ReWired, Henderson’s improv comedy group for young people which just finished its sixth year at Workshop Theatre, derives its name from her realization that “it takes time to rewire your brain,” to work in concert with others. She enjoys one description of her process from a participant which described the process as, “inviting you across the threshold of your own discomfort.” Henderson feels that “improv is both a what and a how—both a product and a process. It’s a versatile vehicle through which we can explore and learn about almost any topic. It is the immediate art of possibility.” With Target, she first asked, “what has frustrated you in the past?” The answer was that training doesn’t stick and, in fact, employees’ feedback reveals that they hate being lectured to. “They want training that is engaging, interesting and relevant,” she explains, and “improv and theatre arts are mediums that lend themselves very readily to putting learning in the muscles,” allowing participants to get on their feet and move. She feels that learning should be fun. “It’s more productive that way.” In her sessions, “people and their gifts are validated. Quite often the most relevant points of wisdom stem from the participants and are created in moments of joint discovery.” Having offered these classes for some five years on her own, Henderson is now bringing them under the umbrella of services and partnership offerings that Trustus hopes to make available to the community. She has also started the Night Owl Improvisation Series, offered every Tuesday (a traditionally “dark” night for actors in shows.) One of the goals/assignments is to find a real
THE HIDDEN ART OF J. BARDIN A mention of the South Carolina artist J. Bardin likely conjures images of expressively abstract paintings aglow in washes of saturated hues, serenely energetic shape and line, dappled light and mysterious shadows—paintings rooted firmly in the post WWII New York art scene. We’re relatively familiar with Bardin’s work here in South Carolina—or at least, we think we are. A small exhibition in the Walker Local and Family History Center at the Richland County Library called The Hidden Art of J. Bardin may just challenge that. J. Bardin was born in Elloree, SC in 1923. He studied at the University of South Carolina with help from the G.I. Bill, and shortly after divorcing his first wife (with whom he had a son), Bardin made his way to New York and continued his studies at the Art Students League. There, working alongside life-long friend Jasper Johns,
his work would undergo a major evolution becoming what we’re familiar with today. He showed his work extensively, traveled, and earned international recognition. He enjoyed living in New York and would have stayed, but a budding romance with the lead ballerina of Radio City Music Hall, native South Carolinian Ann Brodie, brought the couple back to South Carolina where they married and had two children together. Bardin taught art at Eau Claire High School, the University of South Carolina. Along with fellow artist Catherine Rembert, he helped establish the Richland Art School in association with the Columbia Museum of Art. Bardin lived out the rest of his life as an active artist and teacher until his death 1997. According to a column by Bill McDonald published in The State paper shortly after Bardin’s death, it was said by friends and critics that if Bardin had stayed in New York, he would have been able to claim his rightful spot among his more famous peers of that era. It’s likely there were those who questioned Bardin’s choice to come back South. After all, the South has never been known by outsiders as a cultural hotspot; however, whatever the South is lacking in apparent sophistication, it makes up for in inspiration. Judging by Bardin’s early work, he does seem to have found a muse in the rural landscapes of SC, among its people, and the burgeoning industry of Columbia. His sketchbooks, which are on display at the library, are full of pencil, ink, charcoal, and watercolor explorations of everything from farmhouses to market scenes. In one sketchbook, we find figure studies of a man leaning against a table, and further investigations of his hand. Bardin decided to develop this particular sketch, and we’re fortunate enough to have the finished drawing of the down-and-out fellow, slumped across a table to which to compare it. One of the most compelling pieces included in the exhibition is an ardent pencil drawing of a young African-American boy holding an
American History textbook in the crook of his arm, with a rural homestead rolling out behind him. Was this a real child? Was Bardin making a political or social statement? We don’t know for sure, but it’s a poignant image, nonetheless, when we put the image into the historical context of the 1940s American South. Many of these early Bardin works act as quick snapshots of SC during the period, as well as a cursory exploration of art movements of the era. A painting by Bardin that looks as if it could have been inspired by the work of Jacob Lawrence and his take on Cubism, depicts one of Columbia’s Pacific Mills’ buildings. Bardin didn’t record the date on any of these works, but there are several paintings included in the exhibition that appear to bridge the time between these very early drawings and the later style that he became so well known for. These paintings are interesting in that we can see his seeming fascination with light. His later works possess a luminescent quality, and these early paintings allow us to see the evolution to those more confident, other-worldly compositions. The exhibition is small but well worth seeing, as the works were hand-picked by the curator, Debra Bloom, and J. Bardin’s youngest son, Philip Bardin. Until now, not many people have seen these pieces outside of the Bardin family. The Hidden Art of J. Bardin is an intimate look into the artist’s past and his evolution, and just might change your mind about what you thought you knew about one of SC’s most well-known artists. See the work until September 6th, from 9 AM-9PM Monday through Thursday, 9AM6PM Friday and Saturday, and 2PM-6PM on Sundays. //KG
CINEPHILIA A group of cinephiles gather in the Skyline Room, the back performance space at the Tapp’s Arts Center. A video projector warms up, the lights dim and the gathered people sit and wait for the film Bradley Powell has selected for them to see. It’s the second Thursday of the month and the latest installment of the P.O.V. Film Series is about to begin.
The P.O.V. (Point of View) Film Series started three years ago in Columbia. Powell and a group of self-described “film-buff” friends gathered in various living rooms across the city, ate pot luck, watched, and discussed films. From the beginning, the screenings have been an eclectic mix of films, showcasing selections from art house underground cinema to mainstream flicks. Powell, the curator of the monthly screenings, believes that film is an integral part of the arts community and that P.O.V. plays a role in that community. “We want our audience to grow into connoisseurs (of cinema),” Powell explains. With the P.O.V. Film Series there is a push to help the audience mature and understand the rich tradition and legacy of films and filmmaking. There are a core group of attendees, but as the series has grown the audiences have become more diverse, and the discussion after the film is as important as the film itself. “Film is a vehicle in which we can talk about the matters of the day,” says Powell, noting that the diverse mix of P.O.V. audiences shows that “film touches everyone’s life.” And over the run of the series, he has found that the post screening discussions have tended to take on a life of their own. At a recent screening of La Belle et la Bete (Beauty and the Beast, Jean Cocteau, France 1946), the dialogue shifted towards myth and fairytale and if they have any place in today’s society. After two years of bouncing monthly from living room to living room, the series organizers decided it was time to expand. Attendance was growing, space was becoming crowded and there was an opportunity to appeal to a larger group of cinephiles in Columbia. Powell approached the Tapp’s Arts Center about moving the series to a larger, permanent location. The response was a bit of a surprise. “There seemed to be an element of Kismet,” Powell says. The downtown arts center was looking to partner with a film series and in March of this year P.O.V. had a new home. Brenda Schwarz, director of the downtown arts center, is thrilled to have Powell and the film series meet at Tapp’s. “It helps Tapp’s achieve our mission of diverse programming. P.O.V. brings in a new audience each month that are able to not only to learn from the film series, but to discover what other local artists are creating here.” Powell sees community as a key component to continued growth of the group. “The P.O.V. Film Series can serve as a mechanism to bring local filmmakers and film lovers together,” he states. Plans are being made to reach out to local filmmakers to screen their short films prior to a given month’s feature screening and give them the opportunity to dialogue with the audience about their film—a rare opportunity. “You can’t make (a film) if you’re not knowledgeable about your craft,” Powell states. He wants to bridge that gap in Columbia. There’s less pot luck at the P.O.V. Film Series these days and audiences are growing and are diverse than they have ever been. No matter the makeup of the monthly audience Powell recognizes a commonality between all attendees; a shared love for film and a desire to learn through cinema. It is not guaranteed that everyone will like every film, but Powell and his
partners in the series hope that everyone will be able to find something that, over the course of time, enriches their understanding of themselves and the world around them. //WS
LATINO FOLk ART REDux “The monster is in there. I’m just bringing him out.” That’s how Ivan Segura describes his folk art figures made from found wood. Although, as a writer, he considers short stories his primary art form, in 2011 he began making folk art sculptures from found pieces of wood, painted in bright primary colors to represent fantastical, usually hybrid creatures. Originally from Mexico, Segura calls his work “yardebrijes,” alluding to the Mexican folk art tradition of alebrijes (pronounced a-le-bree-hes). Alebrijies are folk art figures made of papiermâché or carved wood, representing dream or nightmare animals, often combinations of known animals. Like the alebrijes, Segura’s yardebrijes are unreal animals, but unlike the traditional artform, his works rely on found objects with minimal or no modifications beyond the painting and, in some earlier works, the addition of spines or small wings. Segura says he wants to remain true to the tradition in his use of bright colors and the focus on magical animals, but he insists that respect
Photo by Forrest Clonts
for the integrity of the object’s shape is a fundamental element of his process, a combination of imagination and constraint. “It’s not like a canvas,” he explains. He refuses to cut or alter the wood, instead drawing out the creature he senses in the wood’s shape. He does treat the wood, he says, spraying it for insects (something his wife insisted on), but he seems delighted that one of the yardebrijes in his house has started growing mushrooms. “It’s really alive,” he laughs. He’s always looking for the right wood now, he says, particularly when jogging. One large piece of wood on one of his regular jogging trails intrigued him for weeks. “When I saw him, I saw the face and the mouth and even the colors,” he says. (As if already aware of the creature’s personality, he refers to the wood as “him,” not “it.”) Segura’s daughters help him—Sophia suggesting colors he should use, Maya naming them. They all have names, many designating hybrid creatures: Panda-Bat, Pescapollo (Chickenfish), Giraffiguana, Gusaraña (Spiderworm). One favorite, an evocation of the Mayan feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl, Maya renamed “Twisty Blue Snake.” (The title stuck.) Although Segura’s work has been distributed locally mostly through friends and private sales, Palmetto & Luna, a South Carolina organization promoting Latino arts and
culture, recently donated a large sculpture, “Draguar,” to Riverbanks Botanical Gardens. Created from an uprooted tree, the sculpture is, as the title suggests, a combination of dragon and jaguar. Even though the yardebrijes pay tribute to the alebrijes tradition, Segura says there are broader cultural influences. The intensity of color and macabre imagery, he says, remind him of his Mexican Catholic upbringing, “with all the dogmas and rituals.” Not just the Day of the Dead but also the imagery of the saints he says—noting in particular the grotesque images of Saint Lucy, who plucked her eyes out and is portrayed offering them on a silver tray. “When you grow up with this imagery,” he explains, the macabre seems normal. Segura also says that he hopes the yardebrijes are provocative. “I want a reaction,” he says, “not ‘oh what a beautiful work’ but ‘what the hell is that?’” He also hopes the yardebrijes push other people to be creative. A workforce development specialist by day, he helps people find jobs, but when it comes to creative work, he argues for the importance of engaging amateurs and pushing people to find creative outlets. “I’m always trying to push people to do something different,” he says. “You don’t have to be a professional,” he laughs. “Just pick up a stick.” //EM
july / august 2013
Wade Sellers coralee harris Cindy patterson Forbes patterson Journeyman Jennifer Phelps william fick Katie Fox Diane Hare Toni Elkins Lauren & Robert Michalski Doni Jordan Manita & Charles Craft William Schmidt localhappiness.net Ceille Baird Welch Philip Mullen Kay and Jim Thigpen
Russ & Jeannie Eidson Nancy Pope & John Watkins Marcia Watkins Laurie & Duncan McIntosh William Starrett Sheila Morris Charles H. Lesser Joseph Counts Tracie Broom Alvin Neal Trace Ballou Janna McMahan Dick Moons Easter Antiques Margey Bolen Melinda Cotton Robert Coffee C. Hope Clark Wentworth Tradd Watermark Hypnosis
Nancy Kauffman Todd Mathis Giselle Woods Elena Martinez-Vidal Erin Bolshakov Anna Shaw Legare Cindy Roddey Sean â€œThat Godzilla Guyâ€? McGuiness B. A. Hohman Joe Morales Raia Jane Hirsch Grace Aguila Wild Blue Sky Robin Gottlieb Lizzie Gilliam Wrenn Nancy Marine Ladybug Art Studios Ron Hagell
yOu’RE iNviTEd TO bEcOME A MEMbER OF
ThE JASPER Guild iS A GROuP OF ARTiSTS ANd ARTS PATRONS whO ShARE JASPER’S MiSSiON OF bRiNGiNG ARTiSTS FROM diFFERENT diSciPliNES TOGEThER FOR iNSPiRATiON ANd cOMMuNiTy GROwTh; MAkiNG ARTiSTS MORE viSiblE TO ONE ANOThER ANd ThE cOMMuNiTy AT lARGE; ANd MAkiNG ART A MORE iNTEGRAl PART OF ThE livES OF PEOPlE iN ThE cOluMbiA MidlANdS. wE’d likE TO OFFER yOu ThE OPPORTuNiTy TO bEcOME EvEN MORE iNvOlvEd — ThE chANcE TO OPEN uP ThE NExT iSSuE OF JASPER ANd bE AblE TO SAy OuT lOud,
// AppReNTiCe 1 year delivery of Jasper Magazine to your home & your name listed in Jasper Magazine for 1 year $50
// JOuRNeyMAN All the above + your name in print in LARGE LETTERS & a copy of Jasper Reads: Download, a book of slightly naughty poetry edited by Ed Madden & a signed copy of Cindi Boiter’s new book, Buttered Biscuits: Short Stories from the South $100
// MAsTeR MAsTeR All the above + a non-transferable laminated Econobar PASS good for 1 year $250
// CeNTeRfOld* spONsORsHip All the above + your name or dedication printed on the centerfold (6 available per year) $500 *Centerfolds chosen by Jasper Magazine editorial staff
// ARTisT peeR Practicing artists in dance, theatre, music, visual arts, film, & literary arts are invited to join The Jasper Guild at a reduced rate & see your name in Jasper Magazine for 1 year $25
ON THE COVER
A Profile by Cynthia Boiter Photos by Jonathan Sharpe
ometimes from the outside, it looks as if the spouses of prominent people, like Representative James Smith of SC district 72, have it made. He’s a big shot attorney and politician; she probably spends her days flitting from garden clubs and coffee klatches to lunching with the ladies and planning various soirées and fêtes. But Columbia artist and winner of the 2013 ArtFields People’s Choice Award Kirkland Smith probably wouldn’t be interested in that life even if she could have it. There’s too much person in the person of Kirkland Smith. Artist. Parent. Political spouse. Environmentalist. Devout Christian. More. And it is her determination and dedication to each person that she is that allows her to pull off the multifaceted life she leads so well— and so successfully. It isn’t easy—it hasn’t been easy. But she works hard and she’s good at it. Kirkland Thomas Smith grew up in Mt.Pleasant, SC where she spent her summers crabbing in her backyard along Molasses Creek. A beach baby, she still has the salt-of-the-marsh and the sea in her blood. After attending the summer program of the SC Governor’s School for the Arts in high school, Smith went on to USC where she studied under professors Randy Mack, Harry Hansen, Chris Robinson, and Philip Mullen. A natural at portrait artistry, Smith credits Mullen with freeing her from some of her own self-imposed limitations by requiring that she not rely on her affinity for portraiture but, instead, break into new artistic territory. Having graduated from USC in 1990, the next year Smith married her long-time boyfriend James and the couple soon began to grow not just a family, but a political career for James, as well. Kirkland Smith, the artist, was still a part of the woman Smith was, albeit a part that the artist admits to sometimes neglecting. By 1996, Smith was the mother of Emerson and Thomas, born three years apart, with James running for and winning a house seat when Thomas was only five weeks old. “James left Nelson Mullins when he won the house seat—some of his partners were lobbyists and he wanted to avoid a conflict of interest—and started his own prac-
tice. I stayed home with the kids,” Smith smiles. “It was a struggle, but I guess love was enough back then.” Another son, Paul, was born in 2001 and, 16 months later, daughter Shannon came along. “When I had her I felt done,” Smith says. “The family was complete.” Had it not been for About Face, a small group of Columbia artists intent upon improving their skills via regularly scheduled figure drawing sessions, Smith might have lost herself in parenting rather than continuing her development as an artist. “When Emerson was a baby I found About Face and I went every Wednesday night religiously. It was a time to be social and a time for the artist that was inside me,” Smith says. Crediting local artist David Phillips with keeping the group together through a number of trials and relocations, Smith left the group after son Thomas was born only to return a year later and recognize how much improvement could be measured in the other members over the time she had been gone. “I said that I was never leaving again,” she recalls, noting that About Face continues to be “the best thing I do for my art.” With the work of an artist and the work of a parent often being at odds, Smith set about painting when the kids were in school and briefly sharing a studio with her mother, artist Martha Thomas. But in 2001, after the attack on New York’s World Trade Center, her husband shared a personal calling with her that she believed she should support. A Judge Advocate General in the Army Reserve, Representative Smith believed he would soon be called up to war but, rather than serving as an attorney, he wanted to serve in the infantry. To do so required that he begin his armed forces career over again with the basic training of an enlisted soldier. “This was his dream,” Smith says, “and I wanted to support him, but I also wanted to pursue my own goals.” The trick was in figuring out how. Smith turned to a well-known self-help creativity program designed by Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Guide to Higher Creativity, gathering eight other artist friends to complete the 12-week course with her. “I was ready to get back to art,” Smith says. “I knew James was going to be deployed eventually so I came up with the idea of going to France to study art. My mom had studied art in France for a year so it was at the back of my mind. I realized that I had always wanted to study classical realism and I knew I only had a limited amount of time and money.” The artist began looking around SC for an appropriate educational situation but couldn’t find anything. “I found something in Asheville but I would have to move. If I was going to move to Asheville I could move anywhere.” That’s when Smith discovered the Studio Escalier, a small international school in the southwest of France in a tiny village called Argenton-Chateau, just about an hour from the nearest train station in Angers. “There was one restaurant, one bar, a bakery, and a small grocery,” Smith says, “but it was the perfect place.” Smith knew she wouldn’t want to apply to the school until she knew when her husband would be deployed so she started “squirreling away money,” finishing up all the commission work to which she had agreed, and building her portfolio
readying it for the application process. “I didn’t even know if I could get in or if I could afford to go,” she admits. “I felt like doors opened for me and all I had to do was be brave enough to go through them.” Emerson, the Smith’s oldest son was 13 and their daughter Shannon was 4 in 2007 when Representative Smith was eventually deployed to Afghanistan as an embedded team trainer working with the local police. Having been admitted to the program at Studio Escalier, Smith packed up her four children and her mother and the family took their temporary leave of Columbia for France. Today, Smith has nothing but fond memories of the time there spent not only studying with Michelle Tully and Timothy Stotz of the Studio Escalier, but also simply of being a part, although temporarily, of the village of Argenton-Chateau. “Few villagers spoke English and there was no Internet or TV. The kids were in school until 5 pm every day and I was in school until 6. We would often take dinner out in the garden where the kids would put on a show to entertain one another.” When the artist and children returned home from France it was just six months before Representative Smith rejoined them. (The family had also reunited for a two-week visit in France near Christmas.) “I came home and was ready to work,” Smith says, explaining that the first thing she did was an environmental art piece. “That’s where I found the abstract edge to my work.” An intellectual and environmentalist, as well as an artist, Smith decided to combine these three parts of her life into her next project, asking her friends if they would collect and donate to her the plastics they would typically dispose of for one week. Her first assemblage project was the portrait of a child that she titled, “Inheritance.” (An assemblage in the visual arts is a two or three-dimensional piece typically created out of found objects.) The title “Inheritance” suggests the question of what we, as a culture, are leaving our children via trash and other discarded objects. “I feel like one thing we can do as artists is ask questions and start a dialogue,” she says. “We just keep producing more and more things. I have to ask, ‘what price convenience?’ We have to think about the impact consumerism has on the world.” Smith was determined to expand her original project into a greater body of work. In explaining her process Smith says that she uses photography as a tool, but she doesn’t copy the photo, instead she often uses a grid that is guided by the photograph. “It’s really like painting but instead of a brush stroke of color I try to find similar color values in post-consumer objects. If I don’t have a specific color I will place objects together to create a sense of the color.” At this point she has created about 20 different assemblage pieces, in addition to her regular painting and portraiture. Some of her assemblages have
been posthumous commissions in which the objects that symbolized the deceased’s life are used to create their portrait. It took three years to amass the art for her first assemblage show in 2011. In May of 2013, Smith learned she had been awarded the first ever ArtFields People’s Choice Award for her assemblage titled “Steve Jobs”— except that she wasn’t the first person to be presented the prize. Originally given to John Cooper for his oil on canvas “Warsaw Ghetto 1943”, Cooper’s prize was revoked after it was determined to be ineligible. Smith was the next in line for the $25,000 award. Smith had finished the piece on Jobs, the late Apple co-founder and CEO, in February after months of collecting the discarded or no-longer-usable Apple products used exclusively to assemble the piece. “After reading Walter Isaacson’s 2011 book about Steve Jobs I was inspired by Jobs’ ability to inspire others,” she explains. “Each of his products is a little masterpiece—assemblages were a huge part of his work. I wanted to pay homage to him and the way he influenced me.” Clearly, the inspiration ripple is still growing given the awarding of the People’s Choice prize for the piece. And Smith likes this. “It’s a way to start the dialogue,” she says. “There is a lot of power to communicate in the arts. The question is what do you want to say?”
