The Daily Gamecock

Open Studios draw in Columbia art community

<p>Columbia Open Studios, hosted by 701 Center for Contemporary Art, solidifies the artistic presence in the city, teaching the community the importance and prevalence of art.</p>
Columbia Open Studios, hosted by 701 Center for Contemporary Art, solidifies the artistic presence in the city, teaching the community the importance and prevalence of art.

Columbia artists opened their studio doors to the public in a free event that inspired cultural connection and creativity this weekend.

As the state capital of South Carolina, it’s no surprise that Columbia has an active art scene. However, it’s not often that residents of Richland and Lexington counties are able to tour studios and interact with the artists behind the scenes at their leisure. Through Columbia Open Studios, citizens had the opportunity to explore the flourishing local art community.

The event was sponsored by the 701 Center for Contemporary Art, which revived the weekend of free studio tours back in 2011 after a several year break. Seventy local artists participated in the event, allowing visitors to view a range of workspaces varying from shared downtown buildings to private home studios.

“I’ve enjoyed seeing the spaces so far and seeing how it’s like a reflection of the artist and their work because they’re all really unique and put together so differently,” said Nicole Matros, USC counselor and therapist.

This comes as no surprise due to the large variety of art available to view and purchase, ranging from lamps and jewelry to acrylic landscape paintings and Godzilla-inspired impressionism. One of the unique features of the event was the chance for studio-goers to speak with the artists themselves to find out more about their inspiration and process.

“I enjoyed Billy Guess,” said Columbia resident Tim Bedford. “He walked us kind of through and explained how he did each piece.”

Along with Guess, who uses found and reclaimed objects in his work, fellow mixed media artist Heidi Darr-Hope was available to guide visitors through her pieces. Darr-Hope, along with 11 other artists, rents a space within Vista Studios, an art gallery and workspace that has found its home in downtown Columbia for 25 years.

Darr-Hope’s studio space reflects her personal evolution of art.

“There’s some work in here that’s from the 1980s up until the present day,” said Darr-Hope.

While she previously explored the use of found objects, collaging and sculpture, her recent focus has been on monoprinting, a more personalized form of printmaking, in which only a single copy of each print exists. On top of that, she adds additional details with colored pencil, ink or graphite and a written reflection bordering the piece.

Like visitors, Darr-Hope enjoys the ability to interact with the community and share her journey with art.

“It’s wonderful,” says Darr-Hope. “You meet all different kinds of people — people that have never been to this before.”

That is truly the takeaway from the event — the ability for artists and art aficionados to interact and share their mutual passion for the field.

“I think it’s helped me become aware of how many artists are in our community,” said Matros, who has attended the event both years she has lived in Columbia. “I’m newer to Columbia, and I appreciate that there’s definitely a culture around art.”