West Main Artists Co-Op

Spartanburg Fringe Festival & a “Sampler” of Member Art Featured this June at WMAC!

Spartanburg Fringe Arts Festival

A New and Unusual Upstate Festival Seeks to Broaden Artistic Horizons

For the entire month of June, Spartanburg Fringe Arts Festival will host performances, plays, cinema, comedy, spoken word, a fashion show, music, and an art exhibit to give public exposure to creative works that are often considered to be too unusual for mainstream acceptance.

Among the most notable events that will be at West Main Artists Co-op will be several performances of Fun Home, a Broadway musical that won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It will be produced by Proud Mary Theatre Company, South Carolina’s first and only theatre company dedicated to presenting LGBTQ+ voices and stories. Fun Home, based on the controversial graphic novel memoir by Alison Bechdel, is set in the Bechdel Family FUNeral Home and is about the author’s coming-of-age as a lesbian and her relationship with her gay father. A live orchestra will provide accompaniment.

Another presentation that has national acclaim will be A Sordid Evening with Del Shores, featuring playwright, actor, producer, and director Del Shores, who is known for his plays and films Sordid Lives, A Sordid Wedding, andSouthern Baptist Sissies. The double-bill program includes his new stand-up comedy show The S – Stirrer, followed by a VIP reception and on-stage intimate interview and questions from the audience.

Closer to home but still on the national radar will be the Rev. Jim Dant, Senior Minister at First Baptist Greenville. Dant will present his popular comedy lecture Stories I Can’t Tell In Church. Rev. Dant has been in the national spotlight for his progressive stance on LGBTQ issues, most notably in his book This I Know: A Simple Biblical Defense for LGBTQ Christians. He has written several books and is a much-sought guest speaker. As pastor of Greenville’s 100% inclusive First Baptist Church, Rev. Gant has been complimented, cursed, blessed, blessed out, near deified, and damned for being an LGBTQ ally. His Festival appearance will makes for a lot of laughs and a lot of tears through his unique insight and comedy.

“We have been very lucky to get some very prominent, very high-profile, and very respected guests and shows in the Festival,” Festival Director Sandy Staggs said. “I want this Festival to be another feather in Spartanburg’s artistic hat, a hat that can be worn again for many years and with great pride.”

The Festival will kick off on Saturday, June 1, with a free opening reception that will spotlight the local talent of Proud Mary Theatre and musicians such as Mike “Firebox” Johnson.            The featured event of the evening will a runway fashion show by The House of Mann, a Carolina-based fashion company that has been seen in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Paper Magazine, andCNN(Cable News Network). Designer Brandon Hilton has dressed some of pop culture’s biggest names, such as Alyssa Edwards, Kim Petras, Laith Ashley, Allie X, and Desmond Is Amazing.

Local talent based at the West Main Artists Co-op will also be recognized when Spartanburg’s Scrappy Shakespeare presents the classic Much Ado About Nothing— in a very unclassical way. This ragtag group of performance artists is known for its creative and outrageous interpretations of Shakespeare’s works.

Spartanburg-based Sparkle City Improv and Alchemy Comedy Theater of Greenville will host of double bill of improv antics on Monday, June 17.
Other theatre companies and playwrights that are on tap to present work include the USC Upstate Shoestring Players (Keep This for Your Records), Greenville-based playwright and actor Lauren French and her solo show Intimate Dinner or Tap Water Is Fine, devised theatre artist Erika Phoenix’s Fragments,Zachary Urban (All That Shines Is Not Silver), Robert Fuson (Barbie Liberation Organization), and Brook Nelson (White Picket Wives).

For people seeking music, Kate and James Riedy, a brother and sister duo, will present Broadway Genderbent, a showcase of Broadway show tunes sung by the opposite gender than what is usually expected. They will sing songs fromLes Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Dear Evan Hansen, Shrek, and more.

June 25 will focus on the cinema arts and will include a screening of the surreal short film Fugueand a sneak preview of the full-length film The Awakening of Lilith. Both films are by writer/director Steven Adam Renkovish of Easley both deal with grief and one’s sense of reality. Renkovish and actress Brittany Renee Smith will be at the event that will include a question-and-answer session with the audience.

On June 28, the 50thanniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots, Spartanburg Fringe Arts Festival presentsStonewall: 50 Years Later as a celebration and remembrances of the benchmark event considered to be the launch of the modern gay liberation movement. Patti O’Furniture, the Carolinas’ Queen of Comedy and Cocktails, will be evening’s emcee in a festive program that includes an encore performance of Movementby Proud Mary Theatre Company, a trivia contest, door prizes, and more.

