Arts and Culture

Shani Gilchrist



Best Bets at Indie Grits

Posted 4/2/2014 2:24:00 PM

Since its inception in 2007, the Indie Grits film festival has grown past the point of national cool to the point of serious critical acclaim.

The independent film festival is hosted by Columbia's Nickelodeon Theater, South Carolina’s only arthouse movie theater, and it’s staffed by the kind of people you would expect to see in retro-filtered photographs on blogs across the United States and Europe. But the staff doesn’t just look the part — they actually know their stuff, as is shown through the main staples (outside of the incredible films on view!) of the April 11–20 event. Here are a few of the standouts that return each year:

* Opening Night Party: Traditionally, this is a free party that is open for all ages. The 2014 inception will be in the parking lot behind the Nickelodeon Theatre at 1607 Main St. on Friday, April 11. Fun and soulful tunes are always in abundance, as is delicious food and drink.

* Kindie Grits: On the Saturdays of the festival, kids can try their little hands at the tasks that go into filmmaking. Every kid loves to be in front of or behind a camera — now’s your chance as a parent to see if film camp might be worth a look.

* Hip Hop Family Day: Confession No. 1 of 2 — I’m 800 times more excited about this than my seven-year-old son, who never misses his hip-hop dance class. Hip Hop Family Day is full of family-friendly music and activities focused on hip hop culture: its history, importance and ability to empower listeners of all ages.

* Indie Camp Remixed: If you’re pretty sure your kid has proven his or her talent or proclivity for film, this weeklong filmmaking camp is something you should sign up for well in advance. Your high schooler might actually smile at you and give you a hug.

* Indie Bits: A newer member of the crowd, Indie Bits is for the gamer who knows the most significant lines to every classic movie since 1968. This is an all-day celebration of independent gaming and interactive media in collaboration with the USC Center for Digital Humanities. Indie Bits is designed to foster collaboration between developers, artists and filmmakers and will feature a gaming showcase, workshops, a Moving Image Research Collection (MIRC) screening, classic film War Games and an after-party.

* Spork in Hand Puppet Slam: Confession No. 2 of 2 — I’m more than a little obsessed with this. The first time I went to a Spork In Hand Puppet Slam performance was with my silliest friend, Matt. Matt also happens to be one of my smartest friends. Combine the super-silly with the super-smart in a gritty experiment with puppets, lighting, and some puppet-masters who might be too smart for their own good and you’re going to have a night of side-splitting hilarity. (Combine all of that with a seat next to Matt and you’ll have to just throw your dignified side out the window) Note: This event is NOT child-friendly. But NOT to be missed.

* Slow Food at Indie Grits: Okay, another confession — I always gorge myself at this event. The food is fabulous. This partnership between Slow Food Columbia and Indie Grits features hors d’oeuvres by the Midlands’ most sustainable, talented chefs and potluck dishes by attendees. Each dish at this party at 701 Whaley highlights at least one local, sustainable ingredient. YUM.

Best bets for extracurricular eating:

If you are planning a trip to Columbia for Indie Grits, there are some staples to check out while and keep yourself fueled for binging on great cinema:

* The Whig: Coyly nicknamed “North America’s Greatest Dive Bar,” The Whig is one of the best places in town to match your beer connoisseurship with your cravings for finely tuned carbs. Once you’re seated in the dark, cavernous basement, you can’t go wrong with the Three Cheese Grilled Cheese with bacon (I skip the tomato), The Byron pizza (jalepeno, bacon, feta and pineapple make this a sultry treat) or the Berger Burger (pimento with a kick!).

* The Oak Table: Open since October 2012, the Oak Table has become a part of Main Street’s tapestry. The bartenders are true mixologists, and two people can really make a fast but amazing meal by sharing a charcuterie board, a braised meatball, and a roasted beet salad. But I’d also recommend the Nueske’s Bacon. You’ll dream about that bacon later. Heck. Sit at the bar and order everything.

* Garibaldi Café of Columbia: You might get a sideways glance if you show up wearing jeans and a T-shirt. But if you’re the type who, while in New York, can move easily from swanky Cipriani’s to the more edgy Spotted Pig in the same night, head on over. The wine list is long and the mussels are plentiful.

Columbia: 3 reasons to go to the ballet

Posted 2/15/2014 2:07:00 PM

Columbia is known for many things, including “famously hot” summers and historic homes. One thing you might not know about the capital city will have you ready to head this way if you’re a ballet fan — Columbia is a haven for the classical arts.

The city is home to some of the finest classical music events in the state, and it has become a crucial incubator for the international ballet scene.

It’s unusual for a mid-sized city to more than two dance companies — usually cities have one professional operation and one civic. Columbia has three big players (not including the contemporary dance outfits like The Power Company and Unbound. Together, these three companies have produced some of the country’s most influential and famous dancers, such as:

* Melanie Person, co-director at The Ailey School in New York
* Sarah Hairston, principal dancer with the Cincinnati Ballet
* Brooklyn Mack, soloist with The Washington Ballet
* Sara Mearns, principal dancer at the New York City Ballet 
* Mathias Dingman, soloist at England’s Birmingham Royal Ballet 

“I don’t know if it’s the cornbread, the grits or the water, but there’s a lot of talent coming out of Columbia,” Mack said in an article I wrote recently for the Free Times.

Clearly, this talent has something to do with their success. Here are the three companies that make Columbia a delightful place to go the ballet:

Ann Brodie’s Carolina Ballet: Columbia’s pre-professional civic ballet has an extensive classical, neo-classical and contemporary repertory. Led by Executive Artistic Director John Whitehead and Artistic Director Mimi Worrell, this group kicks off the Christmas season with its legendary performances of The Nutcracker at Township Auditorium. The company can also be counted upon for crowd-pleasing favorites like “Giselle” and “Tales from Beatrix Potter.”

