Lighten Up Spartanburg!
Lighten Up Spartanburg! is a large-scale public art collaboration that bolsters the cultural vitality of downtown Spartanburg, expands the local economy through tourism, provides opportunities to local and regional artists, and fosters connections between local businesses and the arts. An initiative of the Spartanburg Art Museum, the project is comprised of 28 six-foot-tall fiberglass light bulbs painted, sculpted, and otherwise altered by 36 local and regional artists, sponsored by 30 local businesses and individuals, and installed in nearly 300 square feet of public space in and around downtown Spartanburg, South Carolina's newest Cultural District. The bulb pictured here is positioned just outside TJC Gallery on West Main Street. Created by Beth Regula, People and Places is a collage of local landmarks and familiar favorites.
Elevating the Art in Liberal Arts
In May, the Johnson Collection was honored to help celebrate the opening of Spartanburg’s newest cultural jewel, the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts at Wofford College. Located in the heart of the historic campus, the modern facility now serves as a showcase for the college’s extensive arts programs. A full glass front façade welcomes visitors to the 65,000-square-foot building, which features exhibition spaces, classrooms, the 320-seat Jerome Johnson Richardson Theatre, and stunning ceiling sculptures by Dale Chihuly. To mark the center’s opening, a loaned exhibition of works from the collection is on view through September. The Mountains Are Calling brings together a selection of artists who sought to capture the South’s seasons and sky on canvas. The selected paintings are as varied as their makers—from the majestic, highly-detailed nineteenth-century panoramas by William Frerichs and Andrew Melrose to the ethereal, impressionistic views by Lawrence Mazzanovich and Margaret Law. Hours for the public to enjoy these and future exhibitions are: 1pm to 5pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and 1pm to 9pm on Thursday.
Beyond the inaugural display of mountain scenes, the collection has pledged to lend annual curated exhibitions, drawn from our holdings, to the Richardson Center gallery for the next three years. Commenting on the collaboration, Susu Johnson noted that “it is our hope that these presentations, like the facility itself, will support Wofford’s mission to provide its students with a broad, rich—and beautiful—liberal arts education.”
Art in Embassies Cultural Exchange
Sponsored by the U.S. State Department since 1963, Art in Embassies plays a vital role in international diplomacy by advancing cross-cultural dialogue through the visual arts. The public-private partnership seeks to educate and inspire global audiences, showing how art can transcend national borders and build connections among peoples. The initiative engages over 20,000 participants around the world—including artists, museums, galleries, universities, and private collectors—and encompasses over 200 venues in 189 countries. The Johnson Collection is pleased to support the exchange program with the loan of Old Man, created in 1972 by Charleston artist-educator William Halsey, to the American embassy in Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia.
TJC Receives 2017 MLK Humanitarian Award
The Johnson Collection was honored to receive the City of Spartanburg’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award at the thirtieth annual Unity Celebration held on January 16, 2017 at Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium. The award is given to an organization or business promoting positive relations among the diverse people in the Spartanburg community. The celebratory event included music, dance, and a stirring keynote address by former Charleston mayor Joe Riley, who challenged the audience to advance Dr. King’s fight for equality, fairness, justice, kindness, and tolerance.
Learning By Doing
TJC's 2016 installment of Art on Tap not only maked our fourth annual partnership with RJ Rockers Brewing Company, but also highlighted a collaboration between two Wofford College art history students interning with the collection. Jordan Wiseman (right), from Parkersburg, West Virginia, and Reagan Petty (left), from Nashville, Tennessee, have spent the fall semester engaged in the collection’s varied initiatives.
Reagan co-curated Southern Roots: Self Taught Art from the Johnson Collection with TJC curator Dr. Erin Corrales-Diaz, getting hands-on experience in every step of the curatorial process. Together they selected works to be included in the exhibition, determined the gallery layout, and oversaw gallery installation. In describing her experience, Petty noted that “there is such an impressive holding of self-taught art in the Johnson Collection. It has been fascinating to immerse myself in the study of this exciting branch of Southern art.”
Jordan Wiseman coordinated the logistics of the Art on Tap celebration which heralded the exhibition’s opening on November 17. Her role included communications with RJ Rockers, determining event details, and taking the lead on marketing. “Promoting Art on Tap through both traditional and social media has allowed me to develop valuable skills,” said Wiseman.
During their time at TJC, both students have earned academic credit and gained professional experience in a field they hope to pursue after graduation. The competitive internships are part of the Johnson Collection’s longstanding commitment to education.
Spartanburg Named Cultural District
It’s official: the South Carolina Arts Commission has awarded cultural district status to the City of Spartanburg for Downtown Spartanburg. A “cultural district” is designated by the South Carolina Legislature as a specific geographical area in a city or town that has a concentration of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. In Spartanburg, the designated district includes 21 indoor live performance venues; nine outdoor performance venues; 43 galleries or exhibit spaces (including TJC Gallery); 38 murals and other public art displays; five museums; 64 studios and workshops; six historic sites; 15 greenspaces and arboretums; 251 creative industry and cultural jobs; and 1,335 events and festivals open to the public. The effort to win recognition was led by the Chapman Cultural Center.
