The Next Big Thing - by Cindi Boiter

I feel a little guilty using What Jasper Said to post my answers to The Next Big Thing, the hot new meme going around our community in which writers tag one another and ask that they write about their newest projects. But given that my newest project was published by Muddy Ford Press and that MFP underwrites Jasper Magazine, there's a sweet symbiosis to it that I cannot deny. Here's how it works -- after having been tagged (my thanks to Cassie Premo Steele for tagging me), the newly tagged author is required to self-interview, answering 10 pre-determined questions. After having answered these questions, she tags another five writers to do the same.

Here goes.

What is the working title of your book?

The Limelight -- A Compendium of Contemporary Columbia Artists, volume 1

What is the genre of your book?

Essay collection

Where did the idea come from?

Columbia, SC is a city that is reeling with a multitude of artists from different genres, particularly the literary arts. We have an inordinate number of professional writers here, yet we don't really have a sense of ourselves as a writing community -- though we are. I'd love to play some part in helping us to form a more unified community of writers. I want Columbia to be known as a "writers' town." To that end, I invited 18 local writers to contribute first person narrative essays about another local artist -- writer, visual artist, musician, dancer, theatre artist, whatever -- who had influenced them in some way.  I had the pleasure of editing the essays.

Clearly, one volume is not enough to represent the artists and authors we have here, so I decided to serialize the compendium with the plan of publishing it on an annual basis.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Columbia, SC essayists sing the praises of Columbia, SC artists.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I issued the call for essays in the summer of 2012 with an autumn deadline. We went to press in February 2013.

Who or what inspired you to write it?

The community of Columbia artists.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My book was published by Muddy Ford Press.

What other books would you compare this book to within your genre?

I don't really know of any other books with the same model.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Well, there are 36 "characters" if we include both the contributors and the subjects of their essays.

The essay I wrote was about the artist Blue Sky, so, naturally Clint Eastwood would play Blue. For me? Lisa Kudrow or Terri Garr.

Ed Madden would be played by Jon Cryer and James Dickey by Jon Voight.

Jeffrey Day? Woody Allen, of course. James Busby would be played by Channing Tatum (that's right, I said it.)

I'd like to cast Christopher Walken to play someone, but I'm not sure who ... a much older Chad Henderson, maybe? Just for kicks?

Patrick Wilson would play Kyle Petersen with Sheryl Crow playing Danielle Howle (though I like Danielle's voice far better).

Billy Murray would play the part of Stephen Chesley and the part of Susan Lenz would be played by Julia Louis Dreyfus.

Vicky Saye Henderson would play herself.

What else about your manuscript might pique the reader's interest?

Some of the first lines are spectacular. For example, poet Ray McManus opens his essay about Terrance Hayes with this, "When you're a boy growing up in rural South Carolina, and you want to be a poet, you should first learn to fight."

And ballet dancer Bonnie Boiter-Jolley's first line about her mentor Stacey Calvert is brutally honest when she says, "When I first met Stacey Calvert over a decade ago, she explained to me how being a dancer is a very selfish thing."

And there are 16 more.


That's the end of the interview and I have to admit that it was fun. In an effort to share the fun and keep this meme going I'm tagging Aida Rogers, Don McCallister, Debbie Daniel, Kristine Hartvigsen, and Susan Levi Wallach. And I'm inviting them all to post their answers to me so I can share them with our readers. I think there's something about Wednesdays and deadlines also as I was tagged on a Wednesday and told to blog on the next Wednesday. So, by next Wednesday, I hope to have even more Next Big Things to share.

Thanks for reading,





First Lines -- an invitation from Jasper

"As she sat stunned in her car on Charleston's rickety old John P. Grace Memorial Bridge, trapped precariously 150 feet above the swift-moving waters of the Cooper River, ..."


"When you're a boy growing up in rural South Carolina, and you want to be a poet, you should first learn to fight."


"It was a Tuesday night in the spring of 1988 and I decided to head down to Pug's in Five Points for the weekly jam session."


"This essay is not an act of revenge."


"Bastille Day 2001, personal date of independence."


"It's a particularly hot summer day, even for Columbia, when I parallel park my car on Washington Street and notice a tall, lanky gentleman as he moves stiffly to reposition an over-sized canvas by the curb."


"It began with a gift."

 Ahh, first lines.

Every literary adventure you've ever been on began with one.

Please join the Jasper and Muddy Ford Press family today as we celebrate the first lines above and more than a dozen more when we launch our newest book,

The Limelight – A Compendium of Contemporary Columbia Artists,

volume 1,

with a launch party from 5 – 8 pm at Tapp’s Arts Center on Main Street in Columbia.

The $15 admission to the event includes a copy of The Limelight ($18 after 2/24/13), music, food, and the opportunity to gather signatures from authors and artists in attendance at the launch. For couples wishing to share a book, admission is $25.

There will be a cash bar.

The Limelight, published by Muddy Ford Press, LLC, is the first volume in a serialized collection of 18 first-person, narrative essays written by professional Columbia authors and artists about professional Columbia authors and artists. It is the sixth book to be published by Muddy Ford Press since February 2012.

Edited by Jasper Magazine founder and editor Cynthia Boiter, The Limelight – A Compendium of Contemporary Columbia Artists, Volume 1 is a serialized collection of first person narrative essays written by Columbia, SC writers and artists about Columbia, SC writers and artists. As the Southeast’s newest arts destination, Columbia is bursting with visual, literary, and performing artists whose work has caught the attention of the greater arts world at large, and these essays tell the stories of how the influence of these artists has spread. New York Times best-selling author Janna McMahan, for example, writes about spending a day touring Beaufort, SC, the hometown of literary giant Pat Conroy, with the writer himself. Poet Ed Madden writes about the disconcerting words of advice he received from dying poet and professor James Dickey when Madden took over teaching the last academic course of Dickey’s career. Music writers Michael Miller and Kyle Petersen share insights on saxophone great Chris Potter and contemporary singer-songwriter Danielle Howle, respectively, and poet Cassie Premo Steele writes about the inspiration stemming from her friendship with nationally-known visual artist Philip Mullen.

These 18 essays include works by and about poets Nikky Finney, Terrance Hayes, Marjory Wentworth, Ray McManus, Cassie Premo Steele, Kristine Hartvigsen, Colena Corbett, and Ed Madden; visual artists Philip Mullen, Gilmer Petroff, Blue Sky, James Busby, Stephen Chesley, and Susan Lenz; musicians Chris Potter and Danielle Howle; dancers Stacey Calvert and Bonnie Boiter-Jolley; actors and directors Robert Richmond, Greg Leevy, Chad Henderson, Vicky Saye Henderson, Jim and Kay Thigpen, and Alex Smith; and writers and editors James Dickey, Pat Conroy, Janna McMahan, Aida Rogers, Michael Miller, Jeffrey Day, Kyle Petersen, Robbie Robertson, Don McCallister, Robert Lamb, August Krickel, and Cynthia Boiter.

For more information or to order online please go to



REVIEW -- Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade 1940 - 1950 by Jeffrey Day

Some important things need to be said about the Mark Rothko exhibition that is both BY and AT the Columbia Museum of Art that don’t have much to do with the art. First let’s do the art in Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade 1940 – 1950. And the art is very good indeed.

These 30 or so pieces reveal how the artist moved from figurative work to the large paintings of glowing blocks of color for which he is best known. The latter paintings make up only a tiny part of the exhibition, but the earlier works – influenced by dreams, mythology and showing the heavy influence of surrealism – are rewarding to offer those who love Rothko’s mature works, those familiar with his entire career and those who know nothing at all about him.

This compact and manageable exhibition reveals the artist’s journey through the decade that made Rothko Rothko with excellent examples of his work and a nearly perfect installation.

The show begins with a painting of three people from 1940 that few would guess was by Rothko. At first the work doesn’t seem to add much to the exhibition, but it’s important because of the number three. In the following paintings three figures are merged into one with distinct segmentations of heads, torsos and legs. These divisions eventually transform into three stacked blocks of color. Even when the body is long gone the body is still a good way to feel the power of the paintings – they provide a full body experience.


