Beaufort worth the trip to view “A Nativity Celebration”

By Deena C. Bouknight/Photography by Sissy Perryman

unnamed (4)For the last eight years, First Presbyterian Church of Beaufort – a two-hour drive from Columbia – has hosted A Nativity Celebration, featuring 100-plus unique and artistic natvity scenes hand-made in various spots around the world. Perusing the creches during the three-day event, from December 7-9, is like taking a visual global tour. Each is distinct and many convey aspects of a country’s culture.

The nativities are shared by local residents and church members as well as provided on loan from others outside the community. Each stands alone as an aesthetic vignette narrative of the birth of Christ. Styles range from whimiscal snow globes to eleborate porcelain sets. Some natvities make repeat appearances each year, while others are new. Some are so small they fit in a matchbox, while others sprawl across an entire table. Most are traditional table displays; a few hang.

They might be constructed of bent nails, recycled metals, or even local oyster shells.

There are German Hummel figurines as well as sets from Vietnam, Phillipines, Cameroon, and many other countries.

“It is amazing to see how the Christmas story is depicted by artists from all over the world,” says Donna Sheetz, FPC’s volunteer nativity coordinator. “Whether they are made from banana leaves or oyster shells, wood or fine porcelain – each nativity tells a story unique to the artist’s culture.”

Nativity photos by Sissy Perryman-Beaufort

The three-day event draws school children, assisted living and nursing home residents, tourists, locals, and more.

The goal, explains Donna, is to show the true meaning of Christmas through the eyes of the world. A Nativity Celebration is located in First Presbyterian Church of Beautfort, 1201 North Street, and is a “gift” to the public – free of charge.

Lighten Up!


Visit Spartanburg before next March for an interactive art experience

By Deena C. Bouknight

Since it is often difficult to attract non-artsy types inside museums, the Spartanburg Art Museum (SAM) came up with a unique way to bring art literally street level for anyone to enjoy. Lighten Up Spartanburg! involves 28 giant fiberglass light bulbs that were distributed to 36 artists as a blank canvas, so to speak, so they could spend three months transforming them into distinct works of art. Since the unveiling of the light bulb art in downtown Spartanburg, tens of thousands have had a chance to view the art – if not in person then on the museum’s free, easy-to-use tour app, which offers an interactive GPS location map as well as audio recording of each artists explaining the meaning and inspiration of each giant light bulb art.

Mat Duncan, curator of collections at SAM, explained why it was important to offer this art to the public: “We looked around Spartanburg and felt local artists, artists from the Southeast, were conspicuously absent from public spaces. There was plenty of public art, but it had all been done by people from New York, Europe, and so on. We conceived of Lighten Up Spartanburg! as a way for our local artists’ voices to be heard.  And now that they’re in the interactive tour app, that’s literal as well as figurative.”

The project is sponsored by local businesses, and Mat, as well as others, is hopeful that this project will help put the Southeast on the map regarding quality, creative art forms.

So far, more than 60 percent of users of the art app have been from South Carolina. The other significant interest has come from North Carolina and Georgia, yet there have been users in California, New York, and other states. Since Spartanburg is just off Interstate 26, stopping off to see the light bulbs is doable for many traveling up and down the highway.

The interactive tour app is available at artbulbs.oncell.com. On the app, glimpse everything from the light bulb that looks like a giant cactus, by artist Kathy Wofford, to one called “I Breathe” by artist Denise Torrance, who considers her light bulb art a colorful silk mosaic expression of womanhood. There is a light bulb made to resemble a hot air balloon, while another features a pastoral mountain scene within. Each is unique; on display is a myriad of different mediums.

carey_edited-18Lighten Up Spartanburg! ends March 1, 2018. Until then, take a phone or tablet to Spartanburg and find and learn about artistic expressions in outdoor light bulb art that span from the serious to whimsical. Plus, enjoy getting to know the city as there are installations in City Center, Downtown, and Greater Spartanburg.

For more information, visit spartanburgartmuseum.org/publicart.



Childhood Memories

Dutch Dives In, written by Margaret “Peg” Finlay Averyt, tells the Pawley’s Island beach adventures of a little blonde girl, Dutch.

By Deena C. Bouknight

Peg Finlay Averyt is an artist, gallery owner, little sister of former Columbia mayor Kirkman Finlay Jr., and now achildren’s book author. She combines her knowledge of art as Finleaf Gallery owner, her skills as an artist, and her creative writing talents in her books: Willowbel’s Wagon and Dutch Dives In.

