Artful Impact

Astonishment—I recall my reaction to seeing artist Mary Whyte’s portrait of revered Charleston blacksmith Philip Simmons (1912-2009). It was the fall of 2000, and I had been invited to Whyte’s then-gallery in Ansonborough for the unveiling of Iron Man, her absolutely astonishing likeness of the local icon that now resides at the Gibbes Museum of Art. Mr. Simmons was there, humbly delighted by his portrait, and I was taken aback, not only by the depth of her skill—in watercolor, no less—but that she had seemed to capture his very being.

That’s what artists do, no matter the genre or medium: capture a moment and distill its essence, giving us something of import to ponder or discuss. This May “Arts” issue highlights a number of local visionaries, past and present, whose talent and drive extend beyond their work to create communities, and enrich them, too.

In “Red, Whyte, & Blue,” editor at large Stephanie Hunt catches up with the aforementioned watercolorist, whose resonant portraits have earned her national acclaim. Learn how Whyte’s most recent body of work, “We the People”—featuring a military veteran from every state—has evolved into a national foundation that gives those whom she calls “our truest patriots, our truest Americans” the tools and ability to use art as a means of self-expression, healing, and connection. For “In Love With Art,” author and historian James Hutchisson takes us back to a much quieter Charleston as two pioneering artists, William Halsey and Corrie McCallum, brought new ideas and ways of seeing, paving the way for modernism here and much of the South. 

You’ll also meet some of today’s lesser-known artists and advocates, who are working to expand opportunities and arts education, maintain affordable studio spaces, and just plain create. And, of course, you’ll find the dizzying array of events and Spoleto Festival offerings that will have the city hopping this month.


Darcy Shankland
Editor in chief