This exhibition shows the artist finding his way by experimenting with various approaches. The pieces from the first few years of the ‘40s are filled with scrawled lines of what look like fantastical creatures and plants, but at the same time are abstract. In 1946 the artist began creating with amorphous patches of color that became more spare as each month passed. No doubt Rothko’s actual process was more messy than this exhibition shows, but one has to admire how far the artist progressed in a decade – especially since he was already 37 when he started the journey. The museum has so keenly honed this exhibition it feels that one more or one less work would have ruined it.

The exhibition has the bonus of a sampling of works by Rothko’s colleagues Clyfford Still, Arshile Gorky, Adolph Gottlieb, Theodoros Stamos and others that provide a perfect context. It’s also a treat to see a works by these artists who are just as rare in South Carolina as Rothko.

Rothko was a smart and well-educated man (he attended Yale), but he had little art training. One could never tell by looking at his art. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. What he had to say about his art – and all art – is another matter. Like several artists of the time, Rothko viewed art as a huge, transforming experience, but many of his pronouncements meant to be profound are preposterous. Even if a number of them are posted on the museum walls they take nothing away from the art.

Setting aside the art itself, The Decisive Decade is arguably the best and most important exhibition the museum has organized in its 60-year history. That though must be put in context; the museum has made great strides during the past decade in building its collection and expanding programming, but it has failed to organize significant exhibitions.

The museum has hosted many important exhibitions in recent years: Nature and the Grand American Vision: Masterpieces of the Hudson River School Painters, Turner to Cezanne: Masterpieces from the Davies Collection, National Museum Wales, Material Terrain: A Sculptural Exploration of Landscape and Place, Julie Heffernan: Everything That Rises and I Heard a Voice: The Art of Lesley Dill. It created none of them.

Rothko changes that. Let’s hope this is the start of a new chapter for the museum as a place that organizes important exhibitions.

This was a very unlikely exhibition for a museum that owns no Rothkos and few works from this period of American art. The museum’s most significant holdings are in European art from 1400 to 1800 which would seem to be the place to look for a big self-generated exhibition. Even the curator who conceived of the Rothko show, Todd Herman, is a Renaissance expert.

Fortunately museum director Karen Brosius has well-connected colleagues in the museum world thanks to her years of funding art projects at the Philip Morris Companies. Among them is Earl Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art. (The museum also has a long connection with the National Gallery through its Renaissance and Baroque artworks – donations of those by the Kress Foundation in the 1940s and 1950s made the Columbia Museum and the National Gallery possible. Some of the art at the Columbia once belonged to the National Gallery.)

The Columbia Museum approached the National Gallery about a Rothko loan -- and with 1,000 Rothko works, the most by any single artist, the gallery has plenty from which to choose. The art museum started with the idea of a much smaller show, then seized the opportunity to create an exhibition that would not just show off an art star, but would add to scholarship on a period of the artist’s life that has been largely unexplored. (When Herman left the museum last year to become director of the Arkansas Art Center, new chief curator Will South – who is an expert in early 20th century American modern art – took the reins and guided the show to its wonderful fruition.)

With Skira Rizzoli Publications the museum has published an excellent catalog edited by University of South Carolina associate professor Bradford Collins (a feather in the cap of Collins and USC), with insightful essays by Collins, Herman, National Gallery contemporary and modern art curator Harry Cooper and others. The exhibition will travel to Ohio, Arkansas and Colorado putting the Columbia Museum in a much-deserved spotlight.

If the museum had organized an exhibition only half as good as this, it still would have been a milestone. For a museum with little expertise in the area to tackle an exhibition like this can only be called audacious. Or crazy. Or brilliantly imaginative. We’ll come down on the side of audacious and brilliant.

The Decisive Decade remains on display through Jan. 6.

-- Jeffrey Day

The Twitty Triplets are back…and front and sideways -- a Guest Blog by Robbie Robertson

“It’s like doing acid while reading a Flannery O’Connor short story in a dark room, illuminated by the reflective light of a twirling disco ball.”

That was the description I recently heard by a much smarter man than myself as he summed up “The Twitty Triplets,” my upcoming musical creation presented by Trustus Theatre in the old Tapp’s Fountain Room. I think it's a compliment and plan to embrace it as such.


Yes, after their first performance 20 years ago, The Twitty Triplets are back— brassier, bossier and better than ever. For the uninitiated, I discovered the Twitty Triplets performing back in 1992. They were working girls, night shift operators at the old spork factory on Augusta Highway, simple triplets who dreamed of a glittery, musical future. They had just started to sing in public when I met them at the Triangle City Christmas pageant. You’ll recall town officials would transform the two-story Zesto ice cream cone into an overly large Christmas tree that served as a seasonal centerpiece for Triangle City, Gaston, and other citizens of South Carolina’s “Speed-dee” corridor.


I’ll never forget the Twittys when they took the stage and sang All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth wearing seasonal Bedazzled sweatshirts sponsored by Augusta Highway’s Dentures and More. It was a brilliant marketing move and I knew these girls were headed for bigger, brighter, and more legal venues. I took them on as clients right after the spork factory closed (about the time Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded as KFC and started in house spork production).  With no day job distraction, the Twittys were free to concentrate on their music and we hit the ground running.


First off was an opening act for a city of Columbia Animal Shelter fundraiser, where dogs weren’t the only things howling that night. I’ll never forget when Aynor Twitty climbed up on the main dog cage to sing her rendition of  Diana Ross’ popular disco hit, Upside Down. The 13 audience members literally gasped when Aynor’s song culminated in an acrobatic move where she was indeed, held upside down, by fellow triplets Monetta and Cayce. Unfortunately, Aynor passed out from the head rush, blowing limply in the wind, until she was rushed to what was then known as Lexington Hospital and Lawnmower Repair. (She turned out fine but, to this day, Aynor cannot recall the lyrics to Upside Down and the name Diana Ross causes a severe eye twitch and throat flush.


But since that time, The Twitty Triplets have built a large and loyal following of nearly 36 bill collectors fans, performing their Happy Half Hour Show at Crockmeyer’s Again (the rebooted name after fire destroyed the original bar); The Blaney Drag Strip Concession Stand Show; and, of course, The Swansea Black and White Ball, (“Where ALL are welcome”).


The Twitty Triplets were described as a “musical melee” by late, great State reporter Jeffrey Day and, “A disco disaster that crosses the line of good taste,” by August Krickel, now the theatre editor for Jasper Magazine. And now, they stand proud, poised, and ready to perform for a brand new audience as they bring “Melodic tunes from a professional act in a casual atmosphere” to downtown Columbia in the Tapp’s Fountain Room.

With only six performances for a limited crowd of 60 lucky listeners per night, The Twitty Triplets invite you to open up a cold PBR and enjoy the musical ride, August 23, 24, 25, 30, 31 and September 1 at the Tapp’s Fine Arts Center. Cash bar opens at 7 pm each night and show begins at 8 pm. And on both Friday nights, August 24 and 31, enjoy a post show disco karaoke party. General seating for all shows! To purchase or reserve a ticket, call the Trustus Theatre box office, Tuesday – Saturday, 1-6 pm. Tickets are 15 bucks.


And follow The Twitty Triplets online at on Twitter @TwittyTriplets.


(Robbie Robertson is a playwright and screenwriter, and a graduate of both the University of South Carolina as well as UCLA’s professional program in screenwriting. Robertson’s first play, Mina Tonight! was published by Samuel French Inc. and has been consistently produced in regional theatres across the nation. He brought 60s TV to life by directing a staged version of Gilligan's Island at Trustus Theatre and his screenplays have placed in several national contests. His latest—Sweet Child of Mine—was named one of the top 12 comedy scripts in the 2010 Austin Film Festival’s Screenwriting Competition. He recently completed a staged adaptation of the film Satan in High Heels and will revive one of his first theatrical productions—The Twitty Triplets—as part of Trustus Theatre’s New “Off Off Lady Street” series. He is currently developing several independent television and film projects in addition to his work as a marketing and communications consultant.)

