The City Magazine Since 1975

Propelling the Arts - Terry Fox

Terry Fox in his art-filled home on John’s Island.

Charleston Arts Festival
Amplifying an array of creative locals on multiple stages

ith a playful grin perched beneath his signature dark-rimmed spectacles, Terry Fox gives the impression of a boy who’s up to a little mischief. As the cofounder and associate director of Charleston Arts Festival (CAF), he helps push the boundaries of what some consider worthy art, focusing on the quirky, peculiar, and otherwise unseen sides of the Lowcountry’s imagination. “When Charleston Arts Festival started, we sort of saw ourselves as the non-Spoleto, wanting to appeal to a younger, less-moneyed demographic,” he explains of the series that launched in 2016 as a “reimagining” of cofounder Andrew Walker’s former “Jail Break” events.

Since then, the jovial producer has showcased artistic talent on a variety of platforms, including exhibitions of rising visual artists, high-energy music and dance performances, and quarterly PechaKucha gatherings for locals to share what inspires them. “The Charleston community seems endlessly open to what goes on in the creative arena,” says Fox.

When “PechaKucha 42” presenters step on the Charleston Music Hall stage this month, the series will have featured nearly 350 inspiring residents. They have ranged from Tiffany Silverman, who brought arts programming to The Citadel; to urbanist and developer Vince Graham, who spoke of civic art, public design, and the “soul-sucking commute” that ensues with auto-dependent sprawl; to Farrah Hoffmire, whose HEART Inclusive Arts Community powerfully demonstrated the spirits and talents of differently abled adults.

And though Fox says he’s not out to shock audiences, PechaKucha generated quite a buzz in 2018 when local hip-hop artist Benjamin Starr asked, “Do you really want a Charleston for Black people?” “I knew he was going to be provocative, but it’s a question worthy of consideration,” remarks Fox.

By choosing a diverse roster of presenters, the PechaKucha programmer aims to broaden audience members’ perceptions of art, often inviting creatives from outside the typical realm of musicians, painters, and poets. He’s booked a landscape designer, taxidermist, a food critic, and pig farmer. Next up this month: a tattoo artist. “I want people to think, ‘Why the hell did he include that speaker?’ And I want that question to be answered.”

The one answer the seemingly ageless Fox won’t give, however, is his age, though he wryly notes that he’s writing his obituary, “just in case The Post & Courier wants to publish it.” The North Carolina native’s eclectic resume hints at his vintage, however. After earning an English degree from UNC Chapel Hill, Fox accepted his first job as one of five white educators at W. Gresham Meggett, the all-Black high school on James Island, in 1968, Charleston County School District’s final year of segregation. Fox went on to work as the director of educational services at an inpatient psychiatric hospital and dean of students for both Johnson & Wales and later, the Art Institute of Charleston. “I think being engaged with younger minds and energies has kept me aware of current thinking and the direction of art in the world,” he says. “I realized early on the vitality of art.”

Last summer, Black Food Fridays founder KJ Kearney presented at PechaKucha, a series of talks from local creatives on what inspires them.

Against this professional backdrop blazes a vibrant swath of volunteer work within the artistic community, from his collaboration devising the Marble Arch Gallery in the former Garden Theater in the early ’80s to the ambitious multidisciplinary kickoff for CAF in 2016. Fifteen years ago, Fox joined with arts advocates of all stripes to create Charleston Creative Parliament, the culture collaborative that first brought the PechaKucha series to the Lowcountry. And since then, he has served as a board member for the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, the College of Charleston’s School of the Arts Council, and PURE Theatre.

Fox habitually surrounds himself with friends and colleagues who are creative in one way or another. “I’m drawn to people who have crazier ideas and want to shake things up.” And it’s through such colorful relationships that this clever art liaison has built his career. In a way, Fox himself is an artist, sculpting venues and entertainment into multisensory displays designed to affect a crowd. “I guess,” he chuckles, “I just love throwing a good party.” —Lauren B. Johnson

Up Next!

May 3: 
PechaKucha 42
Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St. 
Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. $12.,



Photographs by Alice Keeney & courtesy of Charleston Arts Festival