Instead of inviting a recognized artist from out-of-town, Mt. Pleasant’s new downtown art gallery is celebrating its opening days, exhibiting the work of students from the rural community’s public schools.
Located inside the former office and pressroom of the city’s local newspaper, the Mt. Pleasant Record Art Gallery is the latest establishment to pop up on the city’s steadily transforming Main Street.
The gallery’s very first show features paintings and sculptures created by students from Mt. Pleasant’s elementary, middle and high schools, offering a unique and entirely community-generated opportunity for its’ students.
“I can spend the rest of my life trying to repay what this is going to do for our kids,” said Mike Mitchell, the director of arts for the city’s three schools.
The opening show that includes a judged contest will culminate with an opening event at 4:30 p.m. at the gallery, 103 South Main St., before the start of the city’s annual Mid-South Barbecue Festival on Friday.
The show will remain on display until Wednesday.
Owned by recognized Columbia businessmen and brothers Mike and Pat Greene, the two recently purchased and renovated the building with the goal of reinvesting in their native community.
“We must make this about Mt. Pleasant first,” said Pat Greene, a retired jeweler who runs his office from the arts district in neighboring Columbia. “We decided that we are going to make this grand opening about Mt. Pleasant art students. It gives the students an opportunity to be in a professional art gallery. It gives them the opportunity to see what may be going on in their future.”
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Members of the public will have a chance to make an offer to purchase the pieces on display.
All of the funds from each sale will go to the artists.
“We are doing this for some students who will remember this and encourage them to move forward in their art,” said Mike Greene, a retired area president for TriStar Bank.
Their effort is being recognized by local historians and city leaders as the first space to exist, strictly as a space to exhibit art in the city’s 197-year history.
“We are just really excited that they wanted to make the opportunity available to our kids,” Mitchell said. “Our students are making world class art, and it is great to have a space like this that has been brought back to its original glory to be able to platform these kids in a way that they really deserve. That is really exciting.”
Young artists include Nichole Rich at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School, Liz Tenny at Mt. Pleasant Middle School of the Visual and Performing Arts and Whitney Herrington at Mt. Pleasant High School.
The Greene brothers have called on veteran artist Andy Moore, former Lipscomb University art department chair Warren Greene, and curator of the Pryor Art Gallery at Columbia State Rusty Summerville as jurors of the work.
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The three will decide the first place trophy winner and purchase award for each grade division.
The upcoming event continues the three local schools’ implementation of STEAM learning.
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“This is a way of showing our kids that there is a space for this in the world,” Mitchell said.
“This does not often happen when you are a visual art teacher. Like our welding program through our industry partners, we now have an authentic assessment for visual art. Here is an art gallery that decides who gets into this space and here is what their art looks like in a space that will next month hold a professional artist. This is not an approximation — it’s an industry-standard space. That is pretty amazing.”
Reach Mike Christen at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH and on Instagram @michaelmarco. Please consider supporting his work and that of other Daily Herald journalists by subscribing to the publication.