DO YOU SHOOT PORN?
An Essay by Wade Sellers know when the question is about to be asked. I sense it like a sneeze coming on. “Do you shoot porn?” I’ve been asked this question many times over the years. It would come up at a party or some event, meeting someone new, and we were introducing ourselves. “So Wade, what do you do?” they would say. “Umm, I’m a filmmaker.” I would respond. “Oh yeah, anything I’ve seen?” The conversation would go on for a minute until there was a sense of mutual comfort. Then out it came. I’ve never been bothered by the question. It’s most always asked in fun, but a few times it felt like there was a little more there. My answer was, and still is, no. Not an emphatic, insulted “No!”, just a simple “nah” with a smile. The common thread in being asked this question is that it’s never come up when I’ve worked in larger cities, just here, in Columbia. As I have progressed with my career, and I am thankful every day I can use the word progressed, I have begun to wonder why I’ve only been asked this question locally. Before I go further I should mention that another question has reared its head in the past few years and taken the lead in the follow up category. “So Wade, what do you do?” they ask. “I’m a filmmaker.” I respond. Silent pause then— “Oh really, you can do that here?” A bigger pause as I silently nod my head. “For a living?”
There is usually a perplexed look on their face then the question comes out. I can see wheels spinning in their head. When I watched movies as a child the thought of actually making films for a living never entered into my mind. It wasn’t until high school when the idea even became slightly tangible. If I had given it some thought it would’ve made sense that someone had to actually come up with an idea and a group of people would have to show up and actually set up a camera, build sets, etc. But I preferred the magic of film. I didn’t want to know how they were made, just that they were there for me to watch and absorb. My first experience on a set was in downtown Atlanta, when I talked my way past a security guard to watch a crew shoot second unit footage for a TV show. The experience overwhelmed me. I felt comfortable. I knew that this was where I wanted to work, somehow. The next day I was frightened because I felt I was years behind in the whole process, but if I was going to start working on films, especially my own, I needed to get moving. “For a living?” Fast forward many years and I answer the question “Yes” in a way that, I hope, comes out as confident and surprised as it does to answer the question in the positive. I don’t make big screen films. I make small films and documentaries. But I do produce and direct them, and more often than not edit them too. Many years went by where it could be said I sabotaged my other career of working on movies as a gaffer and cinematographer, to make my own. But this is where I knew I was headed. I was living in New York City, but chose to move back to Columbia after a series of flukey circumstances brought me back for work. I never left and haven’t regretted it for a day since. For me it is not about the place I work. It is not about the scope of the project. It is about creating it. Where that takes place has no bearing on what I do. Plus, to be honest, it’s much easier to make a movie in Columbia than most places. Navigating the production waters of the state are much more agreeable than many other areas. And, I’ll admit it, I just love living here. All in all it makes sense that one wonders how in God’s name someone can make a living as a filmmaker in Columbia. There has been the occasional Hollywood moving taking over the streets, but we haven’t been exposed to it or, as some would say “poisoned,” like Wilmington, Charlotte or Atlanta have. There is no highly recognizable independent film scene in town. I’ve been involved in independent filmmaking in Columbia
since 1995 as a filmmaker. There are great indie filmmakers living here who have gained high recognition nationally—such as Steve Daniel—and some great documentarians—such as Lee Ann Kornegay and Laura Kissell—who for the most part have gained little to no recognition for their work locally. I’ve seen extremely talented students come through USC’s Media Arts department and move on to bigger cities. I encourage that. Hell, I did it. But I want them to leave our city with a taste of why filmmaking is different, and in my opinion better, here than out there. This wasn’t the case ten years, even five years ago. A little more than decade ago there were the seeds of a promising young indie film scene happening here in Columbia. The problem was that it was a bit difficult getting people out to support your work. Now I feel that it is the opposite. After this year’s Indie Grits festival I couldn’t stop thinking about how the years of work and effort by so many to grow support for the film arts in Columbia is beginning to pay off in noticeable ways. So, I feel, it’s time we turn our attention to the local filmmaker and what part they play in our community. And I want to help with that. For this issue of Jasper, I wanted to showcase three filmmaking couples that are an integral part of the filmmaking community in the area. Chris White and his wife Emily Reach-White are the founders of Paris MTN Scout, an independent film production company. Their past two feature films Taken In and Get Better have received much attention for their refreshing approach to storytelling. Tim and Lorie Gardner are the owners of Mad Monkey. Mad Monkey is a commercial/film production company based in Columbia and from inside their walls they produce some of the highest quality broadcast media in the country. Tim and Lorie are deeply rooted in Columbia and are fierce supporters of indie film in our city. And last we feature Brian and Jocelyn Rish. This brother/sister combo and producer/writer team have received two grants from the SC Production Fund to produce two films. They are Navy brats who settled in the area after their father retired. The siblings are highly enthusiastic new filmmakers who have a bright future in indie film. As film editor for Jasper, it is my hope to inform, educate, and entertain with stories about filmmakers, films, and all things indie film related in our area. It is my passion and my livelihood and I look forward to sharing what makes me straighten up and be pleasantly surprised when I answer “Yes, I do make a living as a filmmaker here.”
You and Film – Film and You By Cynthia Boiter
“Certain things leave you in your life and certain things stay with you. And that’s why we’re all interested in movies—those ones that make you feel, you still think about. Because it gave you such an emotional response, it’s actually part of your emotional make-up, in a way.” // Tim Burton
Film connects us as a culture. It
the next time conver-
helps us define the good, the bad,
sation lags around
and the ugly. (See what I did there?)
the dinner table or
The film arts work as building blocks
of our shared constructions of reality.
the bar. Just bring up
Whether we love a film or hate a di-
the subject of film. Movies. Has any-
rector or can’t get a scene out of our
body seen (insert latest blockbuster/
minds—(no one ever forgets the eye-
indie flick/flat-out bomb title here)?
ball scene from Un Chien Andalou)—
Or, recall a favorite scene from a film.
film gives us a common vocabulary.
Remember the overhead camera shot in the final scene of Taxi Driver?
Jasper asked a handful of Columbia
What exactly is it that they call Quar-
folks to talk about some of the ways
ter Pounders in France? Or, return
film has influenced them. Here’s what
from the toilet to report that there is
they had to say. What would your re-
a spider in the bathroom the size of a
Buick. Or, offer up a simple quote. I’ll have what she’s having. Careful man, there’s a beverage here. I love the smell of Napalm in the morning. One word, Benjamin—plastics. Stella!
Director, USC Opera
Creative Principal, The Half and Half
Vice President, Recruitment City Center Partnership
If you could only watch one film over and over again for the rest of your life, what film would you choose and why?
Bull Durham. It makes me laugh and cry and takes me out of myself – which all good theatre should do – film or live.
What film changed your life and how did it happen?
Lina Wertmüller’s 1974 Travolti da un insolito destino nell’azzurro mare d’agosto (or Swept Away). This movie let me realize the very true fact that we’re all just along for the ride, pushed around by one another’s unwielding whims.
“Everything I learned I learned from the movies.” // Audrey Hepburn
What is your guilty pleasure film?
Top Gun. Hands down. If I see it when I’m scrolling through the TV, that’s the channel I turn to. Every single time.
Director of Media Education Nickelodeon Theatre
Who is your favorite film director and why?
Who is your favorite film director and why?
It’s a tie between Spike Lee’s use of the camera to tell the story and Ridley Scott’s “camera’s everywhere” style.
One of my favorite film directors is Ingmar Bergman. I appreciate the minimalism and the cleanness of his scenes, shots and stories. I always thought of him as the European Kurosawa; his ability to capture the viewers’ attention and deliver powerful messages via simplistic means of black and white imagery.
Leslie Pierce Associate Director of Public Programs and Community Relations Columbia Museum of Art
If you could only watch one film over and over again for the rest of your life, what film would you choose and why?
Easy, Little Dorrit, the 1988 film version. I have watched it every year as my birthday treat to myself for the past maybe 18 years. I watched it on VHS until that was falling apart and actually called the company in England in a panic because I couldn’t get a DVD copy of it. They sent me one and now I can even stream it on Netflix if I like.
I have always thought of film production as summer camp for adults. Crews are brought together for a set amount of time and dive right into why they are there. There’s usually a good friend or two with you, some you haven’t seen in a while, strangers that you get to know all too intimately over the course of your allotted time on set. When production is over you say you’re going to stay in touch, but you rarely do. Then, on the next job, you see a selection of familiar faces and it all begins again. Some jobs you like more than others. But the really good ones usually have one thing in common, great camp counselors. Or in the case of film and commercial production, great people at the top—the producers, directors, and writers. Film and commercial production is a stressful business. It’s a roller coaster ride of financial and emotional stress. I’ve never understood how creative and personal relationships survive this ride, especially when both partners are involved in the production together. The three filmmaking couples that are profiled in this issue not only love that roller coaster ride, they thrive on it. On set, all three serve as those camp counselors. They all have a strong body of work that spans a wide area of production. Also, all three couldn’t take a more varied approach to their craft. The one common theme among them is their love for what they do, and their love for each other. //WS 022
Tim Gardner and Lorrie Gardner Photo by Jonathan Sharpe
Tim Gardner & Lorie Gardner t’s a fabulously spring-like Friday with more than a hint of Columbia’s famously hot weather on the way, and Mad Monkey’s Tim Gardner is in a sweat: he and Lorie Gardner, his business partner and wife, are in the midst of moving their office from the Lady Street site they’ve occupied since 2005 to a building on Main Street, on the edge of the golden quadrangle anchored by Tapps, the Columbia Museum of Art, Paradise Ice, and Mac’s on Main. Though the new location is on its way to being state of the film-production art, right now it reeks of polyurethane and the air-conditioning is off. Compounding the stress of the move is the fact that Mad Monkey has in thirteen years grown from three people with some editing equipment, and the crazy idea that Columbia would be a neat place to start a fullservice film-production company into one of the Southeast’s Creative Forces to be Reckoned With. To hell with Hollywood. “When we decided to do this, there were only a handful of people who thought it would work,” Tim says.“I think that handful was you and me,” Lorie adds. “Who would come to Columbia?” They would: Lorie from Philadelphia; Tim, who grew up in Columbia (Jim Thigpen was his drama teacher in high school), returning for family reasons from Los Angeles.
“I was a copywriter at an ad agency in Philadelphia and I was on set for several commercials I’d written and I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s what I want to do,’” Lorie says. “I hated letting go of my idea and seeing the production company turn it into something that was not my vision. I decided, I’m leaving Philly and I want to be a producer. I started looking for jobs. A company here was crazy enough to hire someone who didn’t really know what they were doing. I came down and taught myself how to edit, how to produce. It was trial by fire I wound up managing a production company. I never thought I’d stay in Columbia, SC. I figured I’d leverage this.” Then, in 1999, she met Tim. Or, as she admits, pursued Tim. “I saw two things that Tim directed and thought who is this guy? I want to work with him. I asked him to direct something for me. It was such a huge departure to work with him, because he was so interested in the story. Not that other directors weren’t, but with Tim the story came first, versus jumping to actors and locations. I kept hiring him to direct things.” Which suited Tim just fine. While in LA, he completed a Master of Fine Arts at the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television. “They were melding the film and television school with the theatre school. It was a cross-discipline approach. That was where I really started focusing on who I was going to be in the industry and what I was going to do. I wanted to work in all three industries. It was fate that Lorie and I met. There was nothing here like what we do till we started doing it.” Mad Monkey got its start in a parking lot on Friday the Thirteenth of October, 2000. Lorie was developing business plans for the production company she worked for, bouncing her ideas off Tim. “And Tim said, why are you so interested in making money for someone else—why don’t you open your own production company? I said, OK, if you do it with me. He said yeah. That was my first lesson: Don’t call Tim Gardner’s bluff, ever.” Their concept was a one-stop shop, a fullservice production setup where the three partners—the mix included a third partner, David Johnson, doing animation and motion graphics—did everything from scripting and design to live-action shoots to special effects. It was a model difficult to sustain. To up the challenge of founding a company, Lorie and Tim got married a few weeks later. “To be honest, that’s how it is with Tim,” Lorie says. “There is this energy force field around
him. You have to be careful about saying; I wish we could do this kind of project, because it’s in motion before you know it. I used to think I was crazy till I married Tim.” Apparently, everything is relative. “She’s the reasonable one,” Tim says. “I mean that in the best way.” Marriage being the tricky thing that it is even without figuring in twenty-four-hour togetherness, it is de rigueur, if not a little rude, to ask how they do it. “There’s a rule that Tim was smart enough to establish,” Lorie says. “Leave the work here—don’t talk about it at home. That’s still hard for me. I want to problemsolve throughout the weekend, the vacation, whatever. That’s the hardest thing for me and the best thing. Tim knows how to separate work and personal life much better than I do. I’m a work in progress.” So boundaries, yes. But also, says Tim, communication and flexibility and a mutual passion for good work that so far has led to a trophy case of awards: dozens of national Gold and Silver ADDYs from the American Advertising Federation, plus thirteen Best in Broadcast and seven local Best in Show honors, plus twenty Regional Gold Addys. In addition, the group holds fifty-five In-Show awards and a Certificate of Merit at the International One Show Awards in New York City. There’s a blessing that goes “May you move from success to success,” and Tim and Lorie aim to do just that. The new Mad Monkey space at 1631 Main Street has been customized for the way the Gardners work, from draw-on-me walls to offices separated by sliding doors (facilitating both collaboration and private creative time) to an edit suite hardwired for real-time client input. In a follow-up email, Lorie admits, “While Tim and I dared each other to start Mad Monkey and were brazen enough to get married at the same time, perhaps the bravest soul was David, who had known us for about eighteen months and took the leap with newlyweds and entrepreneurial neophytes. I remember him saying something like, ‘I hear fifty percent of all businesses fail in the first five years and think it’s the same odds for marriage, so ... let’s roll the dice.’ Some thirteen years later, we’ve beaten the odds and then some. I’d like to believe that’s more than just luck.” //SLW
Chris White & Emily Reach White hris White and Emily ReachWhite are an unassuming pair. If you were in the crowd at the premier of one of their films, you would not point to them as the filmmakers. Their nature reflects a unique attitude towards filmmaking—steady, thoughtful, positive. “We were raised in homes where our parents went out and did stuff,” Chris explains. “The creative process brought Emily and me together and filmmaking allowed us to continue that process. We aren’t cynics. What you see with us is everything we love in some sort of mash-up of a career.” Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, Chris graduated from Irmo High School near Columbia. At 14, he remembers getting a hold of a behindthe-scenes magazine for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. “I read it cover to cover and it was the first time I realized you could actually work in the movies,” he says. Growing older he was hungry to absorb more about film and the filmmaking process. “David Lynch’s Blue Velvet really motivated me. Then I found Woody Allen.” This interest followed him through his undergraduate studies and earning a BA from Furman University. Emily’s parents were very young when they married and were not settled. She spent time growing up in many cities, including Boston and Houston, before moving back to Greenville. “I wrote a lot of very bad poetry as a young child,” she says. Her family encouraged word play, long dinner conversations, and her writing didn’t stop with prose. Corralling her younger brothers, the makeshift radio troupe would record her own radio plays. At nine, she wrote a eulogy for a deceased hamster, inviting everyone from the neighborhood to the pet’s funeral so she could recite the eulogy in front of friends. Continuing to write, she was first published as part of the Mosaic Writing Competition in Georgia while in the seventh grade. She graduated high school from Bob Jones Academy and decided to give up creative writing during college to focus on a straight English major. She received her MA from Miami (OH).
