Archive for the 'Behind the scenes' Category

Interning at a Closed Museum

Intern Valerie Coughlin in front of the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Intern Valerie Coughlin in front of the Gibbes Museum of Art.

When I tell people that I am an intern at the Gibbes Museum of Art, I am often met with a confused look and the question: “How can you intern at a closed museum?” While this question is valid I have come to see the Gibbes’ renovation as an added bonus to interning at one of Charleston’s finest museums. As an arts management major at The College of Charleston, I have learned about all types of arts organizations, from well-established ones to completely new. I have learned about the challenges of developing programming from scratch as well as building upon existing programs. As a Public Programs and Special Events intern this fall under Lasley Steever, I have gotten to experience things I have only read about in textbooks. It is one thing to read about board responsibilities, but to see the number of hours and the amount of energy board members put into the Gibbes is something entirely different. As an intern I have learned about every aspect of an event, from artist accommodations to the logistics of securing a venue. But during my time here I have learned much more than how to successfully execute an event.

Insider Art with Andrew Brunk

Brunk Auctions president, Andrew Brunk, spoke to a crowd at the Gibbes Museum’s Insider Art Series.

I have been given the unique experience to be an intern at a museum with a reputation that goes back 150 years but also a museum that is undergoing renovations in more ways than one. Along with the floor to ceiling renovation of the building, the Gibbes is rebranding itself. This includes a new website, a new logo, a new mission statement, all in time for the re-opening this spring. So while I get the benefit of interning at one of Charleston’s most recognized and respected institutions, I also get to see how a museum develops on the ground floor. I have seen how the entire staff is coming together to build a new Gibbes. I have experienced how much planning and attention goes into creating a logo, how many meetings go into designing a website, and how the staff and board spend countless hours working together to discuss their hopes for the future of the Gibbes. I have learned that “Reimagine the Gibbes” is much more than a renovation tagline, it is reflective of what I experience day to day as an intern here. So while yes, I am interning at a closed museum, my time here has been invaluable. I am surrounded by the most talented, passionate, and hardworking staff and I cannot wait to see everything come together this spring when the Gibbes Museum of Art reopens!

Valerie Coughlin, College of Charleston intern and guest blogger

Many Moving Parts – A Gallerist’s Perspective

[While the Gibbes Museum is closed, we find ourselves aching to interact with real-live art. The pictures online are nice to glance at, but it can’t replace the experience of standing in front of an original work of art and seeing all the nuances of an artist’s hand. On Thursday night, Society 1858 members had the opportunity to visit the studio of artist Tim Hussey as he prepares for a solo exhibition at The George Gallery. Gallery owner Anne Siegfried shares with us what it takes to pull off a successful show.]

Most people would agree that art openings are fun to attend. You can meet with friends, have a glass of wine, and discuss what you like or not like about the art on the walls. If you connect with the art on exhibit you might also have the opportunity to meet the artist. If you are really into the art, you can buy a piece to hang in your home and enjoy forever. But how does the art opening actually happen?

Society 1858 members enjoy a behind-the-scenes peek at Tim Hussey's studio.

Society 1858 members enjoy a behind-the-scenes peek at Tim Hussey’s studio.

It takes a lot of moving parts coming together.

As a gallery owner I consider many things when planning an exhibit, the most important of these things are my clients, show logistics, promotion, and the quality of the art. I need to be confident that my clients will respond to the artist’s work. Does it match what they are looking for? Is the art work unique? Is the price point reasonable? If I can think of a dozen people off the top of my head that I believe will really appreciate the show then I move on to the next step.

The logistics are the boring part. When does the show best fit into the gallery’s calendar? What else is going on in Charleston when I want to have this show, I want to be sure there are not any obvious conflicts. Is there enough time for the artist to complete a full body of work?

The next consideration is promotion. Do I have an appropriate amount of time to get writers interested in the body of work? I’m hosting the event because I feel passionate that the artist has a story to tell. My job is getting that message out there, sometimes even before one painting has been completed. But through communicating with my artists and visiting their studios I get to understand what is motivating them, why this collection of work is important, and what the message will be once it’s hung on the walls.

The most exciting part of the exhibit for me is when I see the work in person for the first time, which is when the wheels in my head really start turning. I trust in myself and my artist that the quality of the work is up to or exceeds our standards. So far, my artists have never let me down.

When it’s time to hang the show, I finally get to be creative. I have to take into consideration where the best lighting is, which piece need to stand alone, or which is the most subtle and needs extra attention.

An opening reception at The George Gallery.

An opening reception at The George Gallery.

All of this planning, creating, promoting, etc., gets us to the wine drinking and chatting with friends. The process takes about 6-18 months on average. But it’s so worth it! I get to share the art that I love the most. The artist gets to show off his/her hard work, and hopefully you have also fallen in love, taken a piece home and will enjoy that work for many years to come.