CMA's Design from the Collection -- a review by Jeffrey Day

As much as I like The Art of Seating, a show of 200 years of chairs at the Columbia Museum of Art, I was more excited to see what the museum would do with the companion design exhibition. For Design from the Collection, members of the museum affiliate group the Columbia Design League mined the museum collection for examples of good design. I feel a close connection to many of the objects in the exhibition, having had an opportunity to see many quite a few times and to remember when the museum acquired some.

When we think about museums, great paintings and sculptures first come to mind. The works in Design from the Collection are more prosaic – chairs, desks, teapots, dishes – but their functional origins and often humble material coupled with thoughtful and beautiful design provide a model for the possibilities of beauty in our daily life.

One piece I’m always happy to revisit is Danish designer Georg Jensen’s chocolate pot from 1930. The silver pot is seven-inches high with sleek lines and a low-set teak side handle and matching lid handle; the best way to describe it is charming. Another simple piece, a 1958 teapot by John Prip, is the made of stuff even more basic - pewter and plastic – which doesn’t prevent it from being a delight.


One piece I don’t recall seeing before is Gilbert Rohde’s dressing table from around 1940, but it has belonged to the museum for a decade and is certainly memorable. With its sleek, rounded lines this dressing table made of ebony veneer and quilted maple with a top of glass suspended by steel tubing looks like it could speed around one’s bedroom. It’s the perfect marriage of elegant modern design coupled with a high level of craftsmanship.

As companion to The Art of Seating, the exhibition appropriately has a lot of chairs; chairs that make you rethink chairs, really appreciate chairs, toss your stupid and ugly chairs. The earliest chair, and about the oldest work in the show, is a 1915 bent wood rocker by chair innovators Thonet. (The Austrian company’s chair No. 18 has been manufactured since 1876.) It has rockers and arms made of one continuous oval of bent wood. It is a marvelous melding of new technology, function and beauty – as are all the best pieces in the show.

Eero Saarinen is best known as the architect of the TWA terminal at JFK Airport in New York and the Dulles Airport main terminal, but he created furniture just as cool as those buildings. The exhibition contains two of his most iconic designs – the tulip chair and tulip table. (These were first manufactured in 1956, but like quite a few of the post-World War II furniture pieces these particular items were made a couple of decades later in response to a renewed appreciation of mid-century design.)

Among the other well-known designers represented in the show are Charles Eames and Ray Eames with a molded plywood chair from the 1940s, a cast aluminum and fabric chair from 1958 (along with the Rohde’s dressing table, it’s my favorite piece), a 1946 wooden slat bench by George Nelson, and a ‘40s carafe by Russell Wright. On the unknown end is Danish designer Poul Jeppesen’s modern, but warm and inviting wood and cane armchair from 1950.

Entering the exhibition through the Art of Seating, you’ll be greeted by pieces such as these. Near the end of the show you will wonder if you’ve wandered into another exhibition entirely. You’ll find works that fit firmly in the fine crafts category – glass, ceramics, basketry – as well as a few pieces that are simply sculpture. The exhibition text panels are also puzzling. Several are written with a personal point of view by committee members while others read like standard museum text although all are credited to committee member. These confusing turns may be the result of a committee-created exhibition – in this case it looks like the work of two committees that never met. Both these things badly undermine what is largely an excellent show.

On the plus side, the objects are creatively displayed – especially the chair perched atop platforms attached to the gallery walls. The exhibition is on display through July 29.


-- Jeffrey Day is a frequent contributor to Jasper and What Jasper Said, and the former senior arts writer for The State

Song for Jeffrey By Alex Smith, Sports Editor, Jasper Magazine

A few miles down the road from the fortified compound that houses Jasper Magazine, something is cooking at The Free Times in the Rant And Rave section, and when something starts to cook on that burner, the responses can go on longer than some of the threads on Chris Bickel's Facebook posts, only it's not inter web realtime, so that means weeks. I wanted to throw my pat of butter onto this particular griddle in a somewhat public forum before everybody forgets how the whole fucking thing started (I'm just as guilty as the next: we have given ourselves the attention span of gnats with this internet thing-I hear heckles that 'this internet thing' is what is allowing me to have my say about something while it's still remotely topical…just remember, if you're close enough to hear you're close enough to chew the face off of…).

  Ed [Madden, Poetry Editor] and I were in the bullpen out at the compound at Muddy Ford about a week ago, grinding the pigment out of wildflowers to use for the various colored ink for the upcoming issue (you don't just write when you're on staff at Jasper). As the man said so long ago, "we spoke of movies and verse, and the way an actress held her purse, and the way life and times could get worse…" Then we spoke of Jeffrey. Ed mentioned somebody bitching about our mutual friend Jeffrey Day and one of his less than enthusiastic notices concerning some or other arts related event here in town. We agreed not only that bitching about a review was unwarranted and whiny, but that (you can quote me on this) Jeffrey Day is the best all-around arts critic writing in Columbia. Imagine my surprise when, perusing the new issue of the Free-Times the next day [June 26-July 2], I got to the very last words that weren't ad copy, and they read, "I found a little Jeffrey Day dribble in my Free Times this morning (Arts, June 20). Apparently, the guy is like treatment-resistant gonorrhea; you may think he’s gone, but he ain’t."


I love the Free Times. I have had a man-crush on its editor since I saw his band open for The Violent Femmes when I was 15 years old. When it comes to full coverage journalism in Columbia, The Free Times has no competition, and their work is consistently terrific. And, like most people, I love the Rant And Rave section. So, let me make it completely clear that in no way am I trying to defame The Free Times when I say, in regard to the quote above: Fuck. That. Shit.

Here are a few more choice words in regard to that quote. I've known Jeffrey for going on 25 years, and I consider him a friend, but my anger about those words being said about a friend is beside the point, and what's more, personal, and I'd like to keep this out of that realm. I will, therefore, dispense with attempting to address the anonymous coward who spilled that bile onto the back page of an otherwise decent news rag, and try to look at the bigger picture.


The above quote is indicative of a problem some of the people involved in Columbia's arts community have that can end up being fucking deadly: everybody wants press, but none of them are willing to take criticism from anybody who knows what they're saying. First, let me say that, if you're an artist and you can't take the ugly words the same way that you take the kind words that people say about your art, if you can't be humble in the face of adulation and venom, throw that towel in. Now. You're a kiddie swimming in the big person pool. Get out until you've grown up a little. Beyond that, if our arts scene (which, listen, don't get me wrong, seems to be flourishing and cohering so successfully at this point that it's making me nervous) is nothing but a bunch of people smiling and waxing each others' cars, the whole thing will either burn bright very briefly and then die (again) because, take my word, that kind of enthusiasm can not be maintained without serious drugs; or those grinning waxers will turn around after telling you they love your work and tell somebody else how shitty they really think it is, this behavior will proliferate, and the whole thing will fizz out like a soggy sparkler and die (again).


Be honest about what you think and feel when you experience a work of art, and be willing and able to back it up, especially if your thoughts and feelings are negative. This will create dialogue, which will create working and personal relationships, which will create community. That's one thing.

The other is, for FUCK'S sake, we artists should get down on our knees and praise Allah for allowing us to have an art critic like Jeffrey in this town. Jeffrey is knowledgeable about enough aspects of both visual and performing arts that he can write incisive criticism about what he sees, whether it's a review of a musical at Town Theatre, a symphony performance at the Koger Center, or the latest show at the Columbia Museum of Art. He does so without any bells and whistles, without flexing his intellect publicly, and in such a way that a person reading his reviews does not have to be an aficionado to understand what he has written. He has been a paid writer for virtually every print outlet that covers the arts in Columbia, and when times got tough, he continued to do it for free online. Somehow, Jeffrey sees it all, and he reports on it honestly and thoroughly. People have faulted him for being too harsh a critic as long as I've known him, and, again, let me say it: Fuck. That. Shit.


Jeffrey has seen what the arts community in this city is capable of, and the reason we should be grateful for him is that he holds us to that high standard, and if we weren't around to know about the standard he's holding us to, he'll be glad to tell us about it. He is a good man. He may be a grumbling, naysaying curmudgeon sometimes, but if he knows you, he'll laugh at himself with you about it, especially if you're like me, and he knows that you'll only put up with his grumbling for so long before you pull out your tickle-bat and whack him with it (I'll tell you more about the tickle-bat some other time).