Photo by Jonathan Sharpe
After college, Chris continued to have an itch for filmmaking. In 1995 he completed his film Night Divine. Determined to find a life as a filmmaker, in 2002 he collaborated with fellow Greenville filmmaker Jeff Sumerel on Bragging Rites, a documentary about the Clemson/South Carolina football rivalry that introduced valuable lessons about the changing state of independent film marketing. During this time Chris also had started 440 creative, a marketing firm based in Columbia. The early 2000s were a pivotal time in the film and production industry. With a changing
economy, old rules of production were beginning to disappear. There was a scramble to find new ways to produce work with shrinking budgets. Staring directly at these smaller budgets was a video technology that had not quite caught up with film. It was the beginning of a dynamic shift in the way work was produced and it blindsided the film industry from top to bottom. Chris returned to Greenville and found work teaching drama and film criticism at JL Mann High School. Emily was teaching American Literature at Eastside High School. Both were in-
who has been stricken with Lyme disease and the daughter who must take care of him, a story influenced by Emily’s own experiences. Filming took place in the mountains around Tryon, NC. For Chris and Emily, each project is not only an opportunity to become better filmmakers but also to fine-tune their abilities to promote their projects. “We are trying to connect with an audience to do the films that we want to do,” explains Chris. After the Get Better premier in Tryon, they took the film on a city by city tour across SC to screen it for audiences. It also screened at the Charleston International Film Festival and the Indie Grits Film Festival in Columbia. During this process, Chris and Emily found that audiences will pay to come out and see the film live, but didn’t want to pay to see their projects online. Both films are available, at no charge, online. “Our business model is not built on a lightning strike. We are trying to get really good at making movies and supporting our family,” Chris says with determination. Their family includes three children from Chris’s previous marriage—daughter Harriet (13), and sons Whitaker (15) and Gibson (16). A life as both filmmakers and parents fold onto one other day to day. “The kids understand that we work on weekends,” Emily says “but they also know that we can drop things in the middle of the week to go have fun as well.” Part of this effort is to involve the kids as much as possible which means inviting them to be part of the team. “We even involve them in monthly budget meetings,” Emily adds. A high enthusiasm for filmmaking has rubbed off on Chris’s son Whitaker who has begun making films of his own. It would be easy to take a pause and enjoy the success of their last film or take a step back to focus on family. But true to their words when they married, Chris and Emily are riding the momentum of Get Better into a new project. “Our goal was to collaborate with someone outside of our circle of friends,” Chris says. This person ended up being actress and author, Susan Isaacs (Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Angry Conversations with God), and the project is titled Sweet and Awful. A final script was completed in late May
Listening to their plans feels as though they are working at a manic pace. You can visualize Chris working furiously in his downstairs basement home office with Emily writing away in the room directly above him. But to see the pair together makes you feel they have total focus in their combined vision. “Emily and I like to work, to make things, to be with friends who make things. It’s not why we love each other but a large part of our relationship is creating things. If that wasn’t there though, we would still love each other,” Chris says. Emily cuts him off, “Finding the balance is really hard. It is re-negotiated
with each project but Chris and I have a healthy dose of self-doubt. If we didn’t have that we might be insufferable.” Chris and Emily don’t have flashing lights over their heads that blaze, Filmmaker. Watching them walk to the front of the theater to speak after a screening, you might think to yourself “Who are they?” But once you hear them speak about their process and their passion for what they do, the thoughts and new ideas, you will leave understanding that there is a uniqueness at work, an honest love for creating and doing it together. //WS
Photo by Jonathan Sharpe
structors in South Carolina’s Program of Alternative Certification for Educators. They met while attending PACE classes together and began dating. They found that they had many mutual interests. “We stunk at everything else,” Chris interjects, “so after four years we decided teaching wasn’t for us, but we were for each other.” They married in 2010, committing themselves to creating films, specifically narrative feature films, as their full time profession. “When you work in this area you have no idea how you got there,” Chris states, “the only thing that is rigid, is that we were not going to take a full time job.” Together they founded Paris MTN Scout, an independent production company with a focus on creating non-cynical films. The first effort was a short film entitled Good Life, a simple film focusing on a daughter’s love for her father, despite his misgivings. When posted online in December of 2010 Chris and Emily were surprised by the overwhelmingly positive responses. For their next project they turned their attention to a feature titled Taken In, a story inspired by Chris’s time working with children at a therapeutic boarding school. Although Taken In was more ambitious, the filmmakers followed a “handmade” approach to creating the film. This approach recalls similarities to Lars Von Triers Dogma film movement of the 1990s—use of available light and improvisation around a story outline. Production took place at the kitsch tourist attraction South of the Border, located on the SC and NC border along Interstate 95. Thematically, the project was an extension of Good Life, telling the story of a hurried father urgently trying to create a relationship with his daughter. It would be simple to dismiss Chris and Emily’s “handmade” approach as merely a another way of describing low budget, film-with-whatwe-got, filmmaking. But as you watch the soft focus, black and white tones, the extended takes that observe relationships being born between characters, you begin to understand there is a purpose. The films’ influences hint at Jim Jarmusch and Woody Allen. “A lot of people assume Chris got me into this. A lot of people forget that I’m there because I’m quiet and not a behind the camera person. He didn’t. I love creating and working through stories,” Emily states. Chris and Emily quickly got started on their next feature project, a film called Get Better. For their first two projects, the pair had been successful in raising funding through the crowd funding website Kickstarter. You pursue funding through Kickstarter by creating incremental funding levels and asking friends, family, and strangers to donate to your project. They turned again to Kickstarter to raise funding for Get Better and increased their ask to an ambitious $12,000. Their funding goal was surpassed after a highly creative and persistent video campaign. “We really make ourselves finish the film quickly and move on to the next thing,” Chris explains. “Our plan is a long term overnight success.” Get Better tells the story of a father
Brian Rish and Jocelyn Rish
iblings in a military family seem to have a stronger bond than most. Moving from city to city throughout childhood proves difficult in making long lasting friends. Filmmakers Brian and Jocelyn Rish know this first hand. The children of a Navy father, they can point to many zip codes as home during their youthful days. Jocelyn, the oldest of three was born in Monterrey, California and currently lives in Charleston, SC. Brian, the middle child was born in Hawaii, and currently lives in Columbia. “We were really lucky,” Jocelyn says. “Our father served two tours in Charleston during middle school, then one in Florida. When he retired, we settled in Summerville.”
Growing up, the two found different outlets for the creative energy inside of them. Brian had a camcorder in high school and found that making movies came natural to him. “I was always making little films, filming the dog in the backyard. The great thing about the camera was that it could shoot still frames so I made a lot of Claymation and animated films,” Brian recalls. “I always had a desire to do that.” In contrast, Jocelyn always had stories running around in her head and it came natural to write them down on paper. Writing remained more of a hobby for her as she graduated Duke University with degrees in Psychology and Computer Science. Brian, however, found a practical way to focus on his interest in filmmaking. In high school he entered one of his animated films in a competition. He won the competition and received a partial scholarship to attend the University of South Carolina.
This planted the idea in him that filmmaking was a tangible option for a career, but he took a more practical approach. “I was originally a broadcast journalism major, but it was not the type of video that I wanted to shoot,” Brian explains “I thought commercial video would be more practical.” He felt advertising to be the best gateway for him to make films and make a living. After graduation he worked as a civilian for the Air Force, creating marketing campaigns for onbase events. He followed that with a stint at the South Carolina Education Lottery and currently works for SCANA in their marketing/advertising division. Jocelyn found work as a software programmer for Blackbaud, a company that created software for non-profit agencies. She would write in rare moments of free time, but found a looming issue began to present itself. “Stories were building up inside of me. The problem was there was no downtime and I really wanted to tell them.” With a backlog of stories building up in her, she decided to move forward with her passion, leaving Blackbaud in 2010 to write full time. “It was an easy heart decision, but a hard head decision,” she says. Her main focus has been young adult novels and short stories. In 2008 her short story “Saying Goodbye” won the South Carolina Fiction Project. The story tells the tale of a cat that lives in a nursing home and chooses which of the residents is next to pass away. It was inspired by a true story. In 2009 the SC Film Commission announced they were accepting entries for the SC Film Production Fund. The Film Commission would award a filmmaker $100,000 to produce and complete an original short film screenplay. When Brian and Jocelyn found out about this opportunity, they decided “Saying Goodbye” was the perfect story to adapt to a screenplay and present as their entry. The overall goal of the SC Production Fund is to introduce working film industry professionals with filmmakers and mentor students from USC and Trident Technical College’s film production program. Adapting “Saying Goodbye” into a script was only the beginning of the entry process. An extensive plan had to be presented
in how they were going to utilize the students during production as well as a detailed budget. “We basically had to have all of our pre-production, in broad strokes, completed before we turned in our entry,” Brian recalls. “Tom Clark (head of the SC Film Commission) called Brian and said, ‘Brian, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you won the film grant. The bad news is that you won the film grant.’ But we were ecstatic at the news.” Brian would serve as producer on the film. One of his first orders of business was to hire David Ensley as cinematographer. Ensley was cinematographer on Director John Waters’s classic film Pink Flamingos as well as many episodes of the HBO show “The Wire”. Cliff Springs, owner of Genesis Studios in Cayce, was hired as director. Filming took place in 2010 and the Saying Goodbye, the film, was completed in 2011. One of the big unknowns was how the two siblings would work together on set. They realized this would be their first time working as partners on a film. They found their close relationship as brother and sister carried over to the set. “On set Jocelyn was so connected with the script that she almost became the Assistant Director. The script was her baby,” Brian recalls. Jocelyn admits she knew nothing about film production, only reading a few books to learn as much as she could. But working with her younger brother proved not much different than growing up together. “After a shot, I could look at her and tell by her body language if we needed another shot. It’s not a traditional film making relationship, but with her there it’s as much her baby as mine,” Brian admits. “There was definitely a silent language going on. Eyebrow waggles, facial expressions,” Jocelyn adds. “With my brother there, you know how far you can push it. There is a lot of trust. With anyone else I might be scared but I will throw out an idea to him and we can chase it.” This approach was new to Brian as well. “Filmmaking can be a very stressful thing, but already having that family dynamic, you can get mad at each other and still love each other at the end of the day.” As for experiencing the filmmaking process for the first
time, Jocelyn feels “It’s like giving birth. While we were doing it I hated it, but after we were done I was like ‘Ooooooh, I want to do another.’” Saying Goodbye screened at the 2012 Charleston International Film Festival and received the award for Best SC Short Film. Seeing the film in front of a large audience was an emotional experience for Jocelyn. “I got teary watching the first scene. Hearing sniffling and crying in the audience was pretty amazing, … a powerful high.”
Brian remembers, “We would have people coming up to us afterwards, sharing stories of their families. This is when you realize you were successful in telling your story and hitting the emotions that you wanted to hit.” In 2010, the SC Film Commission announced they would be accepting entries for the SC mini-grant program. The mini-grant program offered four $10,000 grants for selected filmmakers to produce a short film. Jocelyn had completed a story titled “High heels and Hoo-Doo” for the Posh Fic-
tion competition and the brother and sister team decided this would be their entry. Theirs was one of the four scripts chosen to receive funding for production. “High Heels and Hoo-Doo” is a different turn for the pair. The two describe it as a southern ghost story. The film focuses on a party girl who uses a Gullah spirit caller to help her contact her recently passed grandmother, but the young woman’s intentions aren’t completely innocent. “We had learned a lot from our experience on Saying Goodbye, we were a more efficient filmmaking machine,” says Brian. Jocelyn has a more practical memory of the film shoot. “On Saying Goodbye we were inside a climate controlled area for most of the shoot, for High Heels, we were in the middle of a graveyard in the freezing cold.” The film was completed in early 2013 and Brian and Jocelyn are preparing its entry into the film festival circuit. As a team, Brian and Jocelyn find that their experience with each other during the process has been a pleasant surprise. “Her greatest strength is her writing, she is great at subtext and knowing what her characters would do,” Brian explains. “He balances my weaknesses,” Jocelyn adds. “He is the calming presence on set. Among all the chaos he stays calm.” Their parents are very supportive of their filmmaking efforts, although they still feel it is more of a hobby for their children than a permanent endeavor. But that didn’t stop High Heels and Hoo-Doo from becoming a family effort. “They were our craft service department and caterers on High Heels,” Jocelyn says. With the positive response to their last two projects, the brother and sister team have no plans to stop. For Brian, finding a balance between his job and his filmmaking has proved to be tough. “It’s hard in the middle of pre-production to not think about the day job but you have to have that separation. It would be really great if this could be my job and in SC this is becoming more and more of a reality.” As they continue, both Brian and Jocelyn have no plans to work separately. “Jocelyn and I have a very good relationship, through all parts of the production process. You have to trust the people you’re around and doing that with your sister is great. Doing it with others is not the same thing,” For Jocelyn the thought is very simple. “I just love seeing our stories get out there. I want Brian to direct them and I can’t imagine doing it without him. It just wouldn’t be the same.” //WS
The Doo Wop op Project October 4, 20013
Brian Sanders’ JUNK perform ance
Februar ebruaryy 14, 1 2014
You Can Haz Cheezburger
Holiday Pops Pops
Works in Progress Night
October 18, 18, 20 2013
Singin’ in the Rain on Valentine’s Day
November 155 & 16, 16, 20 2013 December 15, 15, 20 2013 Januaryy 23, Januar 23, 20 2014
March 21 21, 20 2014 April 26, 26, 20 2014
May 9, 20 2014
Februar ebruaryy 7, 20 2014
TICKETS ON SALE NOW FOR
HARBISON THEATRE EATR AT MIDLANDS TECHNICAL COLLEGEE
Contact Us @ firstname.lastname@example.org for advertising details
For tickets & information visit HarbisonTheatre.org @HarbisonTheatre
Midlands Technical College | 7300 College Street, Irmo, SC
c E N T E R F O l d m AT C O T H R A N
n a r h t o C t Ma C i an F o m iS L a N IO EmoT R E m m u B ’S a i B COlUm S U I N e G ROCK
By Kyle Petersen t’s too easy to caricature Mat Cothran. He’s a messy, exhausting social media sharer—by turns insightful, cantankerous, darkly humorous, and more than a little morbid. He has a sort of hipster-homeless style that seems on first glance to be heavily affected. He often argues and occasionally explodes some of his relationships in the local scene. And he writes and records lo-fi bedroom pop tunes that often feel listlessly resigned, even at their most sublime. But if you look closer, this easily-constructed narrative falls apart. While Cothran will never escaped the tortured artist label which seems inextricable from his public persona (his first-ever professional press campaign begins by citing his hometown, Spartanburg, as the “tenth most miserable place in the United States”), he’s a far more complicated—if still quite messy—individual, one still trying to understand his place in the world. More than anything, it is that sense of uncertainty, and the search that accompanies it, that gives his music that magical edge that draws in so many listeners from around the world. First, there are the songs themselves, which are difficult if not impossible to ignore. Cothran releases music under the monikers Coma Cinema and Elvis Depressedly, and from the lo-fi bliss of his early efforts (2009’s Baby Prayers and Stoned Alone in 2010) and more polished offerings like Blue Suicide (2011) and the recently-released Posthumous Release under the Coma Cinema label to the nakedly honest efforts that began appearing under the name Elvis Depressedly, he has demonstrated a consistent, insistent knack for taking his depressing emo-
tionalism and darkest ruminations and turning them into a thing of therapeutic beauty. With a threadbare recording process that sees him operate on a host of different instruments, Cothran uses simple drum parts and plaintive acoustic guitar parts alongside expansive synth lines and dejected vocals to create a warm sound meant to drown out the despair and disappointment he seems to find in daily life. Most of his songs are short, with judiciously employed lyrics and a hyper-awareness of the small, heart-throbbing hooks that keep listeners locked in his musical world. As Cothran himself explains, the idea is to keep it simple, not necessarily short. “I don’t think about being brief,” he explains. “I just find a sonic bed for a song, and then try to just limit myself a bit. I think if you limit yourself to just one or two verses [lyrically], it forces you to get it all out. It almost means more [that way].” It’s also worth noting that Cothran and his music have come to enjoy an odd kind of fame outside of the local scene, and his music has started to pay increasing dividends through his pay-what-you-want approach. Buoyed by his early dedication to spending hours a day emailing and promoting his early material (a strategy he was encouraged to use, he says, by Toro y Moi mastermind Chaz Bundick), Cothran has had some serious and notable success. Rapturously received on indie music blogs, including the widely-read Pitchfork website, as well as some of the hipper mainstream music publications, each of his releases has been taken quite seriously in certain sections of the Internet world. This is despite the fact that he rarely plays live intown or out, and that his physical releases have all been on boutique labels like Fork & Spoon (vinyl) and Bird Tapes (cassettes).