—Anne Siegfried
guest blogger, Society 1858 Board Member and owner of The George Gallery

Summer Art Camp from our Intern’s Point of View

Naomi Edmondson-Summer Intern, Senior at College of Charleston

Naomi Edmondson-Summer Intern, Senior at College of Charleston

As a college student majoring in Studio Art and Art History, interning at the Gibbes Museum’s Summer Art Camp seemed like the perfect opportunity to excite young minds with art. Growing up, my favorite teachers were my art teachers, and getting the chance to influence a young child was very appealing to me. The camp instructor for this summer, Leonora Dechtiar, provided campers with stimulating and fun projects to explore their creativity.

welcome to our Art Show!

The first of three camp themes was “Oh The Places You’ll Go!” During these weeks, the campers learned about art from different countries such as Egypt, Brazil, China, Morocco, Australia, and India. We started our day by fastening the seatbelts to our pretend airplane on the classroom carpet and landing in a foreign country. Campers were excited to learn about the different art and cultures of all the places we “visited” before stamping their passports after each journey. Campers’ projects included Brazilian Carnival masks, drums, and maracas, African plaster masks, Egyptian Canopic Jars, Indian Mandalas, Japanese Kites, Chinese Dragons, and Australian Dot Paintings.

summer art camp 2015

Campers working with Acrylic to make their own Chinese Dragons

The second theme of camp was “Stories and Puppets.” During these weeks, campers would listen to stories and create artworks inspired by themes and characters in the story. At the end of the week, campers performed a play of The Rainbow Fish, which featured each camper’s uniquely designed fish. I couldn’t help but be impressed as the kids so excitedly delivered their lines perfectly for the room full of parents.

summer art camp 2015

Rainbow fish puppets

Our last theme of camp, “Art and Movement,” was probably most enjoyable for me personally. Leonora instructed the kids in yoga before each project (which proved to be very beneficial and effective in calming the campers down) to focus them on their artwork. Projects created included foam puppets, needle felting, body tracing, and Jackson Pollock inspired splatter painting (which, I must say…the kids thoroughly enjoyed). Throughout the week, campers practiced their yoga moves set to fun children’s songs, and on Friday they performed these impressive, entertaining yoga dances for their parents.

Summer art camp 2015

Leonora instructing campers in their morning yoga

Throughout each week, the children were thrilled to go on field trips to surrounding areas, such as the multiple art galleries on Queen Street and the Pineapple Fountain. After viewing the artwork on display at galleries such as Robert Lange Studios, Horton Hayes Fine Art, Anglin Smith Fine Art, Valentino’s Pottery, and The Atrium, the kids were noticeably more inspired to spend time creating artwork.

summer art camp 2015

Field Trip to local galleries

Working so closely with children eager to fill their hands with paint or clay or anything else has heightened my interest in the art making process and has reminded me of the childlike enthusiasm that every artist should employ when creating art!

summer camp 2015

Naomi Edmondson-Summer Intern, Senior at the College of Charleston

White Gloves Gang with Zinnia Willits, Part II

This is part II of an interview with Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration at the Gibbes Museum and current President of the South Carolina Federation of Museums.

Where did the idea for the White Gloves Gang originate?

The first SCFM White Gloves Gang (named after the protective white gloves many collections professionals wear when handling fragile museum objects,) was held at the Georgetown County Museum as part of the 2012 SCFM Annual Meeting. While I had a general model of how the program should work (based on the Reinforcement Crew) in many ways I can admit now that I was flying by the seat of my pants! I was well aware that our first WGG project was bound to have a few hiccups, but we were not going to learn how to do it unless we tried!

white gloves gang

The WGG working on textiles

Planning the first WGG included finding a host institution and explaining what exactly we wanted to accomplish. This involved building a trusting relationship with the staff at the Georgetown County Museum (GCM) since I basically asked them if my group of volunteers could have carte blanche access to their collections and exhibitions for an entire day! Then Director, Jill Santopietro, could not have been more gracious or enthusiastic about being the first WGG “test case.” After making initial contacts, I completed several site visits to GCM and worked with Jill to identify potential collection and exhibition projects that could be completed in a day. Next I had to advertise the project and gather a volunteer force; I also solicited vendors to donate archival supplies…I don’t think I even had a real budget for the first WGG. My wonderful friends at Hollinger Metal Edge graciously donated supplies for the first WGG. The shipment of hundreds of dollars of donated materials meant so much to the GCM who did not have any budget for these types of essential preservation materials. Other tasks included setting the agenda for project day, communicating the plan to our group of ten collections volunteers, dividing the group into teams, laying out each project and making sure volunteers had the necessary tools and supplies. It was a long day, but I loved every second of it and those first WGG volunteers made incredible progress on exhibits and collections at the GCM. Teams “freshened” exhibits and added protective archival barriers between casework and historic artifacts, created padded hangers on which to store and display fragile textiles, vacuumed (with a special museum-quality vacuum) historic christening gowns to remove layers of dust gathered from being on constant display, created storage containers for objects that needed a “rest” from display, adjusted light levels to better protect light-sensitive, fragile objects and so much more!! After this first experience in 2012, it was evident that the SCFM White Gloves Gang was a viable program to be built and developed.