Jeffrey wrote a review of a play I directed in 2005 that has been the kindest thing written about any single artistic endeavor I've been involved with. It ended with the phrase, "…one of the ten best plays to be performed in Columbia in the last ten years." No shit. It was such a good review that I started telling people I'd paid him to write it, or that myself and the cast had gotten him loaded, like Joe Cotten in Citizen Kane, and finished the review for him after he passed out. He also wrote a very poor review of a show I directed in 2000 that I thought was perfect. Ultimately, I believe it was that poor review that made Jeffrey my friend. He would come sit and talk with me and whoever I was with (or vice-versa) when we'd see each other out at the bars or around town. I noticed that, for a long time after that poor review, he didn't seem to come and sit and talk when I saw him, and at first it puzzled me, but then, I realized that he probably thought I was pissed at him about the review (reading that Free Times quote and thinking about how much of that bullshit he's probably had to endure over his career makes me feel naive for ever wondering why he would have thought he should approach an artist with kid gloves). I saw him out one night. I was a little in my cups, so I told him that he needn't ever worry about me being an asshole to him if he wrote a bad review of one of my shows because, ultimately, good or bad, I wasn't doing it for him. I think most people would have been more than a little off-put by some drunk jerk coming up and telling them that they didn't care what they thought, but after that, Jeffrey seemed so much more relaxed and willing to talk when we would see each other.


The part I'm not sure about is whether I told him about the quote. After his bad review came out, I happened to read an interview from the 60's with Miles Davis. To bolster the esteem of the cast of the play Jeffrey had panned, I printed this quote out and hung it backstage:


"I get sick of how a lot of them write whole columns and pages of big words and still ain't saying nothing. If you have spent your life getting to know your business and the other cats in it, and what they are doing, then you know if a critic knows what he's talking about. Most of the time they don't. I don't pay no attention to what critics say about me, the good or the bad. The toughest critic I got, and the only one I worry about, is myself. My music has got to get past me and I'm too vain to play anything I think is bad."


What came after this, which I left out for my cast, but include here, is this:


"No, I ain't going to name critics I don't like. But I will tell you some that I respect what they write -- Nat Hentoff, Ralph Gleason and Leonard Feather. And some others, I can't right off think of their names. But it ain't a long list."


The list might not be long, but this vain, self-critical artist is glad to say that Jeffrey Day is on it.

-- Alex Smith, staff writer, Jasper Magazine


(Alex Smith has written about The Next Door Drummers and artist Cedric Umoja for Jasper Magazine. In the upcoming issue, releasing on July 12th, he writes about music director Tom Beard, Lighting designer Aaron Pelzek, and experimental musician C. Neil Scott. Alex Smith is NOT the Sports Editor for Jasper Magazine.)

Jasper Welcomes Jillian Owens to the Theatre Review Team



As Jasper builds our blog to provide readers with up-to-date reviews of theatre and dance, we welcome Jillian Owens to the Jasper Theatre Review Team. Along with August Krickel, Jeffrey Day, Arik Bjorn, and others, Jillian will be lending her critical eye to opening nights of theatre about town and sharing her insights with you as quickly as possible so that you can make informed decisions about how to best spend your local theatre dollars.

A Columbia transplant, Jillian Owens graduated from the University of South Carolina with a BFA in Theatre and English.  She has worked in many areas of theatre, both locally and nationally, including set design, lighting design, costume design, stage/production management, and acting.

By day, Jillian works for the South Carolina Arts Commission as their Grants Manager.  By night, she writes at, her world-renowned recycled fashion blog.

Please help us welcome Jillian to the Jasper Family!


Would you like opening night of your play reviewed? Please contact August Krickel at

Southeastern Piano Festival wraps up 10th anniversary year with great attendance, competition winners and significant donation


The Southeastern Piano Festival wrapped up Saturday night June 16 with a concert by the winners of the Arthur Fraser International Concerto Competition and the announcement of a $20,000 gift to the festival. The Festival, June 10 – 16, had its most successful year ever with record attendance at concerts including 1,500 at its opening Piano Extravaganza Concert at the Koger Center for the Arts.

“This has been an amazing year with extraordinary students and guest artists and wonderful music that has been shared with large and enthusiastic audiences. To cap it off with an announcement of this gift is the perfect way to end our 10th anniversary festival,” said Marina Lomazov, Artistic Director of the Southeastern Piano Festival.

The first place winner of the Fraser Competition was Dong Yeon Kim of Idyllwild, Calif. The second place winner was Kevin Ahfat of Centennial. Colo., and third place was won by Evelyn Mo of Herndon, Va. Discretionary awards went to Vanessa Meiling Haynes of Shrewsbury, Mass.; Michael Lenahan of Rossford, Ohio; and Rieko Tsuchida of Mill Valley, Calif.

Artistic Director Marina Lomazov announced that an anonymous donor will match dollar for dollar up to $20,000 all donations made to the Piano Festival. The unnamed donor is a long-time supporter of the festival.

Also announced at the closing event is that Joseph Rackers, an assistant professor of music at the USC School of Music and Festival faculty member, will become co-director of the festival.

The Southeastern Piano Festival is composed of a week-long training program for pre-college students coupled with a series of concerts by accomplished pianists. This year 20 students from around the nation and one from Australia took part in the competition.

The top award winner Dong Yeon Kim has been grand prize winner of the Lake Lewisville Competition and in the Lynn Harrell Concerto Competition and has won top awards in the New Orleans International, Dallas Symphonic, National Young Artist Institute, MTNA, Wysong-Joplin and Denton Bach Society competitions. He has performed with the Dallas Symphony under conductor Jaap van Zweden. A native of South Korea, He moved to the United States in 2007 to continue his music studies.

As first place winner, he will receive a $3,000 cash award sponsored by Rice Music House-Steinway Pianos and the opportunity to perform with the South Carolina Philharmonic. The competition is sponsored by the Symphony League of the S.C. Philharmonic and named in honor of the founding music director of the Philharmonic.

Kevin Ahfat was a Silver Medalist at the Fifth Schimmel USASU International Piano Competition, first prize winner in the Boulder Philharmonic, Steinway & Sons and Bradshaw & Buono international competitions. He has performed with the Colorado Symphony, Arapahoe Philharmonic and will perform with the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra in August as first prize winner of the 2012 Schmitt Music Competition. He will begin studies at the Juilliard School in the fall.

Evelyn Mo is an eighth grader whose awards include first prizes at the 2012 Blount- Slawson Young Artist Concerto Competition, 2011 Chopin International Piano Competition, 2011 MSMTA Beethoven Sonata Competition, and the International Young Artist Piano Competition in Washington, DC, in 2008 and 2010. She has been invited to appear on NPR’s “From the Top’’ and has performed at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and the National Gallery of Art.

The second and third place winners receive $1,500 and $1,000 respectively.

The competition jury was composed of Boris Slutsky, jury chairman and Peabody Conservatory Piano Department Chairman; pianist Alessio Bax; Natalya Antonova, Eastman School of Music Professor of Piano; and Morihiko Nakahara, Music Director of the S.C. Philharmonic. Dong Kim was also awarded the Young Jury Prize selected by a panel of USC School of Music graduate and doctoral students.

-- Jeffrey Day


Reach Jeffrey Day at and visit us at Jasper at


News from the Southeastern Piano Festival

Our friend and frequent contributor, Jeffrey Day, is something of a classical music freak.  So when he tells us something is good - Jasper listens. Jeffrey just shared this coup with us so we thought we'd turn around and send it out to you. He's talking about another amazing performer that Marina Lomazov has brought to the Southeastern Piano Festival, currently going on at the Koger Center for the Arts in Columbia.


Here’s what they’re saying about Alessio Bax who will perform at the Southeastern Piano Festival Thursday night: With an electrifying technique, the 33-year-old Italian pianist delivered riveting performances of Brahms, Enescu and Bartok. It was a wonderful musical event, one which left many audience members shaking their heads in astonishment.

His program unfolded with an ease, precision and beauty so seemingly effortless that the music appeared to live and breathe of its own volition.