At our interview, Cothran speaks frankly but not self-pityingly about his sometimesantagonistic relationship with the local scene, a subject that he seems almost preoccupied with explaining. He shows up in his usual uniform—horn-rimmed glasses, dirty knitted cap (which he wears even in the summer), holelaced band t-shirt, and skinny jeans—and is full of effusive praise, for everyone from his younger brother who recently graduated high school to Girls Rock Columbia and his favorite local acts, like William Busbee’s Belk Boys and multi-band drummer Evan Simmons’ new side project Live Singles. He also talks about the arguments and beefs he had in the past and, without rehashing them, tries to explain his actions with a mix of assertiveness and chagrin. The refreshing part of the conversation, more than anything else, is that, for all of the anger and frustration that can occasionally surface, Cothran seems dedicated to being a positive influence in the world. While he admits that mixing strong opinions and a problem with alcohol is a rather combustible combination, there are nobler aspirations behind it. “I try to be real,” he explains insistently. “It’s hard to be real. Life presents you with a lot of opportunities to be fake, or to hide, and that’s easier. It’s weird because everybody knows telling the truth is the best thing, to be real, but it’s so much easier to not be.” And he doesn’t let himself off the hook either. “People see me as honest, but I don’t really know if I’m that honest,” he admits. “I think everybody kind of hides a bit. It’s kind of a hard thing to do.” This difficult ambition is part of the reason that Cothran is willing to name names, to call people and places out with impunity. While he might not always hit his mark very well, his passion is clear, and for as many bands as he denigrates, he’s
Photo by Thomas Hammond
CENTERFOLD // MAT COTHRAN // VOL. 002 NO. 006
Photo by Thomas Hammond
also the biggest fan of others. He knows that “people think I’m an asshole” but he remains undeterred if not unconflicted by his antagonistic approach. “I think it’s healthy man, I don’t know,” he sighs. “You don’t want a monoculture, with everything being glorified just because it’s from here. There’s a lot of great bands in Columbia, A lot of bands that can move the fuck out of ya, in a sec. There’s a lot of bands I don’t like, but they have their places too.” Given the level of local scene infighting that surrounds Cothran, it is easy to forget that he is a relatively recent transplant to Columbia, and how rich of a background story he has. Born and raised in Spartanburg, his parents divorced when he was four, and he lived with his mother up until his teens, when bad grades led his father to take over as a primary custodian. Cothran’s voice gets quiet when he talks about these details, and the lingering resentment towards his father is clear.
Posthumous Release Artwork Provided by Fork and Spoon Photo page right by Thomas Hammond
“I never saw my dad much until I was like 14, 15. I was playing N64 or some shit, and my dad walks in and says ‘You’re coming with me, because you’re grades are bad,’” he recalls bitterly. “It was like a punishment, which didn’t make sense. That’s not how a family works.” His father ran a “very militaristic” household, and took away all of the young music fan’s CDs. “I remember I had a Syd Barrett CD (Will You Miss Me, a best of compilation), and a Strokes CD, because they were both under my bed,” he says, clearly still savoring the memory of the contraband music. Ironically, it was his father’s guitar collection that gave Cothran his first taste at making music himself. He remembers sneaking into the room late at night, and learning his first chords there, behind his father’s back. Eventually, he would begin making his first recordings with a simple tape recorder. He gradually moved up from there, first with a four track digital recorder and eventually a 32-track digital machine, which he still uses.
Surprisingly, given his prolific output and relatively young age, Cothran says it was a slow learning process. “When I first started I couldn’t sing at all,” he recalls ruefully. “I still don’t have the best voice, but when I started it was awful. I was nasally, out of tune.” He also calls the first one hundred songs he wrote “just awful. And I still write awful songs. I probably write a song a day, but most of them are bad. I just keep the ones that are good,” he insists. “I’ve probably written some of the worst songs ever written. You just need a good inner critic, but also a nice one.” Despite his father’s interventions, Cothran’s schooling did not take a turnaround. He ended up dropping out of high school and getting a GED while working part-time jobs to support his musical preoccupations. And gradually, his early Coma Cinema records began to find an audience on the Internet. “Music scenes are changing really rapidly,” Cothran explains. “You don’t have to live anywhere to be part of a scene, which is good and bad in a sense, if you can’t connect with other people.” He follows this up by talking about the many fans he converses with directly on the web, and of a recent show he played in Brooklyn that saw a couple of hundred people he’d never met in person before show up. “I think I really speak to a certain part of the population,” is his theory for why so much of his fan base exists outside of Columbia. Cothran became linked to the city when Fork & Spoon records reached out to him about having the label put out his next release, which at the time was the still-unfinished Coma Cinema record Blue Suicide, which would be his breakthrough record of sorts—full of sweeping, twominute morose bedroom pop tunes with the kind of casual elegance which would become the signature of Cothran’s more mature recordings. He would move to the city soon after. “They’re great friends, but they are more than that,” he says of the label. “They take care of me.” There are many instances of this, everything from helping out to car repairs and paying out of pocket for press to backing up his live performances. While he has since had disagreements with Fork & Spoon about their business decisions and what they have chosen to release, he is very appreciative of their support. The period following Blue Suicide was an interesting one for Cothran. “[That record] was pretty successful, [and] a lot of people knew who I was, but I had pretty much quit,” he recalls. “I lost most of my music equipment when I moved here, … and I was really broke. And I figured, if I can’t make the record I want to make, I’m
not gonna make an inferior record, I’m not going to sit here with a Casio keyboard and make a bullshit version of what I really want.” Due to concerns about both expectations and his equipment, Cothran semi-retired the Coma Cinema label and began releasing music under the Elvis Depressedly moniker and collaborating with Toro y Moi bassist Andy Jeffords in Gremlins. While the former project seemed like a concerted effort to have a more informal outlet for the kind of material Cothran was writing and recording as Coma Cinema previously, Gremlins is an entirely different animal. A groove-driven, synth-heavy project that mixes chillwave and swampy psychedelia with Cothran’s vocals and some of his darkest, most masochism-laced lyrics. “I think it’s one of the best things I ever did,” Cothran asserts. “But it’s probably the least popular thing I’ve ever done, for some reason. I think a lot of people were put off by the lyrics.” Meanwhile, Elvis Depressedly records like mickey’s dead and holo pleasures continued to showcase songs as bleak, gorgeous, and sonically arresting as those in Coma Cinema. Despite the success of these other projects, though, the persistent buzz was that Cothran had one more glorious Coma Cinema record up his sleeve—something that wasn’t helped by the fact that the singer often performed these unreleased songs in his live performances. The opportunity for the record to finally happen came when TV Girl’s Brad Petering and Jason Wyman, who are based in Los Angeles, reached out to Cothran about recording his next
full-length as Coma Cinema. Essentially offering to pay all of the recording costs and to produce the record pro bono, the opportunity—despite being “weird” and “out of the blue”—was too good for Cothran to pass up. Despite a fear of flying, Cothran flew out to LA and recorded Posthumous Release in just a few daylong studio sessions. The result is, as Cothran proudly states, the best thing he’s ever done. Devoid of the tape hiss and accentuated by the assistance of Wyman and Petering along with longtime friend Rachel Levy, who adds background vocals to many of the tunes, Posthumous Release finds the perfect balance of the epic ramshackle nature so crucial to Coma Cinema recordings and the astute craftsmanship and recording skill that the TV Girl members brought to the table. Wyman adds crucial layers of percussion to songs like the swirling “Burn a Church” and charging power-pop of “She Keeps It Alive,” while Petering coached Cothran on how to clean and tighten up some of the looser passages he had already written. “It’s a definitive sort of thing,” Cothran hopes. “It turned out really well, and I’m really proud of it.” Despite its power though, it’s an open question whether the record can push him out into the more professional music world. Cothran is naturally distrustful of most of the moneymaking parts of music, something which seems to have hampered his ability to move beyond the meager living arrangements and lifestyle he currently has. It’s also an open question whether he really wants to make that upward move. On the shortest song on Posthumous, “Survivor’s Guilt,” Cothran-as-songwriter seems to lay himself and his insecurities bare:
“Expectations weigh on me To satisfy these endless needs I don’t care and I don’t know why Maybe I’m no good inside All this wasted time To see your fucked up life Become mine”
In just a few short lines, apathy, self-doubt, and self-deprecation intermingle over a plaintive acoustic guitar figure and a sad, luminous melody. In the next verse, Cothran admits “I can’t be part of your life / Until I know how to die.” He asks the listener in closing “Keep me far away from us/ I’ll never be brave enough.” Regardless of who these words are meant for or how representative they are of Cothran’s own thoughts, each song he writes is imbued with this kind of struggling mentality for normalcy, personal connection, and perseverance. These days, though, Cothran seems relatively content. He has started recording and playing with his roommate Eric Jones and girlfriend Delaney Mills, and is excited about the idea of being in a real, working-together band. “It’s cool to listen to your own records and say, ‘that part is sick!’ You can’t really do that when it’s just you,” he says by way of explanation as he exults over the keyboard and bass parts the two have added. He also mentions having his bandmates sing lead on future releases, something which seems far out of the insular character of his past releases, but a welcoming possibility nonetheless. And when we meet again later, he tells me the story of how all of his friends got together to buy him a new electric guitar to replace his old one, something which clearly touched him deeply. “I’m appreciative of where I’ve gotten,” he says sincerely. “And it hasn’t been just me. I’ve gotten a lot of help along the way.”
LOCAL record revieWs
As is so often the case, though, the band’s highs and lows are still driven by their charismatic lead singer, whose lyrics and vocal presence still contains some lingering traces of innocence and youth that can make blues-driven numbers like the tightly-written “Boyhood Pride” or the surprisingly charming hook-up ode “Sugar” feel like its striving for a rough and tough vibe that the singer can’t quite match yet. Elsewhere, though, Durrett uses that sense of hopeful romanticism to full effect, particularly in the pop-rock gem “Closer” and the closing ballad “In Rhonda.” And when he goes full-tilt for the stratosphere in the howling chorus of “Dear Liza,” it’s clear that Durrett is learning to have it both ways, and in the process forging his own highly-potent musical identity. // KP
the structure coming from clear, concise vocal melodies, often supported by Allgrim. Lyrically, there is a balance of songs with sweet nostalgia appropriate for the pop-heavy vibe (“Smoke” and “Eighteen Again”) as well as more weightier material that can often drift right past in the warmth of the arrangements (“Little Birdy,” “Handgun Flowers”). Compton smartly decided to limit these arrangements to just what the band was capable of live, lending a lush minimalism that is quite striking, and showcasing the unique possibilities of such an unusual lineup. For that reason alone, this self-titled sticks out in a major way among the music released in Columbia this year.
By Kyle Petersen w/ Thomas Hammond
CHRiS COMPTON AND THE RUby bRUNETTES Self-Titled NED AND THE DiRT Giants When Ned Durrett first popped up on the Columbia scene, he was an ungainly, unabashedly romantic poprock songwriter blessed with a big, swooning voice that made up for some of the cornier and more pedestrian moments in his tunes. Over the last few years, as he’s gradually solidified his backing band and started writing weightier material, he’s shed some of his more preponderant baggage while embracing his strengths, an evolution which lends Giants a nice balance of youthful exuberance and musical gravitas. As backing bands go, “the Dirt” are an adventurous and limber bunch, willing to throw instrumental breaks and extended outros into even the most straight-forward pop tune. Much of their sound is indebted to the sprawling indie-Southern rock that My Morning Jacket rode to fame, although Durrett’s new-found grit makes even his falsetto more characteristic of Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) than Jim James, a not-unwelcome twist given the number of bands trafficking in straightforwardly Neil Young-inspired indie rock these days. With Archer Avenue engineer Kenny McWilliams twisting the knobs and lending his signature atmospheric sheen to the proceedings, Giants is nothing if not the product of an accomplished, highly confident rock ‘n’ roll band.
As a songwriter and musician, longtime scene member Chris Compton has always been a bit of a restless soul. He’s fronted a variety of bands over the past two decades, from the jammy King Cotton to the progressive/alternative rock trio The Fossil Record, all of which shared a nontraditional approach to songwriting, where standard structures or chord progressions were set aside in favor of more unusual and experimental approaches to genres that tend to be a little predictable. Recently, his solo work has set aside the fiery guitar work in favor of a more baroque-pop approach, with a wide palette of instruments (including flute and saxophone) that the multi-instrumentalist plays himself. Despite their instrumental complexity, these songs have tended towards a far more laidback, sing-along quality than his earlier work, a move which allows Compton’s undeniable gift for melody to shine through. This, his latest effort, is the first to incorporate members of the Ruby Brunettes, an ensemble of musicians that Compton has been playing around town with to flesh out his new material. A band without a rhythm section, these songs are built on the intertwining guitars of the bandleader and longtime collaborator Jason Switzer, although it is trombonist Catherine Allgrim and the keyboard work of Ashleigh Morse that most often grab the spotlight. Reminiscent of the bedroom pop extravaganzas created by Iron & Wine or Badly Drawn Boy, Compton’s songs balance uneasily on a bed of meandering folk and jazz undercurrents, with much of
CANCElliERi III (EP) The songwriting side project of Ryan Hutchens, who also plays bass with the energetic post-rockers Pan, Cancellieri has made a sudden shift from their first two efforts, 2011’s Early Spring EP and the 2012 follow-up Bad Hands EP. Both of these records were mostly lush, electronic-driven affairs that used warm synths and rough-yet-cinematic arrangements alongside the occasional more folk-driven meditation, with the net effect emphasizing the kaleidoscopic effects of the production style in lieu of the songs themselves. Live performances by Hutchens sometimes cleared the air, as evidenced by the Live at Conundrum recording made available online last year, but is still doesn’t quite prepare you for III. Working with Alex McCollum of Stagbriar and again released by Post-Echo, this recording sees Hutchens shedding much of the more ambient aspects of his tunes in favor of stretching out in a straightforward indie-Americana style which places more emphasis on the songwriter’s soaring vocals and wide-eyed lyricism, and his penchant for reverb-laden psych-folk which makes every song feel like a gorgeous, undeniably hopeful sunrise is in full force. Smart, minimalist percussion, droning synths, and graceful string arrangements flesh out many of these songs, lending them a propulsive quality reminiscent of such ornate groups as Mercury Rev, but Hutchens is very much charting out his own territory here. He even takes a break in the middle of the record with “Shotgun Blues,” a Tim Easton-style folk tune played in an unadorned style with just a guitar and a voice, along with some chirping insects and other background noises, audible on the mix. While the casual, thrown-off way that it’s performed and recorded
might make it easy to ignore, the tune in many ways serves to emphasize the newfound confidence of this latest version of Cancellieri—one where songwriting, instrumental prowess, and a balance of roots-driven grit with the sky-high electronica and psychedelia which characterized those early efforts becomes the new MO. Hutchens is busy touring the country this summer with Pan, but it’s nice to know that when he returns, we will be able to hear some of these excellent new tunes in a local venue soon. // KP
desperation and apathy that has been characteristic of the project since the beginning. For all of its small pleasures and wonderful musical moments, though, it’s hard not to see Cothran just getting better and better. His efforts over the past year under the Elvis moniker have been extraordinary compelling, and with real bandmates for the first time in that group, it would be wonderful to see him grasp on to his most famous project name and go for broke on the national stage. // KP
COMA CiNEMA Posthumous Release
bURNT bOOkS Self-Titled Straight out of the gate, Burnt Books provides an aural assault of awesome proportions with their new self-titled album. Without much effort they could have gotten away with your typical raging punk album and people would have loved it. But, why do anything typical? Fundamentally, the band was formed out of the remnants of former Columbia heavy-hitters Tunguska and Thank God. But, of particular interest is the contribution of singer-songwriter Zoë Lollis on vocals. Her presence seems to take the band into much darker and more organically terrifying space than most bands, which tend to fall into that all-too-typical trap of masculine bravado and posturing over anything authentic. That’s not to say that hardcore breakdowns, blistering guitar solos, and chest thumping don’t have their place when employed effectively. But, if that’s all you are looking for, then you’ll be left wanting. As the album progresses, all assumptions are cast aside by the fourth track, “Materialist Conspiracy Theorist,” a striking folk-minimalist interlude featuring banjo and lyrical vocals. From here, the album really comes into its own as the song-craft begins to develop and explore new aural-emotional territories. The sixth track, “In a Shallow Grave,” is notable for its clever display of angular riffing and exotic melodic and harmonic structures. That said, “Pretty Daughters,” a song seemingly about the awful ramifications of a mother’s neglect, concludes the album with what is probably at the core of the what Burnt Books is about (or is assumed to be at least): powerfully raw riff-making and drumming that serves as a foundation for terrifyingly authentic vocals to create an organic synthesis free of the superficial trappings of most heavy musical styles. // TH
As a possible swan song from Mat Cothran’s Coma Cinema moniker, the cheekily-titled Posthumous Release makes sense as a final statement in a lot of ways. Easily the best-sounding recording he’s released to date, thanks to the real studio and engineering skills offered up by TV Girl’s Brad Petering and Jason Wyman, it also demonstrates a maturation and distillation of the aesthetic that Cothran has insistently cultivated over the string of releases as both Coma Cinema and Elvis Depressedly: moody, fragmented poetry of apathy, self-loathing, despair, and loneliness delivered through a ramshackle bedroom symphony of guitars, drums, and synths that is clearly inspired by the likes of Conor Oberst and Elliott Smith, but also uniquely Cothran’s own. It’s easy to see the ghost of the latter songwriter hanging around much of this recording, which was done out in LA, Smith’s final hometown. During the recording process, Cothran posted a picture of himself in front of the public mural that graces the cover of Smith’s Figure 8 LP, an album whose warm, sunny melodies and elaborate arrangements buried songs of incredible pain and hurt in a way similar to how Coma Cinema often buries its bleak lyrics under triumphant keyboards and catchy hooks. And some of the quietest moments here—the brokenhearted “Partners in Crime” or the plaintive self-doubt of “Survivor’s Guilt”—feel keenly aware of the earnest beauty of Smith’s most fragile, emotionally arresting tunes. Elsewhere, though, we see some fairly straightforward distillations of the warped, synth-driven bummer rock that first blossomed on Blue Suicide, the last Coma Cinema full-length, as well as some of the sharpest and most concise work Cothran has done to date. Highlights include the pseudo power-pop rocker “She Keeps It Alive” and the swirling alt-rock of “Satan Made a Mansion,” both of which make nods to Wilco and Big Star with their insistent drive and casually great pop hooks, as well as the closing ballad and title cut, which was adapted from a poem written by Cothran’s friend Justin Blackburn. The perfect closing song for the album, the tune sees Cothran achingly announcing “I’ve never known someone who wasn’t lonely” over a forlorn keyboard part, a moment which captures the
SEiN ZUM TODE Beeep. Sein zum Tode (literally translated as “being toward death”) is failed by traditional western practices of music description and review. So, let’s not, shall we? The German philosopher Heidegger, believing that traditional western practices of philosophy had failed to answer the fundamental question of being, utilized the phrase to describe the nature of being as a temporary construct, in which dread and angst are a natural byproduct of the impermanence of existence. Much like Heidegger, this ensemble (band seems a highly inadequate label) requires more than a casual consideration to come close to understanding. A superficial listening of Beeep., their latest release, this time on Fork & Spoon, could easily be mistaken for any other mathcore album produced since The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity in 1999. The freneticism and angularity of rhythm, melody, and harmony would suggest as much. However, a more sophisticated listening reveals what sound like elements of Dada. Song titles like “I Have to Have a Half of Half and Half” and the child-like vocalizations that appear throughout the record are reminiscent of a child’s seemingly nonsensical experiments with language. The more recognizable melodic offerings from this album also betray the all too serious nature of mathcore by referencing juvenile songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in “Tea Meat Dog Bag.” The whole album comes across as an exercise in exploring the agony and ecstasy of childhood and the sobering experience of realizing your time here is brief, limited, and insignificant. The album concludes satisfyingly, unsatisfyingly, and boldly unremarkably, staying true to Heidegger’s notions of “Sein zum Tode.” // TH
Chris Robinson Visual arts Editor
Chris Robinson is from a pastoral coastal town on Long Island, NY with horse farms and potato fields, smaller than most in SC, though only 40 miles from the great museums and performance halls in Manhattan. He has a BFA from Florida State (Painting/Art History) and a MFA from the University of Massachusetts (Sculpture/Drawing). He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Leonardo da Vinci Space Art Award, Technarte Best Paper Award, Palmetto Pillar Award, USC Motivational Faculty Award, along with many competitive art awards. A professor of art at the University of SC, his work concentrates on contemporary science and technology and its role in decision-making through installations and digital drawings. Robinson crosses the two cultures, has over $3.5 million in funded research, and has lectured, written, and exhibited extensively throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. He has two children, Justin and Sarah, two grandchildren, Ella and Evie, and another on the way. Chris joined Jasper Magazine because he believes it plays a vital role in organizing, educating, and guiding the rapidly emerging Midlands arts community, and thinks it’s important to establish meaningful relationships between the university and the broader Columbia arts community. He aspires to help provide meaning, educate, and illuminate the role education plays in viewing, enjoying, and understanding the visual arts. Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit is among the many tunes he would consider for a theme song.
