Giving Back Profiles: Painting the Town
A local couple kick-starts area creatives with an annual grant
(Clockwise from above) Mike Griffith and Donna Reyburn with artist Honor Marks (center) at her exhibit; Gary Grier; one of four canvases from Robert Sweeny’s Four Corners; and Elizabeth McKeever’s Different Perspectives
When you imagine “Lowcountry art,” salt marsh vistas or prints of Rainbow Row may come to mind. There’s a profound difference in fine art and tourist art, however, and plenty of distinguished creatives have derived inspiration from Charleston’s historic streetscapes and watery, wild surroundings.
With these creative souls in mind, Seabrook Island couple Mike Griffith and Donna Reyburn created the Griffith/Reyburn Lowcountry Artist Award Fund at Coastal Community Foundation (CCF). Every year since 2003, the fund has given a $5,000 grant to a Charleston County artist chosen through a foundation-administered competition. The award supports the winner (2012’s will be named on May 24) in producing a work for a gallery show held each fall.
Selection committee member Leah Greenberg explains that the judges look for the artists’ potential to depict a unique vision of the Lowcountry that “impacts the viewer emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually,” with no preference for “profound” over “fun.”
“Lowcountry art is a fairly nebulous description,” she admits. “Our application process is rigorous, giving us an in-depth view of who an artist really is. The results are images that stay with you over time.”
A glance at nine years of winners’ art turns up everything from Robert Sweeny’s architectural close-ups to Bernadette Cali’s colorfully dilapidated house. There are also the paintings of endangered indigenous plants created by 2005 recipient Honor Marks, an artist profoundly impacted by the grant. “Native plants were already a part of my work, but became a much stronger direction because of the show’s warm reception,” explains Marks. “The Griffith/Reyburn Award helped me find my focus.”
Images courtesy of (3) Coastal Community Foundation & (four corners) Robert Merrill Sweeny