Requiem for Mother Emanuel
Each painting in Leo Twiggs’ memorial series, Requiem for Mother Emanuel, offers a moving commentary on the nature of man, issues of race and violence, of tragedy and redemption, forgiveness and spiritual victory. As part of what Twiggs describes as his most challenging and meaningful creative work in a sixty-year career, the nine individual pieces stand as couriers of the artist’s message of hope. In late May, the Johnson Collection acquired the three capstone paintings in the series: #7, #8, and #9. It is, however, in the series’ wholeness that the range of emotions captured on the canvases finds it fullest power. Requiem to Mother Emanuel is a visual journey through bloodshed and shock, via pain and grief, and ultimately to redemption, an emotional roadmap through the 2015 Charleston tragedy and its aftermath.
Following its tenure at Charleston’s City Gallery, the Requiem for Mother Emanuel series was on view at TJC Gallery in downtown Spartanburg from August 4 through November 8, 2016. On Tuesday, October 11, TJC sponsored an educational exploration of paint, poetry, race, and grace, inspired by Requiem for Mother Emanuel. Featured presenters for the event included Dr. Twiggs, poet Nikky Finney, and Jane Panetta, associate curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Founding Director Henderson Retires
In the beginning, there were 200 paintings—and the firm conviction that fine art of the South deserved a larger role on the stage of American art. Since that time in 2002, the Johnson Collection has grown to encompass 1,200 objects and has been lauded for having staged a “quiet art historical revolution” and expanding “the meaning of regional” by The Magazine Antiques. As the collection’s founding director, David Henderson guided that growth and ever-expanding vision. After fourteen years in this seminal role, Henderson announced his retirement effective July 1, 2016.
Working in close collaboration with the Johnson family, Henderson established the collection’s curatorial framework and acquisition strategy. He also launched the collection’s ambitious publication and exhibition initiatives, building partnerships with museums and scholars across the country. “David’s passion for Southern art and history has been a catalyst for the collection since its formation. His expertise and keen understanding of the market have been an invaluable resource, and we are grateful for his leadership these many years,” stated George D. Johnson, Jr.
Fine art is a second vocation for Henderson, who retired early from a successful business career and then devoted himself to a burgeoning interest in Southern art. His own sizeable collection of works now forms the foundation of holdings represented by his family enterprise, H + K Gallery, to which Henderson, 73, will now dedicate more of his time. Henderson describes his tenure with the Johnson Collection as a “tremendous privilege that brought me great joy. The Johnson family’s commitment to the advancement of Southern art is unprecedented; working with George and Susu to shape the collection was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I value beyond measure.”
Gettysburg on the Move
An iconic visual document of a pivotal moment in American history has a new home in downtown Spartanburg. TJC's monumental painting, The Battle of Gettysburg: The Repulse of Longstreet’s Assault, July 3, 1863, is now on view at the Church Street headquarters of the Spartanburg County Public Libraries. The work is displayed in the Moseley Gallery, one of two programming spaces recently constructed on on the facility’s second floor. Read more about the relocation here.
TJC Receives SC Verner Award
The Johnson Collection is honored to have been named a 2016 recipient of the Governor’s Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award, South Carolina’s highest arts distinction which is named for the beloved Charleston artist. In its commendation, the state's Arts Commission paid tribute to the Johnson family's enduring contributions: "Equally dedicated to arts advancement and arts accessibility, the Johnsons generously share their vision, energy, passion and resources to benefit the arts in South Carolina."
Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light
On June 23, 2015, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced that Spartanburg had been selected as one of four cities to receive up to $1 million each as part of the Public Art Challenge, a new program aimed at supporting temporary public art projects that engage communities, enhance creativity, and enrich the vibrancy of cities. Bloomberg Philanthropies invited mayors of U.S. cities with 30,000 residents or more to submit proposals for innovative temporary public art projects that address a civic issue and demonstrate close collaboration between artists or arts organizations and city government.
“Great public art strengthens cities by making them more exciting and attractive places to live, work, and visit. Public art can also help us to see urban challenges in a new light – and imagine new solutions,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Mayor of New York City from 2002-2013 and entrepreneur. “All of the winning projects are excellent examples of this, and each can have a lasting impact.”
Spartanburg’s winning proposal, Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light, will bring temporary art installations to public spaces in ten city neighborhoods in time for National Night Out, October 4, 2016. The project is a partnership among City of Spartanburg Police and Community Relations Departments, internationally renowned light and digital media artist Erwin Redl, The Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg, and neighborhood associations in Spartanburg. Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light builds on National Night Out, an annual event that promotes crime prevention efforts, police-community partnership and neighborhood camaraderie.
The Meaning of Regional
“With one thousand works inspired by the American South, the Johnson Collection of Spartanburg, South Carolina, has staged a quiet art historical revolution. Through exhibitions, loans, publications, and institutional partnerships, the collection has redefined, elevated, and greatly expanded the meaning of regional.” So says The Magazine Antiques in itsNovember-December issue. A 14-page article written by Lauren Brunk, vice president of Brunk Auctions and former TJC curator, explores the history, mission, and activities of the Johnson Collection. Posing the question, “How Southern is it?” the feature underscores our firm conviction that great Southern art is great American Art—period. Established in 1922, The Magazine Antiques is a premier arts publication covering fine and decorative arts, architecture, design, and connoisseurship. The November/December edition pays annual homage to American paintings and, this year in particular, to “American collections formed in a democratic spirit.” A work from the collection's holdings, Park Street Grocery by Edmund Yaghjian (1903-1997), graces the issue’s cover.