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.

Old Friends Gather to Hear About New Plans


The first day of the February brought a lovely gathering of those who had participated in the former Gibbes Studio of Art School. The quirky, quaint house on Queen Street is now the location of the much-talked-about restaurant, Husk. Past instructors and students gathered to see what had been done to the building, and to reconnect and share memories of times at the Studio. Instructors such as Manning Williams (painting), Rhett Thurman (painting), Larry Workman (photography), Bill McCullough (painting), Mary Walker (printmaking), Kristi Ryba (printmaking), Yvette Dede (printmaking), Linda Fantuzzo (painting), Carol Ezell (drawing), Mary Nicholson (clay), Peggy Howe (printmaking), Barclay McCurdy (clay), and Elizabeth McKeever (painting) were present, as were staff and board members from the museum.

It was fun to notice that many of the former students of the Gibbes Studio are now artists showing and selling their creative works. Angela Mack, the museum’s director, presented the new plans for the first floor of the museum which will have classrooms and studios. The excited reaction from the group showed how much the school has been missed. I call the plans “new” but they are truly a return to the old which should please those who pine for the “old building” that was such a draw to students.

One summer I spent a week counting how many people entered the Studio building on Queen, so I know that those present at the reunion were but a few of the thousands who walked through the doors of the Studio school. Students brought their hopes for talent, their dreams for expanding their children’s horizons, and their faith that the instructors and staff would show them respite from the daily structure of life. There are also the many who took classes from Corrie McCallum, William Halsey, and Willard Hirsch in the museum itself. And we should not forget the off-site programs in the schools taught by Gibbes instructors and docents for over forty plus years. The energy of all those past and present was so apparent to anyone listening in the upstairs room we called the “nursery” (red carpet was put down at one point to make it a “quiet” room!).

The smart renovations at 76 Queen Street may take some getting used to for those who practically lived in the building over the years, taking or teaching classes. The clay studio—formerly the bookbindery—is now a cold storage for the delicacies served at Husk. Jean Smith, a long-time director of the Studio, always said that the buildings needed to rest during the month of August. Jean has since gone on to the land of permanent rest, and after a long rest the studio building has come back to life. Filled with the sounds of memories and many creative people, the Gibbes “reunion” was abuzz with great energy and the guests seemed ready for a new decade of Gibbes history to be made.

—Lese Corrigan, owner Corrigan Gallery, artist, and still a Gibbes instructor

Published February 9, 2011

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