Both stories pull from powerful memories of growing up in South Carolina. Willowbel’s Wagon, published in 2013, is a fanciful tale about a family of brown rabbits who inhabited woods in the Heathwood Circle neighborhood.  Published this year is Dutch Dives In, which revisits time Peg spent on Pawley’s Island with her favorite doll, Mary California, and her family. She conveys at the end of the book how her father, Kirkman Finlay Sr., gave her the nickname Dutch because of her white blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin.

Peg’s treasured memories include her grandmother making clothes for Mary California, packing the doll’s clothes for the beach vacations, and generally treating the doll as a person. “Mary California and I would swim and swim and then we just played out on the beach,” she says.

In a small cardboard suitcase, Dutch packed play clothes and a pink night gown for her doll, Mary California.
“Oh, Carolina Moon keep shining, Shining on the one who waits for me.”

In the book, Dutch Dives In, the memory of the doll being sung the song “Carolina Moon” is shared, complete with a verse from the song, which was a hit in the 1950s.

Each book features watercolor illustrations by Peg. In Dutch Dives In, the artistic process is explained: “… hand-painted watercolors on squares of cotton batiste found in a mill in Union, S.C.” Edges of the batiste are fringed.

Dutch swam in the ocean, built sand castles, and collected sea shells.

Both books are available at the Finleaf Gallery on Devine Street, along with works by other local authors and artists, plus handmade gifts, bridal registries, a ladies boutique, and teas.

A Thoughtful Touch

By Kirstie Boone

With the holiday season quickly approaching and the atmosphere becoming more festive by the minute, it’s time to begin planning for your fabulous holiday parties. Between the cooking, cleaning, planning and decorating, it’s easy to overlook the small details involved in party planning. Decisions such as which color tablecloth to use, how many seats to plan for each table and what the menu should be often overshadow smaller, more personal aspects of party planning. However, the small decisions are just as important as the big details. Little things such as creative, personalized place cards can easily take your party from ordinary to amazing, and we’ve gathered our favorite place card ideas for holiday inspiration!

Add a pine cone to your place setting to display your place cards. Wrap wire in a circular shape then attach the wire to the top of the pine cone to hold the place card. For a creative twist, paint the pine cones a festive color like gold or red.

Visit blog.simplelittledetails.com for more information.

These gorgeous pumpkins are the perfect place setting for Thanksgiving dinner! Use twine or ribbon to tie the place card to the stem of a pumpkin. Bonus points if you use a fall-themed shape for your place card.

Your guests won’t “be-leaf” their eyes when they see this stunning place setting. Start by gathering large leaves or buying decorative leaves from your local craft store. Use gold spray paint to coat the leaves. Let dry, then write each guest’s name on the leaf and place at each setting.

Visit mylifeandkids.com for more information. 

Use a small, potted succulent for each place setting. Attach each guest’s name to a short skewer to stick in the soil of the succulent. This place card holder doubles as a unique party favor that guests will be able to take home with them!

Ruffled - photo by http://shewanders.com/ - http://ruffledblog.com/malibu-calamigos-ranch-wedding/
Visit ruffledblog.com for more information.

For a more rustic place setting, use a cross cut of a branch or tree for your place setting. Use a marker to write your guests’ names on the wood. If you don’t have access to tools to cut up a branch, these cross cuts can usually be found at craft stores.

Visit tarateaspoon.com for more information.

Use rosemary or pine sprigs to add a natural, simple touch to your table. These place settings not only look gorgeous, but also smell amazing! One option is to place the sprigs through the card, or wrap the springs into a wreath shape to place on top of a napkin or dish.


Jingle bells! Use bells to hold your place cards. This simple yet creative place card holder is sure to spread good cheer (and maybe a few jingles) around the dinner table.

Visit jacolynmurphy.com for more information. 

Remembering the small details during the busy holiday season will make any party complete. With these adorable place settings, guests are sure to remember your holiday party as being the best of the season. Happy Holidays from all of us at Columbia Metropolitan!

Southern Saunterings: Act 1, Scene 1

By Emily Clay


For some time now, I’ve intended to launch a regular blog column, Southern Saunterings, that will share reflections of life growing up in the South. Our culture is unique, and those of us who are blessed to have lived our entire lives in the South will always have stories to tell. Seeing Town Theatre’s performance of the Addams Family Musical this week prompted me to take the plunge since local theater was very much a part of my childhood.