Bonnie Boiter-Jolley Dance Editor
Bonnie Boiter-Jolley was raised in Columbia and attended high school on full scholarship at the North Carolina School of the Arts. She spent summers studying at the American Ballet Theatre summer intensive in New York City, Boston Ballet Summer Dance Program, Alonzo King Lines Ballet and the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Bonnie graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Honors College at the University of SC with degrees in dance performance and choreography and political science. She has been lucky enough to perform in Italy and the Czech Republic and with Wideman Davis Dance at the summer stage series in New York City. After graduating, Bonnie spent one season dancing with Donald Byrd at Spectrum Dance Theatre in Seattle, Washington. She just completed her second season with the Columbia City Ballet and is the Company Ballet Instructor for the Columbia City Jazz Company as well as a co-founder of the Columbia Summer Repertory Company. Bonnie also enjoys photography and writing and loves that Jasper provides a home for all of the children of the arts in Columbia. Her theme song is “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston.
Jonathan Sharpe Staff Photographer
Jonathan Sharpe arrived early once, around 4:00 a.m. on a Thursday in late June. Jonathan’s father, a Pentecostal preacher, sped toward downtown Columbia, SC, as his wife lay eight months pregnant on the back seat of a Ford Galaxie 500 coupe with a landau top and cloth seats. After a brief and terrifying moment of flight as the speeding car crested Hampton Street, Jonathan made his appearance at Baptist Hospital. (The Ford’s interior remained immaculate.) Jonathan’s family moved through several small towns in SC and Pennsylvania before settling in Lexington County in the mid-1980s. Jonathan received a bachelor of science in biology from the University of SC. Photography remained a self-taught creative outlet for Jonathan throughout his adult life. He began contributing as a freelancer with the Columbia Free Times in 2007, receiving recognition for his photography work from the American Advertising Federation of the Midlands in 2008 and the SC Press Association in 2012. In joining Jasper as a staff photographer, Jonathan’s goal is to bring artists in the community the dignity that comes with recognition of their work. Jonathan spotted his doppelganger wearing an elevator repairman’s uniform in a Denver mall.
STAff PhOTOS By ThOMAS hAMMONd 039
Ed Madden Literary arts Editor
He never dipped or chewed tobacco, he took his camera duck hunting instead of a gun, and the cowboy boots he chose to wear in junior high were a lovely oxblood purple. By the time he joined French club instead of Future Farmers of America, Ed Madden’s parents probably figured it unlikely he’d stay on the farm. Madden received his BA in French and English from Harding University in Arkansas, his MA and PhD in English from the University of Texas at Austin. Along the way, he also received a BS in Biblical studies from the Institute for Christian Studies—which really just means he can (sometimes) quote the Bible better than his students. Both a scholar and a poet, Madden is an associate professor of English and interim director of Women’s & Gender Studies at USC. He is the author of a study of modernist literature, Tiresian Poetics, as well as three books of poetry—Signals, which won the 2007 SC Poetry Book Prize; Prodigal: Variations; and Nest (forthcoming). He’s at work on a fourth book, Ark, focused on the last few months of his father’s living with cancer. He is also the co-editor of Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, which has just been selected as the first-year common reading text for USC-Upstate. His poems appear in Best New Poets 2007 and The Book of Irish American Poetry, and elsewhere. He joined Jasper as literary arts editor to draw attention to the really fine writers in and from the Midlands and to give promising new writers a forum. He lives with his partner of 18 years, Bert Easter, in Columbia.
Kara Gunter Staff Writer
Kara M. Gunter was born and raised in Lexington, SC. She was a shy, idealistic child, and spent most of her adolescence day-dreaming and making art, and had no real concern for the prosaic matters of “real” life. She still doesn’t. When it was time to apply to university, deadlines were fast approaching when a friend happened to have a single, wrinkled application to one university in her backpack. Because of Kara’s lack of concern for all things that happen in a nebulous future, she filled out that solitary application and was accepted. Luckily, the school happened to be Winthrop University in Rock Hill. She graduated with a BFA in jewelry and metalworking in 2000, having studied with some of the most skillful artists in the southeast. In 2006, Kara decided it was time to get serious about art-making, and continued her education at the University of SC where she earned her MFA in sculpture. She works as an artist, teaches classes at the USC, and has just begun writing for Jasper Magazine. Kara finds the experience of writing for Jasper very gratifying as it allows her to explore Columbia’s rich art community in more depth. Kara’s mother is very proud that she is finally putting her competent writing skills to good use. Kara is in the midst of planning a summer wedding to her fiancé, composer Thomas J. Dempster. Her lucky number is sometimes 8, but always 13.
August Krickel Theatre Editor
August Krickel was born and raised in Columbia and fell in love with live theatre after teachers at Heathwood Hall told him that he would be playing Schroeder in the school’s production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. “There were no real auditions, they just told me,” he says. “And I made friendships among the cast that have lasted a lifetime.” August went off to Vanderbilt University with every intention of becoming an archaeologist—majoring in classics, studying overseas in Rome, and even doing a year and a half in grad school—but ended up back in Columbia working in fund raising, PR, and administrative jobs ever since. August picked up a double major in Drama in college, and had the chance to work with and learn from some incredible visiting artists from England’s National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company, including a pre-Gandhi Ben Kingsley. Back in Columbia he dove into local theatre, doing shows at Town, Workshop, Chapin Theatres, and directing at Act One Theatre and was a regular contributor in the early years of the Free Times, doing reviews for Onstage Columbia since 2008. “I joined the Jasper staff to be able to share some of my passion for live performance with the greater arts community,” August says. “Local theatre is often the red-headed step-child of the arts, and I treasure the opportunity to spread the word about how much good work is being done locally.”
Cynthia (Cindi) Boiter Editor—in—Chief
Cindi Boiter grew up in Spartanburg County where her imagination grew wild. She attended undergraduate school at USC on a journalism scholarship then promptly changed her major to sociology and graduated from the College of Charleston. She received a MA from George Mason University and almost finished a PhD from USC in the history of Southern women. A six-time SC Fiction Project winner and winner of the Porter Fleming Award for fiction, she is the author of Buttered Biscuits—Short Stories from the South (2012), co-author of Red Social with Alejandro Garcia-Lemos, editor of The Limelight, volume 1 (both 2013), as well as contributor to State of the Heart (2013) and Inheritance (2000). Cindi and high school sweetheart/husband Bob Jolley are the parents of two daughters who, though all grown-up, they still adore. They live deep in the woods of Chapin at a little place called Muddy Ford. A lover of all art forms “because it makes us better,” Cindi believes strongly in the importance of an interdisciplinary arts community in which artists are also patrons of the arts and hopes that Jasper Magazine will help facilitate the growth and sustenance of such a community in Columbia. Her theme song is “Taking Care of Business” by BTO, but Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” can launch her into ecstasy.
Kyle Petersen music Editor
Kyle Petersen, despite his best intentions, was not “Born under a Bad Sign” and thus did not become the weathered blues singer and guitarist he was truly meant to be. Instead, he became one of those sappy, idealistic music fans who really, truly believes in the power of song— largely because he heard Wilco’s “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” at a very impressionable age and still hasn’t shaken its spell. As a continual student at USC, (Kyle is working on his PhD in English), where he mostly reads a lot of short stories, poetry, and novels and cons people into talking and/or writing about them, he’s also been a college radio DJ on WUSC 90.5 FM for the better part of a decade and served as Music Director during the 2008-2009 school year. It was while starting out at the radio station that he discovered just how many amazing songs were being penned and performed by local acts living in the greater Midlands area—a fact which still continues to amaze and astound him. He started blogging about local music and other artists that interested him in 2009, and his work has been published in Twangville, Shuffle, undefined, and the Columbia Free Times. You do not want to hear his rendition of “Wagon Wheel,” so please don’t ask. His wife is smarter than yours.
Wade Sellers Film Editor
Wade Sellers grew up in rural West Columbia, SC. Between stints at the University of SC he lived in Atlanta, GA delivering office supplies during the day and playing in a speed metal band at night. He received his BA in media arts from USC and immediately began making independent films and working as a cinematographer. After a successful stint in New York City he moved back to Columbia and hasn’t stopped working since. His films have broadcast nationally and screened at numerous film festivals and theaters around the country, including the Angelika Film Center in New York City and PBS. A two time Emmy nominee for his documentary work, Wade currently owns Coal Powered Filmworks, a fiercely independent production company, in Columbia, SC. His passion for creating moving images is stronger than ever. Wade believes Jasper is an indispensable component of the Columbia arts community because it serves as a critical resource in introducing the public to talented artists that often go unnoticed. To this day he is still plagued with a strong resemblance to Emilio Estevez.
W. Heyward Sims Design Editor
Minus a one year sojourn at the turn of the century residing in the 24153, W. Heyward Sims has been situated near or a stone’s throw away from the 29205 since 1981. His days are spent alongside Lauren and Will Mancke at the dynamic Northbound Design at 1202 Main, where the triumvirate is dedicated to making the web a sweeter place to surf. The nights of the last 12 years found Sims sashaying about under names such as Bolt, The Fastest Steed on Earth, Death Becomes Even the Maiden, and Parlour Tricks. He is currently writing and recording Pineapple Flex, his second effort as Devereaux, which is the follow-up recording to the Cacti Pace EP re-released in 2012 by Post Echo. Sims was lured into the Jasper coterie by the fringe benefits and the creative freedom. If he had to pick a theme song for himself, it might be “Disco Science” by Mirwais or The Pointer Sisters’ “Automatic.” He recently was wed to his bbs of five years, Amber Sipe, this past spring. The newly legal dyad currently live with Bowie and Weezy, their two precious cat babies.
Kristine Hartvigsen assistant Editor
Kristine Hartvigsen was born in San Francisco, CA. An Army brat for many years she found herself in Columbia after her father retired at Fort Jackson. She earned a BS degree in education from the University of SC and returned to USC to pursue a master’s in journalism. During that time, she began her professional career at The State and The Columbia Record newspapers in the mid-1980s. Her writing and editing have received multiple local ADDYs, as well as awards from the SC Press Association and the Carolinas Association of Business Communicators. She is the former editor of South Carolina Business, Northeast Columbia, and Lake Murray Columbia magazines. A two-time finalist in the SC Poetry Initiative’s Single Poem Contest, she is the author of To the Wren Nesting, published in 2012 by Muddy Ford Press. Kristine feels an actual printed arts magazine is a vital indicator of the broad talent and the quality of life in Columbia, both of which are critical to attracting business and new investment to the area. When she was a blonde, Kristine was mistaken for Hillary Clinton in a New York restaurant in 1996. She is the mother of a budding writer and artist, Colin Anderson, and lives in Irmo. If she were to adopt a theme song, it would be “Imagine” by John Lennon.
Robert B. Jolley, Jr., MD Publisher
Bob Jolley, aka Bier Doc, grew up in upstate SC and began his arts training reading Classics Illustrated Comics and playing E-flat trumpet in the James F. Byrnes High School Marching Band, of which he was president. A graduate of USC and the Medical University of SC, Bob completed a residency at Georgetown University in Washington, DC where he was chief resident, then returned to SC with his wife Cindi to start a family and a medical practice. A former chief of family practice at Baptist Medical Center, he switched specialties mid-way through his career from family practice to emergency medicine and now roves about the state practicing at various and sundry hospital emergency rooms. Have stethoscope. Will travel. The owner and publisher at Muddy Ford Press, Bob is devoted to promoting the literary arts in Columbia and providing a platform from which SC’s many fine writers can satisfy their publishing proclivities. Muddy Ford Press is the underwriter for Jasper Magazine. Bob often answers to the moniker Bier Doc because of his long-time affinity for brewing excellent, well-balanced beer and sharing it with the people he loves.
Thomas Hammond Staff Photographer
Thomas Hammond was born on top of a mountain in the former British Crown Colony of Hong Kong. To answer your first two questions, he is not Chinese, nor is he a military brat. After some time toddling around northern Europe, Thomas eventually found his way to Greenville and ultimately Columbia, where he has been ever since. After high school, he pursued degrees in music education and musicology. Happenstance brought him into employment at various libraries in the Soda City. Up until this point, photography had always been casual hobby. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, Thomas’s images began to pique the interest of friends and colleagues who encouraged him to pursue the hobby more seriously. Now, he shoots regularly around town for various print and online publications (mostly local, but some national) and his work can be found in galleries. As a member of the Jasper staff, Thomas hopes to use this as an opportunity to push himself more creatively and heighten the public’s awareness of the value of good quality photography. The new media environment has made it easy for publishers and the consuming public to accept cheap and easy over quality. Thomas would argue that just because you can take the easy route does not mean that you should. His lucky number is 3846894640408747468894.754
Alex Smith Staff Writer
Alex Smith was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. His education and career as a theatre artist and technician, musician, writer, performer, filmmaker, visual artist, and puppeteer are the result of the generosity and talent of an endless list of excellent artists, from whom he learned by observing and working for and/or with. From playing the title role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, to serving as technical director for the Piccolo Fringe Festival at Theatre 99 from 2002 – 2005, to acting under the direction of Dewey Scott- Wiley, Darion McCloud, Robert Richmond, Nathan Bezner, and Jim Thigpen, to assisting Brenda Schwarz for the year leading up to the opening of the Tapp’s Arts Center, to being selected by curator Philip Mullen as one of the spotlighted artists at the Cultural Council’s 2011 Founders Ball, Alex is constantly embracing the role of local Renaissance Man. Alex joined the Jasper Staff because Cindi asked him to, and that’s really all it took. “I think what Jasper is doing is giving the disparate artists in their disparate fields of artistic endeavor in Columbia a literal and figurative place to use as a touchstone. Jasper is one of the main conduits that is helping to create a unified arts community in Columbia.” Alex does not have a doppelganger, per se, but he has often referred to Nickelodeon Theatre executive director Andy Smith as his, “good twin.”
