As Spoleto Festival USA and Piccolo Spoleto approach, our city is becoming a mecca for artists, both famous and aspiring. Where else can you have a poetry contest about a famous garden and have it judged by the poet laureate of our state?

For the famous artist, it's time to get your tickets to hear "Art, Life & Politics: Shepard Fairey in Conversation with Mark Sloan" at the Charleston Music Hall at 37 John Street. Fairey is here in conjunction with the opening of his exhibit at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art where his work is hung with those of another famous South Carolina artist, Jasper Johns.

Sloan, director and senior curator of the Halsey, has put together "The Insistent Image: Recurrent Motifs in the Art of Shepard Fairey and Jasper Johns" exhibit that opens May 22, but the talk is at 6 p.m. Thursday and tickets are $15.

Why should you go? Fairey is one of our nationally known contemporary, and quite controversial, artists. It was his portrait of Barack Obama that became a signature of the president's first campaign. And Fairey has stirred the pot politically with other art installations.

His new works, created for this exhibition, are "full of in-your-face slogans and statements about power, security, protection and comparable subjects," according to the information about the show.

It should be interesting to hear him talk about the impact of his work, and what happens when an artist's work becomes part of a national discourse.

The exhibition opens to the public at 6 p.m. May 22 at the Halsey.

All-Chopin program

In the category of becoming famous, 18-year-old pianist Micah McLaurin will give an all-Chopin program at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Ashley Hall McBee House on 172 Rutledge Ave.

McLaurin has distinguished himself in national and international competitions. He has appeared as soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Orquesta Filarmonica de Montevideo, Orquesta Juvenil de El Salvador, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, the Youth Orchestra of the LowCountry, and the South Carolina Philharmonic.

He was one of eight pianists chosen worldwide to participate in the 2011 Verbier Festival Academy in Switzerland.

He also has won a number of prestigious prizes and is studying at the Curtis Institute of Music of Philadelphia.

This is one young artist to watch, and not just because he lives here.

This is part of the Charleston Academy of Music's Guest Artists Series.

More information can be found on www.CharlestonMusic.org/ConcertSeries.

'Princess Charming'

In the hoping to be famous category, Lauren Hope Krass of Theatre 99 is producing a one-woman musical titled "Princess Charming." She says it's "a unique hybrid of a comedy and drama all within the confines of a musical."

Now it's always intriguing when a female comedienne comes out with a new show, and with this one she's had help from John R. Brennen, from off-Broadway's "Banana Monologues," with directing and creating the show.

She describes it as a woman who has figured out that Prince Charming may never appear and she "must get her head out of the clouds or she could end up married to a bald video rental clerk unworthy of her compassion."

It's also her first effort at producing, so it's great to support an emerging artist.

Theatre 99 is our repository of comedy, so it should be a fun production. It will be at Theatre 99 at 8 p.m. Thursday and at 10 p.m. Saturday. Theatre 99 is at 280 Meeting St. (above the Bicycle Shoppe). The stairs to the entrance are at the back of the building. Tickets are $8 and can be found at theatre99.com.

Poetry contest

And in the category of being judged by the famous, the winners of the top prizes in the Magnolia Gardens poetry contest were announced this week.

The adults were judged by Marjory Wentworth, South Carolina poet laureate, and Dr. Jacquelyn Markham, an award-winning poet.

For those who don't know Wentworth, she works tirelessly to spread the word about poetry, and has several published books. She read one of her poems at the first inauguration of then-Gov. Mark Sanford, who appointed her to the poet laureate post.

The students were judged by Donna Adams, reference and young adult librarian at the Otranto Road Regional Library in North Charleston, and Willette Wilkins, creative writing teacher at the North Charleston Cultural Arts Department.

Two Summerville residents won the top prizes in the contest with the theme of, "Sharing the Romance."

In the adult competition, Pam Stuart won $500 for her poem "O! Magnolia." In the youth competition, Rachael Laemers, a 15-year-old student at Summerville High School, won an iPad for her poem "The Garden of Love."

Judges selected poems that best emulate the sensibility of romantic poets and described Magnolia as an idyllic "garden of romance." Magnolia is America's last large-scale romantic-style garden.

Nearly 200 poems were submitted from poets across the country. The winning poems are posted on Magnolia's website: www.magnoliaplantation.com/garden_of_romance_poetry_contest.html.

Reach Stephanie Harvin at 937-5557 or sharvin@postandcourier.com.