Columbia City Ballet: Led by William Starret, this professional company knows how to put on a show. This year’s annual performance of “Dracula” at the Koger Center for the Arts starred Grant Show (yes, that Grant Show, from “Melrose Place!”) Past performances that have drawn attention from all over the East Coast have included a collaboration with artist Jonathan Green called “Off The Wall and Onto the Stage”, “Don Quixote” and “Sleeping Beauty.”

Columbia Classical Ballet: Artistic Director Radenko Pavolvich is not only known for raising future stars in his studio, he also brings the world’s stars to Columbia every year for “LifeChance: International Gala of The Stars.” Each spring the charitable event draws dancers from esteemed institutions such as the Kirov School, The Washington Ballet, The American Ballet Theatre and the Bolshoi Ballet. While giving audiences an incredible show of local and international talent, CCB brings awareness to other local nonprofit organizations each year.

Ballet fans visiting Columbia should know that they are in good company. Seek out a performance by any of these groups and you won’t be disappointed!

Experience colonial peacemaking efforts in Greenwood

Posted 2/10/2014 11:05:00 AM

When many people outside the region think about the history of the American South, they get tripped up by the Civil War, causing the region’s impact on colonial history to be overlooked. The South’s conflicts extend into the struggles of Native American tribes like the Cherokee, the Wapoo and the Catawba. The Cherokee, in particular, played important roles in the history of the Carolinas and beyond, and visitors to beautiful Greenwood can now take a look at this history at “Emissaries of Peace: The 1762 Cherokee & British Delegations,” on view at the museum in uptown’s Emerald Triangle District.

As the Cherokee people struggled to preserve their independence during the French and Indian War, Cherokee leader Ostenaco and Virginian Henry Timberlake attempted to work together for peace. Timberlake took Cherokee leaders to London to meet King George III to enhance his effort, which is detailed in Timberlake’s memoirs. “Emissaries of Peace” walks visitors through these memoirs, bringing them to life through artifacts, period artwork, music, video and life-size figures.

The exhibition originated from the Cherokee Museum in Cherokee, N.C., and has traveled to the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., and the McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Dr. Alice Taylor Colbert, The Museum’s guest curator and history professor at Lander University, has curated additional content for this exhibition.

For more information on this free exhibition, please click here.

Something To Look At: “Spirit and Memory: Contemporary Expressions of Cultural Heritage”

Posted 2/4/2014 1:06:00 PM

One of the things that make Jonathan Green such a significant figure on the South’s arts scene is his eagerness to collaborate with others who have deep pools of talent within them. Green can often be found working on various projects with poets, musicians, craftspeople, historians, and other visual artists.

Right now you can visit Charleston’s City Gallery at Waterfront Park to see the fruits of Green’s work to promote three fellow artists — Alvin Staley, Doris Colbert Kennedy, and Amiri Geuka Farris. All three have earned awards and accolades as contemporary artists who explore the African American journey through their work with profound creativity and intelligence.

If you put the various accolades of these three artists together you’ll get pages of paragraphs about the extent of their intuition and intellect. These are the kinds of things that really make me want to hear what a person has to say about their work and about the world we live in. Artists are not often people of singular mind. The factors that drive their work are found in their interests, hobbies, curiosities, and the interactions they have every day. How do interactions with the non-art world fuel what they do?

Some of the programming surrounding “Spirit and Memory: Contemporary Expressions of Cultural Heritage” will allow art fans to see some of this for themselves.

* Doris Colbert Kennedy will discuss “Energy, God and Quantum Physics: A Deeper Reality” with physicist Margie Morse and Rev. Ed Kosak of Unity Church of Charleston at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9.

* Alvin Staley will give a lecture about his work that is included in the exhibition at 3 p.m. on Sun., Feb. 23.

Both events are at City Gallery and are free and open to the public. For more information, please visit the gallery website.

3 S.C. literary events to visit every year

Posted 1/27/2014 1:42:00 PM

Some of us will do anything to be in the same room with big, imaginative minds that conjure up the kinds of stories that keep us wondering how on earth someone can make such stuff up. Spring is prime time to catch your favorite Southern storyteller at one of these three cool events in the Palmetto State.

Clemson Literary Festival: Since 2007, Clemson University has been host to a literary gathering that attracts some serious heavy hitters for a newer event. This year’s lineup includes U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey to Tigertown along with 16 other authors for readings, panels, book signings and more.

A notable feature about the March event is that it spreads out from the university’s beautiful campus into the local businesses of the small town it occupies. Bibliophiles listen to their favorite authors read in the local eateries and watering holes that give Clemson the unique flavors that keep alumni obsessed.

S.C. Book Festival: May in Columbia means The Vista is suddenly filled to the brim with bibliophiles, authors and independent booksellers looking for a place to chat and eat. The South Carolina Book Festival is known by readers and authors alike to be one of the friendliest book events in the country.

Authors clamor for panelist positions and the happy energy spreads through the crowd each year. Past participants have included Pat Conroy, Roy Blount Jr., Nikky Finney (before she moved back to her hometown of Columbia), Dorothea Benton Frank, Karen White and many more. This year will surely be worth a trip to hear authors tell stories behind their craft, get a few autographs, and find some new titles to take home.

Piccolo Spoleto Poetry Series: Each year, Spoleto Festival USA’s fun, bohemian little sister, Piccolo Spoleto, presents literary delights at little or no cost for entry during the same June fortnight as the bigger festival.

The Poetry Society of South Carolina hosts Charleston Poetry Walk — strolls through downtown Charleston’s poetic history that offer glimpses into the lives and words of noted national and regional poets who have close ties to the Lowcountry.