Charleston and Asheville are no longer the only hubs for visual artists in the Carolinas. In recent years Greenville has burst onto the scene in a big way. Open Studios, a weekend event which opens the studios of local visual artists to the public, is lucrative for many local artists and an excellent opportunity for the public to learn about artistic processes and creative inspiration.
“Open Studios has evolved into one of the most anticipated weekends for Greenville’s community of visual artists,” said Alan Ethridge, Metropolitan Arts Council’s executive director. In Open Studios first year, there were 48 artists and a budget of $7,000. Now there are 158 participating artists with a budget well over $200,000.
Artists have different experiences and history with Open Studios, but each are hopeful and excited for the Greenville arts community. Their hard work is a testament to the area’s phenomenal cultural identity.
Diane Kilgore Condon: Painting
Diane Kilgore Condon has participated in Open Studios since its inception in 2002. For the past 18 years, she has owned and operated The Art Bomb, a studio on Pendleton Street.
Money earned from Open Studios goes towards paying for the studio, causing Condon to feel a good sense of pressure. “I have been working on Open Studios since the summer, so it is nice to have a big goal towards the end of the year,” said Condon.
The studio sees a lot of traffic, so much that Condon rarely finds time to get away for a lunch break. “We easily have 500-650 people or more each week,” said Condon. “The two parking lots we have always seem to be full.”
Condon has been painting for over 20 years and views art as not just a product, but a mirror of what you’re living. “Painting is very rewarding but also hard,” Condon said. “It isn’t just a hobby; it is art and something my head is in all of the time.”
It’s also how she looks at the world. “I was made for this,” she said. “I’ll be stopped at a light and find myself thinking of different ways to change a piece I am working on.”
A Greenville resident for 35 years, Condon admires the respect the city has for art. “It has been wonderful in Greenville. Greenville is very respectful of people trying to do their work.”
Patricia Kilburg: Drawing, mixed media, painting and printmaking
Patricia Kilburg, who has participated in Open Studios for over 12 years, finds that she is able to sell most of her work during the weekend event.
With her studio, Patricia Kilburg Studio, located on Pendleton Street, she is able to observe the heavy foot traffic through her space. “During the week, I see about 1,100 people,” said Kilburg. “The West Village already has a strong art scene, so it helps to be in the middle of it.”
Kilburg used to work out of her home, making and selling crafts and then learning how to quilt. Now, she is able to teach classes in her studio. “I teach classes on encaustic painting which is a mixed media technique that involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments have been added,” said Kilburg. “Teaching is one way I am able to pay for the studio space and supplies.”
Kiburg is a self-taught artist, taking college classes as needed. She received a liberal arts degree from DePaul University. “I have had a smooth ride to who I am as an artist and have gained a lot of wonderful support.”
Kilburg draws her inspiration from her surroundings, whether it’s nature, architecture or even the cosmos. “I use abstract imagery that is based on my own sources of inspiration. My art has a deep, emotional interpretation that can also be fun and casual.”
Eric Benjamin: Eric Benjamin Studios
When Columbus, Ohio native Eric Benjamin participated in the first Open Studios 17 years ago, there were only 40 other artists involved. He didn’t participate last year due to a house and studio renovation, but is looking forward to this years event.
Benjamin started oil painting after graduating from Clemson University with a bachelor of fine arts in 1995.
“I was painting and painting and painting. Of course Greenville was a lot smaller and there weren’t as many artists at all,” he said.
Benjamin is excited about Greenville’s flourishing art studio scene. “It was just a smaller world, where now I feel like it’s so spread out, Greenville’s huge and the art community’s huge,” he said. “Especially when we go to parties and things you’ll think you know a lot of artists but you meet tons of new people. Which is great, that’s a good thing. There’s so many outlets, so many galleries, so many of everything now.”
Benjamin describes his painting style as a loose representation of nature.
“Kind of abstract. It’s not really abstract but it’s definitely not reality either,” he said.
Financially, even with Greenville’s expanding arts community, Benjamin says sales are about the same but he’s noticed fewer people coming into his studio, but those who do are there to buy.