Tell us something you’ve learned about the challenges of small museums through your work with the White Gloves Gang.

I have learned that all museums, whether large or small, matter to the communities they serve. The collections that small museums maintain are exceedingly important to the people who donated them and the stories they tell are the historical fabric of the town, county or region the museum represents. However, many small museums do not have the appropriate staff or budget to adequately care for or exhibit the objects that are so important to people they serve. A museum’s sole staff member may be the Director, often an individual with excellent administrative experience and leadership skills but minimal (if any) training in collection and exhibition management. In many cases these sole employees spend the majority of their time devising programming and membership initiatives that will ensure the museum can keep the lights on and doors open to survive another day! They know instinctively that the collections and exhibitions need attention, but there is very little time, money or training to devote to the objects that are the very reason for a museums’ existence.

working with textile exhibit at The Museum in Greenwood 2013

The WGG working with textile exhibit at The Museum in Greenwood 2013

However, the SCFM White Gloves Gang program is an excellent resource for these small museum staffs that need collections help; I have seen the benefits and inspiration our projects provide first-hand. The WGG is a tangible manifestation of SCFM’s mission to serve, represent, advocate and promote the best interests of South Carolina museums; the program educates small museums in ways they can make simple, often inexpensive changes to better preserve, and promote the collections they house and the missions they endeavor to uphold. The staffs at all WGG host sites have been grateful for the support and have let us know that watching collections professionals devote an entire day to the display and storage of the museum’s objects was inspirational; in many cases our work resulted in the Director taking future steps to raise funds for a collections manager or to hire an exhibition designer to assist with the way stories are conveyed.  These small, devoted staffs are stretched thin in terms of resources and I view it as SCFM’s responsibility to reach out and help however we can. The WGG provides a statewide network of support and supplies for collections management as well as access to collections professionals that a host site can forever turn to for future advice!

What are the future plans for the White Gloves Gang and or how will this program grow?

SCFM announced this past month that the WGG will be hitting the road! I have wanted to expand the program beyond our annual meeting for some time and have finally moved forward with this endeavor. SCFM member institutions can now apply for a day of WGG services and we hope to send volunteer teams out to complete at least two WGG projects per year in addition to the project at the annual meeting. Our WGG volunteer corps currently numbers around thirty collections professionals from across the state and is growing daily. My goal is to provide any South Carolina museum that desires a day of white glove services the assistance they need! I now have a wonderful White Gloves Gang co-chair, Melissa Jolley, Curator at the Savannah River Site, who assists me with organization and management of each project and the WGG volunteers. What fun (and a relief) it has been to share the responsibility and excitement of connecting people and projects with one of my SCFM peers! I have also recently seen an influx of museum studies students and non-collections professionals joining the WGG volunteer group; I love this! We pair those that want to learn about collections management with the seasoned professionals and in this way, each WGG project becomes an opportunity to train others and learn from peers…its win, win!

Recently the SCFM Executive Committee voted unanimously to appropriate funds to the SCFM WGG thereby officially adding the program to the annual budget. I will continue to work with our generous partners in the archival supply industry to provide donations of necessary project supplies and hope to eventually secure a lead sponsor to ensure the program’s future (naming opportunity anyone???) I will continue to engage South Carolina museum professionals to volunteer and participate in the program and encourage all SCFM members to get involved and give back. I am so proud of the SCFM White Gloves initiative and all those who have participated and supported us over the years. I am hopeful that our program will continue to grow and will serve as a model program for other state museum associations. South Carolina museums matter! Their collections and stories are important and SCFM wants to support these museums in any way it can!

Amanda Breen, Rebecca Sailor, and Zinnia Willits

Amanda Breen, Rebecca Sailor, and Zinnia Willits at the South Carolina Federation of Museums (SCFM) conference.

Thank you Zinnia for taking the time to share this story with us! For more information about volunteering with the White Gloves Gang or in requesting a visit from the WGG, visit the SCFM website.



The White Gloves Gang with Zinnia Willits, part 1

How long have you been involved in SCFM?

