If one word had to describe 2016 in the arts, it would be big — big names, big events, big milestones, big projects and big losses. Here are some of biggest arts stories of this year.
Garth, Dolly, Pearl Jam
Some of music’s biggest names played in Greenville this year. For Garth Brooks, it had been 25 years since he had been here. That Greenville Memorial Auditorium concert sold out in two hours; this time, ticket demand dictated he play three nights at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Speaking of a 25th anniversary, Pearl Jam stopped in Greenville as a part of its silver anniversary tour. The band played in Greenville in 1998 at what was then called the BI-LO Center. Country legend Dolly Parton played the Peace Center with a top ticket price of $500.
Fine Arts Center fiber arts program
Greenville once was called the textile capital of the world. Today, a new, innovative fiber arts program at the Fine Arts Center is designed to help train the next generation of designers for an industry that, while changed, is still thriving in the Upstate. Five Upstate textile companies and the North Carolina State University textile and apparel college are involved in the program that has a series of four sequential courses teaching surface design and wet processes, fabric formation and manipulation and CAD textiles and sculptural and/or apparel construction. Students accepted for the program must have previous experience in the visual arts.
The Maestro and Mobley
This year was an important one for the Greenville Symphony Orchestra as it celebrated the silver anniversary of Maestro Edvard Tchivzhel’s defection from the Soviet Union and mourned the death of its executive director and longtime symphony member Sherwood Mobley. The defection of Tchivzhel, GSO’s conductor and music director since 1999, had all the elements of a Cold War spy novel, from clandestine calls from pay phones to escape the ears of KGB agents planted inside the Soviet State Symphony Orchestra to a thrilling car chase to freedom. Mobley, called by many the “heart and soul” of the GSO, died in February after a brief illness.
Wyeth’s family legacy
The Greenville County Museum of Art is home to the world’s largest public collection of watercolors by Andrew Wyeth. “Wyeth Dynasty,” an exhibit celebrating the centennial of Wyeth’s birth that opened on Nov. 15 and runs through September 2017, features 75 pieces of art from the Wyeth family — Andrew; his father, N.C.; his son Jamie; and his sisters, Carolyn and Henriette. Acquisitions for the exhibit significantly expanded the museum’s Wyeth family holdings.
Building was big in 2016, too. Christ Church Episcopal School opened its new $11 million Hartness Performing Arts Center. The 37,000-square-foot facility included a 524-seat theater with an orchestra pit, practice rooms, a music room for Lower School students, a “drum pad,” classrooms for band and orchestra, a shop for the drama program to build sets and a costume shop. The S.C. Children’s Theatre began raising money for a $10 million, 34,000-square-foot facility that includes a 300-seat theater, a separate Second Stage space, education classrooms and a large lobby. Groundbreaking is expected in January 2018.