Annie Boiter-Jolley Operations manager
Annie Boiter-Jolley grew up in the woods of Chapin, SC. While attending high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she co-founded both a viola gang and a political club. Annie graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Carolina Honors College, where she double majored in political science and Women’s and Gender Studies, minored in Southern Studies, continued her political activism, and, sadly, let her musical studies fall by the wayside. She is currently working on the dissertation that will complete her PhD in political science, teaching undergraduate courses in political science, and recently dusted off her viola so that she could play with the Columbia Community Orchestra. Annie joined the Jasper staff because all the cool kids were doing it. Her theme song is her husband Kyle’s rendition of “Wagon Wheel.”
Forrest Clonts Photography Editor
Forrest Clonts is a Columbia native. He was born here, received a BS in media arts from the University of SC, and now lives here with a lovely new family. Before he dies here he’d like to become a pretty okay photographer and at least the world’s fifth-best dad and husband. Modest to the core, Forrest says he joined the Jasper team in an attempt to become a productive member of the arts scene, “after having not done much of anything for the first 27 years of life.” He thinks the jury is still out on whether he has been productive in this endeavor, but we think he may be the best photography editor we could ever wish for. His them song is “Mahna Mahna” by The Muppets.
William Garland Staff Writer
Born and raised in a small town in Georgia, William Garland is a writer who wants to create work that belongs on a shelf with a few of those legendary writers from small town GA. He is currently working on a book that tells the story of an individual family’s struggle amidst the changing landscape in Milledgeville, GA. William received his undergraduate degree from Wofford College, and has a MA in Religious Studies from the University of SC. He currently teaches in the English Department at USC, where he recently earned an MFA in Creative Writing. His work has appeared in Real South Magazine, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Black Fox Literary Magazine, and other literary journals. William and his wife, Leah, are both enjoying the joys and perils of new parenthood, as they try to teach their son, Tyler, a thing or two. William believes that the lifeblood of a community revolves around its involvement with the arts’ scene, and magazines like Jasper give communities a window into the vibrancy of that scene. The theme song to his life is Pearl Jam’s “Yellow Ledbetter,” because he is always open to interpretations of what any of it might actually mean.
J A S P E R W AT C H E S Workshop Theatre offers the chance to speak in rhinoceros (of courserous, can’t you?) as Leslie Bricusse’s stage adaptation of the 60’s film Doctor Dolittle continues its run through Saturday, July 26. Elisabeth Gray Heard Engle, Workshop’s go-to artist for rockin’ summer shows in recent years, directs Lee O. Smith as the titular country vet from Puddleby-on-the Marsh, England, who learns to “talk to the animals.” The cast includes Bakari Lebby, Hunter Boyle, Kate Huggins, and Hans Boeschen, with music direction by Daniel Gainey and choreography by Katie Hilliger. For information, call 803-799-4876, or visit www.workshoptheatre.com. Town Theatre is likewise reviving a timeless classic, Tarzan the Stage Musical, based on the Disney animated film, with a score by Phil Collins and book by David Henry Hwang. Director/ choreographer Shannon Willis Scruggs sends Parker Byun, a forceful and assertive Thuy in Town’s recent Miss Saigon, swinging across the stage in the title role; Scott Stepp plays Kerchak, the alpha-male of the ape tribe, with Laurel Posey as the “gorilla his dreams” Kala, and Jackie Rowe as Terk, Tarzan’s best simian pal. Celeste Morris makes her Town debut as Jane, Frank Thompson is cast as Jane’s father, and Chad Forrister plays the villainous hunter Clayton. The show continues through Sunday, July 27; for information, call 803-799-2510, or visit www.towntheatre.com.
W/ AUgUST kRICkEL
Summer’s here and the time is right for children’s theatre throughout the Midlands. Prove you’re the world’s coolest mom or dad—or aunt, uncle, grandparent, godparent, or older sibling—and treat a child to a play or musical today. Curtain Up!
Columbia Children›s Theatre is also bringing the Disney back, with their YouTheatre production of Aladdin, Jr. based on the animated film, but scaled down for a cast of younger performers. Expect magic carpets, wisecracking genies, and lively songs (from Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice) like “A Whole New World” and “Friend Like Me.” Production dates are August 2-11; Jerry Stevenson directs, with choreography by Dedra Daniels Mount, and music direction by Dianne Palmer-Quay. For information, call 803-691-4548, or visit www. columbiachildrenstheatre.com. Theatre Rowe continues their popular series of dinner and a murder—well, a murder mystery—with Murder Ahoy, running Thursdays-Sundays through the end of July. Shiver yer timbers and guard yer booty, as Redbeard the Pirate faces mutiny on the high seas. The cast includes George Kaupp, Ryland Sundby, John Dixon, Harrison Ayer, Zeke Jones, Jesse Thompson, Lisa Buchanan, Haley Claffy, Shana Sorrells, Aleesa Johnson, Leeann Swager, and Tessa Zimmerman. Then get ready for a change of venue to Jersey - yo, what exit? Over the River and Through the Woods follows Nick, a traditional Italian-American bachelor from the Garden State whose grandparents (Frank, Aida, Nunzio and Emma) conspire to keep their bambino close to home, and perhaps play matchmaker too. This dinner theatre show runs August 16-25. For information, call 803-200-2012, or visit www.theatrerowe.com .
WOW (Walking on Water) Productions presents Confessions of a Good Man, an original work by local authors Tangie Beaty, Donna Johnson, and Kevin A. Raspberry. Running one weekend only, July 25-28 at the Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College, the play tracks three brothers as they follow different paths in life. Inspired by their father’s example, each struggles to become a better person, but family secrets bind their family together while threatening to tear them apart. Featured in the cast is national gospel recording artist Blanche McAllister-Dykes along with Kayla Baker, Dana Bufford, Deon Generette, Rod Lorick, Regina Skeeters, and Will Young, IV. For information, call 803-807-2969, or visit www.wowproduction.org Chapin Theatre Company spotlights the talent of its Junior Company, with the stage version of Delia Ephron’s How to Eat Like a Child – And Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-up. Via a series of comic songs and hilarious sketches, children offer step-by-step lessons in everything from “How to Beg for a Dog” to “How to Act After Being Sent to Your Room.” Performances are at the Old Chapin Firehouse / American Legion Building, and run for one weekend only Aug. 2-4. For information, call 803-240-8544, or visit www.chapintheatre.org/. There’s still another full week to catch Ain’t Misbehavin’, running through Saturday, July 20 on the Thigpen Mainstage at Trustus Theatre. Terrance Henderson directs and choreographs this Tony-winning revue, with musical direction by Walter Graham. The joint is undeniably jumpin’ as Devin Anderson, Kendrick Marion, Avery Bateman, Samuel McWhite, and Katrina Blanding pay tribute to the songs and legacy of Thomas “Fats” Waller and the Harlem Renaissance. Then Eugenie Carabatsos’s Pine makes its world premiere as winner of the acclaimed Trustus Playwrights’ Festival, now in its 24th year. Director Dewey Scott-Wiley’s cast includes Hunter Bolton, Rachel Kuhnle, Becky Hunter, Josiah Laubenstein, Cory Alpert, Jennifer Moody Sanchez, and Trey Hobbs. Scott Wiley notes that “The Playwright’s Festival celebrates significant new American work. Audiences have an opportunity to be a part of theatre history in the making.” Pine is described as “a charming and funny new play about a family on the brink of chaos,” as the White family gathers to mourn the anniversary of Colin White’s death ... joined by Colin! Run dates are August 2-10. Trustus closes out its most ambitious season to date with Collected Stories, postponed from earlier this year. Director Milena Herring marks her return to local theatre with this exploration of artistic license, academic freedom, and the relationship of teacher/mentor to student/protégé. Elena Martinez-Vidal and Elisabeth Gray Heard Engle are featured in this Pulitzer finalist from author Donald Margulies. For information on all three shows, call 803-254-9732, or visit www.trustus.org.
ESSAY: THE OFF-SEASON SEASON By Bonnie Boiter-Jolley ore and more often over the past few years, arts lovers living in and around Columbia find themselves exclaiming at the sheer density of cultural and artistic events in our fair city. Overlapping and double or even triple booking dates in the fall and spring make it difficult to choose just what to do on any given night. This is a great problem to have, mind you. Dance patrons marvel at the number of dance performances that seem to have sprung up in our midst. More than one international dance expert has speculated in jest that there must be something in the water to inspire such affinity for dance arts in Columbia. How strange and sad then that in a city with such a reputation for producing professional dancers as well as more than our share of professional, student, civic, pick-up, ballet, modern, Latin, and non-specific movement companies, the coming of summer puts a surprising damper on dance production. Though the rare group will continue to thrive in these months, (tip of the hat to Vista Ballroom with their Mad Hot Tango event and more), many others shut down entirely, leaving dancers without work, physical conditioning, or artistic outlets. I spoke to a smattering of dancers about how they approach the summer and what they do to address the issues of staying in shape and paying their bills and a few things became clear. Primarily due to lack of funding, Columbia’s professional dance companies are unable to sustain seasons of a length that will keep their dancers in shape and their audiences satisfied. Something our readers may not know is that nationally, companies have differing lengths of season. The big, national companies like American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet have seasons that span nearly the whole year with residencies in a number of
theatres and national and international tours, as well as various shorter seasons for the fall, winter and spring. This template is only possible for those companies with national audiences and, what would seem to us here in Columbia, astronomical budgets. In the next tier, for regional companies like the Washington Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet, seasons follow more or less the same template as smaller city companies such as Louisville Ballet and Atlanta Ballet. These companies generally have one season of performances in consecutive weeks or months, most often spanning from the fall through the spring. Funding for smaller companies is hard to come by as they tend to reach fewer audience members, leading to a sort of shrinkage in season length. Shorter seasons mean less employment for the dancers. Most companies in the regional to city range sustain seasons of a minimum of thirty weeks. Here in Columbia, our companies are lucky if they break twenty four. This leaves Columbia with as many as six months out of the year with no dance, which essentially means up to six months of unemployment for the dancers and just as much time without revenue for the companies, including their artistic and administrative staffs. Without work, professional dancers often turn to restaurant and retail jobs to sustain themselves, leaving little to no time for the amount of physical conditioning required for the strenuous demands of the art. During the season, dancers work all day everyday either in conditioning, training, or rehearsing performance material. When a body is accustomed to this work and is suddenly at rest, muscle deterioration and loss of technique and physical ability can occur. When a dancer returns to the craft after long periods of down time, the process of getting back in shape is a long and hard one. Leaping back into full days of rehearsal can lead to serious injuries. I have numerous colleagues who already tend bar, wait tables, dress windows or work as cashiers during the season to supplement their modest dance incomes. When the end-of-the-season rolls around, their hours at these jobs will typically more than double. Those who lucky enough to be able to continue the work of dancing do so by taking on additional outside jobs as guest artists in out-of-town performances and pick-up companies, or gigs assisting with choreography and partnering workshops wherever they can find them. Many of my own colleagues will work as guest artists throughout South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia this summer. Others will fly off to Florida or Texas to act as resident assistants for summer programs where they can continue to take classes, train, and maintain their physical condition. These limited options all result in dance talent leaving Columbia for weeks and months at a time. Some dancers who are unable to find work will leave Columbia altogether and move back home to stay with their families. Some won’t come back. Soloist with the Columbia City Ballet, Philip Ingrassia has managed to stay busy with guest artist jobs so far this summer, while holding down another job as the manager of a restaurant and bar. At this point, a little over half way through his off-season, he has nothing else lined up. Ingrassia is adamant that “it is not an ideal situation, but we are doing the best with what we have.” Maurice Johnson, another dancer with the Columbia City Ballet, participated in local dancer and choreographer Miriam Barbosa’s South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company concert earlier in the summer. Though
the content of the performance lay outside of the realm of traditional ballet, Johnson enjoyed the chance to display his versatility and, most importantly, to keep dancing. Also exploring the outer edges of her experience is home grown ballet dancer Claire Richards. Spending her first summer living at her parents’ house since she was 13-years-old, (serious dancers in training typically travel to summer dance intensives during their teenage years), Richards, now 20, was uneasy about what the off-season would hold. “I was a bit apprehensive about how I would keep my dancing up to par amidst all of my work commitments,” she explains. This is a common concern, particularly for women who have a harder time than men finding guest artist jobs both in season and off. Richards found an outlet in the Columbia Summer Repertory Company, a group pioneered by myself and others to try to address some of these issues. Nearing the end of the dance season, the empty months of summer began to loom ahead and with the fear of sedentary days and weeks came the determination to fill them with movement. Working with fellow dancer and choreographer Wayland Anderson, I gathered a small group of dancers including Richards, Ricky Davis, and CCB soloist Alicia White to perform a selection of choreography by Anderson at the One Month One Columbia Kick-off event in April. We met and rehearsed for a few hours several times a week to get the movement together. Calling ourselves the Columbia Summer Repertory Company, we intended to provide an outlet for professional dancers not only to continue the momentum from the previous season, but also to expand our experiences by trying new forms of dance and even choreographing ourselves. According to Anderson, “Staging new works provides an opportunity for the choreographer, dancer, and audience to look at dance and dancers from a different perspective. It is a very freeing and refreshing moment in a dancer’s career to be a part of a new ballet, and CSRC has provided that experience for all of its members.” The One Columbia performance generated a great response in the form of verbal and moral, if not monetary, support. Keeping our first attempts modest, the group went on to collaborate with Workshop Theatre’s production of Songs for a New World dancing Anderson’s choreography alongside cast members on stage. This set us on the path to accomplishing an important piece of our mission, as Anderson says, “by actively trying to reach Columbian’s where they are instead of insisting that they can only enjoy dance in big theatres.” With more small projects scattered throughout the summer, our goal for this, our first off-season season is to raise awareness and garner support for a potentially bigger and more self-sustaining (read financially sound) summer season in the future. In retrospect, Anderson highlights one of the many benefits of the company as helping to cultivate not only dancers, but individual artists and leaders in the arts community. Thanks to Anderson’s encouragement, CSRC’s newest works feature choreography by our own female company members. Though CSRC is attempting to address many of the issues and concerns associated with such a long off-season, we have yet to generate any substantial amount of financial support, meaning that this is just a small step in a big direction that will require thought, time, and a lot of work. Fortunately for Columbia dancers and dance patrons, we have time on our side, and none of us expected it to be easy.
J A S P E R TA k E S N O T I C E
Payton Frawley By Alex Smith his issue, Jasper takes notice of Payton Frawley. If her name isn’t already familiar, it’s probably because Payton, in the two years she’s been working as an artist in Columbia, has not stopped working long enough to revel in the attention she and her work are due. In the last year alone she has worked on pieces for numerous puppetry slams (including two recent, sold out shows at The Nickelodeon Theater during its Indie Grits Film Festival) with Belle et Bete founders Kimi Maeda and Lyon Hill, maintained a full-time schedule as a puppeteer and go-to gal at The Columbia Marionette Theater, “…struggled through school,” (her own words, and, as is her mien, an understatement of her own accomplishment, since she maintains a full academic scholarship in the Art Department at USC), and designed a dress for the Columbia Design League’s annual Runaway Runway competition, her second in two years. Payton, by the way, turned twenty just a few months ago. She grew up in Red Bank before her family moved to Lexington, but she never sought out the culture over the river in Columbia when she was younger. “My dad worked on Main Street,” she says, “so, to me, it just seemed empty except for a few businesses.” She applied and was accepted to Governor’s School for the Arts. It proved a pivotal moment in her life. ”I think that’s where I first discovered all the things about being an artist that I love: creating something out of nothing with your hands, breaking your back to get it done, the sense of community...” After graduating from the Governor’s School, Payton was preparing to go to college in Detroit. “Then,” she says, “something inside me just said, ‘Go to Columbia.’” She followed her intuition, starting out as an Art History major, then switching to Media Arts not long thereafter. USC proved a stepping off point for her, which led directly toward the flurry of activity which has filled the last two years of her life. “In the fall of 2011,” she says, “I had to go to a cultural event for school, and I wanted to do something outside the University, so I looked around and discovered that there was a marionette theater here, which surprised me. I went to see a performance of the Brementown Musicians at Columbia Marionette Theater and was so impressed that I offered to volunteer. A few weeks later,
[CMT Artistic Director] Lyon Hill got back in touch with me, and it turned out that they needed a puppeteer. I’ve worked there ever since.” She credits her work on CMT’s production of Hansel and Gretel with steering her away from her original choice of major. “I think it pushed me to be a Media Arts major. I realized that I wanted to be making something. Hansel and Gretel utilized many aspects of what you learn in Media Arts, and I learned so much, helping to build the puppets and put the show together from the ground up.” But, as busy as the Marionette Theater and school kept her, she found harbor for more creative expression on, it turns out, one of Columbia’s biggest and brightest stages. “I read about Runaway Runway on the internet,” she continues. “I had designed something for a ‘recycled’ fashion show when I was at Governor’s School and won first place, so I thought it would be fun
to try something. I entered and got second runner-up in 2012 for my wallpaper dress.” Payton took her hands-on education in puppetry further still. “My involvement with the Puppet Slams started out mainly because I was willing to be there and help whenever Kimi and Lyon needed me. The more I let them know that I wanted to be involved, the more they asked me to do. In the April, 2013 Slam, I performed in a couple of the pieces.” All this work left little time for Payton to create her own artwork, but after the constant forge of Governor’s School, she was ready for the break. Now, though, she says she’s feeling the pull to work on her own projects again. “I’m currently working on stop motion figures for a story based on Little Red Riding Hood,” she says, “and I just cut off all my hair, so I’ve also been thinking about doing a hair drawing project, along the lines of [renowned jeweler and artist] Melanie
Bilenker, since I have this huge pile of hair sitting on my desk now.” The reference to Bilenker raises the question of who Payton considers influential in regard to her creativity. “My grandma Asako was my first influence as an artist,” she says. “She taught me about blind contour drawing. Then, Joe Thompson at Governor’s School. He pushed me to stop softening everything in my sculpture and drawings, to make them more rectilinear...and then Lyon, of course...” Payton has worked with visual artist, filmmaker, and puppeteer Lyon Hill almost from the moment she arrived in Columbia. Her praise for him is effusive, and is matched by Hill’s praise for her. “First off,” says Hill, “She’s just a great person and I really enjoy her company. She has helped me, and my work, so much in the last year. As an artist, she’s got a very refined aesthetic. She has an eye for detail and emotion. She’s organized
and disciplined. When Payton gets involved, she makes things happen.” Her non-stop presence and activity as an artist in Columbia lead one to wonder whether Payton will make a permanent home here. “I may not stay forever,” she smiles, “but I definitely feel like I’ve reached a destination on my journey. Getting to know other artists, seeing how they all connect, and how truly eager everybody is to help each other make me feel like I’m in the right place here in Columbia.” “What I create is a way for me to share what it is that I’m experiencing, what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling,” she says when asked what she sees her work as an artist as being, beyond style and technique. “I’m a pretty quiet person. I like listening to people. I guess art is my way of getting people to listen to me.” Jasper is listening, Payton.
