The studio at pARTy & Paint Charleston resembles not so much a classroom as a lounge. Sunlight pours through picture windows and glints off leather barstools and repurposed tables made from upturned doors. These breezy environs reinforce the studio’s mission to serve as a welcoming hub for creative expression. The casual vibe extends to the classes, many of which are BYOB and encourage students to mingle and munch appetizers or still-life subjects between brushstrokes. The instructors tout diverse backgrounds that reflect the studio’s inclusive approach to art: some are self-taught and some are formally trained, while others approach classes through the lens of art therapy. To encourage artistic expression in kids aged 5 and older, they also assemble birthday packages that include materials and instruction by a local artist.
For the Love of Art owner Carri Miles grew up in different parts of the country, but discovered her love of art early on—winning contests and showing pieces in galleries as early as middle school. Once landing in Charleston, she decided to share her passion with the world. She bought a charming, red-trimmed house and transformed it into a studio open to the public. For the Love of Art hosts regular painting classes, in which their students put brush to canvas while sipping wine or beer brought from home and listening to music. Instructors lead classes through each pre-chosen art piece step-by-step, leaving room for individual expression and eschewing difficult instructions such as "use broad brushstrokes to achieve a sfumato aesthetic" or "go steal a Picasso and say it's yours."
The experienced instructors at Kids Art of Charleston inspire a love of artistry in their pint-sized pupils with weekly classes that survey mediums such as drawing, painting, and sculpture in an intimate learning environment. Students ages 6 to 17 discover new outlets for their youthful angst in “The Well Rounded Artist,” a class that brings together watercolors, acrylic paints, charcoal drawing, and other forms of expression. After spending the first two weeks conjuring up pencil portraits of animals, students flex their creative muscles to call forth an original piece in a medium of their choice. Budding cubists can take their favorite Picassos to the next dimension in the “Creative Expressions 3D” class. During the first two weeks, students spend each class creating four pieces: a mosaic, relief, clay sculpture, and wire sculpture. After removing their training wheels and repurposing them in modernist sculptures, kids draw on their newly acquired skills and the instructor’s assistance to create their own pieces during free-range sessions.
Divers clad in tanks and fins plunge beneath the water's surface. As their eyes adjust to the submerged world, they start to recognize the telltale outline of a sunken subway car, but its once-metallic exterior is almost unrecognizable as it's now covered with colorful coral. A school of spadefish scatters as scuba divers move in closer and begin to uncover the mystery of the Atlantic's depths. The team at Charleston Scuba's PADI five-star instructor development center helps moments like these unfold. Experienced divers lead classes for ages 8 and up, introducing essential scuba skills and the safety techniques needed to shoe a seahorse. During advanced courses, instructors hone in on specialties such as deep-river diving. The staff also facilitates underwater breathing with an in-house repair department and retail store. For chartered voyages, a Coast Guard-certified captain ushers divers into the Trinity?an Island Hopper custom-built for diving and equipped with showers and first aid amenities. The ship's crew navigates the vessel toward reefs and submerged wreckage. They also help passengers snag above-water sights such as flocks of wild rubber duckies during custom harbor cruises.
When Jeni Rone was a child, her father would take black-and-white photos of weddings, instilling an appreciation for beautiful photography in her mind that she nurtured through fine-arts classes in high school and college. Now, she spends her days amongst Charleston's natural and manmade beauty, creating beautifully framed photos of seaside sunsets and historic houses. Specializing in wedding photography, Rone's practiced eye captures the joy and possibility of nuptials with smile-filled candids, elegantly composed family shots, and cakes' growing dread as they realize their role in the festivities. Those interested in improving their own photography can tap into her skills by following along on classes that meander through Charleston's streets, learning how to frame up gorgeous shots and edit them on a computer.
Though built only in 2011, the nonprofit Redux Contemporary Art Center’s new 12,000-square-foot facility stays bustling all year, hosting six to eight free exhibitions in two galleries. After taking in the artwork, visitors can attend numerous free events, such as artist talks, film screenings, panels, and concerts. More than 100 classes foster artistic inclinations throughout the year as local qualified instructors help students master disciplines such as painting, drawing, and printmaking.
Redux's galleries stay full thanks in part to its 22 private artist studios, which accommodate emerging and mid-career artists with up to 240 square feet of creative space. Twenty-four-hour studio passes grant access to Redux’s darkroom, print studio, and woodshop. To encourage a sense of community, artists can participate in quarterly critiques, attend visiting-artist lectures, and debate their studio neighbors on artistic controversies such as whether Michelangelo’s David is as good as the earlier one he sculpted from Play-Doh.