Art is part of West Columbia’s revitalization

August is American Artist Appreciation Month. It’s to recognize American artists for their contributions, talents, and achievements.

In the last five years or so, the West Columbia River District has undergone a renaissance of sorts and public art has been a big part of the improvement.  

“Every piece of public art increases the livability and the enjoyment for everyone,” said West Columbia Mayor Tem Miles. “It inspires creativity across our city and it has also promoted private investment in art to enhance the vibe and move revitalization efforts forward.”

The most notable art projects in West Columbia are in and around the city’s Interactive Art park.

Artists Christine Lutfy Crawford and Ija Charles have created artwork that is very accessible to the public.

“Presenting this art at eye-level, so everyone can be a part of it, is important,” said Miles.

The art park pieces depict the smiling, hopeful faces of children, and there is an interactive butterfly painting. The alley walls toward State Street are adorned with rich and colorful paintings of the Gervais Street Bridge, Riverfront Park and a Riverbanks Zoo giraffe.

Charles is a longtime fan of West Columbia. She said when she was a child, her mother would take her to Riverwalk and the family would hang out in West Columbia, enjoying picnics and adventure walks in nature.

Not all of the art in West Columbia is stationary. Some of it has been mobilized.

In July of 2021, the City of West Columbia launched its “Public Works of Art” project highlighting the work of local artists with murals on seven sanitation trucks.

The work of local artists Trahern Cook, Laura Day, Ija Charles, Christine Lutfy Crawford, and Michael Cassidy is showcased on the mobile murals that highlight West Columbia.

“We are blessed to have so many talented local artists who create public art,” Miles said of the truck murals.

There is also lots of local art that can be acquired for home décor. At State Street Trading Co., owner Lainie Lewis features the work of local artists in her shop.

“Jim Cheatam is my best-selling artist,” said Lewis. He has paintings depicting scenes in West Columbia. And the prices for his artwork are reasonable, she said.

Cheatham’s work includes the new and iconic WECO sign on Meeting Street, and the State Streetscape featuring the colorful century-plus-old storefronts.  

Just a few doors down from State Street Trading Co. is the Rob Shaw Gallery and Framing shop at 324 State Street.

The gallery features many local artists including Rob Shaw, shop owner, and Blue Sky. Other artists represented in the gallery are: Tianov and George Stone.

As an art studio major in college at USC, Shaw worked at Heritage South Art Gallery in Columbia.  “Creating art and selling it are two different things, but I love doing both,” said Shaw.

Besides the art in the West Columbia shops and galleries, businesses have invested in art projects in the River District.

West Columbia Artist Kevin Pettit painted a mural on the Spring Street side of the Desa Ballard Law Firm at 226 State St. The mural features giant flowers and flying pigs.

D’s Wings, adjacent to the Interactive Art Park, is one of the new businesses that has moved in as a part of West Columbia’s revitalization. Christine Lutfy Crawford has expanded her art to the side wall of D’s. Her mural depicts the Gervais Street Bridge and the shops of State Street in vibrant yellow and blue colors. A very large mural is being painted in the Brookland complex at State and Meeting Streets.

The City of West Columbia also supports artists via special events like the Art-on-State held in the River District. It features local artists painting live murals on the street and other live demonstrations from artists including: BA Holman; Alicia Leeke; Autumn Lily Leaphart; Colleen Dwyer; Dylan Fouste; Kristin Holzer and Shaina Manuel.

Also, the West Columbia Meeting Street Artisan Market opened in September of 2019 and is a part of West Columbia’s revitalization plan. Artists are regularly included among the vendors at the Artisan Market. It’s next-to West Columbia’s Interactive Art Park at 425 Meeting St. The market is open from 11 am until 3 pm every Saturday.

The Artisan Market also conducts a 2nd Thursday Night Market on the second Thursday of each month. There is a 2nd Thursday market August 10. Kristin Holzer; Beni Hicks and Joni Trezza are just some of the artists represented at the Meeting Street Artisan Market.

Lots of progress has been made toward the growth and expansion of West Columbia. And support for the arts and artists has been a large part of that success.

Where to buy art:

State Street Trading Co. – 134 State Street

West Columbia Meeting Street Artisan Market – 425 Meeting Street

Rob Shaw Gallery and Framing – 324 State Street