Though originally from Chicago, Illinois, I have been part of the South Carolina Museum community since my grad school days in the Public History Program at the University of South Carolina almost 15 years ago! While life’s twists and turns took me out of South Carolina for a few years, I returned in 2001 and have been at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston since 2003 where I manage the art collection and oversee logistics for the museum’s active exhibition and loan programs.  At the request of my friend Jill Koverman, a true force in South Carolina museums who sadly passed away several years ago, I joined the South Carolina Federation of Museum’s (SCFM) Professional Development Committee (PDC) in 2010 and have been involved with the organization ever since.

Can you describe why it’s important as a museum professional to have an active role in organizations like SCFM?

Professional development opportunities and responsibilities have played a pivotal role in my personal career growth since my entrée into the museum field so many years ago. Our profession is constantly changing. New standards for collections care, exhibition design, curatorial research, digitization of information, use of social media, educational programming, membership tracking, and every other aspect of museum work are being discussed daily on list-servs, blogs, and at various gatherings of museum professionals. Museum staff need high levels of knowledge and expertise to continue to add value to the communities they serve. Playing an active role in professional organizations, and attending conferences and relevant workshops provides opportunities for peer engagement, expansion of one’s knowledge base, and information that can be put into practice immediately. I am constantly beating the professional development drum about the importance of making time and finding funds to attend professional training opportunities that are essential to career development and remind us that our individual work contributes to something larger including the preservation and promotion of the humanities! As I say often (to anyone who will listen,) nobody will ever care about your professional growth as much as you do!

The White Gloves Gang at the Marion County Museum

The White Gloves Gang at the Marion County Museum

Where did the idea for the White Gloves Gang originate?

The Registrars Committee (RC) of the American Alliance of Museums has been operating a similar program called the Reinforcement Crew since 2007.  This annual event offers expertise, people-power and support to museums and organizations that need assistance with collections-based projects, and coincides with the AAM Annual Meeting. I have friends who were instrumental in developing the Reinforcement Crew and have always been an advocate of seasoned museum professionals “giving back” to the field. I was intrigued with the concept and as I became more involved in the South Carolina museum community, it became clear that a volunteer program similar to the Reinforcement Crew could provide real benefit to the many small museums and cultural centers that dot our state. Once I was in a leadership position and had an opportunity to move the idea for a White Gloves Gang program forward, I went for it! SCFM’s leadership has a long history of embracing program ideas suggested by the membership…even my crazy ideas. That being said, one lesson you learn early on is that if you want your program to have legs, you, the idea person, have to put in the work to get it off the ground!

Stay tuned for next week’s part two of the White Gloves Gang….

Lighting the Gibbes Museum, Q&A with Anita Jorgensen

Anita Jorgensen, IESNA, IALD, LEED, LC has been practicing architectural lighting design in New York for over twenty years. Her background in art history and theatrical lighting design brings a strong sense of aesthetics and drama to her lighting approach. Her hands-on experience gained from extensive exhibition lighting design work translates into specifications for lighting systems which not only meet the immediate lighting requirements, but also provide for durability, ease of maintenance, and long term flexibility. Anita was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work with the Gibbes Museum renovation.

2015 Gibbes Renderings

Gibbes Museum of Art, Preliminary façade lighting

How did you learn about the Gibbes Museum? I worked with Jeff Daly at The Metropolitan Museum for a number of years while he was the Head of the Department. When Jeff opened Jeff Daly Design, we worked on several projects together including: the Ringling Museum of Art; the annual Winter Antiques Show in New York; Rosecliff Mansion in Newport, RI; and others. In 2012 Jeff suggested I visit the Gibbes Museum and discuss its lighting needs with Angela Mack. Angela brought AJLD on board and I am happy to report that the Gibbes renovation has been a fabulous project with a fantastic team!

How did you get involved in lighting design? Give us a little information about what led you down this career path.

While studying Fine Arts and Art History in undergraduate school, I became aware of the work of renowned theatrical lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, who has designed for extensively for dance, drama and opera. Her work inspired me to pursue a career in theatrical lighting design. During my graduate studies at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, I became intrigued with the field of architectural lighting design. After five years with architectural lighting design firm Fisher Marantz Stone, who is best known for designing “Towers of Light” after the 911 twin towers incident, an opportunity arose to work as a lighting designer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Design Department that I could not pass up. The projects I was involved with at the Metropolitan ranged from temporary exhibitions, large-scale renovations of entire wings, extensive custom case work, as well as exterior façade lighting.

After working on staff at the Metropolitan for a number of years, I began my own practice, Anita Jorgensen Lighting Design (AJLD).

What are the challenges with lighting museums? Please give examples. How can good lighting transform museum space?

