Take a Closer Look at Public Art

Art festivals and organizations are steadily growing in size and number throughout the Upstate, but a simple stroll through the streets can be an art-viewing opportunity in many communities. Public art in the Upstate comes in all sorts of varieties, ranging from bronze statutes to colorful murals. Some works commemorate historical events, influential people, or community landmarks that no longer exist. Though the subject is clear, the representation can be incredibly realistic or intriguingly abstract. At the far end of the spectrum are abstract works whose subjects and forms defy singledefinition; they might even remain untitled, leaving viewers to do all of the work to understand their meaning. The sculpture shown here, right, was created by Joey Manson and is located at the Mauldin Cultural Center. Towns of every size have art that’s free to see any time. Here are just a few examples of what the Upstate has to offer.

Erskine College, Due West

A subtle yet expressive bronze sculpture called “Study in Time” by Carol Harless depicts a young woman sitting down with a book while completely encircled by an 8-foot tall working sun dial. One role the sculpture plays is to symbolically link the college’s art center and science center, as well as the artist’s desire to link art and science more generally.

Little A’s Variety Store, Donalds

History is kept alive in a mural painted on the side of Little A’s Variety Store in Donalds. It depicts Native Americans who would have once lived in the area, stopping at a small pond refresh themselves and their horses during a journey. Alongside them a train rolls up, ready to pull into the depot. The artist cleverly incorporates an actual pipe from the side of the building into the pipe that juts from the top of the train in the image. Although the railroad stations still exist, it has been many decades since the Southern and the Piedmont and Northern rail lines were regular sites in the town. 

Falls Park, Greenville

Two abstract pieces are sure to catch the eyes and imaginations of anyone who happens upon them. Both were created by world-renowned artists. The sculpture “Untitled 2002–2003” by Joel Shapiro is simple arrangement of five long blocks that resemble a human, an animal, or even alphabet letters depending on the angle from which the viewer looks. “Rose Crystal Tower” by Dale Chihuly, looks just like what the title describes: a tower made of rose quartz. But, depending on your experiences, it could also look like tempting rock candy. 

Topiaries, Uptown Greenwood

As part of the upcoming Festival of Flowers in June, visitors can see a more transient and unusual type of public art. Topiaries—trees manipulated and trimmed to take on interesting shapes—can be found around uptown Greenwood throughout the festival. Plants trained into the shapes of animals such as elephants and flamingoes will be visible around town throughout the month of June there, and even more might appear in conjunction with the annual festival of flowers.   

Brown’s Variety Store, Iva

A 60- by 20-foot mural painted on the side of Brown’s Variety Store depicts the town’s old Atlantic Seaboard railroad station. Painted in 1991 by Iva native Oscar Velasquez, the mural is a larger-than-life take on an image from an 1890 post card. This town treasure easily could be missed by drivers who approach the store from the opposite side, and it is worth a stop on your next visit to the town.


Public Art Trail, Mauldin

Keep an eye out for developments along Mauldin’s Public Art Trail, created by the city at the end of 2014. The trail lines the perimeter of the outdoor amphitheater at the Mauldin Cultural Center. It will feature only works by people who lived in South Carolina with the art was created. The first piece to find its place on the trail was “The Depot,” a colorful abstract sculpture that harkens back to railroad days when Mauldin’s borders were a circle with a half-mile radius centered on a train depot. 

Chapman Cultural Center, Spartanburg

Three public artworks show the variety of creativity in Spartanburg, all within walking distance of the Chapman Cultural Center. “Exuberance” is an energetic bronze sculpture of a woman dancing, created by Richard McDermott Miller. That one is hard to miss, but just across the street are two more that are more likely to be overlooked. They are equally energetic but completely unique. The abstract “Chariot” by Mac Boggs causes the imagination to stretch a bit to see a vehicle among silvery circles, curves, and one straight line. Nearby, a colorful untitled sculpture by David Hayes invites the viewer to make whatever they want of the green, yellow and red shapes before them. 

Photo Credits:  Banner—Tom Daspit; Top right—Mauldin Cultural Center; Center left—Greenwood Festival of Flowers; Center—Bucky's Ride; Bottom right—Chapman Cultural Center

Jennifer Oladipo is a writer in Greenville whose work appears in local and national publications.