Charleston Has Thriving Arts Community

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Charleston music sceneThanks to the annual Spoleto Festival USA, Charleston has long been on the radar for tourists interested in taking in world-class performances. But in the last decade, Charleston has experienced a surge in its arts community, making it a yearround arts destination.

“There’s no excuse why if someone visits Charleston they can’t do something artsy while they’re here,” said Maggie Hendricks, executive director of the Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts, a network of 61 nonprofit visual, literary and performing arts organizations in the greater Charleston area. The alliance is a resource for its member organizations while also promoting arts in Charleston. In the fall it hosts the OPEN Arts Expo showcasing a number of local artists and kicking off the fall arts season.

Hendricks, who grew up in Charleston, said there have always been arts opportunities but now there are so many it’s hard to keep up. The alliance recently conducted an internal study to gauge the artistic vitality of the region and discovered about half of all the organizations that exist now started in the last decade. “It has just grown tremendously,” she said.

And much of that growth has been in the way of smaller theaters and galleries, giving visitors plenty of great “off the beaten path options.”

Emily Wilhoit, executive director of League of Charleston Theatres, said about half of her organization’s 14 theater members started in the last few years. The growth has been diverse and each theater tends to have a specialty area whether it’s comedy, drama or musicals as well as children’s theater and murder mysteries. “We pretty much have everything,” Wilhoit said.

Lese Corrigan, owner of Corrigan Gallery, has been running galleries in Charleston for more than 25 years. She’s approached almost weekly by someone wanting to open a gallery in Charleston or by artists who want to show their work here.

She credits the Charleston Fine Art Dealers’ Association with bringing more attention to Charleston’s artistic community. Founded 15 years ago, gallery owners founded the organization as a way to promote Charleston as a fine art destination. It hosts large events in the summer and fall while also raising money for school art programs.

paint brushesExplore Charleston’s art scene — this is just a sampling of some of the great places to visit while in town:

Charleston Artist Guild
160 East Bay St., Charleston
About 600 different artists rotate through this gallery. They also take turns working in the gallery so it’s a great opportunity to interact with artists and talk about their work.

City Gallery at Waterfront Park
34 Prioleau St., Unit A, Charleston
A collection of contemporary art from local, regional, national and international artists; free admission.

The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston
(free admission)
161 Calhoun St., Charleston
Hosts between five and seven exhibitions per year, highlighting adventurous contemporary art by emerging and mid-career artists of national stature.

Gibbes Museum of Art
135 Meeting St., Charleston
Changing exhibits, special events and tours.

The Black Fedora
161 Church St., Charleston
Comedy mystery theater and family friendly shows.

Charleston Symphony Orchestra

Charleston Stage
135 Church St. | 843-577-7183
Charleston Stage produces more than 120 performances each season and plays to more than 40,000 patrons annually. Performances are in the historic Dock Street Theatre.

Flowertown Players
133 South Main St., Summerville
Community theater performed in the heart of downtown Summerville.

Footlight Players
20 Queen St., Charleston
Community theater performed in an old cotton warehouse.

Midtown Productions
915 Folly Road, Suite F, Charleston
Live theater plus classes for adults and children. Opening in February, the new Midtown Cabaret Theatre, Charleston’s first “green theatre,” on Azalea Drive in North Charleston.

PURE Theatre
477 King St., Charleston
Contemporary theater featuring professional actors.

South of Broadway Theatre Co.
1080 E. Montague Ave.,
North Charleston | 843-745-0317
Broadway-quality theater in North Charleston’s Park Circle area.

The Village Repertory Co.
34 Woolfe St, Charleston | 843-856-1579
Nonprofit professional theatre company, producing drama, comedy and musicals with a special emphasis on the finest plays of the 20th century.
Resources for shows, exhibitions and more:
Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts
City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs
League of Charleston Theatres
S.C. Arts Commission

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Choosing a hotel and where to stay in Charleston all depends on your budget and goals. Do you want to stay Downtown, at the beach or in the outer areas such as North Charleston where you have to drive to get everywhere? For more help on deciding:

Charleston has 3 main public beaches which are: Folly, Isle of Palms and Sullivans. Each beach has it’s own atmosphere. The most common beach that people visit is Folly Beach and then Isle of Palms followed by Sullivans Island. For more info on Charleston’s beaches visit:

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There’s so many  things you could do in Charleston it can be overwhelming. We recommend that first time visitors, checkout the ultimate first-time visitor guide here:

Spring in Charleston, SC is an amazing time of year to visit. The flowers are blooming and the weather is mild and sunny. For more info, check-out our spring guide to Charleston here:

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Our 10 Favorite Summer Activities in Charleston

Fall is one of the best times to visit. The weather cools down a bit and the skies are typically blue and clear. In addition there are many great events, festivals and the large crowds of summer have gone back to school or work. For more info on visiting in the fall, checkout this article:

There are so many great things to do that it’s difficult to narrow the list down. This article does a great job with figuring out the must do things to do in Charleston

7 Can’t Miss Reasons to Visit Charleston, SC Now

The consensus is a minimum of 3-days is needed to settle in and experience Charleston. For instance, many people take 2 days exploring downtown and another day visiting sites outside of downtown such as the plantations, Angel Oak Tree or beaches. Checkout this page for a list of tours and attractions: 

Charleston’s Top Tours & Attractions | Things to do

Downtown Charleston was made for walking and for sure one of the best way to soak up and experience the history first-hand. This article goes over getting around Charleston with and without a car as well: 

Getting Around Charleston, SC

We’re of course partial to Charleston, but here’s the truth. There are many similarities however there are some differences in our opinion: 

  • Both cities are historic and beautiful. 
  • Both cities are extremely walkable. Savannah, with it’s park-like squares maybe more walkable than Charleston. 
  • Charleston has a more established and food scene with many more options. 
  • Charleston has better hotels and shopping.
  • Both cities have equally good tours.
  • Charleston has better beach options. Savannah has Tybee which is great, however it’s 1 beach vibe versus Charleston which has 3 beaches with different vibes. Checkout this Charleston beach guide article:
  • In Savannah you can walk with alcoholic beverages on the street. This is not allowed in Charleston. This can be good or bad depending on your stance. 
  • Savannah is more affordable.
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There are always great and world-class events happening in Charleston. For a calendar of events and things to do in Charleston, checkout our online calendar of events:

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Charleston has some fantastic can’t miss tours such as Fort Sumter, carriage, ghost, harbor, historic and culinary tours. For a full list with more info visit:

Checkout the Charleston Relocation Guide page which will guide you during your move:

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