Under the Dome

By Lasley Poe Steever

It’s been a little more than a year since the Gibbes Museum reopened its doors after a two-year renovation and we are delighted by the response we’ve received from locals, visitors, sponsors and patrons, partners and the art community at large. We’ve seen more than 50,000 visitors, including 6,000 school-aged children; curated 11 new exhibitions; provided 20 tri-county schools with in-school art programs; hosted seven visiting artists; offered more than 65 programs and classes for adults; and by the end of the summer will have produced thirteen weeks of summer art camp. Our first floor Education Center includes four classrooms/studios to house our hands-on art programs and visiting artists as well as a lecture and reception hall perfect for film screenings, lectures, concerts and events. Having these dedicated spaces in the building has been a game-changer because of the opportunities we have been able to provide and we have loved it.

Some of the most successful collaborations that we’ve enjoyed this year are our partnerships with musicians and music organizations to perform concerts in conjunction with our exhibitions. The Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO) produced two concerts inspired by our Hudson River School and Guggenheim exhibitions, as well as three short-format “Rush Hour” concerts with songs relating to our permanent collection.

“Every collaboration with the Gibbes is an opportunity to bring our symphony audience to the museum and vice versa. I hope these events will provoke conversation among concert and museum goers and as a result enrich our experiences. Of course, at the heart of it all is our belief in the ability of art and music to bring people of different backgrounds and walks of life together,” says Ken Lam, music director of the CSO. Attendees can grab a glass of wine in the Gibbes café and enjoy a chamber-music style concert mid-week at the end of a busy day.

In April, Jazz artist Leah Suárez and friends performed a specially curated set of jazz and blues standards inspired by our exhibition of Jacob Lawrence prints. Of her experience, Suárez says, “Collaborating with the Gibbes has been a great joy and fulfilling in so many ways. To have the opportunity to curate and present in such a multi-faceted way, for an attentive audience in an intimate and creative space, is limitlessly inspiring and a welcomed challenge. As an artist, I cannot help but be inspired by all that surrounds me, especially other modes of art and the artists themselves … What visual artists express in color, texture, shadow and light we, as musicians, express aurally in melody, rhythm, harmony and timbre. It’s a full sensory human experience that is profoundly gratifying.” 

This summer, we have teamed up with Charleston Jazz (formerly Jazz Artists of Charleston) to present a monthly series of concerts by three groups of Charleston-based musicians. The Duda Lucena Trio, led by Brazilian jazz guitarist and singer Duda Lucena, will perform at the Gibbes on Wednesday, June 14. On July 19, the Demetrius Doctor Trio will create music inspired by the musicians’ upbringings in the Gullah/Geechee-influenced churches of the Lowcountry, resulting in a unique brew of the rhythms, feelings and stories combined with the structure of Jazz and Fusion. “We are so pleased to partner with the Gibbes Museum to offer this series of concerts inspired by art and expressed through jazz music. Creative collaborations like this are a key part of the art renaissance going on in Charleston right now,” says Mary Beth Natarajan, executive director at Charleston Jazz. The third and final performance in the series will feature Lewis/Gregory/Wiltrout on August 19. Willing to reference virtually any style and ready to change gears instantly, this trio finds new and exciting ways of performing music and we cannot wait to see how they interpret the works on view through jazz.

The synergy between the visual arts and the complementary musical performances is energizing and participants love the opportunity to explore the galleries with the live music still echoing in their heads. The musicians seem to enjoy the inspiration as well and always spend time in the museum to see the works of art first hand when creating their set lists. These synesthetic experiences are definitely something that the Gibbes plans to continue and expand. This fall, the museum is partnering with the Charleston Music Hall on a concert series in the Lenhardt Garden and dates are already on the books for CSO chamber concerts at the museum in the upcoming year. Currently, the Gibbes staff is hard at work creating unexpected experiences for the visitor; and we are grateful to our partners, sponsors and participants who help turn these ideas into reality.


            Lasley Poe Steever is the Gibbes Museum’s director of programs and digital engagement.

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