On the final day of the Festival — Saturday, June 29 — the  Fringe Rockin’ Finalewill be a day-long concert of bands and musical artists, including Brandy Lindsey and the Punch, Satori Tree, DysFUNKshun, Wounded Hollow, Irises, and Splatter Punx and more!

Throughout the month, the art exhibit “Out of the Box” will be open for public viewing Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on evenings when the Festival is open.

“This is going to be a crazy but wonderful Festival,” Staggs predicted. “This is something never seen before in Spartanburg — or even in Upstate South Carolina for that matter. People will be entertained, shocked, impressed, distressed, inspired, amused, confused, and nearly any other emotion you can think of and that’s alright. That’s what a Fringe Festival is all about.”

For a complete lineup of events and more details, please visit online: SpartanburgFringeFestival.com.

This program is funded in part by Chapman Cultural Center, its donors, the County and City of Spartanburg, and the SC Arts Commission, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of SC.

A Co-op Sampler

WMAC Artists to Present Personally Important Work at Spartanburg

Members of West Main Artists Co-op take their art personally, and their June exhibit —A Co-op Sampler— will give the public insight to why certain creations are so special.

“Every artist that I know has certain pieces of work that are special to them,” Co-op Chair Beth Regula said. “It might be their first work, a work done during an especially good or bad time in their life, work that was extremely hard to create, or work that they consider to be their absolute best. For whatever reason, the work is special to them, and this exhibit gives the artists and the public the opportunity to share deeply. If you are looking for art that has a story to tell, come to this one.”

The exhibit will open on Tuesday, June 4, and it will run through Saturday, June 29. The public can view it at no charge Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A free and public reception will be held Thursday, June 20, 5-9 p.m., during the city’s monthly ArtWalk.

The Co-op, which is soon to be 10 years old, has more than 50 members, of which about 30 have working or gallery studios in the 20,000-square-foot building that was once a church. At least 17 artists will present their art in A Co-op Sampler. The exhibit will include paintings, mixed media, fused glass, encaustic wax, photography, pottery, jewelry, and possibly other media.

Some of the artists participating are Carol Story, Joan Wheatley, Scott Cunningham, Patrick DeCrane, Judy Martin, Lady Pluuto (Alana Hall), Susan Eleazer, Chuck Reback, John Lever, Nancy Williamson, Rosemary McLeod, Chuck Frank, Patty Wright, Brandi Tucker, Richard DeBus, and Amanda Dawkins. Others may be included.

A good example of what the public can expect to see at the exhibit is a piece of jewelry by Rosemary McLeod, one of Spartanburg’s most well known and prolific jewelry makers. Her contribution to the exhibit is a piece of jewelry that appears to be broken. It is entitled: Broken Up. An artist’s statement will accompany each entry, and McLeod’s will say: “This oversized, brushed sterling pendant shows a ‘broken’ piece that could be put together. It reminds me of my grandson, James, who is on the Autism Spectrum. Hopefully, with the right therapies for him, the world will be a smaller puzzle piece for him.”

Another good example is the encaustic work by Susan Eleazer: Broken Melody. The work is presented with dense red, yellow, and white tones, with a more solid foundation in the lower third, a lighter area in the midsection, and a somewhat airy upper third, creating a landscape effect. Overlaying the entire work is what could be construed to be staves (lines) of music but without the notes and rests. The staves swirl. Her statement about this nonrepresentational art is “This work was done during a time of great physical difficulty when each movement was an effort but it served as therapy for the soul!”

Some of these works might be for sale, depending on the individual artist’s personal attachment.

“This is a very special exhibit,” Regula said. “Anyone who wants to look a little deeper into the soul of an artist should come.”

West Main Artists Co-op is a non-profit arts agency located at 578 West Main St. in Spartanburg. It has about 50 members whose work spans the visual arts spectrum. It also has performance artists. Now in its tenth year, the Co-op routinely has three exhibitions each month, often showing the work of non-member guest artists. It is housed in a 20,000-square-foot converted church that includes studio space for the members, four galleries, two stages, and the largest collection of “for sale” art in the county. For more information, visit online: WestMainArtists.org.

Normal Business hours are TUE- SAT 10-4, and 10-9 during Art Walk Thursday.  For more information please visit http://www.westmainartists.org and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/westmaincoop/