… has both the nimble fingers and the easy charm required to give the concerto a marvelous outing.

…dispatching the breakneck runs with a smooth, clean, silvery tone.

These are a few recent praises showered on Mr. Bax, winner of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, one of the most prestigious awards in classical music. During the past 12 months, Mr. Bax has performed on opening night of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's season, with the Dallas Symphony and Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, and orchestras in London, Bilbao, and Mexico City and in recital from Hong Kong to Iceland. He has also also performed in recent years with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Rome Symphony and as a chamber musician he has collaborated with Joshua Bell, Emmanuel Ax and Anne-Marie McDermott. For his Piano Festival concert he will perform Brahms’ Ballades, Op. 10; Liebesleid and Liebesfreud by Fritz Kreisler, Five Preludes by Sergei Rachmaninoff, closing with Après une lecture de Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata by Franz Liszt. This is a concert you will not want to miss. Be at the USC School of Music Recital Hall at 7:30 Thursday, April 14. For tickets call 803-576-5763 or email


You can watch his performances at


Southeastern Piano Festival kicks off 10th anniversary with big concert at the Koger Center


If you love the piano, have we got a week for you.

The Southeastern Piano Festival kicks off its 10th year with a Piano Extravaganza concert featuring 16 pianist, five pianos and the S.C. Philharmonic on June 10 at the Koger Center for the Arts. The festival runs through June 16 with concerts by well-known and up-and-coming musicians.

“The festival has been a success on so many levels and we’re thrilled to be celebrating our first decade,” said Marina Lomazov, Festival Artistic Director. “The festival continues to provide top-flight training for young musicians, but has also grown to be one of the most significant showcases of piano music.”

Dr. Lomazov will perform at the Piano Extravaganza along with fellow USC piano faculty Joseph Rackers and  Charles Fugo, guest pianist Phillip Bush, a dozen past winners of Arthur Fraser International Concerto Competition, and the S.C. Philharmonic conducted by Music Director Morihiko Nakahara.  The concert includes works by Mozart, Bach and Wagner and five pianists performing movements from “The Planets” by Gustav Holst on five Steinway concert grand pianos. The concert will close with Lomazov and Rackers playing the Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in D minor by Francis Poulenc.

The festival blends a week of exciting concerts with a training program for 19 young pianists from around the country and one from Australia who take part in the Fraser Competition. Those who want to see some of tomorrow’s great pianists today can watch the competition from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 15. Competition winners will give the closing concert June 16.

Among the other highlights of the week are performances by Boris Slutsky, first prize winner of the Kapell International Piano Competition and chair of the piano department at the Peabody Institute, playing the music of Ravel, Chopin and Schuman on June 13 and Alessio Bax, recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, performing Rachmaninoff and Liszt pieces on June 14.

Students attending the festival will give an afternoon concert at the Columbia Museum of Art June 12. A number of young pianists will be in the spotlight including past winners of the Fraser Competition Leo Svirsky and Sean Yeh performing June 11 and George Li, the 15-year-old winner of the Gilmore Young Artist Award, playing June 12.

Admission to the Piano Extravaganza is $25 for VIP seating and $15 general admission, $10 for seniors, students, military, USC faculty and staff and free for those under 18. Tickets are available through or by calling (803) 251-2222.

The other concerts will be held at the USC School of Music Recital Hall. Admission is $20; $10 for seniors, USC faculty and staff, students and military and free to everyone under  18.  For tickets call (803) 576-5763 or email

The Svirsky and Yeh concert is $5.

The competition concert is free.

For a complete schedule and more information about tickets, concerts, guest artists and participants visit the Piano Festival website

Concert lineup for the Southeastern Piano Festival (unless otherwise noted concerts are at the USC School of Music Recital Hall, Assembly and College streets.)

Sunday, June 10, 4 p.m. Piano Extravaganza concert.

Monday, June 11, 7:30 p.m. Alumni Celebration Concert with Leo Svirsky and Sean Yeh.

Tuesday, June 12, 1:30 – 3 p.m. Southeastern Piano Festival on the Road. Columbia Museum of Art, 1515 Main St.

Tuesday, June 12, 7:30 p.m. George Li.

Wednesday, June 13, 7:30 p.m. Boris Slutsky.

Thursday, June 14, 7:30 p.m. Alessio Bax.

Friday, June 15, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Arthur Fraser International Concerto Competition.

Saturday, June 16, 7 p.m. Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition Winners' Concert and Closing Ceremony.

A musical trip through time and place with Spoleto & Jeffrey Day


My Spoleto weekend wrapped up with a tour of music spanning many centuries and the entire globe.  The trip went from ancient China to 1790s London, to 19th century New England, and May 2012 Japan. And I was able to do it all in a 10 block area of downtown Charleston between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday.

Let’s start in the oldest and last stop – which also has the benefit of being very new.

The opera Feng Yi Ting by Duo Wenjing had its first full production and American premiere in Charleston Sunday night. It’s based on a tale from the Han Dynasty (206 BC  - 220), but was written in 2004 and brings together musical and theatrical elements from both ends of that time frame. In the story, the despotic leader of the country has recently adopted a new godson. A young woman, Diao Chan, decides to seduce them both to set them against one another allowing for for more sensible leaders to take charge. The story is told with humor and beauty, but this is no epic – it has only two performers (the young woman and the godson) and lasts barely 45 minutes.

What makes it unique is the blending of Eastern and Western music and opera styles. In the pit of the Dock Street Theatre along with the violins and oboes are several musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments. On stage the performers sing and act in the highly mannered style of Chinese opera, while surrounded by state-of-the-art video projections as well as live video feed of the actors in giant black and white close ups. It sounds like it could be a mess of too much, but it isn’t.

The highly-praised composer’s music is always engaging and the quality of this production shouldn’t be a surprise considering the rest of the team working that created it. The director is Atom Egoyan (best known for his many movies including The Sweet Hereafter) and Derek McLane, a Tony-winning Broadway designer.

For some audience members an hour of the Chinese opera style singing is probably plenty. But we did 15 hours of the 18-hour Chinese opera The Peony Pavilion at the festival a few years ago. Another hour of something as imaginative and excellent as Feng Yi Ting would have been fine with us.

Additional performances take place May 29, June 1, 4 and 7.

A few hours before the trip to ancient China we were in Japan in 2011 – when the earthquake and tsunami struck. The first concert in the Music in Time series, which focuses on contemporary classical, brought to the hall three works by prominent Japanese composers many of us have never heard of. All the works were written for traditional Western instrumentation and one would be hard pressed to find anything particularly “Japanese” about the music.

The program had a very last minute change when composer Toshio Hosokawa called series director John Kennedy a few weeks ago and offered a brand new piece instead of the one scheduled – and it turned out to be a work about the disaster in Japan, as was the piece by Toshi Ichiyanagi that was the linchpin of the concert. The new work, Meditation, had its world premiere in Korea just a few weeks ago; the festival didn’t even receive the music until five days before the concert.

The lateness of the addition showed in no way. This is an intense and dramatic work that musically reflects the power of the earth to shift, move and heave land and water at will. It calls for 30 players which made for a very packed stage at the College of Charleston recital hall and a roar of sound always. The first movement is called Beat of the Earth and that beat, aided by ample percussion is the thing that marches forward through Meditation.

Ichiyanagi, the most distinguished senior composer in Japan, wrote his Symphony No. 8 – Revelation 2011 less than a year after the earthquake, tsunami and resulting death and damage to a nuclear power plant and the Sunday concert was the American premiere.  Like Hosokawa’s piece, this one is very much about the power of the earth - how it can kill and how it can heal. Although the ensemble was slightly smaller at about 20 it is still a loud and dramatic piece, but had the benefit of many passages where several young players from the festival orchestra shone as soloists.

The final piece, Listening to Fragrances of the Dusk by Somei Satoh, was also getting its American premiere at the concert. Although written in 1997 long before the disaster, it seemed to be speaking to the tragedy as well. Unlike the two other pieces this is a very quiet, slow and meditative work – and served as a perfect elegy for the victims and coda for the concert.

