While the pandemic made life uncertain for local theaters, the arts scene still managed to flourish in 2020 with the 20th anniversary of Mice on Main, the return of Open Studios and the installation of a huge new mural celebrating the life of a Black teacher and pioneer.
New S.C. Children’s Theatre
After 33 years, the South Carolina Children’s Theatre finally moved into a permanent home at 153 Augusta St. The theater’s opportunity to expand came nearly a decade ago when a wealthy neighbor died and left her Victorian home to the theater. The final pieces of the $14.45 million project were completed in late April. With 36,000 square feet, the building features classroom and rehearsal space, offices for administrative staff, a smaller black box stage and four dressing rooms for the young thespians.
The coronavirus pandemic had a major impact on Greenville’s performing arts organizations with expected losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars — or even millions — after temporarily closing their doors. Every Upstate performing arts organization was affected by the shutdown, with widespread cancellations and postponements of performances reported at The Warehouse Theatre, the Greenville Theatre, Centre Stage, the Greenville Symphony Orchestra and the Peace Center. To help offset the losses, arts groups urged patrons to consider donating the cost of tickets rather than requesting refunds or exchanges.
Mice on Main
The nine little metal mice of Main Street celebrated their 20th anniversary in July. The sculpture installation in downtown Greenville began in 2000 with a Christ Episcopal School student’s senior project. Drawing inspiration from the children’s book “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, Jim Ryan commissioned local artist Zan Wells to create the sculptures, which were planted in secret spots up and down Main Street. Mice on Main’s success later spawned a children’s book by Linda Kelly, a board game and countless memories of children traipsing around in search of the little bronze critters.
Canvas Tower mural
Australian visual artist Guido van Helten spent five weeks and 704 hours painting the walls of the BB&T office building in downtown Greenville. Commissioned by developer The Beach Company as part of the building’s redevelopment into Canvas Tower, the mural featured Greenville resident and former educator Pearlie Harris as a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Greenville County schools. The mural’s subject, featuring a lifelike Harris flanked by several present-day students from A.J. Whittenberg Elementary, was kept under wraps until it was unveiled during a ceremony on Aug. 26.
The 2020 edition of Greenville Open Studios, an annual event through the month of November that allows the public to tour the studios of local artists, defied the odds. Presented by the Metropolitan Arts Council, the event would normally have called for an intense weekend of studio tours with thousands of people looking in on artists and their workspaces. Instead, MAC expanded this year’s Open Studios by allowing artists to schedule tours by appointment or conduct them virtually, created a YouTube channel with two-minute videos from each of the participating artists and even offered an Open Studios app for iPhone and Android users.