Arts and Culture 2011

Amy Holtcamp



Art is in the air at Greenville’s annual Artisphere

Posted 5/20/2011 9:47:00 AM

The energy in Greenville on Friday night at Artisphere is hard to explain.

From the moment I stepped out of my car I could hear music. I peeked my head over the railing of the parking garage and could already see a street musician on the sidewalk, a drum flipped over on the ground beside him ready to catch some tips. As I walked closer, I heard someone else playing the guitar somewhere in the distance. I followed the sound toward Main Street.

On Main Street, the sidewalks were packed. There were throngs of people all heading downhill, like me, to take part in Artisphere, Greenville’s annual international arts festival.

We all kept streaming downtown and it seemed like we gathered more smiling faces with every shop we passed. Everywhere I looked there were girlfriends enjoying glasses of wine at outdoor cafes, kids relishing licks of gelato and even one couple doing an impromptu slow dance in a courtyard.

Finally, I reached the stretch of road outside the Peace Center and saw that it was lined with white tents as far as I could see. Artists’ Row stretches for blocks and displays work by 120 artists from all across the country that have been hand picked by a jury of select Southern artists.

Every sort of visual art imaginable was represented and the quality and diversity of the artwork was stunning.Watercolor, pastels, jewelry, sculpture, mixed media, ceramics – every booth seemed to offer something new. The art at Artisphere is not churned out for an easy sale; every item seems to have a definite point of view and say something about the unique artist who created it.

In fact, you might say that some of the artwork at Artisphere is downright strange -- in the best possible way. I loved stumbling upon a booth whose sign read “Wagalabagala” that looked more like a carnival funhouse than an arts festival tent. “Wagalabagala” is the name artist Andy Van Schyndle has given to the world he creates in his fantastical paintings that feature such things as a goat riding a giant fish like a camel. Jeffrey Zachmann’s “Kinetic Sculptures” are half way between high art and a Rube Goldberg machine. I joined a crowd around his booth. We were all in awe of his creations, like children pressing their noses up to the glass at a department store Christmas display.

From there, I strolled down the rocky hill toward Falls Park where painter/performer Brian Olsen was in the midst of his show, Art in Action, which is a real experience. Olsen literally flings paint onto a blank canvas as music blasts over the sound system. It’s not too long before face begins to take shape – eyes, a nose, a mouth – until suddenly you recognize the face staring back at you as an iconic celebrity. Soon the wave of recognition then washes through the crowd, often bringing cheers along with it.

I couldn’t quite place the face that Olsen was creating when I stopped by the Art in Action stage (Jimi Hendrix was my best guess) and before it could take shape my empty stomach demanded that I head to the Culinary Arts Café, where I happily noshed on some Steak Bites with Chipolte Aioli from Larkins on the River.

Fun, free-spirited Artisphere will be back again next May and I hope I see you there! Click here for more information.