The second offering of the chamber music series served up what series organizer and host Geoff Nuttall described as a “Haydn sandwich” – the Haydn Symphony 101 between works by late 19th and early 20th century American composers Arthur Foote and Amy Beach. Both of the Americans were from New England and their music, especially that of Foote, felt like a stroll through the New England countryside on a summer day with Beach’s Piano Quintet in F sharp minor being the more dramatic of the strolls. “This is some of the most amazingly exquisite music you’ve never heard before,” Nuttall said, and he was right.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t Haydn.

The Symphony 101 was one of the composer’s famous London Symphonies which were amazingly popular and heaped with praise for very good reason. Wanting to spread the music further than a full orchestra could take it, and there being no MP3 players at the time, the symphonies were arranged for smaller ensembles. In this case the work was played by the St. Lawrence String Quartet with the addition of flute, piano and double bass. I’ve heard dozens of these chamber concerts over the past 20 years and the performance of the Symphony 101 Sunday was in the top 10. The players took this work, which is full of sections in which the musicians appear to be searching for the right music, to new heights.  Haydn loved to create these quirky pieces that played with, but eventually delighted and astounded audience members.  This symphony did so in the 1790s and it did the same on a May Sunday in 2012.

At the end of the work, the musicians appeared ever happier than the audience. I don’t think I’ve even seen a group of players who appeared more thrilled with what they had just done. I thought they were about to levitate, but believe they already had.

-          ­Jeffrey Day

From Spoleto: Kepler opera -- great music with a murky narrative -- A Review

  For those who are fans of Phillip Glass, his newest opera Kepler provides two-hours packed with quite recognizable Glass music: swirling arpeggios, cyclically-repeated motifs, tuned percussion, passages deep in the bass, unexpected contrasts bursting though like an exploding star bursting through the dark and twinkling blanket of a night sky.

The Spoleto production of Kepler marks the American premiere of a full production of the opera, which was mounted in Europe several years ago and had a concert staging in New York. The orchestra, under the director of resident conductor John Kennedy, sounded solid in the Sottile Theatre, as did the seven soloists, and especially the 30 members of the Westminster Choir.

The subject is Johannes Kepler, a great scientist who lived from 1571 to 1630 and explored new ways of thinking about the universe and especially our place in it. He was often wrong, but opened the doors to those who came after him. His theories often bolster the idea of a geometry of God in which science and religion could peacefully co-exist. (We all know how that turned out.) He came up with ideas of how the various planets fit in relation to one another and theorized that the planets had elliptical orbits.

The opera isn’t so much about his life as his ideas, not unlike some of Glass's early “portrait operas” such as Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha. This may not sound like great material for opera from which we often expect love and love gone wrong, with a little murder thrown in. The life and work of Kepler may actually have made for a great and compelling opera, even without a lot of hot blood, but this version is so abstract, so lacking in action, and any sort of narrative it is both baffling and boring.

The libretto is based on Kepler’s own writings as well as those of a poet who was his contemporary. Maybe in the original German there was some grace to the words, but they mostly fall heavily to earth.

The “story,” such as it is, is nearly impossible to follow unless one has a decent knowledge of Kepler’s life and work. (The festival program book provides no program or director’s notes for the opera which would greatly help the audience and the opera.) It is a series of disjointed snippets, supposedly a look into Kepler’s mind. It is certainly the artist’s right to take this approach, but is better when it actually works.

Director Sam Helfrich does what he can moving around 40 people  who don’t have that much to do, often using the choir as a university classroom full of eager 16th century students. He and set designer Andrew Lieberman have devised some beautiful and compelling scenes. The set itself is a simple one of wood and some tables and chairs with most of the changes taking place through lighting effects on a huge screen. One of the high points is what we guess is a representation of the supernova of 1604 which was viewed with awe throughout Europe, including by Kepler. The orchestra builds as the exploding star rises on screen and then suddenly drops away washing through the hall like the light. Unfortunately later in the opera most of the choir starts bleeding through their white shirts which feels like a desperate grasp at adding some excitement.

Like the one-character opera Emilie staged at the festival last year, Kepler would really be more effective staged as a concert where its ideas and music would be unencumbered by attempts at dramatic flair.

Additional performances of Kepler take place May 28, 31 and June 2.

From Spoleto: First chamber concert fun and moving -- A Review

The Haydn string quartets "are the greatest music ever composed," announced Geoff Nuttall at the start of the first of the Spoleto Chamber series concert. And the string quartet the St. Lawrence String Quartet of which Nuttall is first violinist then proceeded to play (Op. 76, No. 2) is very good indeed. And the second piece, a tour de force - or farce - for solo flute, "Great Train Race" by Ian Clark is indeed fun. But the closer - Concerto for violin, piano and string quartet by Ernest Chausson was the star of the concert. Chausson was a late 19th century French Romantic composer  who was quite popular, but died young and didn't write all that much.

The piece is not really a concerto - it's more of a duet for violin and piano with the quartet serving a supporting role. One thing for certain is is an amazing work - lush  and lovely but never sweet and sticky, powerful but not just for the sake of flexing muscles, and complex but never showy.

Pianist Inon Barnatan and violinist Livia Sohn were perfectly matched with the work and with one another.

Lucky for me, I was sitting in the second row of the Dock Street Theatre on their side of the stage so I got to see every stroke of her bow and every movement of his fingers on the keyboard.

Nuttall is in his third year hosting the series, (a role he inherited from  series founder Charles Wadsworth), and he's settled into it well. He reminds one of a favorite professor sharing his knowledge and his enthusiasm, (he'd also rank as the coolest professor and best dresser.)  This year he even gave out his email address from stage.

Last year, for the first time, the program for the chamber series was announced in advance. Nuttall's concern with doing this was that people would see names of composers and works they didn't know and stay away.

"Tomorrow you see we're doing Foote and Beach - who the hell are they? You may thinks 'Oh it's probably modern and noisy.' If you have any fear or questions about things we're doing email me," he said. And then he gave out his email. Some of the audience members may have thought he was joking, but he really did give them his real email address. (That said, he didn't repeat it several times.) That's a pretty bold and admirable thing to do.

While Nuttall's demeanor is a breath of fresh air, the more educational aspects of this first concert went on a bit long. His explanation of what Haydn had done with the most simple building blocks ("He's thumbing his nose at everyone else who was making music," he pointed out regarding Op. 76, No. 2) was terrific but then he went on for several more minutes.

After Tara Helen O'Connor had played the "Great Train Race," which you might have guessed involved making a lot of train sounds with the flute, he had her come out and demonstrate several of the techniques. Several too many.

Making classical music more accessible and understandable is to be commended. More and more musicians are  speaking from the stage about the music and some even integrate a narration into concerts. They aren't often very good at it and even through Nuttall is one of the best at this, even he can go on a bit.

Sometimes its best just to play the tune.

- Jeffrey Day



More than a dorm for Main Street: how about a residential center for the arts? -- A guest editorial by Jeffrey Day

When I heard that there was a plan afoot to turn the empty and enormous SCANA building at Main and Hampton streets into a dorm for 800 University of South Carolina students, I was worried. The street has just started emerging as a new center of the arts in Columbia and it didn’t seem to me like putting hundreds of random students in the middle of it would help that along. Would the dominating numbers of students completely shape the tone of the street? It seems to me that with that many students, the businesses on the street will cater to them – and who can blame them? Will we end up with a bunch of cheap eating and drinking spots instead of art galleries and boutiques and imaginative restaurants?

My concerns do not appear to be shared by others in the city, including those who run the art spots on Main Street, and the city has approved the plan. So Main Street is going to get 800 students.

How about we get the right 800 students? And by that I mean students who will benefit from being on Main Street and be beneficial to it. My suggestion is that the building not simply be a dorm, but a residential center for the Arts and Humanities. Along with serving as a home for art, music, theater, dance, writing, film-making students (and maybe even faculty members) the meeting rooms and a huge lobby can be transformed into alternative performance, rehearsal and gallery space and badly needed student and faculty studios. The center could be a gathering place where students and faculty in the various arts areas could interact - something that too rarely takes place at the university. It would also be a one-stop shop where the public could learn about all the great artists and arts programs at the university. More conversations among the art students and faculty with the larger arts community and the general public would be an eye-opening – and yes, educational – experience for all involved.