One of the great challenges of designing lighting for museums is balancing art conservation standards with visual clarity. Among the many aspects to consider are the control of daylight while balancing supplemental glare free electric light. When designing the new lighting system for the East Gallery at The Frick Collection, which included both daylight and electric light, we completed an extensive mockup process to determine the optimal method for controlling the quantity of daylight entering the galleries in combination with supplemental LED lighting to highlight the artwork. The mockup process gives the team an opportunity to actually see and test the results of our research findings. We did the same for the Gibbes Museum where we reviewed the ability of various lighting sources to render paintings accurately. During a side by side lighting comparison in the galleries, it was unanimously decided that the track mounted luminaires would use 3,000 Kelvin LED sources. LED lamps have the great advantage of emitting no ultra violet radiation, consuming only 10 watts each as opposed to 50 watts and last more than seven times longer than halogen.

FRICK East Gallery

FRICK Museum East Gallery

Another important consideration when designing for museums are issues of conservation. For example all of the windows need to be properly fitted with screens and filtering film to reduce the level of light entering the galleries and to block the damaging ultraviolet portion of the incoming daylight.

The second source of illumination in galleries is typically a fully flexible overhead track lighting system which is often the primary source for lighting art. For the first time, the track lighting in the new Gibbes Museum renovation will be energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) track mounted luminaires. After all of the artwork is installed, the gallery lighting will go through a final fine-tuning process. During this stage, the exact lighting intensity levels for each object will be specified.

We also recently completed an exterior night-time lighting mockup for the garden where we reviewed lighting the garden with cool light mimicking moonlight vs. warm candle light effect. We also demonstrated illuminating the trees from below (uplighting) vs. locating lights up in the trees pointed downwards filtering through the leaves that created patterns of light on the ground much like the light coming from a full moon.

What can the community expect to ‘see’ with the renovated Gibbes?

The visitor will be able to see the fabulous Gibbes Museum art collection rendered in a crisp new glare-free light. The galleries will be brighter and more daylight will enter the building giving the visitor a greater connection to the outside.

Below is a listing of Anita’s more memorable projects:

  • Frick West Gallery, East Gallery: designed a new lighting system that integrates invisibly with the museum’s landmark interiors
West Gallery, 2010 (new lighting installed)

West Gallery, 2010 (new lighting installed)

  • Metropolitan Museum Great Hall: recreation of the original McKim Meade and White pendants
  • Royal Bank of Canada Capital Markets: a conference center and trading floor

Art Educator of the Week, Barbie Kratovil

Barbie Kratovil, Eye Spy Art

Barbie Kratovil with Eye Spy Students at the City Gallery

Why is art an important part of learning?

Art is an essential component of the Humanities, and visually integrates the historical, political, religious and commercial morals and values of a culture. It is one of the highest forms of expression in any given period of civilization.

While art can be whimsical, its highest forms are the result of an intellectual process. It’s multi-faceted and an artist, in creating a work of art; employs through his/her technique: logic, spatial relationships, math, science-all of which are building blocks in one’s education.

How long have you been teaching, and why did you get involved in teaching?

I was an Art History major in college and art has always been my great interest. I was a docent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 18 years, before moving to Charleston; and have been a docent at the Gibbes for 5 years. The combination of being educated by the curators about their fabulous collections, and in turn, imparting this knowledge to school groups, is rewarding on so many levels.

What is a favorite memory of introducing a student to the arts?

The wonderful moments, which as a museum educator that one cherishes, are when a student looks at a work of art and becomes empowered to explain what they see, why they like or dislike it, and what it means to them.


Eye Spy students enjoy a tour of the Gibbes led by a museum docent

Museums are educational powerhouses. Did you know:

  • Museums spend more than $2 billion a year on education. The typical museum devotes three quarters of its education budget specifically to K–12 students.
  • Museums receive more than 55 million visits every year from students in school groups.
  • Museums create educational programs in math, science, art, literacy, language arts, history, civics and government, economics and financial literacy, geography and social studies, often tailored to the needs of state and local curriculum standards.
  • Each year, museums provide more than 18 million instructional hours for educational programs such as guided tours for students, staff visits to schools, school outreach through science vans and other traveling exhibits, and professional development for teachers.

Read the full report about museums and the future of education from the American Alliance for Museums.

To learn more about Gibbes Museum education programs, visit our Gibbes Educators Facebook page.

Q & A with Architect, Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt and Rick Fisher at the Groundbreaking Ceremony in October, 2014

Evans & Schmidt Architects has designed a wide range of projects since it was established in 1984. The primary focus, however, has remained unchanged over the past twenty-nine years. Evans & Schmidt Architects has openly embraced the challenge of targeting new and existing construction in the dense historic fabric of downtown Charleston and the surrounding Lowcountry. These include private residences, corporate offices, retail, municipal buildings, as well as academic and performing arts projects.  The firm has been the Architect of Record for the renovation and preservation of numerous properties individually registered as National Historic Landmarks. Joe Schmidt was kind enough to answer some questions about the museum renovations.

