It’s that time of year again in Charleston. At the end of every May, the city becomes a mecca for the visual and performing arts for three weeks as the city buzzes with artists and tourists from all over the world. The Spoleto Festival and the city’s Piccolo Spoleto Festival become the nexus for the arts world as hundreds of performances, exhibitions, and concerts fill the air in every corner of town. This year, artists from Ireland to Japan and everywhere in-between will present engaging work that will have the international arts press buzzing.
But unfortunately for broke grad students, seeing this engaging work often costs more than we can afford. However, there are several events attend that are quite appealing to the wallet.
For those of us who enjoy the visual arts, one exhibit that’s not to be missed is Call and Response: Africa to America. It’s hosted by the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art here on campus, and it’s free! Nick Cave and Phyllis Galembo present their unique interpretations of West African masquerades. This exhibit has already garnered the attention of some big names in the art world, and the price couldn’t be better!
If participation is more your style, check out the Art Institute Chalk Walk. Students from the Art Institute will create some elaborate chalk art on the sidewalk along Lockwood Boulevard (starting at 10AM on 6/12 at the intersection of Lockwood and Fishburne near the Joe Riley Stadium). You can join in by adding your contribution to the collage with a piece of chalk. There is a suggested $5 donation to the Education Foundation, but you get to make your own artistic mark on the Spoleto Festival for a great cause!
Of course, the amazing international performers are one of the biggest highlights of the Spoleto Festival. One fantastic performance that won’t break your bank account is the National Ballet of Georgia’s presentation of Giselle. It’s been enthusiastically reviewed by the New York Times, and the National Ballet of Georgia is known for having some of the best dancers in the world. You can score tickets for the Saturday 6/12 and Sunday 6/13 2:00 matinees for a mere $10.
Choral music enthusiasts should note that you can see some great concerts for free in Piccolo Spoleto’s Festival of Churches and Synagogues. Musical styles range from classical oratorio to flute choirs, and there’s a different concert every day of the festival held at many of Charleston’s most stunning examples of religious architecture.
If you’re not exhausted after you’ve done all that, you can hang out and have a picnic at the festival’s finale celebration at Middleton Place on June 13th. There will be music by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a huge fireworks display, and the opportunity to stroll the oldest landscaped garden in America. Tickets start at $15, but that’s a fantastic price considering you get fireworks, a concert by one of the hottest fiddle/banjo acts in the country, and an outdoor picnic in one of the most beautiful gardens in the world all-in-one!
These are just a few of the hundreds of performances and events that fill the city during Spoleto season. Check out the websites for Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto and see if there might be a performance or two that you want to splurge on. Also be sure to read about the College’s Spoleto-related events, and remember that many of them have student pricing. With all of these options, you can enjoy the best of the festival even when you’re on a shoestring budget.