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Columbia Business Monthly

Open Studios: How Columbia gets to know its Art Scene

Apr 06, 2018 03:23PM ● By Makayla Gay

By Rachel Haynie

  To count itself as an art city, Columbia needs more than great art and creatively engaged artists.

The coin must be flipped by consumers: patrons, collectors, and anyone seeking knowledge about how art comes to be—and how the creative process imbues the aesthetic value of work. 

Open Studios on Saturday, April 7 and Sunday, April 8 provides the forum for such art knowledge to accrue.

Based on past responses, thousands will studio hop that weekend to meet 70 artists, working in all mediums, on their creative turf throughout Richland and Lexington counties. The inquisitive will breathe in the working aromas, take note of trappings and equipment employed, discern techniques that shape styles. By late Sunday afternoon, studio visitors will comprise a better-informed body of art appreciators.

In this way, Open Studios has become a reliable barometer of the local art scene.

Modeling an established national concept, Open Studios was first introduced locally by Columbia Festival of the Arts in 2007 and 2008, then returned and was strengthened by 701 Center for the Contemporary Arts, beginning in 2011.

Intimate visits with artists are manifestations of the processes’ organic nature that otherwise is witnessed only as the tip of the iceberg once a finished piece of work makes it into a gallery. 

Sally Peek, artisan owner of Nana’s by Sally, recognizes Open Studios as a way to correct that disconnect. “The platform that Open Studios provides our guests allows them to become part of the process. They come to us in our vulnerable spaces and see how we are integral to a process we have set in motion.”

Sally Peek, half of an artful duo that includes her husband, Scottie, established her one-of-a-kind and limited-run handbag enterprise with her great-grandmother as namesake of the leather and textile creations.

Scotty Peek, who teaches art at Heathwood Hall, is acclaimed locally for drawing and painting. His personal work is executed primarily in oils and often captures scenes that prove that art is where you find it. “I could invite a guest to step out my back door or come with me just down the street and I could show them where I painted a particular piece.”

If Scotty Peek weren’t participating, he would be visiting the studios of other artists. “How other artists set up their spaces interests me. I would like to see what brushes they use, how they put their tools within reach.”

Tyrone Geter returns to Open Studios this year. Last spring, completing two dozen large new charcoals and pastel drawings for Enduring Spirit, his successful solo show at Columbia Museum of Art, dominated his time and focus. The return and reabsorption of those storytelling works into his Elgin studio necessitated a reordering of that domestic space. Now the artist is ready to welcome inquisitive guests. 

“The questions they ask let me know how close they are coming to understanding what goes into creating a work of art. And shows they value the process. This lets me know I am taking people with me on the way.” 

Stephen Chesley notes that Open Studios will be an opportunity for patrons to visit the new Stormwater Studios at 1301 Pendleton Street (behind One-Eared Cow Glass and Lewis + Clark, 1001 Huger Street), where he and nine other resident artists now create.

Glenna Barlow, adult programs manager with Columbia Museum of Art, said she has enjoyed Open Studios since moving to Columbia three years ago. “It’s a wonderful way to get to know local artists and to shine a light on the city’s various communities. I’ve bought several pieces and discovered some great restaurants and neighborhoods along the way. We’re so lucky to live in a city that has such a thriving art scene and that nurtures it with endeavors like this one.”

For a listing of all participating artists, addresses of their studios, and other information regarding the experiential event, visit