Brookgreen Gardens celebrates Black History Month with events, exhibits
From art exhibits and quilts to musical interpretations and lectures, Brookgreen Gardens is bringing Black History Month to life on South Carolina’s Hammock Coast.
Two special events to celebrate Black history will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 23, in the Wall Lowcountry Center at Brookgreen Gardens. “Nuggets of Wisdom from the ‘Seen, Heard, Esteemed’ exhibit” will be held from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.; and “Gullah Geechee Program Series: We Wear the Mask” will be held at 1 p.m.
Brookgreen also hosted events titled “Reign of Rice Lecture Series, 2022 Cultural Environments that Sustain Rice Heritage” with Jon Smalls of Freewood Farms presenting “Farming Values that Sustain Rice Heritage,” on Saturday, Feb. 12, and “Black History Month: Scatting in the Key of Gee’s Bend” on Saturday, Feb. 19.
Special exhibits, shown through March 31, are: “Lowcountry Rhythms; Resilience and Perseverance” by visual artist Alvin Glen; and “Textile Art: Historical, Improvisational, Reclaimed” featuring two exhibit displays: “Scatting in the Key of Gee’s Bend,” displaying improvisational lap quilts and wearable art by Jan Spencer of Beaufort and the “Underground Quilt Exhibit,” which highlights a classroom history and math project by Karen Fedor of Pawleys Island that teaches about the history of slavery.
“These programs and exhibits are designed to raise awareness that Black history occurs daily and is significant, whether having occurred in the past or in the present,” said Ron Daise, vice president of creative education at Brookgreen Gardens.
“Nuggets of Wisdom from the ‘Seen, Heard, Esteemed’ Exhibit” will feature Daise as he provides dynamic excerpts of quotations from, and back stories about, Brookgreen’s permanent outdoor exhibit, which presents living history narratives of six Georgetown County Gullah Geechee changemakers.
“Seen, Heard, Esteemed: Living History Narratives of Georgetown County, SC” was developed through a collaboration between Brookgreen Gardens and the Athenaeum Press at Coastal Carolina University. It was funded by SC Humanities, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, and National Archives. Guests can visit the listening stations near the Lowcountry Center. The tour can also be found on the Brookgreen app, where all the narratives can be heard. For more information and excerpts from the exhibit, click here.
“I will share information about the six Gullah Geechee changemakers who are featured along with quotes from Coastal Carolina University students who researched, scripted, and recorded the narratives,” Daise said.
These narratives from Sandy Island, Plantersville, and Murrells Inlet range from the Civil War to today, and while they hail from different perspectives and times, they each show the vital role African Americans and enslaved Africans played in the history of this region. The narratives are based on research and archival documents; however, some aspects of these stories have been fictionalized to fill in gaps in the historical record.
He said the “Gullah Geechee Program Series: We Wear the Mask” is also a worthwhile and interesting event.
“Guests will learn about the resilience and dignity of Gullah Geechee people throughout systems of oppression,” Daise said. “These are explored through excerpts of a short story that I wrote and narrate, ‘We Wear the Mask, Untold Truths in a Pre-Gullah Community.’”
Readings are juxtaposed to stanzas of “We Wear the Mask” by poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.
The Black History Month program held on Feb. 19, “Scatting in the Key of Gee’s Bend,” celebrated the resilience of Black Art. Quilter/songstress Jan Spencer presented a lecture/performance, and Alvin Glen and Karen Fedor presented Artist Talks about their exhibits.
“The stories we tell ourselves shape who we are,” Daise said. “The artists shared how history has impacted them and American culture and how their art depicts history and shapes perceptions.”
Glen, who lives in Dorchester, S.C., said he creates fine art using pastels, mixed media drawing, and printmaking. His exhibit is titled, “Lowcountry Rhythms; Resilience and Perseverance.”
“My works are about common people, emotions, and ideas,” he said. “My portraiture convey emotion through their expression, gesture, and adornments, often placed in Lowcountry, historically reminiscent environments.”
He went on to say that his work is uniquely distinctive.
“Equal to the history my figures embody, they also speak of a spiritual influence flowing with compassion and empathy,” Glen said. “I explore emotion as well as social and spiritual concepts.”
He said his work displayed at Brookgreen illustrates Lowcountry Gullah life and most of the images are of young people in Lowcountry scenes.
“I try to give the viewer familiar subjects in different and sometimes challenging ways. Seldom are images in fully recognizable environments,” Glen said. “I either include or take away some elements allowing the viewer to complete the image. I use bright colors to catch the eye to engage the viewer.”
Brookgreen Gardens is a sculpture garden and wildlife preserve, located just south of Murrells Inlet, on South Carolina’s Hammock Coast. The 9,100-acre property includes several themed gardens featuring American figurative sculptures, the Lowcountry Zoo, and trails through several ecosystems in nature reserves on the property.
The Hammock Coast is located in Georgetown County, South Carolina. Georgetown County’s casual charm and Southern hospitality earned it the nickname Hammock Coast. Adventure and relaxation blend together in perfect harmony, like the flowing and ebbing of waves on the county’s famed beaches.
With six communities – Garden City, Murrells Inlet, Litchfield, Pawleys Island, Georgetown and Andrews – comprising the pristine coastal area between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, visitors can experience South Carolina’s Hammock Coast like never before.
By Clayton Stairs / tourism manager for the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce and South Carolina’s Hammock Coast®