For art, dance, theater, film, music and writing students the location is perfect.

Just across the intersection is the Columbia Museum of Art where they can see art from the past 2,000 years as well as hear some significant classical music concerts along with more rockin’ sorts of things like Arts and Draughts.

They could wander up and down the street to see what’s happening in the emerging art venues such as Frame of Mind, Anastasia & Friends Gallery, S & S Art Supply, the Studios at the Arcade, and the Tapp’s Art Center.

They can duck into the Nickelodeon Theater to take in an independent film, stick around for an audience discussion and maybe show some of their own movies.

The Richland County library is only a block away and just beyond that the art galleries of the Congaree Vista.

They can pick up art supplies right on Main Street or over on Lincoln.

They can walk to the river and think.

They can head down to the State House and think about running for office –  some artists in office would be nice.

Rather than being a place for students to store their stuff and get some sleep, this project has the potential to be something transformative for the university and the city.

-- Jeffrey Day


Jeffrey Day is s a local arts writer and critic who was the arts editor at The State for two decades. You can reach Day by writing to


Big Fun for Great Causes in Columbia Last Night

Jasper had a great time last night at two wonderful events supporting the arts in Columbia. We started our evening at 5 pm by arriving at the Columbia Museum of Art to select the Jasper Magazine State of the Art award for the Contemporaries Artist of the Year event. Many thanks to Jeffrey Day and Chris Robinson for serving on the panel of judges. It was not an easy choice. But after much deliberation we chose Doug McBee's Clara, pictured below, for its sense of elegance and fun.

Other stand out pieces included Jacob Olsen's Beginning to Understand II, pictured below. We loved the execution of this piece but were disappointed in its presentation. Chris was helpful in pointing out that a solid white piece of this style and size should be presented in pristine condition. Unfortunately Jacob's piece was marred in a few places and showing a bit of wear.

Chris was also impressed by the technique exhibited in The Sleeper, by Margaret Rose Smith, pictured below.

And, having just gotten turned on to the work of local artist David West, I was very much taken by his piece Disconnect below.

We might also mention that at least one of us from Jasper happily took home the piece below by Michael Pope and we look forward to installing it in our new pub room at Muddy Ford where the living room used to be.

After closing down the CAY event at 10, we had the pleasure of heading over the The Hunter Gatherer's 2nd Annual Arts Commission Fundraiser, magnanimously organized by local musician and service industry pro Henry Thomas. The house was packed with  arts supporters and artists and there were some really fantastic auction items. (Jasper took home passes to Indie Grits, tickets to the SC Arts Gala, and two signed books by Pat Conroy.)


And a good time was had by all!



Jeffrey Day Reviews Local Art Shows by Busby, Chesley, Williams, Yaghjian, Wimberly & Rego

It has been a busy few days on the visual arts scene in Columbia and since I found myself providing mini-reviews of one show while at another, it made sense to write it down.

James Busby rarely shows in Columbia, but he opened the doors to his new studio in Chapin and invited some folks to take a look at his new paintings, drawings, sculptures or whatever the hell they are before he loaded up the truck and drove them to New York for his show opening at Stux Gallery in Chelsea Feb. 9.

I’d been to the studio twice before during the past month, so I had seen many of the works, but he’d completed several large pieces and the studio was nice and tidy with the art hanging like it would for a show (although without the high ceiling and good lighting.)

Some of his art could be seen recently in Columbia. Half a dozen pieces were in the South Carolina Biennial at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art. That was the first time many people in town had ever seen his art.

After doing all white paintings/sculptures for a couple of years, Busby moved on to black and is still doing these pieces that look more like metal than paint and graphite. Most were modestly sized, but not modest in execution. The big surprise in the Biennial was one bigger work, a 7-by-5-footer. He has completed half a dozen more, nearly all of them even larger and more resolved than that one. These newest works start with a base of gesso, which he manipulates while still wet to give it texture. He then sands and cuts into the surface then goes at it with graphite sticks. I’m still coming around to these works – probably because I so admire the smaller white and black pieces – but this is an exciting direction.

I just wish more people in the place he lives knew about him. (Hey I’ve done my part, having written about him several times for several publications.) Busby is one of the most important artists to come out of South Carolina in a long, long time. And he’s a nice guy too.

To see more of his work go to

Right before the long drive to Chapin, I ducked into the jam-packed opening reception for the 12th annual show the artists Stephen Chesley, Mike Williams, David Yaghjian, all of Columbia, and Edward Wimberly, of St. Matthews. These are very talented artists, but artists have good years and not-so-good years. Too many of these annuals have felt perfunctory. This year is different.

During the past few years I’ve found Yaghjian’s work to be consistently inventive and well done. He’s continuing with his figurative pieces focuses on a middle aged man in theatrical settings. In the new work, the man has been replaced at times by an ape. A very well-drawn ape.

On the other end, Wimberly’s Southern gothic surrealism felt like it reached a dead end a long time ago. For this show though he’s come up with a wonderful group of small pastels faces with odd little characters (mice, gnomes and so on) occupying the picture as well. Some are more engaging than others, some better rendered than others, but these are something fresh.

Small still-life paintings of flowers and fruit. Who’d have through such subject matter would be some of the most wonderful work Chesley has ever done?

Williams is one of the most prolific artists around, well-known for his abstracted fish paintings and during the past few years expressionistic paintings of swamps and a smattering of steel sculptures. The big jolts this year are several nearly completely abstract paintings – the best ones covered with lots of gooey paint. A big blue and cream Motherwell-ish painting is a real grabber although there’s a bit more style than substance to it. Can’t wait to see more. His new small sculptures made of scraps of metal are delightful.

Through Feb. 6.

Over at City Art the day before, a show of new paintings by Brian Rego went up. Since I first saw Rego’s paintings – mostly landscapes – several years ago I was bowled over. This exhibition knocked me out as well. There are a lot of exciting paintings – some of the best bordering on total abstraction with big blocks of color, although it’s more complicated than that.

As his subject matter, Rego often picks ugly places like parking garages. He’s good enough to use ugly colors too. He’s working out enticing issues of space in these pieces. The 30-work show is dominated by small (12-by-12) painting, most bold shapes in subdued colors. On the other end are larger brighter pieces, such as a large painting in the center of the gallery of a sun-dabbled back yard with spring-bright foliage and white chairs.

At first I thought it was a show with many good paintings, but wasn’t really a good show. Another visit convinced me I wasn’t quite right about that, but I still don’t think the installation serves the paintings best. I do think these are the best paintings I’ve seen in a while.

Through March 17.

Jumping back a week “Faster Forward” at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art is easy enough to sum up – go see the show now. This is the biggest video art exhibition ever in Columbia – maybe the state. Not only is it big, it is good. The artists are from all over the world, the work varied in content and form, and all of it is engaging and beautiful and sometimes funny. (I’ll have a larger story about the show in next week’s Free Times.) Through March 4.


Jeffrey Day is the former arts editor for The State and a frequent contributor to

Jasper Magazine and

What Jasper Said.

A Little Bit of Snark and a Good Deal of Praise -- Jeffrey Day's Art Year 2011 Review


Although the economy still sucked the arts community in Columbia just seemed to say “Screw it” and kept going.

For his last few years in the Governor’s office, when he wasn’t on the Appalachian Tail, Mark Sanford tried to zero out the budget for several state agencies, including the S.C. Arts Commission. The General Assembly never let him get far with it until his final year when some sort of deal had been struck. Then an uprising about the cuts rose up – mostly through Facebook – and legislators got an earful from art supporters all over the state. Not surprisingly, the new governor, Nikki Haley, brought out the knife as well, and she got it knocked out of her hand as well.  Made The New York Times. But expect the same fight this year.

The arts on Main Street started to coalesce after a couple of years. A gallery crawl – and all kinds of additional frills like music, theater and fire-eating – is now being held on Main Street EVERY SINGLE MONTH! That’s damn exciting especially when hundreds of people show up for all of them.

