Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wilmington, NC to Charleston SC

The day was blessed with abundant sunshine to start off our day in Wilmington, NC.  Wilmington is a lovely, picturesque town located along the Cape Fear River. Our introduction to its downtown was meeting up with a horse drawn carriage making its way down the moss drenched tree main street. We followed along, eventually parking along the riverfront. We were immediately taken with the view of the river with its full view of the Battleship North Carolina imposingly stationed near Eagles Island across the water.  A short distance down the river sat the paddleboat Henrietta III.  One could easily be lured away by the sights but our focus was to find out if the arts were alive and well in Wilmington, NC. 

Kerry with Pat Holleman (R)
at Port City Pottery

Cotton Exchange
Our first stop was in an historic Cotton Exchange building dating back to the late 19th & 20th centuries, which now houses several artist co-ops and shops in its 8 historical buildings.  There, I met up with Pat Holleman, a local potter, and Dick Heiser, a ceramic artist; both show their works at the Port City Pottery & Fine Crafts co-op. The co-op
Kerry with Dick Heiser (R)
at Port City Pottery
 began about 4 years ago to meet
 a need  for ceramists to show their wares. It currently consists of a core group of 18 artists, all who live within 30 minutes of the co-op. Pat's work, as shown in the image, has a minimal line with a Japanese stylistic influence. Dick's art is fired ceramic using a wood kiln process.  Dick explained that using a wood kiln leaves a less carbon footprint in producing his artwork, an important fact in the world we live in today. Dick is preparing a firing session this weekend and offered us an invitation  which unfortunately we will miss as we move on to Georgia tomorrow.  You can check out Pat and Dick's works as well as the other 16 artists at their website

Connor's mom, Caryn (L)
at the Golden Gallery
Across the hall, A. Paul was visiting with Caryn Croom at the Golden Gallery.  He was taken by the story surrounding a group of paintings being displayed in Mary Ellen Golden's watercolor gallery.  The paintings were created by Caryn's son Connor, who, at the age of 7, was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a form of autism.  It was through Connor's sister Chelsea, who was preparing for her Senior Project on the use of art as early intervention in autistic therapy, that the Croom family was introduced to art as possible therapy for Connor.  The results were positive, offering  a means for helping Connor to be more calm and focused.  Today Connor and Caryn paint everyday, forging a bond through art. 

Merrion Kennedy (R) at New Elements discussing
Ann Parks McCray's
"Red Boats, New Day" o/c
On the recommendation of Pat at Port City, we visited New Elements, one of the oldest galleries in Wilmington as well as Justin  Ferreri's  sculpture studio. Merrimon Kennedy, gallery owner & director of New Elements Gallery, represents a diverse group of regional artists, including ceramics, jewelry, and paintings. New Elements has been an icon in the arts in Wilmington for over 25 years, representing all original works.  When we arrived, Merrimon was preparing for the Fourth Friday Gallery Walk, which is held throughout the entire year.  As with the other artists we met, Merrimon was informative about the overall art scene in Wilmington.   You can visit her artists' works at

L to R:  Justine, Denise, A. Paul, & Linda
Justine Ferreri's Sculpture studio was next on our list.  Justine's studio is located  at the Chandler Wharf, a renovatd 19thc wharf warehouse on a cobblestone street along the waterfront.  Inside the studio, A. Paul & I had the great pleasure of meeting not only Justine but two other artists, potter Denise Bramley and Linda Anne Hartman, all working out of the "clay goddess studio".  Their whimsical works matched their witty senses of humor and dynamic personalities.  We could have spent hours discussing everything under the sun with these three artists.  A. Paul felt right at home in their studio. You can see these artists' works at their websites: and  Denise we did not have a website for you but would be happy to pass it on if you contact us.