How did you become involved with this project?

In 2006, Angela Mack and I worked together on the renovation of City Hall. She coordinated the removal, off-site storage, and eventual return of City Hall’s permanent extensive art collection within the Council Chambers. Restoring the Council Chambers to its pre-1886 earthquake floor plan presented unique challenges as we sought to better showcase the art for all to enjoy while also maximizing the available seating space for the public wishing to attend council meetings. We also enhanced the environmental indoor control system to ensure the art is protected to the highest possible standards.

Describe your design process, for example, what specific challenges did this 100+ year old building pose?

The Gibbes was constructed very stoutly of solid masonry in 1905, but absolutely without any physical accommodation space for running any electrical piping or air conditioning. Consequently, as those necessities were added over the years, the ceilings were repeatedly lowered, which totally changed the character of its many spaces.  The challenge was to selectively redesign and consolidate these modern day necessities, incorporate additional life safety features, and then restore as much of the original spatial character as possible.

How will the renovation change the visitor’s experience?

The original building was incredibly open, dependent entirely on natural light and a few gas light fixtures to illuminate the interior. Over the years, as more gallery hanging space became needed and exhibit layout fashions changed, the natural light was eventually blacked out entirely. Our hope is that future visitors will embrace the far brighter renovated spaces that better connect the indoor gallery spaces with the outdoor garden. Because of advancements in glass protected surfaces, the additional sunlight will not harm the artwork and sculpture on display.

 What aspect of the renovated museum do you think will have the biggest impact on the visitor’s experience? 

Being able to step through the front door and see clearly through the building all the way to the beautifully redesigned Lenhardt garden in the rear, then looking right or left and glimpsing for the first time ever the marble flanking staircases enticing you to venture upstairs. A physical visual relationship with the exterior is maintained at all levels, which is contributory in helping to lower stress and increase stamina.

Joe Schmidt

Joe and Mayor Riley on a hard hat tour, February, 2015

Why is this project important to Charleston?

The renovation restores not only the façade, but encourages the public to once again freely walk down the 1905 hallways and observe active art studio work and classes taking place on a daily basis as was originally envisioned in 1905. This practice has been discontinued since the 1960s. The Gibbes Museum is one of Charleston’s preeminent cultural institutions and this renovation will ensure that the future needs of the museum are best addressed while restoring this 110 year old building as close as possible to its original condition and mission.

Can you give us some behind the scenes glimpses of what’s happening right now with the renovations?

The building has been undergoing extensive interior demolition work since December. This includes the removal of added partitions and antiquated electrical utilities in careful preparation for the expansion of appreciably more spacious galleries and event spaces. This dismantling work will continue for several more months before any actual renovation work will be observable from the street. In the meantime, pilings have been driven for the new extension on the building’s south side to house a new first class art delivery and storage facility.

Gibbes facade

Rendering of the renovated Gibbes Museum

To learn more about the renovations, please visit our renovation website!

The Art of Social Healing Through Sculpture and Public Art

In 2011, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel and S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal held a symposium in Charleston to mark the 50th anniversary of the Briggs v. Elliott ruling. This ruling led to the creation of a committee that raised about $125,000 to commission a statue to honor U.S. District Judge J. Waties Waring; the man whose anti-segregation rulings made him a pariah in his hometown, but set the table for the Civil Rights Movement.

In “‘A liberating force,’ Waring returns to Charleston” Post and Courier journalist Robert Behre writes that a dozen sculptors sought to create the bronze likeness of Waring, and Rick Weaver, a sculptor from Charlottesville, Va., won the commission. Mr. Weaver was kind enough to take the time to answer questions about his work and to describe the process of creating this important sculpture. Mr. Weaver will join artist Jonathan Green and Dr. Jeb Hallett on March 10 for a panel discussion on The Art of Social Healing Through Sculpture and Public Art at the Charleston Federal Courthouse on Broad Street.

Judge Waites Waring sculpture

Final version of the Judge Waties Waring sculpture

How did you originally get interested and trained in sculpture?

I actually received my training not in sculpture, but in drawing and painting in New York, and then received my graduate degree in painting at UNC-Greensboro.  Whether you are working in charcoal, paint, clay, or any other medium, the underlying principles in art do not vary.  So when I became more interested in sculpture, I was able to essentially teach myself the procedure. I gradually moved my focus to sculpture in the last 10 years because the ideas I wanted to express seemed to have ultimately more to do with creating a shape in space, and depended less on creating an illusion on a 2 dimensional surface.