My very first time seeing a play was in 1965 when I was 5 years old. It was thrilling for three reasons: my beloved grandparents were taking me, I was instructed to wear my favorite party dress with my patent leather Mary Janes, and I had no idea what a play was. We arrived at the small theater and found our seats rather close to the front. I sat in between my grandparents and marveled over all of the ladies and gentlemen, attired in pretty dresses and handsome suits, meandering to their seats around the circular stage. I could clearly see the faces of guests across the stage… the theater was that small.

I’m not sure what my young mind expected as the lights dimmed since there was no screen for projecting a movie, however, I was quite startled when the “play” took place with actors within a stone’s throw of my seat. The close proximity certainly cemented the reality of the story since I was right there with the characters for the adventure. It was thrilling at that… with a suspenseful storyline.

At one point, the beloved and beautiful heroine was about to be attacked by a wretched man, sneaking up behind her. We all sat holding our breaths as he got closer and closer to her.  My heart raced…and I realized I must help. “Watch out!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. Then I jumped to my feet. “Behind you!”

The actors froze on stage, and the theater erupted in laughter. I was quite confused. My beloved grandfather (Pa to me, but Tom Gignilliat to the rest of the world) removed his hat from his lap and pulled me quickly into his arms. “Emily, you must be quiet,” he whispered gently in my ear. “The actors are pretending like they do in a movie. Don’t worry about her ­­— it’s all part of the play.”

What a way to learn that a play was not real life. Nonetheless, I decided the safest place to sit for the remainder of the performance was in Pa’s lap, because the suspense was far from over. Plus, I eventually slid right back into the mindset that the stage was actually a real life adventure.

Still a little unpolished as a theater buff, I was soon invited to another play with Mamie and Pa. As Mamie tied the bow on my light yellow dress, she gave some well-needed advice about theater protocol. I took in her words as I admired her amethyst suit and her glittery gold charm bracelet. I wanted to please her so I was determined to be quiet as a mouse and good as gold.

This time the play was a musical and was beyond my young imagination of entertainment. I well remember the name of it: Gypsy. Sound familiar to any of you? If not, let me share with you that my grandparents had no idea that this play was a strip tease! It highlighted the life of the rather notorious Gypsy Rose Lee with songs that rocked Broadway, including Let Me Entertain You.

Now, it was Mamie and Pa’s turn to want to yell mid-act. I think their choice words might have been: “Stop! Please stop!”

Gypsy was far more eye popping than any entertainment I’d ever seen. I will never forget the bump de bump music as the curvaceous and beautiful ladies ripped their clothes off to reveal bikinis that had blinking lights, everywhere. I was mesmerized! But my grandparents were horrified. In fact, there was no discussion of the play during the entire ride home. At the time, I thought it was because the engine in Pa’s 1955 light green sedan hummed so loudly.

The next day, we went to church and then out to lunch with all of the family. When my unknowing aunt asked how the play was, I jumped up and, to the best of my 5-year-old ability, did the bump de bump dance that had enthralled me the night before. While I, of course, kept my clothes on, I certainly gave voice to where the blinking lights would be if only I had one of those fabulous bikinis. Oh, my poor grandparents. So much for hoping that Gypsy Rose Lee had slipped past my understanding.

There is truly nothing quite like local theater. In keeping with my grandparents’ tradition, I have often taken our three girls to enjoy productions at the wonderful theaters we have in Columbia. In fact, I took Margaret, our oldest, to her first play when she was 3. It was a stellar performance of South Pacific at the Town Theatre with a live orchestra. Since then, we have returned time and again for endless productions that have further embedded a love of theater in our hearts.

13164360_10154198747461528_4829720089937211354_nThe current production of The Addams Family Musical is as stunning as any play the Town Theatre has ever produced. It is a true show stopper with Sheldon Paschal as Morticia and Clayton King as Gomez, both leading a magnificent cast. The two dynamos can sing, dance and act as well as anyone on Broadway…and yet they chose Columbia as their home to entertain. The supporting cast of The Addams Family as well as the sets, the choreography and the costumes surpassed any of my preconceived expectations. Mamie and Pa, no doubt, would have enjoyed it as much as I did.

If local theater hasn’t become a part of your routine in the Midlands, then you have a real treat in store for you. Call the Town Theatre for tickets as The Addams Family runs through the end of May. Don’t wait another minute before you start making some great family memories!