The art being shown is still  inconsistent, but there has been lots and lots of good art on display at all the locations (Frame of Mind, Anastatia and FRIENDS, S & S Art Supply, the Arcade, Tapp’s Arts Center) at one time or another. One of the best things has been the window installations at Tapp’s, but beyond the windows, the Tapp’s Art Center is still trying to figure things out. The director said earlier in the years that the upstairs studio spaces would be rented to artists who were juried in, but instead these have been turned into little “galleries” some jammed with work by a dozen artists or so.

The first South Carolina Biennial of contemporary art ran in two parts with about 25 artists at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art. The first show was terrific in every way, the second was rather messy, but had some of the best artists in it. The way the show is selected needs some fine turning. Whatever the shortcomings, the show fills the huge gap left when the Triennial was killed off a few years ago. The center also needs to spend as much time and effort (or even a third as much) getting the word out about its art shows as it does about its parties and openings.

The long-time director of the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties, Andy Witt, has left the building. Neither Witt nor the Council are even vaguely familiar to many in the arts community, but the council still raises about $200,000 a year for distribution to arts groups and that’s an important chunk of change in these times.  It’s time for the council to take a good hard look at itself and figure out what it’s going to do other than tread water.

I’ll go against conventional wisdom here and declare that the Columbia Museum of Art is more important than the Mast General Store to Main Street. It’s actually kind of hard to keep up with everything the museum does because it does so much – from big touring exhibitions, to small shows by locals, to concerts.

The museum is closing off the year and starting the new one with a big show of Hudson River school paintings. My first walk through I thought “Wow there’s some really hackneyed stuff in here” and actually a couple other people said the same to me. Then I went back. Yes, there are sentimental things and a few pieces that are high-end tourist art, but most of it is really truly wonderful.  Except for the fact that all the paintings have glass on them.

The museum started the year with “Who Shot Rock and Roll,” a photography exhibition documenting the history of rock ‘n’ roll.  I figured it would be a door buster without much substance. Instead it was a nearly perfect show that melded documentation, a wide approach to the medium and the music, and a crazy mixed up population of big stars and unknowns. And the show was just the right size – big enough to provide real range and small enough that it wasn’t repetitious. The only thing that didn’t work for me was the huge images of David Lee Roth right by the exit.

Sandwiched between was the show of Michael Kenna’s haunting and technically-dazzling photos of Venice. This year the museum managed to have a bit of everything without stinting on quality.

The Conundrum Music Hall in West Columbia has provided an outlet for all kinds of new music – from improv jazz to contemporary classical to the plain old weird and self-indulgent. One of the highlights was a chamber group from the S.C. Philharmonic. Half the audience had never been to an orchestra concert and the other half had never been to West Columbia. And about 50 people were turned away because it was sold out.

Phillip Bush, the Columbia-based pianist with a rich resume, made his first appearance with a local orchestra, playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major. He and the young players sounded great.

The second concert of the season by the S.C. Philharmonic was all Mozart and all of it good. A seasoned pro playing the clarinet concerto, two teen-agers taking on a piano concerto, and a wonderful wrap-up with the “Jupiter” symphony.

Trustus Theatre founders Jim and Kay Thigpen plan to retire this spring and in the fall Jim Thigpen directed “August: Osage County” as his swan song. What a way to go out: one of the best productions at the theater during the past two decades.

As usual the Wideman-Davis Dance Company provided more surprises and depth with one more new work “Voypas.”

Many people seemed to be excited about the return of installation art to Artista Vista – and so was I since I put the show together. This is not a completely self-congratulatory note. All I did was pick artists who were good and competent and pretty nice. They did the rest. Well I did wash the windows and sweep. It was one of the best experiences of my life.




Christmas Wishes For and From the Columbia Arts Community, Part III

from Jeffrey Day

I still would like Santa – or someone – to bring a 30-foot tall, brightly-painted, fiberglass sculpture of Strom Thurmond standing on his head to be installed in front of the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center at USC. That and more money for the arts. And a governor who doesn’t try to kill all arts funding. Two in a row is plenty. I know, I’m being completely unrealistic, but I’m counting on a jolly fat man who travels in reindeer drawn sleigh and slides down chimneys to take care of all this.

I'd also hope that everyone  – from artists to art lovers – will resolve to open your horizons. Go to art places and events (from exhibitions to performances) you’ve never before been to.

I could go on and on and on, but I will give everyone their Christmas wish and shut up.



from August Krickel

I hope Santa brings lots of  good roles in good shows to local performers, and plentiful audiences to come see them perform. More often than not, in reviews, I find myself saying that while the material may be hokey, or mediocre, or paper-thin, or all-too-familiar, the actors on stage do an awesome job with it. There are literally hundreds of good shows around that rarely if ever get produced, and if you produce good material, Columbia has more than enough talent.  The new age of social media and instant communication only helps the traditional word of mouth that has always benefited local theatre, and when word gets out that there's a good show, audiences will come whether they have heard of it before or not. If the same 4000-6000 people that will flock to see an adequate road company production of 30-40-50-year old musicals at the Koger Center would go see top-knotch productions stretched out over several weeks at places like Town, Trustus or Workshop Theatres, those organizations would have their best seasons ever.  The same is true with music - if the same 18,000 people who pack the Colonial Center to see Carrie Underwood or Jimmy Buffett for the dozenth time would go see local artists in local clubs, 20 local clubs would have shows with standing room only.



from Ed Madden

For there to be more and more interesting opportunities for inter-arts collaborations, more and better bridges between the university and the community.

For those in power to recognize that the arts are a necessity not a luxury, a vital part of education not an extracurricular option.

For more opportunities for young artists.

from Cindi Boiter

What would I want Santa to bring the Columbia arts community for Christmas?

It wasn't until I assigned myself the same question I had asked of other members of the arts community that I realized how difficult the question would be to answer. Difficult -- not because it's hard to think of things we need, but because it's hard to come up with a wish list that doesn't seem entirely too greedy. And really, given our abundance of richness in terms of talent around here, how much more can we ask for?

But I did put my head to the same task I had asked of others and the list below is what I came up with.

That said, I want to go on record as being enormously grateful for the support the arts community has given our magazine, the sense of community that so many people are working to nurture and grow, and the talent -- both humble and expansive -- so many artists share with one another. I'm thankful for how full our arts calendar is and that many days, we have to make choices -- or extra stops --when going out for an evening of the arts.

But enough sap. Here's what I would ask for Santa to bring:

  • More small theatre spaces, black box types with sprung floors where small, sometimes impromptu, theatre and dance troupes could perform in a cost-effective way.
  • Performance art -- whether it's good or bad, it always make people think and talk with one another about just how good or bad it was.
  • More opportunity for discourse -- hence, more talk back sessions after plays, concerts, and ballets and gallery exhibitions. We grow as individuals and a community when we discuss and debate.
  • I'd like for people who publish articles about the arts to actually read, copy edit, and proof the articles they publish. Mistakes will still be made -- we certainly have made them at Jasper (I'm still sorry, Thomas Hammond) -- but at least show a little respect for the written word. Magazines are about communication -- not just design. Even if the publisher doesn't deign to actually read the articles he or she publishes, she or he should be aware that others do. Good writers rely on good editors -- let them do their jobs.
  • More attention to the literary arts. Ed Madden, Jasper's literary editor (above) is working diligently to facilitate literary arts exchanges both via the magazine and via public events. (Find us upstairs at the What's Love Festival this February.) Let us know what you think, and share your ideas with us. We're here to serve.
  • Recognition that craft-persons, amateur artists, and professional artists are all unique entities, and while each operates under its own distinct paradigm, each entity is important to an arts community.
  • I want an arts festival -- a multi-day, multi-genre event that would showcase Columbia as the arts destination it is becoming. Who wants to work with us on making this happen? We're ready to go.

Thanks for reading this three-part shopping list of what some of us would like for Santa to bring the Greater Columbia Arts Community. If you missed part one, you can refer to it here. And if you missed part two, you can find it here.

And there's more to come. Stay tuned to What Jasper Said as we examine Columbia's New Year's Resolutions for the Arts.

Until then, happy holidays from all of us at Jasper, and please check out our ever-evolving website at