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.
When the Charleston Museum was founded in 1773, South Carolina was still a British colony. Today, the museum is itself a historical gem, surviving both the American Revolution and Civil War and acquiring an astounding collection of South Carolinian artifacts along the way. Nine permanent exhibits include the Armory, brimming with antique weaponry, and the Lowcountry History Hall, which chronicles the land's metamorphosis from a tribal society into an agricultural empire, telling the story with early trading goods, slave badges, and pottery. Temporary exhibits change regularly, keeping visitors on their toes in the same way changing cell phone numbers every 24 hours does.
The museum extends its history-preserving mission to two area homes: the 19th-century Joseph Manigault House, once home to a wealthy rice plantation owner, and the Heyward-Washington House, where George Washington once stayed during a weeklong visit to the city. Restored rooms, period pieces, and loudly snoring grandfather clocks await guests during scheduled tours.
Tour guides Mike Brown and Dennis Stiles have a lot of credentials to back up their narrated tours. Mike has done extensive research on pirates in the Carolinas, and Dennis is a past president of The Poetry Society and a senior docent at the Gibbes Museum of Art. Despite all their historical cred, the duo thinks their love of Charleston is the biggest asset they have in leading daily tours around the city. Multiple tours run each day, and during each the guides shed light on historical facts and spin tales of all the spooky haunts in the area as tour groups follow along at a mild walking pace. Whether entering historic homes, visiting haunted gravesites, or descending into the eerie depths of the Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon, the guides keep guests as educated and entertained as a dinner party with the many impressions of Robin Williams.
The Children's Museum of the Lowcountry is an adventurous outpost for the developing population demographic. The museum currently hosts eight different exhibits, giving kids who are sick of increasingly hallucinatory children's TV programming an exciting educational outlet. The medieval creativity castle brings the Middle Ages to life through storytelling, monthly puppet theater, and passageways for hands-on exploring. The 700-square-foot TREEscape makes a playground out of an Angel Oak and a conversational partner for young tree whisperers. In addition to the exhibit octad, the museum holds free programming with topics that change monthly. Science, history, culture, and more are covered by the programs, putting young museum goers on the path to becoming the 21st century's first true renaissance men and women, not withstanding Renaissance Faire workers.
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."
Ashley on the Cooper Walking Tour gives locals and out-of-towners alike a fresh glimpse of Charleston from a native's point of view. Year-round tours include Historic Walking Tours, which reveal the port city's long, textured history through notable landmarks, mansions belonging to prominent citizens, and even places that figured heavily in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. When the temperatures drop, chills rise, and the town's ghosts return from summer vacation, Ashley and her team of guides also conduct tours of a spookier sort. These include the Murder Walk and Macabre Ghost Tours, which shed light on the bloodiness and betrayals of city's more sinister side.