Arts and Culture 2011

Amy Holtcamp



Columbia’s history: Brick by brick

Posted 6/22/2012 5:10:00 PM

A few of weeks ago I had the opportunity to tour a piece of South Carolina history that’s not usually open to the public: The Guignard Brick Works. The Historic Columbia Foundation opened up the works for a one-day tour with informative talks by historians, architects and even descendents of the Guignard family.

I actually used to live at an apartment complex right by the Brick Works. Everyday I would drive by a group of abandoned, domed, brick structures sitting in the middle of an unkempt field and wonder what on earth they were.

About a year after we moved in, construction started in the field. The field was cleared and day-by-day, piles of bricks stacked up as the workmen turned over the earth. Over time utilities were laid and a small network of streets built, ready for commercial traffic.

I worried that the mysterious brick domes would disappear as well, but thankfully, they did not. In fact, the domes and the brick office building that stands nearby are undergoing a slow restoration. The Cayce Historical Museum is developing the Brick Works as an historical property and hopes that when the commercial property finds tenants that the Brick Works will get more visitors from the foot traffic.

The Guignard family first began building bricks in Columbia in the early 1800s. After closing during the Civil War, the Guignards reopened the Brick Works during Reconstruction, seeing the need for materials to rebuild South Carolina. The Guignards continued making bricks here until the 1970s.

Although the Brick Works are not generally open to the public yet, you can still drive over to Cayce and take a look at the exterior of the buildings.

Start by looking at the rectangular, brick (naturally) office building. You’ll see that there’s a lot of variation in design in terms of how the bricks are laid. That’s because the building itself served as a sample book of sorts. If you came to the Brick Works to buy bricks, the office gave you an idea of everything that could be done with them.

Next, take a look at your feet. You’ll see train tracks. The Guignards own locomotive would travel down to the river, where they extracted clay from its bank. One of the Guignard locomotives is on display at the S.C. Railroad Museum in Winnsboro.

Finally, head toward those four domed structures. They’re actually beehive kilns. Three of these kilns were built around 1919 and the fourth in 1932. Bricks were stacked in the center of the building while fires were started along the structure’s perimeter. In the center of the dome’s floor, a downdraft vent helped circulate the air.

The Guignard Brick Works can be found at 100 Granby Crossing at Knox Abbott Drive in Cayce. For more information visit The National Register of Historic Places.

Discover a great weekend in Greenwood

Posted 6/21/2012 10:19:00 AM

One of the hottest festivals in the South is returning to Greenwood for its 12th year. The Greenwood Festival of Discovery offers three days of great blues, barbecue and amusement rides, as well as the chance to learn more about the history, stories and culture of the upstate.

The festival begins on July 12 with the Blues Cruise kickoff in Countybank Plaza from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The Blues Cruise is the musical lineup at the festival and includes performances all weekend by more than a dozen artists in nine venues throughout Greenwood. The Thursday night program features Swamp Pop Shelly, Shrimp City Slim, and Mel Melton and the Wicked Mojitos.

The musical programming continues throughout the weekend with performances by the Kansas City-based rocking blues of Levee Town, blues harp player Charlie Sayles, pianist and jazz vocalist Gail Sorm and others. It’s a diverse lineup, offering a wide range of musical styles from down-home blues, to rock to jazz standards.

You also are invited to discover one of South Carolina’ great flavors at the Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned S.C. State Championship cook off, featuring some of the best barbecue in the south. The awards ceremony takes place Saturday at 5 p.m.

The Festival of Discovery takes place in uptown Greenwood on July 12-14. All music events are free.

For a complete schedule of events visit the Festival of Discovery website.

Southeastern Piano Festival tickles Columbia’s ivories

Posted 6/11/2012 10:41:00 AM

This year the Southeastern Piano Festival celebrates its 10th year. That’s a full decade of bringing together some of the nation’s most talented pianists for a week of concerts and competitions.

A big part of the Southeastern Piano Festival is its young pianists program. Twenty of the best young pianists from around the country come together for a week of intense instruction. At the end of the week the young artists participate in the Arthur Fraser International Concerto Competition, where they have the chance to win cash prizes and a chance to play with the S.C. Philharmonic.

