Greenville Repurposes, Renews and Reinvigorates the Arts
by Scott Haire, July 19, 2018
Driving into the Village of West Greenville, SC, the voice emanating from the navigation system tells me to turn left into a parking area, then quickly claims "You've arrived." In front of me stands a giant, historic, brick complex known as the Brandon Mill. Beautifully repurposed from its days as a cotton mill.
The mill originally made "Duck" fabric back in WWII, which was one of the most significant contracts with the Army to make the fabric used for Jeep tops, and canvas bags. No dying was done at the mill, meaning no environmental impact. The mill operated in the early 1900s from about 1901 to 1977, when it shuttered its doors for twenty years until Dunlop Sports, specifically Focus Golf moved in and undertook a million dollar renovation, which is how they now have a gorgeous facility and building.
The Center was founded by a dedicated group of artists, teachers, and community leaders, opening on May 1, 2015. Offering art classes, hosting 15 studio artists, and featuring an exhibition space dedicated to local and regional artists, GCCA has quickly become an integral part of Greenville's arts community.
Occupying two buildings on the site of the historic Brandon Mill, GCCA began moving in three years ago in February of 2015. At the time, the building was still Dunlop's headquarter replete with grey cubicles. GCCA could see the future splendor through the cubicles as a potential gallery. The founders said, "Let's work with the developer" who allowed them to come in for three years at the cost of $1 per year enabling GCCA to launch. .
When Cherington Love Shucker, Executive Director came in, she literally had a three-ring binder business plan and case study to execute. Twelve weeks later the doors were opened. May is the month they celebrate the opening each year during the monthly (and top-rated) First Friday Event.
GCCA opens six shows per year, the current show I saw, Material Transformation began in April and ran until just before Memorial Day. A new exhibit, alternating every other month, opened in June.
Material Transformation (the medium is wood): showcasing two locals from Travelers Rest and Honea Path, South Carolina, along with three national artists. The Exhibition Committee, (members of the Board and at-large community members) governs the Main Gallery. The committee issues a national call for artists every year. The 2017 call generated sixty-three artist proposals from around the country and as far as British Vancouver, Canada, upstate New York to Miami, Florida and everywhere in between. The committee processes every application to assess the quality of work and meets GCCA’s criteria. The qualifying artists are ranked and
the committee, seeing the applicant pool, determines the final shows that are accepted. The center believes it is imperative to showcase as many artists in the same medium or theme, which makes for a nice variety. "The artists who are currently showcased in Material Transformation, applied individually but the committee was able to look at the whole applicant pool and say this would make a fascinating show when grouped together," says Cherington.
*All Gallery Art is For SALE*
GCCA's exhibiting artists are invited to lecture about the current shows. Art Talks are "walk and talk" as the attendees can stand beside pieces, as opposed to a seated lecture. Typically, GCCA conducts a workshop in conjunction with each show. They do not have a woodworking space currently, but that's in the Center's future plans. Architectural drawings are located for public viewing, highlighted for the future woodworking space in the Cotton Warehouse. Current artists James Lynch is from Travelers Rest, SC and Kathy Moore is from Honea Path, SC. A very unique perspective on wood, Kathy incorporates old things she finds.
Downstairs Classroom Space: (now have access via elevator), serves as a significant space for First Fridays, their largest community engagement event. The first Friday of every month, except July when most of Greenville goes to the beach, which has its roots in the textile industry. All the mills would shut down the week of July 4th for maintenance, and most would leave Greenville for vacation. Interesting that it's still ingrained in the upstate culture that so many leave for the coast over the July 4th holiday.
Typically draws between 250 to 400, often upwards of 600 people and the GCCA's largest outreach program. The best part? It's FREE! Every month the GCCA sponsors a kids activity that ties into the Main Gallery show, so the children have a connection. All volunteer run with donated supplies, it's a real opportunity for kids of all ages (many times adults participate in the creative activity) along with the thirty to fifty children engaging in the event over a three-hour time span.
NOTE: The gallery is also available as a rental facility for cocktail parties, corporate events, lectures and other occasions, which allows for additional revenue for GCCA programs.
On First Fridays, the Wholy Smoke Food Truck serves Texas style BBQ. The GCCA painted and adopted as their own, as a means of creating a positive community impact in the beginning. The first three months after opening they partnered with and overhauled the Holy Smoke BBQ truck. The truck appears every First Friday with fantastic food because no one loves mouth-watering brisket and slow-smoked pulled pork right?
Currently, able to offer seven 2D mediums altogether such as painting, drawing, fiber, and photography. "However, what's really exciting is the ability to offer community accessible 3D mediums - woodworking, jewelry, metals and ceramics."- says Mrs. Shucker. The 3D offerings bring in a different and younger demographic.
The Cotton Warehouse is the second building the GCCA is in the process of renovating. The building is just across the parking lot and was where the cotton bales came in on the train stacked two bales high. The Cotton Warehouse will be used for educational purposes, of which ceramics, jewelry + metals and woodworking will bein the space.
STUDIO ARTIST GALLERY
The DNA of the GCCA
Fifteen studio artists are renting a studio from GCCA on a twelve-month lease. All artists are required to participate in First Fridays at the Mill. Artists in studios 1 - 10 curate a rotating gallery featuring three Studio Artists at a time in the Studio Artist hall (housed in the Cloth Building) on the second level of GCCA. Get to know the studio artists every First Friday from 6 - 9pm. Click the LEARN MORE button below to view their work.
The Fellowship Program supports three (ages 21-30 ) emerging artists. The program provides a studio space, access to classes, a stipend for supplies, and most importantly, they are assigned a mentor who is a working artist in Greenville. The mentor walks through the journey with their Fellow in a nurturing environment. The idea is, someone is finishing or finished school wondering "Now what? How do I become an artist?"
The program has already helped Fellows reach new heights. One of the artists, Naomi has gone on to the New York Fine Art Academy and has won two international art grants.