Describe the process of how you got to know Waties Waring in order to design your statue of him?

I first read the biography “A Passion for Justice” to get a feel for the man and his accomplishments.  It was also very helpful to speak with members of the sculpture committee, who had a familiarity with his judicial and social history in Charleston. Ultimately, I feel I can only really know myself – I never feel that I can truly understand another person in any comprehensive way, and I therefore never feel capable of “capturing” someone else in a sculpture. What I do is try to identify some vital aspect of someone’s character that I also recognize in myself, and then try to make the sculpture about that emotion or idea. With Judge Waring, I identified very closely with the idea that he was embattled, and pressured to do things he knew were wrong. Yet he persevered in his own beliefs of what was right and was true to his nature, despite the condemnation of his peers. (Not that I equate his courage with anything I possess, but I think there is some modest echo of what he displayed in all of us). Most good sculptures ultimately rise above the individual depicted, his or her gender, race, and personal history, and touch on themes that are universal and felt by all humanity. To what degree I was successful in this attempt is for others to judge, but that was my goal with the Judge Waring sculpture.

Just how does one make a statue of this magnitude? Briefly describe the manufacturing process.

On the manufacturing end, I will say that very early on, for the reasons given above, it was clear the statue should be in a standing position, to show Judge Waring’s resolute physical stance as a powerful metaphor for the intellectual stance he took in his judicial decisions. I worked on a life-size scale in my studio, beginning with a foam and aluminum armature, and progressing to a wax modeling of the actual figure.  I have included images which may illustrate the process better than my words. This final sculpture was then put in the capable hands of Carolina Bronze Foundry who completed all casting processes necessary to convert my wax sculpture into the final bronze.

Rick Weaver's sculpture of Judge Waites Waring

Beginning stage of the Judge Waites Waring sculpture

Did this project in any way impact your own personal feelings about the Civil Rights Movement and the sacrifice of champions like Judge Waring?

My knowledge of American History, let alone the Civil Rights Movement, is not what it should be.  So I am always very thankful for the excuse to research historical figures to fill in the gaps of my early education. I always feel that if my initial schooling had centered on integrating academic subjects with art I would have retained a lot more information. In reading about Civil Rights heroes like Judge Waring, John Chavis, or Maggie Walker, I am struck by their relentless courage in the face of opposition. The example of fortitude in mere mortals, however elevated by history, makes that kind of courage more accessible to me in some way that I may not have felt if I had not read their histories.

Related articles:

A liberating force,’ Waring returns to Charleston by Robert Behre, Post and Courier

Judge J. Waties Waring: Charleston’s Insider Agitator by Robert Rosen, Post and Courier

Judge Remembered For Landmark Role He Played In Desegregating Schools by Bruce Smith, Huffington Post

Rick Weaver received his formal training in New York at the National Academy of Design, the New York Academy, and the Art Students League. He earned his Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, where he was influenced by the sculptor Billy Lee.

Jonathan Green’s painting “Breath of Freedom,” depicts  a crowd of people outside the Charleston federal courthouse listening to the trial Briggs vs. Elliot. He donated a copy of this painting to every public high school in the Charleston County school district. Green’s painting was presented at the Hollings Judicial Center Garden on April 11, 2014, the same day as the Judge Waties Warning sculpture dedication.

This event is at full capacity but you can learn more about our Art of Healing series by signing up for our e-newsletter, following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and checking our online calendar.

Thank you to Dr. Jeb Hallett who formulated the questions for Mr. Weaver and who will be moderating Tuesday night’s panel discussion. The Art of Healing is sponsored by Roper St. Francis.

Art To Go Teachers Inspiring Young Minds!

Arts education provides students with a sense of personal worth and fosters an appreciation for creativity and innovation. Education specialists across the county agree that effective arts education promotes self-directed learning, sharpens critical thinking skills, develops self- awareness, improves school attendance, and encourages positive behavior! These are just a few of the reasons we have developed education outreach programs like Art to Go. Working in partnership with Charleston County School District Title I schools, Art to Go combines art making and instruction through experiences with real works of art. Gibbes Teaching Artists work with art teachers in six schools on a specific project or to complement their curriculum. Each year Art to Go collaborates with the Charleston Marathon, which benefits the Youth Endowment for the Arts. Completed projects were on display at the Marathon Expo in January.

Art To Go Project

Art To Go Project from Mitchell Elementary. Teaching Artist Leonora Dechtiar

Each year the Art to Go grows in strength and numbers! We asked each of the four art teachers to share a few words with us about their experience in the classroom.  Sally Collins, a long time Gibbes teaching artist, was not available for an interview, but you can see her student’s work pictured below.