Photos by Forrest Clonts
The Life and Times of the Columbia music Festival association By August Krickel here are few hotter, more controversial topics currently than public support for the arts, and the role that government should play. Many point to Columbia’s role as state capital as justification for the city to be a center for the arts, and stress how cultural life is vital for the economic prosperity of the community, as well as for residents’ quality of life. Yet for more than a century, Columbia has supported a diverse, public/private partnership that continues to pursue its original mandate: “to educate, discover, develop, train, assist, present, produce, and promote the performing arts among the area’s own citizens, for the edification of all, and to serve as a council and resource for the community.” The Columbia Music Festival Association, commonly called CMFA, was formed in 1897 as a collaboration between government and community. 050
In the late 1800s as the South struggled to climb out of Reconstruction, Columbia’s leaders desired that the city be seen as progressive, metropolitan, and urbane. CMFA was developed to foster a structure and environment conducive for the growth of the arts. Columbia was a major stop along north-south railway routes, and many national and international touring artists performed at the city Opera House at the corner of Main and Gervais Streets, where both City Hall and the CMFA offices were also located. Eventually dubbed the CMFA International Artist Concert Series, seasons brought everyone from the Dresden Philharmonic to pianist Arthur Rubenstein. A vintage photo was recently received from the former, depicting the group performing here in 1909, says John Whitehead, while a picture of the latter from the mid-1960s hangs in his office—one can partially see the young Whitehead standing on the sidelines, as a new CMFA volunteer. He came aboard as a staff member in 1967 after writing a grant application to fund his own position, and has been executive director since 1982. Subsequently the CMFA offices moved to Main Street’s Equitable Arcade Building, then to a small brick structure on the grounds of the Columbia Museum of Art, and then to its current location on Pulaski Street in the Congaree Vista in the early 1990s. Meanwhile performances were held in the Township Auditorium, at USC’s Drayton Hall, in high school auditoriums such as Dreher and Keenan, and in a small playhouse on base at Fort Jackson. Whitehead recalls that CMFA events were among the first locally to quietly and peacefully accept and encourage racially mixed audiences. Over the years, CMFA has served as an incubator for its component groups as they grew. An opera study guild from the late 1800s developed
into a producing organization, the Columbia Lyric Opera. A number of smaller ensembles evolved into the South Carolina Philharmonic, which became its own organization in the 198os, and will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. Other non-profits whose roots began with CMFA include the Columbia Choral Society and the Columbia City Ballet. Current affiliate organizations include the Carolina Ballet, Vibrations Dance Company, Eboni Dance Theatre, and Unbound, a contemporary jazz company. Other groups opt for the status of participating CMFA partners. As such, they may avail themselves of a number of vital resources: use of CMFA’s 501(c) 3 status as a non-profit by teaming as co-presenters for an event, access to insurance coverage for a performance, and advice and guidance on setting up their own structure (incorporating as a non-profit, for example, how to recruit board members and volunteers, how to develop financial resources etc.) Through CMFA, performers hoping to team with stage technicians or musicians can benefit from networking opportunities, and fledgling groups can be directed towards avenues for grants and public funding. CMFA can also act as financial agent for new groups. One of the biggest benefits to partner organizations is the availability of the ArtSpace, a black box-style performance venue that can seat 100, or accommodate up to 150 attendees for a reception or art exhibition. CMFA doesn’t raise money directly, although it encourages and assists its affiliates and partners in doing so. Instead, as a result of a joint
HOME OF THE MAD HOT TANGO MARATHON
WWW.MADHOTTANGOMARATHON.COM From left: clipping showing a young John Whitehead; season brochure; scrapbook and photo of the original city opera house. Photos by Bonnie Boiter-Jolley
legislative stature in the 1960s, its funding has derived from state, county, and city budget line items, as well as hospitality tax revenue and SC Arts Commission grants. Governance is provided by a board of directors and commissioners appointed by both the City of Columbia and Richland County. When asked about key leaders over the years, Whitehead smiles, and points to dozens of plaques and photos lining the office walls, acknowledging the hundreds of civic leaders and volunteers throughout the organization›s history, but then notes especially the progressive vision of the board in the 1990s, when Thom Jones was President. Whitehead feels that CMFA is now positioned to take their next step. “We count zip codes like everyone else,” he observes, and as a result, knows that the Pulaski Street building was used by more than 22,500 people last year, more than many city facilities. Visitors came from Argentina to Prague to Hong Kong, and from across America; if one were to add up participants and attendees at all affiliate events, the number would surely be well past a hundred thousand. His goal is to be able to upgrade the building›s interior facilities, adding more space for storage, and more space to work on sets, costumes and props. He hopes to add more
rehearsal space, and/or a bigger black box. He wants to be able to host more events like one in late April, near the end of One Month, One Columbia, where all the dance groups in town came together at the CMFA ArtSpace to perform excerpts from shows. As he describes his vision for the future, the sounds of classical music echo from the rehearsal hall next to his office, where young dancers are participating in a summer enrichment program. Whitehead is quite happy that Columbia is finally realizing “the strength, the volume, and in particular the economic impact of the arts audience.” He points to teetering stacks of hospitality tax applications, which he reviews in his capacity as committee chair. He realizes, however, that the greater challenge is taking awareness of the arts, as well as hits to websites and followers on social media, and translating that into filling seats and selling tickets. As Columbia literally rose from its ashes more than a century ago, forward-thinking leaders instinctively knew that arts were a vital part of any community›s existence, and strove to create a structure where they might thrive. The Columbia Music Festival Association remains a sterling example of how government can work with citizens for the betterment of all.
Argentine Tango Salsa Ballroom Wedding Couples Social Rentals WWW.VISTABALLROOm.NET 803-546-3705 717 LADy ST, STE D COLumBIA, SC 29201
Essay: Goodness, opportunity, and mediocrity ArtFields, Lake City, SC By Chris Robinson
everal years ago Sumter, SC started an ambitious art event called Installations on Main, later renamed Accessibility. (Full disclosure, I curated Accessibility for a few years many years back). The former was the creation of an ambitious, energetic, and enthusiastic Sumter Cultural Commission. The latter paired artists with downtown businesses to bring art to daily life. There wasn’t much money, but it showed the power of art to infect and enhance the local community. Sadly, that initiative has since faded away. Bilbao, Spain famously paired with the Guggenheim Museum to do the same on a much grander scale; they had plenty of money, and were able to transform a dying industrial town, and created a thriving international tourist destination. ArtFields, the attention-getting $100,000 southeastern art competition seems to have the same aspiration for Lake City, the rural agricultural home of the deceased astronaut Ronald McNair and living businesswoman Darla Moore. You drive in, through all the spring green forest and fields, new fast food restaurants, and dying strip malls, to beautiful and nostalgic place full of small town charm, hundred-year-old brick buildings, welcoming shops, and friendly people. There are renovated warehouses, a green space, and a classic southern railroad running right through the middle of town. The competitive event received 800 entries and a panel of jurors selected 400 participants. There were ten days of free and paid events attracting 15,000 to Lake City. The selections were an eclectic mix of artwork from around the region, probably more significant for who was rejected than whom was selected, well-known Columbia Vista Studios plain air painter Stephen Chesley was left out, and many complained of not knowing. Other, mostly Coastal South Carolina area artists were selected to provide installation oriented art and related workshops. ArtFields is a million dollar enterprise, the prizes, $50K for a combination of popular and juried
We should be proud that art is a powerful social vehicle, but careful that it doesn’t bear the weight with little real concern or consideration for quality and the discipline.
selection went to Jim Arendt of Conway. (More disclosure, Mr. Arendt received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of South Carolina Department of Art where I am employed.) Two other prizes of $25K each, one selected by the jurors that went to Leanna Knapp for a deteriorating ceramic wedding dress, the other by purely popular vote that went to John Cooper for a painting of an iconic photograph of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The photo was from Jurgen Stroop’s report to Heinrich Himmler and one of the best-known pictures from World War II. I was apprehensive when the competition was first advertised, worrying that the money was too big, the venue too small, coastal and Charleston centric, and the expertise too varied. As desirable as $50K may appear, like the lore of lotteries, it can either give you a step up or ruin one’s life; it may even provide more attention than an artist might deserve, though with Arendt’s practical Midwestern farm roots, young family, and blossoming career, it should serve him well. And while big money certainly spells success, smart and philanthropic desires may not easily transfer to the world of art. As much as some might trust or prefer otherwise, formal education and practical experience, even in the selection of additional expertise, can make a big difference in the flavor and success of the exhibition. The juror’s prize was housed at Becky’s Salon and the friendly staff would wave you in to tell the story of the artist whose work was housed there; a young bride whose wedding failed at the last moment and used the construction of a sculpture of her dress as a vehicle to heal. You can’t help but be caught up in the television show scenario. One wonders what happened to those artists without so nurturing and supportive of a host location to draw in patrons. The popular prize was retracted when it was determined that the artist did not wholly own the artwork, apparently in violation of the rules. Cooper’s painting was a faithful colorized painted reproduction of the iconic 1943 photographic image. The retraction raises some very interesting and complex questions: Why was the work selected and exhibited if it didn’t meet the rules, especially with such an obvious and iconic image? Who and what determines what is and constitutes wholly owned? The choices seem arbitrary and subjective as image appropriation is a popular form of contemporary art; copying or borrowing used to be and still often is a popular method for learning; most artwork is derivative in one form or another; and the courts will be working out these and related intellectual prop-
erty issues for many years—easily another story. It is also interesting to note that in a timely, congruent, and related court decision, Los Angeles street artist Thiery Guetta, also known as Mr. Brainwash, lost a copyright case regarding a painted mural of a 1977 iconic image of Sid Vicious by British photographer Dennis Morris, the judge determining that the overall effect of Guetta’s images was not transformative. I guess it is a good thing Marcel Duchamp was not an entrant as his iconic and historic ready-made objects were by definition wholly owned and patented by others. Patent and copyright law is playing out in aggressive and complex ways and will probably continue to do so, most recently in one company claiming rights to the Happy Birthday song and the Supreme Court determining that companies cannot patent and own human genes. One wonders, in the ArtFields case, who raised the question and why? But the questions may be much more fundamental than that. Kirkland Smith was awarded the previously retracted popular prize. (Even more disclosure, Ms. Smith was once a student of mine). While I like and respect her creative, insightful, and sensitive rendition of what appears in every way to be an equally iconic image of Steve Jobs, with a method, albeit an innovative variation, popularly attributed to Chuck Close, the comparison doesn’t end there. The method used by Close, Smith, and I would also argue, Arendt, is to divide descriptive areas of value into select shapes, then fill the value in with whatever—in Close’s case, the painted mechanics of photographic dots, thumbprints, and random lines; in Smith’s case, discarded objects that would otherwise make their way to a landfill. Arendt would fall into the same category using various values of faded denim in place of paint. The basic method is taught in foundations art classes and can be easily derived using Photoshop. ArtFields is a wonderful and ambitious undertaking and we can only hope that the organizers have the interest and resolve, even with a few missteps, to continue. Next year should draw more artists, more spectators, more money and community development, and one would also hope the organizers and jurors would be more readily circumspect. The place brings back memories of easier times and you want the idea of using art as a vehicle for community revitalization to work; sometime it does and sometimes it doesn’t. One can’t help but be captivated by the warm, friendly welcome, good food, quaint shops open even on Sunday with plenty of gifts for sale, and art hanging in the hair salons and barber shops.
Steve Jobs by Kirkland Smith
Unlike Accessibility where artists were able to choose their venue, proprietors were allowed to choose their art, some deferring to whatever the organizers thought best. The art was spread out over several blocks, and it was the viewer’s chore to sort out the featured artwork from the normal, everyday interior décor and the posters and window and floor displays from the contemporary art. On closer inspection, one realizes that some shops have been nicely renovated, while others remain in varying states of deterioration. Some were nicely refurbished downstairs, although with boarded up windows above. Was the art the best? Was the method of selection meaningful? Does anyone really care? Is ArtFields about art, revitalizing a town, entertainment, cheering us up in tough times, money, or all of the above, what is the prime driver, what gets compromised, and can you do that many different things effectively? We should be proud that art is a powerful social vehicle, but careful that it doesn’t bear the weight with little real concern or consideration for quality and the discipline. A representative of the Columbia Museum of Art Contemporaries expressed concern at the recent Contemporaries Artist of the Year soiree about how to keep participants happy while keeping fundraising auction prices down to foster and encourage art buying – many still labor under the false impression that the competition is limited to young and emerging artists. It is not. So many non-profits complain of the struggle to raise money and stay afloat in one breath, then wonder why audiences dwindle in the next, then splinter and divide in disagreement while few artists can afford to attend the pricey events supposedly about them and their work. ArtFields is clearly about money, characterizing itself as the ‘South’s most epic artfest,’ whatever that means. Lake City native Darla More is the motivating personality behind the initiative— bringing sponsorship and money that would fund many of the rest of the competing nonprofits, bringing her goodness, acting locally, and doing for Lake City what she has done for the University of South Carolina which is sidestepping, escaping, and one-upping an embattled governor’s snubs. It is about what Mozart called divertimento, or background music while you are doing other things; pretty, entertaining, and occasionally delicately controversial pictures for the cocktail set. It is also about subjective versus objective choice. One in two is not very selective and the art is all over the place both physically and conceptually. Subjective issues seem to have driven the choices, gimmicks, and smart players at this game. Finally, art can be a great vehicle for accomplishing many things, even reviving a dying southern town. But never forget to distinguish the vehicle from the purpose. Do we want to worry about who and how something is made or what it shows and teaches us? A little knowledge can be a dangerous, maturing, and provocative thing, and that is part of what exhibitions and education are all about.
Interview – Columbia Author James Barilla on His New Book My Backyard Jungle By Cynthia Boiter Photos by Forrest Clonts
James Barilla is more than just an assistant professor in creative writing at the University of South Carolina. He is an urban pioneer with a penchant for growing things—fruits, vegetables, wildlife, children. His new book, My Backyard Jungle: The Adventures of an Urban Wildlife Lover Who Turned His Yard into Habitat and Learned to Live with It (Yale University Press, 2013), recounts Barilla’s move with his family to Columbia and how the author came to terms with what it means to live close to nature in subtropical South Carolina. Jasper caught up with Barilla to get the backstory on My Backyard Jungle. Here’s what we learned.
Jasper: Let’s start off with your background. Where were you born and where did you grow up? JB: I was born in Syracuse, in upstate New York, and lived there until I was nine. Then we moved to Western Massachusetts, to a small town in the mountains. So I went from an urban landscape of backyards to a pretty remote place. We lived on eight acres of forest, and were surrounded by thousands of acres of state forest. That was my introduction to the idea of wilderness, which has stayed with me: swimming in ponds, fishing in brooks, playing kick-the-can in the woods. Not a lot of adult supervision in those days. We still go back to visit every summer, but the kids don’t roam around the woods like we did. Jasper: Were you interested in writing, gardening, or the environment when you were growing up? JB: I was very interested in gardening and the environment. Mostly, I liked catching things and putting them in containers. I had a kiddie pool in our Syracuse backyard filled with things like mud minnows and sticklebacks and darters, and I would feed them mosquito larvae, which didn’t make me that popular with the parents. I also loved to read: fantasy books. I was a precocious reader of The Lord of the Rings, which was the Harry Potter of the day. And Watership Down. Jasper: Were there gardeners or farmers in your family? JB: My grandfather was an amazing backyard gardener. It was a Depression-era habit, I think, to colonize whatever space there was and make it produce food. He always had tomatoes and squash and various other vegetables out back. Until I was nine, I lived in the house that my own father had grown up in and my grandparents still owned, and the backyard in my memory was defined by the various fruit trees my grandfather had planted: he had an arbor of wine grapes, several pear and apple trees. A sour cherry. They were all big trees by the time I was born. Jasper:
And where (and what) did you study?
