Despite the cold and miserable weather the South Carolina Lowcountry is experiencing even as I write, spring is virtually upon us. Azaleas are shivering to life, tulip trees are blooming, johnny jump-ups are jumping, and majestic oaks are shedding old leaves to make way for new.

Preparations for Charleston's Spoleto 2014 are in full sway. Before we know it, the late Gian Carlo Menotti's vision of a Festival dei Duo Mondi will fill our streets with thousands of lovers of the visual and performing arts.

Once again we will have the opportunity to indulge ourselves in music, theater, dance, and improvisation of all sorts.

With a hint of Italian flavor, Spoleto is designed to suit everyone's taste.

Well, almost everyone's.

It is long past time, I think, that Spoleto USA expand its horizons, perhaps paradoxically by looking within.

In lieu of a Festival of Two Worlds, let's make it a Festival of Three. Let's give Charleston, and to a degree the whole South, a part to play in the festival's main stage action.

(And yes, I know this is what Spoleto's companion "Piccolo" is meant to do, but never quite pulls off.)

What I am suggesting is that the great wealth of local artistic talent, talent Spoleto itself has done so much to foster, be given deserved exposure to producers, critics, and visitors that merit alone dictates it should have.

Would it not be great for both Spoleto and local arts organizations that this be so?

That the Charleston Symphony Orchestra offer an annual performance of, say, George Gershwin's score for "Porgy and Bess," his "Rhapsody in Blue" and "An American in Paris" (music that's not only great but sounds good, too?)

That a Charleston dance company, after rigorous competition, go on stage to do - what else? - the Charleston?

Many have heard of it, but relatively few have ever seen it done properly.

Or that after another competition, a local theater group present a play by Tennessee Williams, the South's greatest playwright?

The possibilities would seem to be endless.

Call it Spoleto with a Southern flavor.

Isn't that what visitors come to Charleston to see?

Isn't this what would build an audience?

Charleston, not by accident, has become a world-class tourist destination. Spoleto has played not a small part in bringing this about.

And while it is tempting to say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," I believe the rewards of fixing it in the way I suggest far outweigh the possible costs.

In 2015, Charleston should have, at last, a grand opera house - I've seen the drawings. I say "should" because no major construction project ever seems to be completed here on time and on budget (with the notable exception of the Ravenel Bridge).

But whenever the RRG (Rivers, Riley and Gaillard) opens, I hope that "Porgy and Bess," with an entirely local cast and with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in the pit, is offered as RRG's premier production.

DuBose Heyward would be proud.

So would George and Ira Gershwin.

And if it happens that Spoleto is in town for the opening, so much the better.

In fact, why not make it the centerpiece of Spoleto's Festival of Three Worlds?

R.L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.