Art To Go

Art To Go Project From Pinehurst Elementary, Teaching Artist Sally Collins

Q. How many years have you been involved in Art to Go and how do you decide on your project each year?

Kristen: This was my third year working with Art to Go. Each year I try to plan a project that is inclusive to all ages, while also using different art forms and mediums. This year we created a large paper mache Angel Oak tree sculpture. This was the first time many of the students had created such a large work, used paper mache, and made a sculpture. The students took pride in the assembly of the tree and helped each other apply the wet sheets of paper around our wire frame to build the tree. Fourth and fifth graders tied and cut out leaves, work that required a lot of patience and detail. Each week the classes would come in to check the tree’s progress to see it go from a wire frame to a wet paper mache base to a fully painted trunk to then being full of branches and leaves.

Art To Go

Art To Go from Angel Oak Elementary, Teaching Artist Kristen Solecki


I have been involved in Art to Go twice, once in 2012 and again this year. I decided on the concept for the projects based on what grades I’d be working with, what materials were available, and what the kids would benefit from. For example, the first year we created a clay mosaic because I had access to a kiln for firing the clay. This year, we also made a mural but instead we used a mix of different materials, such as paper, paint, aluminum foil, and model magic clay. I made sure to use materials the students normally didn’t work with or worked with rarely, so that they could learn something new.


This was my first year with the program!  I researched different ideas, and met with my teachers a few weeks before class to discuss what their thoughts were.  The projects ended up being collaborative ideas between what we thought would be really fun, but also informative.

Q. Tell me about your student’s experiences with art. What do you hope they walk away with or remember about creating art?


From my experience it seems that art class is one of the opportunities  that students look forward to most. It is the opportunity to learn new mediums, work with your hands, and a place where all skill levels are welcome because uniqueness is encouraged.


I think what my students remember the most from their experience is the joy of using materials they have never used and exploring those materials with a sense of excitement and curiosity. I think it’s special for them to have a guest come in to their art room and this excitement carries over to their art making. I think art is primarily about having fun and expressing one’s creativity, and if we achieved that, I think that’s the most important goal. The other thing my students took away from it was an exposure to the Gibbes Museum and their connection to the history and art of Charleston, which is so important for them.


I hope that they hold on to the feeling that comes with creating something that you’re really proud of.

Q: How do you think art enhances education?


Art enhances education in countless ways. Through these projects I can see first-hand how art teaches not only new skills and techniques for making art, but also how to work as a team, problem solve, and be creative.


Art, unlike many other subjects, gives the children an opportunity to use their hands and develop their fine motor skills, which is important to have in any future career. Also, art gives children an opportunity to expand and practice using their creativity and imagination. Without creativity, I don’t think you could be a good scientist. Also, art gives students a chance to relax, have fun, and unwind from a day that may be filled with stress. I noticed that when the kids worked with clay in the art room, they were relaxed when molding the clay. I think art has a therapeutic effect in children and can relieve stress, which allows them to focus more on other subjects.


Art helps people express themselves in a way that’s different than other educational activities. Instead of writing something down, or acting something out, kids are given the opportunity to physically create something that’s completely their own.  That’s an accomplishment in itself, and I think it helps build a sense of confidence and self-worth.



Kristen Solecki is an illustrator and art educator that uses paint and ink to translate stories and moments using strong changeable line work and bold color.  She has created work for publications such as Taproot Magazine, Uppercase Magazine, Skirt Magazine, the television show, Mad Men, as well as for galleries and shops across the U.S. You can see her work at

Leonora Dechtiar has her BFA in Illustration from Maine College of Art and her Masters of Arts in Teaching from Savannah College of Art and Design. She studied art for a semester in  Spain, where she developed a deep appreciation for art history. She loves illustrating for children, and  has published with Studio 9, Inc., which publishes educational materials and coloring books for children. After getting her certificate in art education, Leonora has worked as an art teacher at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC for two years. She also spent a year and a half in Beijing, China teaching art at an international Montessori school.

Hannah Durant grew up in Alexandria, VA and went to college at Elon University. After she graduated, she moved back to Virginia to get a “real” job and quickly realized that wasn’t her path.  Hannah has spent the last two years in Charleston, SC working with creative businesses in different capacities, and building on her interests.

Sally Collins holds a Commercial Art Degree, Bachelor of Social Science Degree, and Master in Teaching (MIT) Degree. She has previously taught Art, English, and 4th grade at the First Baptist School in Mt. Pleasant,  1st and 3rd grade at Midland Park Elementary in Charleston County as well as Art at Trident Academy in Mt. Pleasant. She has served as a Gibbes Teaching Artist for over 5 years with experience in summer camp, after school classes as well as Art to Go.

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