Public Art Exhibition Uses Vacant Space to Help Transform Downtown Spartanburg

April 16, 2014 at 4:20 pm

From Spartanburg Art Museum

No Vacancies is a public art exhibition taking place along Main Street in downtown Spartanburg, South Carolina. This spring exhibition is the culmination of a community-wide collaborative process that fills vacant spaces with visual art. The artwork was created by over 35 art and design students from Converse College, Presbyterian College, USC Upstate and Wofford College. What started as an impression for a new comer progressed into a collection of vibrant impressions for the entire community.

The Spartanburg Art Museum has a rich history contributing to Spartanburg’s cultural landscape. Today, with a new Executive Director Elizabeth Goddard, the museum is undergoing some strategic changes to better serve the community. Exhibiting art work outside of the museum walls is a new intention and direction for the exhibition program. Goddard recently said, “Inclusion is one of the main charges about the arts as a whole. It is the responsibility of arts and cultural leaders to design programming that is accessible to all citizens.”

No Vacancies began as an observation during a walk along Main Street in early September when Goddard landed in Spartanburg. “I was walking around getting my bearings and noticed many vacant and dark spaces along Main Street. How do you transform empty space into portals of visual excitement for everyone who passes by?” You fill them with art work.

The first meeting with college professors was in November 2013. Nine professors from Converse, Wofford, USC Upstate and Presbyterian College came to the Spartanburg Art Museum to discuss the concept and began charting the course. Professors wove the concept into their spring curricula for their students across disciplines. Four commercial real estate brokers and commercial property owners were generous enough to provide these talented students real life exhibition experience by allowing them to install artwork within their empty windows. That generous group includes, Andrew Babb, Greg Graham, Foster Chapman and Tim Satterfield.

The levels of community support have been tremendous. When members of the Spartanburg Young Professionals heard about No Vacancies in late winter, they quickly added the project to a downtown spring cleaning initiative they were previously planning. On the morning of March 22, 2014 more than twenty SYP volunteers came with brooms, sponges, squeegees and buckets and cleaned the interior and exterior of a variety of commercial spaces, including all of those designated for No Vacancies. It is not every day that you have diverse sectors of the community from non-profit, commercial and private business, higher education and young professionals come together to assist in a public art exhibition.

“One of the reasons I love public art, it’s 100% inclusive, it lives in the everyday experience of those walking or driving down a street. It provides an unexpected surprise to people who have never been to an art museum or gallery. Art is for everybody and that is good cultural stewardship.” No Vacancies received a One Time Project Grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission earlier this spring. Goddard commented, “Support from the state level is a wonderful confirmation that this type of project is providing a relevant experience to not only a group of students and a place, but for hundreds if not thousands of viewers.”

The professors who have worked with groups of students this spring semester include: from USC Upstate, Jane Nodine, Dawn Dickins and Michael Dickins; from Wofford College, Kris Neely; from Converse College Greg Mueller and Jane Hughes, and from Presbyterian College, Ann Stoddard. Converse Sculpture Professor, Greg Mueller said,” This has been a wonderful opportunity for our sculpture and interior design students to partner on a specific project. We divided students into two teams across disciplines. Early in the semester students presented concepts and worked through the design process. Having them work in a collaborative manner has been a great learning experience for them.”

No Vacancies officially opens during Spartanburg’s Art Walk on Thursday April 17 from 5-9pm. Students and professors will be on hand along Main Street to discuss their art work. No Vacancies maps will be available at the Spartanburg Art Museum as well as on our website: spartanburgartmuseum.org. For more information call (864)582-7616.