JB: My undergrad degree is from Macalester College in Minnesota. I got a Masters in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana and a PhD in Literature from the University of California, Davis. My dissertation there was a kind of scholarly/creative nonfiction hybrid project. Geographically, it seems I’m doing a circuit of the lower forty-eight! Jasper: To what do you attribute the combination of these passions that seem to have led to your newest book, My Backyard Jungle? Were you always an “urban wildlife lover”? JB: I’m interested in wildlife and I’m interested in gardening. But it’s also the case that when you have young children, your creative boundaries get smaller—you’re in the yard watching them play, not roaming around the wilderness
for months. I was indeed an early adopter of the urban wild: as a kid, I loved toads and butterflies and centipedes and whatever else I could catch. It’s funny—my own kids are not as fascinated as I was by these creatures. My mom was always forcing me to throw out cans of critters I’d forgotten in my room. Jasper: You met your wife Nicola when? She’s from England, right? How did you two get together? JB: We met at an old resort in Maine when we were in college. The help lived upstairs in this old hotel. She was a waitress and I was the beach guy/dishwasher. Jasper: We know you are a very family-centric guy. How old are your children? JB: The kids are now six and eight. It’s been interesting to reflect on who they are now, using this book and the yard as a measuring stick. We have a basketball hoop out there now instead of a sandbox.
Jasper: How long have you been living in your own private little Eden in Columbia? JB: We’ve lived in Columbia for six years now, which seems amazing. My daughter was three months old when we arrived. We came from Chicago, where I held my first teaching job. We were renters there, and had always moved around a lot. I remember uprooting and shipping a bunch of fruit trees from our yard in Chicago to my parents’ house. A couple of them have made it down to Columbia and are growing in the yard. So I was always interested in the flora and fauna of wherever we lived, but it was hard to really dig in when we moved so frequently. Jasper: Your career path has taken a couple of interesting turns. Can you talk about some of the other work you’ve done and how these occupations may have pointed you toward the place you are now? JB: I worked as a field biologist, doing bird surveys in the western states, for several seasons. And I did a lot of ecological restoration work, in-
cluding a stint in northern England for a nonprofit. England is different: cities tend to be very urban, and it’s not atypical for a schoolyard to have no grass at all. We would come and create wildlife gardens for “creepy crawlies,” and then the next day we’d be out on the moors planting a mixed hedge on a sheep farm. Having come from the Rockies with a sense that wilderness was what really mattered, it was a revelation for me to see people caring about small spaces in cities. That helped to inspire the idea for the book. Jasper: How did Nicola and your children react to your idea of turning your yard, as your book is subtitled, into wildlife habitat and learning to live with it? Have you all learned to live with it? JB: Nicola drew the line at bat boxes. That was a non-starter. Otherwise, she is amazingly good about most of the creatures ... with the exception of palmetto bugs. Like most of these critters, they’re easier to admire when they are outdoors, rather than inside. Drawing that line between us and them has been the hardest part of the experiment. Jasper: Your research took you across the globe from studying monkeys in Florida and Delhi to studying bears in Massachusetts and
bees in Brooklyn, all the way to Brazil and beyond. Which came first, the research or the idea for the book? JB: The idea for the book came to me at the zoo, when a black rat snake came out among the cafe tables by the elephant exhibit and started hunting not far from where we were eating pizza. I thought, here’s this wild thing outside the cage, and there are these animals inside the cage. What’s the limit here, in terms of creatures living amongst us? So, from the beginning, I was intrigued by the idea of what we’re willing to have live with us in the city, and I saw it as a cross-cultural, comparative project. It seemed to me that the city offered the most extreme case of people and animals trying to coexist. I didn’t have particular cities in mind, but I thought I would compare my own experiences in the city with what people were experiencing elsewhere, and try to learn from their situations. Jasper: We were most intrigued by your attention to the many different notions of balance. Many of us in SC will identify with the passage: “Without realizing it, I’d been working my way into one of the great challenges of coexistence: how to keep the wild things from harvesting the food we want to each ourselves.” How do you do this?
JB: It’s an ongoing learning process, figuring out what works and doesn’t work. You have to relinquish a bit of control, too: I’ve had to accept that the critters are going to get some of the things we’d like to eat. Hopefully, they don’t get every berry or peach. Right now, I’d be fine with the squirrels helping themselves to a few beans and leaving the apples alone, but of course, they don’t do what I want them to do! Jasper: Any other words of wisdom with which you can leave us regarding living a life close to nature but not so close as to interrupt its authentic rhythms? JB: The main thing is that it is possible: you can attract wildlife to a container garden on the porch. We planted some bee balm this year, just a small patch, and sure enough now a hummingbird comes every morning. Then, you have to make sure that the boundaries of your house are pretty tight—you want to keep the critters on the outside. Make sure the crawlspace doesn’t have any inviting gaps around the HVAC unit, for example. You can also let things go a little bit aesthetically, and appreciate the small things, like fireflies in the evening. You don’t need to do too much: the wild things prefer to be observed, but not disturbed.
loo k in g for signs by jonat h an b u t l er After some time, we came to a barren shore, where the wind and the waves whistled and hissed. There among the detritus lay a tree trunk, tied in a knot. Was this the sign that we had been seeking? Overhead the seagulls circled, and off in the distance, a sail that might have been a neatly folded sheet of paper disappeared.
Jonathan Butler received his MFA from the University of South Carolina, where he was the inaugural recipient of the James Dickey Fellowship for Poetry. His poems have appeared in chapbooks and multimedia installations produced by the universityâ€™s Arts Institute. When he grows up, he wants to be a Tyrannosaurus.
the first days on royal troon court b y ne h a parth asarath y
Because I was seven, still innocent enough to get away with it, and my sister led the way, 5 a.m. belonged to us. We didn’t tell our parents about the quiet fog of morning enveloping our skin, these earliest hours, lying in the fresh grass, the only thing that kept us from killing each other. New house, new location, and we could barely contain ourselves, though our mother called us upper-crust, ten steps above the Indians who lived on dirt roads or in caves. But if she only knew how we craved the muck, how in the dew-splashed grass of our empire, we tried to flag down the garbage trucks that came through our neighborhood, or how on the highway we waved at grime-crusted cars, delighted when the horns penetrated the air. We were young, and could not forget the way our bodies felt in the dirt—whole and clean, our dark skin gleaming against the rough of earth. This was our only salvation, the only time we could bear to look at ourselves and claim splendor to anyone who drove by, though it was, indeed, premature, and there was no one.
Neha Parthasarathy, from Greenville, graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Political Science. This poem is from her senior thesis collection, Peripheral. She enjoys listening to rap music, reading Larry Levis, and watching 30 Rock.
in the arms of the Columbia Poetry Scene AN ES S Ay b y kEN dAl T uR NE R
he poetry scene opened its arms to me the summer of 2006. I had recently graduated from college with a bright and shiny degree in creative writing and theatre. For two years following graduation I was scribbling poems on bar napkins, receipts, the back of my hand. There they stood and there they died, alone and quiet on bits of things best suited for other purposes. After a necessary relocation from NY to SC, I decided it was time for an artistic shake-up. Searching the Free Times for something to satiate my hunger I discovered the literary section under which the local open mics were listed. There was only one to choose from at the time. I dialed the number listened and that following Wednesday night, at a tiny over-crowded bar, my life in Columbia would be forever changed. Open mics have a bum rap for being depressing events where sad, lonely, people share their woes. And, after seven years of attending them I can honestly say, sometimes they are. But so what? Art is a reflection of the human spirit. A thing which is capable of being crushed, fractured, scorned. An abuse which renders us sooty, words like cinders. This same spirit is also capable of shining light into the darkest
of places. It can raise up an aching heart and be painfully righteous. These moments are what open mics seek to amplify. They give space for all voices, seasoned and new, to be heard. And we are there to listen. To share the pain and the laughter of strangers who will become family over the course of an evening. Columbia has its share of amazing open mics. These are a few of my favorites. Mind Gravy is a hug and a warm cup of chai that meets every Wednesday night, from 8 until 10pm, at DRIP coffee house in Five Points. And that is a prompt 8 pm for those of you accustomed to poet time. Founded by Al Black, Mind Gravy is an all ages polite-speech venue that each week features both a musical and a literary act. Open mic usually begins around 9 pm though you’ll want to come early to sign up. The vibe is light and laid back with lots of smiles all around. A good place for beginners to cut their teeth. Music and voices occasionally mix with the sound of various caffeinated beverages being brewed. DRIP serves yummy food as well so if you’re up for dinner and a show I’d be sure to check out Mind Gravy. For more information contact Al Black at email@example.com. The Session Live is a completely different ride. No less friendly but with more of a buzzing nightlife feel. Started by Max Parthas, of Prysmatic Dreams, and hosted by Spiryt Tha Tattoopoet, The Session Live is one of the longest running spoken word venues in Columbia. It meets the second Tuesday of every month at the Art Bar in the Vista, beginning at 9 pm and going until the last poet standing is finished. I’m not kidding when I say that this is a true poetic party. Due to the location, this event is 21+ and rightly so, as the Art Bar pours some of the tastiest (and most generous) drinks in town. I suggest you arrive early to sign up as the roster tends to fill up quickly.
Wet Ink is the newest addition to the bunch. Started a little over a year ago this feisty little venue is full of kindness and bad puns. Plus, the host is pretty cute. (That would be me.) Meeting the fourth Sunday of every month, from 7 until 9pm, Wet Ink encourages various forms of artistic expression, from writers, musicians, dancers, visual artists, and thespians. After spending our first few months traveling to various art spaces throughout Columbia, we have settled into our new home at the cozy Jasper Studios, located inside the historic Arcade building at 1332 Main Street. We are open to all ages. Join us for a monthly spirit massage! We love seeing new faces. For more information contact Kendal Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook under Jasper Presents: Wet Ink Art Series. No matter where you choose to hang your hat you are sure to find exactly what you need at any, or all, of these poetry venues. We are a community of individuals who strive to increase the visibility of poetry and the spoken word arts in Columbia. Won’t you join us?
Red Social Portraits of Collaboration by
Alejandro Garcia-Lemos and Cynthia Boiter
Review – Seven Strong: A South Carolina Poetry Book Prize Reader, 2006-2012, edited by Kwame Dawes By William Garland
“They push their way into the room and stare at you while you read them.” – William Garland on the poetry of Ray McManus
even Strong: A South Carolina Poetry Book Prize Reader, 2006-2012 works to build off of South Carolina’s long history with world-class poets, such as: Nikky Finney, Terrence Hayes, James Dickey, and countless others. So, when Charlene Spearen and Kwame Dawes initially set out to establish the annual SC Poetry Book Prize, they did so with the mind to help launch a series of new voices in SC’s poetic legacy. In the process they were able to find seven distinctive voices that each challenged any preconceived notions of what a southern poet should do. Any anthology that pulls together several works that are unified by a prize or series, rather than a common voice or theme, runs the risk of being a disparate collection, unable to be read with any semblance of flow. And a quick glance at each poet’s style and introduction could leave you with this impression. But once you allow yourself to be immersed in the book, and give each poet enough room to let their own voices bounce back-and-forth with the poets surrounding them, it becomes clear that each of these poets share more than a prize. In his introduction, Dawes writes, “these seven poets both prove and shatter the notion of a southern aesthetic.” Each voice is unique. The subject matters range from everything from the mundane world of office cubicles, to the rough outdoor landscape that requires annual caterpillar burnings. But as Marjory Wentworth notes in her forward, each poet in some degree “speak[s] to the mysterious role of memory in the formation of our identities.” The evocation of the past, and its role in our lives, is one of the threads that tie each poet to the other. Their voices may call out in individual ways, but all of the poets use that voice to explore their connections to memories and understandings of identities with a richness of sound and rhythm that pull the imagedrenched descriptions from the page. Susan Laughter Meyers has a poetic voice that confronts grief and pain, but yet, is still reassuring and lulls you into her narrative with a softness and rhythm, which is only upended by the unexpected beauty of metaphors and im-
ages that linger beyond their respective place on the page. Similarly, Ed Madden creates a poetic voice that gathers momentum through its lyricism. However, Madden’s voice is one that is thick and lives in a world that cries for scrutiny. Unlike Meyers and Madden, Ray McManus’s poems punch you in the face. They may have the feel of nostalgia, but they aren’t soft. There is no sheen of film that separates the reader from McManus’s poems. They push their way into the room and stare at you while you read them. Acting almost as a counter-weight, Julia Koets’ poetic voice is delicate and built from beautifully constructed poems that often occupy the SC she grew up in. The striking lyrical progressions and digressions in each of her poems have the potential to pull your eye away from the narratives that they tell. Délana Dameron’s poetry lives in the connections that she builds between her own living history and the more distant history that she recreates in an effort to keep it from fading away. In her poem, “It Is Written,” this connection is beautifully realized through the fretful wish of narrator’s father: “Maybe you’ll write—.” Worthy Evans’ poems largely occupy everyday routines of work and parenthood. Evans creates a playful and deceptively casual tone that is disarming. We want to find the punch line and be upended by the humor, but his poetry remains calm as it observes and seeks to understand the changing world surrounding it. In a similar fashion, Jennifer Pournelle writes about the world surrounding her, but where Evans poetry works to confine the world into cubicles and other manageable spaces, Pournelle’s world is vast and expansive. She intricately connects the present-day landscape to the people who stood in those same places long ago. In “Frog Eyes,” Ed Madden writes, “I quickly learned that the South was not a single thing.” In Seven Strong, we are able to see that the best new voices in SC poetry are also not a single thing. They are idiosyncratic. They are both quiet and loud. Rough and soothing. They challenge one another. And yet they still sing to each other. This collection pulls together some of those voices, and tells the stories of a complex and diverse South. They are stories worth hearing.
The utility of the arts By Andy Smith
have a confession to make. I used to be much more hard core than I am now. I’d excitedly sit in rooms with busted 16mm projectors watching Structuralist experimental films or rush over to a friend’s house to watch a dubbed VHS tape of one of so-and-so’s early films. I felt pretty certain that we were making progress, destroying boring bourgeois narrative cinema and never looking back. Which makes it really funny, at least I think that’s the word, that now that I actually have a career in the film industry I find myself most interested in things like real estate development and education policy. While this could seem like a big disconnect, a loss of the starry-eyed ideals of a film theory drenched college kid, more and more now I’ve come to see it as an important extension of those very same ideals. They’ve just grown up a little. Though clearly not that sexy to most audiences (or artists), it’s the utilitarian side of art that I’ve really come to appreciate. Where that original interest in “difficult” films sought to create a different, more-engaged viewing experience, to me, it’s only by embracing the role that the arts can play in transforming a community that we can then expect to create these deeper, more meaningful artistic experiences. Where in the past, artists would serve as the catalysts for a neighborhood’s redevelopment only to see themselves eventually priced out of
a neighborhood once it had “turned,” we’re now seeing exciting, artist-driven developments popping up across the country. Whether it’s groups like AS220 in Providence, Rhode Island, or the Twin Cities ArtSpace, we’re seeing non-profit arts groups making solid financial investments in real estate so that they can benefit from their own success. In these two cases, their missions include providing affordable live/work space for artists so they’re able to create and sustain vibrant communities in their cities. Every time I drive past the Bull Street complex, I can’t help but think we should be doing that very same thing here in Columbia. Perhaps even more important than building sustainable artist communities is the need to insure we’re continuing to build artists. Seeing as my field of choice is Media Arts, it’s been fascinating see how the definition of media artists has evolved over the last few years thanks in large part to dramatic increase in accessibility to the basic tools needed for production and distribution. Now, anyone with a smartphone has the ability to shoot, edit and share video – all things that would have taken thousands of dollars to accomplish not very long ago. But just like a mass distribution of hammers and nails wouldn’t result in the sudden construction of new housing developments, we’ve got to make sure we’re putting structures in place to teach these new media artists how to use their tools. In developing the Helen Hill Media Education Center at the Nickelodeon Theatre, we are working to develop ways to truly empower our students through this new technology – arming them with the vocabulary and skills necessary to tell their own stories. To us, this is not just about laying the foundation for the media artists of the future, but also insuring that we have a more informed and engaged citizenry in general. Whether it’s shooting a five minute story with a group of friends in the back yard or deconstructing a political advertisement, we all benefit when our relationship with media evolves beyond passive viewing experiences. In the end, this leads to a bigger confession. My interest in the utility of the arts to transform our communities is, at its heart, completely selfish. I want to live in a move informed and more vibrant city. I want to be blown away on a regular basis by the new ideas and new artworks popping up around me. But as much as I’d love to believe in the possibility of a spontaneous explosion of creativity, I’m much more convinced that we’ll get there by focusing on and investing in planned efforts to foster more sustainable artistic communities.
Andy Smith is the Executive Director of The Nickelodeon.
SEPT 21 2013 MAIN AT HAMPTON STREET • COLUMBIA, SC
SAVE THE DATE!
because the critically-acclaimed Jam Room Music Festival will rock Main St., Columbia, SC again on Sept. 21, 2013! The festival features an eclectic musical lineup with two stages and nine bands for the admission price of absolutely FREE!
“a model of how to program a contemporary music festival.”
-Patrick Wall, Free Times
“an example of how it’s done.”
“this is the kind of music festival Columbia needs and deserves.”
Thanks to these amazing sponsors!
FOLLOW THE FEST! jamroommusicfestival.com
-Otis Taylor, The State
the jam room