Sometimes, I get on Pinterests kicks. I think that I can save the blank walls of my apartment with crafty DIY’s that involve exotic materials such as le Mod Podge, la popsicle-stick, essence de wasabi tape. And more times than not, I end up with a giant ball of glue stuck to my coffee table.
That was when I decided to start looking into other options to decorate my walls.
As I perused the interwebs, I found an online art gallery called the Charleston Artist Collective. The gallery not only supports local artists, but also donates a portion of their proceeds to a designated charity each month. Your online purchase is then shipped to you, and your bare walls shall be bare no more! You can not only support your community, but those in need as well. Win-win!
Allison Williamson is the Director of the Charleston Artist Collective and founded the project back in 2010.
“I wanted to start the Charleston Artist Collective because I wanted to make original artwork more affordable and more accessible to people who are interested in collecting local artwork. CAC showcases some very talented artists in our community and a percentage of every art sale goes towards a local charity that the Collective chooses to sponsor for two months at a time,” Williamson said.
To date, the Collective has given over $129,000 to local charities. According to Williamson, since 2010 CAC has expanded to three other cities outside of Charleston: Atlanta, Nashville, and DC.
“Each city's Artist Collective showcases original artwork local to that city following the same model of selling artwork on their website to be shipped directly to the customer,” Williamson said. “Charleston Artist Collective is the first to open a physical brick and mortar that functions as an art gallery, event space, and group of artist studios. Charleston Artist Collective Studios, located at 414 Whilden Street in Mount Pleasant, allows us to accommodate our growing inventory of artwork and gives customers a chance to see the artwork in person before purchasing.”
Currently, the CAC represents 17 artists who are local to the Charleston area, many of whom have been with the collective for several years. One artist, Susan Trott, has participated since 2014. Trott’s inspiration over the years has come from the architecture, shapes, and colors of the commercial buildings and signage of Upper King Street.
“Now hotels and restaurants have changed the area and it has lost some of its charm for me,” Trott explained. “I enjoy painting plein air around the battery for the variety of architectural styles and at McLeod Plantation on James Island for the simplicity and drama of the huge oaks and slave cabins.”
For local artists like Trott, the Collective provides a unique opportunity for exposure for her art.
“I’ve lived here a long time, my husband grew up on Lamboll St., but I didn’t think many local people knew about me. I liked that it was a smaller group of more contemporary artists and the concept of an online gallery was exciting,” Trott said.
Each month, the Collective has a new theme that artists submit their work under which the artists submit their work. The artists meet as a group every quarter to discuss the upcoming themes and charities, deciding which themes they would like to use best.
“The themes are often related to upcoming holidays, seasons or art periods, and are meant to inspire the artists as they continue to produce new artwork,” Williamson explains. “One of our more recent themes this summer was ‘Lemonade.’ It was fun to see how the artists interpreted this theme because they produced work that had bright yellows and lemon-themed compositions. It was so summery and cheery!”
For September, the theme is “Through the Looking Glass.” Trott stated that while sometimes her ideas for the theme don’t pan out, she still enjoys the challenge the prompt brings.
“I think my most successful was the book theme show at the Charleston Library Society. I did a series of still lives with books and other quirky objects that I never would have put together otherwise,” Trott said. “The themes encourage artists to come up with new work and that keeps people coming back to the website.”
Trott’s interpretation of “Through the Looking Glass” was inspired by the classics.
“I have been doing collages lately that are abstract interpretations of figure paintings by artists like Matisse and Diebenkorn. They are a combination of painting and cut paper. This month’s theme...was inspired by Mary Cassatt’s ‘Little Girl in a Blue Armchair.’ The little girl reminded me of Alice,” Trott said.
Williamson is excited for the future of the Collective, especially now that they have a physical space to work in.
“Originally, I thought people would only buy smaller affordable works online. I thought people would want to see larger works in person before making the investment, however that has not been the case. People seem to really love the idea of buying original artwork online and enjoy the convenience of having the piece shipped directly to them,” she said.
Williamson continued, stating, “Since opening Charleston Artist Collective Studios in December 2016, we have already seen a lot of growth! We are excited to offer more opportunities to showcase new work by our artists and give visitors a chance to meet members of the Collective. We hope to collaborate more with the community of Mount Pleasant and host events that are exciting and educational as well.”
Thursday, September 21 from 5-8pm, CAC will have a table of artwork at the Pitt Street Art Walk. Also on that Thursday and Friday, September 22, CAC is hosting an Ocean Detox Art, an art camp for kids taught by artist Jazz Undy. $5 from each ticket for this event will support Sea Turtle Hospital. On Friday, there will be an art show featuring artwork by Jazz Undy and work by CAC artists from 5-8pm. More information can be found at charleston.artistcollectives.org.
Susan Trott’s artwork can be found at the CAC and on her website, www.susantrottpaintings.com, where she posts pictures of what she is currently working on.