For the rest of us, the festival is a great chance to attend some concerts by amazing musical talents. On June 11 there is the Alumni Celebration Concert with Leo Svirsky and Sean Yeh, winners of the 2005 and 2009 Arthur Fraser International Concerto Competition. On June 13, the award-winning Boris Slutsky, takes the stage and on June 14, the impressive Alessio Bax will perform. Admission to these concerts is $20 for adults, $10 for seniors and Music Teachers National Association members, $5 for students and free to kids 18 and younger.

But perhaps the most thrilling part of the week is watching the festival students perform as part of the Arthur Fraser International Concerto Competition. This is a true chance to see and hear classical music’s “stars of tomorrow.” The competition sessions are held on Friday, June 15, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Best of all, attending the Fraser competition is completely free.

“History that Won’t Stay in a Book”

Posted 5/31/2012 12:21:00 PM

It’s almost time for the Greenville Chautauqua, a wonderful, nine-day long festival that is as educational as it is entertaining.

What’s Chautauqua? It’s part theater, part lecture. Costumed performers take on the persona of a historical figure and ask the audience to suspend their disbelief as they take you back in time to the era in which the figure lived. The audience then has a chance to ask questions of the historical figure. Finally, the performer steps out of character and fields questions that the historical figure might not have been able to answer.

This year’s theme is “They Came to America” and includes a lineup of historical figures that were not American but whose experiences and travels in America shaped their lives. The schedule includes chances to “meet” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, psychiatric innovator Carl Jung, Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and Denmark Vesey, a free person of color who, in the 1820s, plotted a slave rebellion in Charleston.

I attended Chautauqua last year and got to see a lecture by Albert Einstein (aka Larry Bounds). The theater was packed, and the audience ranged from children as young as seven to couples in their 80s. It really did feel more like a play than listening to a lecture, but after the show was over I realized that I understood scientific principles that had eluded me over the course of several semesters at school.


Experience Gullah heritage in Beaufort

Posted 5/23/2012 11:03:00 AM

The beautiful waterfront town of Beaufort is a great gateway to explore the distinctive cultural heritage of the Gullah/Geechee people.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, enslaved Africans were brought to the area to work the rice, cotton and indigo plantations there. The threat of malaria in the hot, humid Lowcountry sent many overseers and plantation owners inland during the summer months, leaving the African people to work in relative isolation. As a result, they were able to hold onto their African traditions, culture and language, which evolved into the Gullah/Geechee culture that remains alive in the area today.

Each Memorial Day weekend, Beaufort celebrates this unique culture with its annual Gullah Festival, now in its 26th year.

This year’s festival will feature a variety of activities, concerts and performances that celebrate both the history of the Gullah people in the region and those who contribute to modern day African-American culture.

Things kick off on Friday, May 25, with the event’s “Family Day,” which will feature performances by local high school marching bands, step teams, dance ensembles and gospel choirs. After the official opening ceremony at 4 p.m., the 2012 Miss Gullah Teen will be crowned. Later that night, the festival offers a new event, the adult-only “An Evening of Jazz and Blues” at 9 p.m.

On Saturday, there’s a full lineup of entertainment. Uhuru Dancers and Yoruba Drummers exemplify the African roots of Gullah culture, and performers like Aunt Pearlie Sue and Gullah Kinfolk add a taste of Gullah’s rich storytelling heritage. The day rounds out with a concert by the festival’s 2012 Featured Artist, soul and R&B singer Tony Terry.

Finally, on Sunday, after a worship service at Waterfront Park, there will be a Gospel Caravan highlighting the voices of fantastic gospel groups from throughout the south.

The 2012 Beaufort Gullah Festival takes place on May 25-27 at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in Beaufort. Day passes are $10-20 for adults and $5-10 for kids. Full access weekend passes are available for $80 and include admission to the festival, tickets to the play Decoration Day, and a three hour tour of Beaufort and he surrounding area.