Supper Table Spotlight: Tonya Gregg and Bonita Peeples by Christina Xan

We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 18th in our series on Supper Table Artists

Visual Artist Tonya Gregg

Visual Artist Tonya Gregg

Alice Childress – playwright, novelist, actress. Born in Charleston, Childress dedicated her life to telling the stories of black Americans, specifically portraying the have-nots of society. Her reach was so vast, author Mary Helen Washington refers to her as “the only African-American woman to have written, produced, and published plays for four decades.”

Tasked with creating the place-setting for Childress is Tonya Gregg. Gregg is a painter who studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art where she became the first full-time art student to be featured in New American Paintings. Her paintings navigate different narratives relating to popular culture, class, consumption, colorism, ancient mythology, and interwoven topics related to black girls and women. She has had solo exhibitions in multiple places locally and has exhibited in several different countries throughout the world.

Gregg explored Childress’ work and specifically found inspiration from her play The Wedding Band, a story of an interracial relationship. This is exactly what Gregg wanted to contemporize in her place setting. She used acrylic paint to create a pop-art effect on both a ceramic plate and mug. Specifically, the artist says her place-setting “is intended to invite people to the Supper Table and provide conversation, comfort or healing within this theme.”

Supper Table Alice Childress by Tonya Gregg.jpeg

An artist putting Childress into conversation with her own body is Bonita Peeples, a theatre artist who is portraying Childress in the Supper Table theatrical performance. Peeples’ acting debut was performing a monologue of one of the greatest women in history, Madame C.J. Walker. She is a wife, a mother, and a working actor. She is a member of Kaufmann Forensic Actors, the NiA Theatre Company, and serves on the board of the Columbia Children’s Theatre.

Bonita Peeples

Bonita Peeples

Peeples recently reflected on how wonderfully human Childress was. When she would cast her plays, for example, if she had to choose between two friends auditioning for a role, she would be so fearful of hurting a relationship, she would scrap the entire project. While this could be seen as a weakness, Peeples believes it is actually a strength – proof that Childress’ love for others trumped all, a lesson that still can be learned today.

Gregg’s completed place-setting and Peeples’ performance will be available for viewing at both opening events for the Supper Table. Our opening night event is Friday, September 6th, at Trustus Theatre (going fast!), and tickets start at $50. Our second opening event is Sunday, September 8th, at Harbison Theatre, and tickets start at $15.


 -Christina Xan

volumes 2: women bound by art opens at the Curtis R. Harley Art Gallery

  volume 2 by Cynthia Colbert

Random Acts by Gina Moore



volumes 2: women bound by art, an altered book exhibition, will be on exhibit at the Curtis R. Harley Art Gallery, University of South Carolina Upstate (USC Upstate), at 800 University Way, Spartanburg, SC 29203 from January 17 - February 21, 2014. This show will be exhibited in conjunction with selected works from volumes: women by by art which was created in 2012 and was exhibited at the main branch of the Lexington County Public Library, Lexington, SC and at Portfolio Art Gallery in Columbia, SC.  The women featured in the exhibition will participate in a panel discussion at 4:30 p.m. on January 30, 2014, which will focus on their respective creative processes. A reception will follow the discussion.  All Gallery events are FREE and open to the public.

The art exhibition includes a collection of 17 altered books created by 18 women artists: Eileen Blyth (Columbia, SC), Cynthia Colbert (Columbia, SC), Jessica Cruser (Columbia, SC), Heidi Darr-Hope (Columbia, SC), Janette Grassi (Charlotte, NC), Tonya Gregg (Columbia, SC), Mary How and her young daughter Macy How (Columbia, SC), Doni Jordan (Columbia, SC), Susan Lenz (Columbia, SC), Susan Livingston (Orangeburg, SC), Gina Moore ((Columbia, SC), Yukiko Oka ((Columbia, SC), Kay Reardon (Columbia, SC), Liisa Salosaari Jasinski (Newberry, SC), Virginia Scotchie (Columbia, SC), Kathryn Van Aernum (Columbia, SC) and Katie Walker (Greenville, SC). The group includes art therapists, art professors, potters, fiber artists, graphic designers, illustrators, mixed media artists, painters and photographers.


Conceived and curated by artists Susan Livingston and Doni Jordan, each artist was given a volume of an encyclopedia and complete creative control.  volumes 2:women bound by art is the result of that creativity. The Standard International Encyclopedia,1954, was donated to the artists by Hal McIntosh, thanks to help of artist Cynthia Colbert. Encyclopedias, the forerunners of todays electronic search engines, where first written by an ancient Roman scholar and focused on grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, musical theory, medicine, and architecture.



The Curtis R. Harley Art Gallery is located at 800 University Way, University of South Carolina Upstate, Spartanburg, SC 29203 and is located on the first floor lobby of the Humanities and Performing Arts Center (HPAC). The gallery showcases nationally and internationally established artists and exhibitions that support the academic mission of USC Upstate. Most recently the University was the recipient of 5 original screenprints by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to enhance the current collection of 150 Polaroid photographs by Andy Warhol. Hours: 9am-5pm /Monday - Friday.