When the Gibbes Museum opened in 1905, the nation celebrated what Charleston has always understood: the power of art – to inspire our imagination, heal our hurt, and nourish our souls.

1858 Prize event honors dedicated leader of Museum’s young patrons group

Society 1858 Members Janneke Vreede-Schaay, Emily Broome, Amy Coy, and Jamieson Clair with artist John Westmark

On Wednesday, September 28, Society 1858 will host the Amy P. Coy Forum and Prize Party to present the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art to this year’s winner, Alicia Henry. This is the third year that the Gibbes Museum’s young patron auxiliary group will present a $10,000 cash prize to a contemporary artist whose work contributes to a new understanding of the South. In addition to the cocktail party celebrating the winner, Society 1858 has organized a panel discussion which will include Henry, as well as 2015 winner Deborah Luster of New Orleans, and past Prize judge Miranda Lash, who is the curator of contemporary art at the Speed Museum in Louisville, KY. These special guests will be joined by Gibbes Executive Director Angela Mack and curator of Exhibitions Pam Wall, and the conversation will be moderated by Society 1858 president Jamieson Clair.

This year, Society 1858 wanted the opportunity to hear more from the artists. Numerous people had commented that their favorite aspect of the evening was when the winner shared a bit about his or her work, process, and vision. So the group considered how they could provide more access and planned a conversation during the event as a platform for exploring contemporary art’s impact in the South. This effort was championed by the group’s immediate past president, Amy Coy, who had a true passion for art and was always seeking to expand her knowledge. She shared her enthusiasm with the board and members of Society 1858, and helped to create unique experiences with artists and collectors through the group’s programs and events.

Amy passed away earlier this year, however her legacy will live on through the 1858 Prize and the newly-established forum. Her friends, family, and colleagues have contributed to a fund dedicated to the Amy P. Coy Forum, which will provide resources to bring artists, art historians, and other experts in the field to Charleston each year to share their insights. We are honored to recognize Amy’s dedication to the Gibbes and to Society 1858 through this annual event.

Below is a letter to the editor from Society 1858 founder and past president Helen Pratt-Thomas that expresses the incredible impact Amy made at the Museum. The letter was published in the Post & Courier on June 27, 2016.

Charleston and its arts community lost a friend, advocate, and young visionary on June 12th. I met Amy Coy five years ago while serving as the president of Society 1858 at the Gibbes Museum of Art. She introduced herself and asked to get involved.

Two years later when I was stepping down from the helm of Society 1858, and Amy was taking over as president, Society 1858 was at a pivotal point in its life cycle as a young associates group in Charleston. Many on the 1858 Board wondered what its larger mission should be besides fun parties. Was the group sustainable? Gibbes Executive Director Angela Mack asked Amy if Society 1858 would like to take over a contemporary art prize initiative that had been established five years earlier. It was a perfect fit- a young arts group supporting young artists. Amy was determined to make it a reality and through her energetic, positive, can-do attitude toward everything, she launched a committee to implement the idea. She did all of this while balancing a demanding career in pharmaceuticals and spending quality time with her husband, family, and friends.

Over the past three years the 1858 Prize has received over 250 applicants annually and has grown in reputation among artists, art dealers, curators, and collectors across the country as a significant achievement and a launching pad for successful careers. Amy had envisioned an annual panel discussion for the public centered on the 1858 Prize, and current President Jamieson Clair is dedicated to turning Amy’s vision into a reality. With great pride, the 1858 Board is creating an annual program known as The Amy P. Coy Memorial Forum, for the purpose of enlarging our understanding of contemporary southern art.
Amy’s tenacity, and love of art and the Gibbes Museum, along with her determination to establish the perfect mission for Society 1858 ensures that the Gibbes’ young associates group will continue to thrive and make a difference. As we enter our seventh year, we are going strong! Thank you, Amy. You are missed.

Helen C. Pratt-Thomas
Co-Founder Society 1858 and Gibbes Museum of Art Board Member

Tickets to the Amy P. Coy Forum and Prize Party can be purchased on the Museum’s website here.


Published September 16, 2016

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