entrance into
Cameron Art Museum
Armed with insider information on the current major changes taking place at the Cameron Art Museum, we decided to visit the museum and see for ourselves what is going on at this newly built 40,000 square foot facility.  The museum was once located in the downtown section of Wilmington but moved to the suburbs with the donation of land and support.  The museum has recently suffered the loss of directorship which seems to be a controversial subject amongst the townsfolks.  Upon approach to the facility, it was clear that the museum was well designed, aesthetically. The empty parking lot spoke volumes and, once inside, it was clear that the museum was in trouble.  We were met by two very friendly staff who made it a strong point that cameras were not permitted. We were told that there were only two exhibits available to be viewed and after paying $8 a piece we were shocked and disappointed that the two exhibits were  the Richard McMahan mini paintings along the wall near the main desk and the several salons of sparsely hung African American Heart to Hand quilts created in Alabama between 1945- 2001.  As beautifully rendered as these quilts were, the entire space was less than ideally curated, with no permanent exhibits available for viewing in any part of the museum.  We left the museum shaking our heads with a greater understanding of the sentiments expressed by the townspeople.  We can only hope that the museum will find its direction in the future and that the community pulls together to represent the great works that are within its grasp. The museum's website in case you would like to follow its changes .

Crossing Bridge into Historic
Downtown Charleston
The remainder of our day was spent driving through Myrtle Beach for a quick stop for a bite amongst the giant towers of cement and viewing yet another beautiful skyshow as we arrived into Charleston, SC.

Tomorrow, we begin our exploration of over 40 galleries in Charleston's historic downtown and photographing its southern architecture.

A few direct comments for our followers:
Clint from Principle Gallery in VA, thanks,  I think 3 times a charm?   Catherine, picked up your email about skipping Myrtle Beach and stopping further down in Huntington while we were sitting at a grill on Myrtle Beach. By the way,there is a small 10 room museum in Myrtle Beach but we were still shaking our heads over the last one.  It is worth checking out the website  We will keep it in mind for another trip.  Thanks, Brian, for always taking the time to send us emails and comments, we appreciate them all.


Gordon Peabody said...

Thanks for sharing your journey! The near-real time experience is great!

Scarf It Up! said...

Thanks for stopping at Port City Pottery & Fine Crafts in The Cotton Exchange. Apparently I just missed you! Sorry you couldn't see the new displays for Heart Month, featuring my fiber art work (Louise Giordano) and the jewelry of Sara Westermark. Opening tonight at 6 PM.

Enjoy your journey. I will enjoy following it. So sad about Cameron Art Museum!

Anne said...

Thank you so much for your visit to Cameron Art Museum and for being so kind to post our website (featuring our latest initiative, The Museum School) on your handsome blog! I do regret that for your first visit you felt "armed", for to experience our newly opened (you the first to see!)remarkable loan collection of African-American quilts from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, you need only relax, SPEND TIME, and be warmly embraced by the traditional excellence, humor and bold improvisational narratives (created by Southern artists) of historical figures such as Rosa Parks, Elvis Presley (!) and Helen Keller woven into gutsy large scale works of art. Yvonne Wells even depicts herself as a black Betsy Ross...quite evocative and powerful. And I'm thrilled you saw Minimuseum, representing over 1100 miniature replicas spanning 30,000 years of art history, created by one man, Richard McMahan, a savant with the unique visual strengths and focus of many individuals with Aspberger's Syndrome. Richard works by day in the Bargain House of Fleas in Jacksonville Florida and paints tiny Starry Nights and Guernicas on used file folders with paint and fingernail polish by night. Our 5000+ NHC school children who visit CAM LOVE Minimuseum and it affords great ideas for projects and art historical education for children. We brought Minimuseum to Wilmington from Baltimore's illustrious American Visionary Art Museum. I regret you missed the exhibition we were installing, now open of work by African-American Virginia artist-teacher, Big Al Carter. CAM is proud to host the first retrospective following Big's recent death.

I am most impressed with the thoughtful time you spent visiting galleries owned and operated by our area's remarkable artists, and do hope you made some purchases of their fine work. Indeed you found the arts alive and well in Wilmington! I welcome your return visit, and an opportunity to offer you a behind the scenes tour, to strengthen your education of CAM, both outside and in.

Safe travels
Anne Brennan
Acting Director

rose said...

Amazing collection of images,It described everything about your sweet journey. Trucking Charleston