SEWE returns to roots with renewed focus on art

Original art on display in the Charleston Place Hotel.

Despite what many think the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition is all about — DockDogs, decoys and Birds of Prey — the three-day event actually originated as an arts show.

“SEWE began as a wildlife arts show in 1983; no DockDogs, no Birds of Prey, just wildlife art and decoys,” says SEWE Art Director Natalie Wooten.

“Throughout the decades, SEWE has evolved into the largest platform in the Southeast for conservation groups and brings in an average attendance of 40,000. While our outdoor venues have become crowd favorites and the retriever demonstrations along the Ashley River are hard to beat, the heart of SEWE remains celebrating wildlife art.”

The 33rd annual event, which runs Friday to Sunday, will be held at nine venues throughout downtown Charleston. With the work of approximately 100 painters, carvers and sculptors featured in Charleston Place Hotel’s grand ballroom alone, SEWE will highlight the works of well-respected veterans, mid-career artists and talented up-and-comers throughout the weekend.

“Each artist is selected by a panel of jurors. The jury committee bases their decision on the artist’s subject matter, composition and style, also placing a strong focus on diversity. The jurors work diligently to curate a fresh and diverse mix of artists while staying true to our goal of celebrating wildlife art and the sporting life,” explains Wooten.

And while attention over the last few years has focused on things other than art, organizers of the event are striving to bring SEWE full circle this year with a renewed focus on the art aspect, including introducing a new arts event.

New this year, The Twelve Days of SEWE Christmas arose through the collaboration of SEWE staff and wildlife and landscape artist Jason Tako.

Selected for the special project “because of his broad range of subject matter and his appealing blend of impressionism and realism,” the 12 original works are based on the popular Christmas song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

In an excerpt from Tako’s description of the project, he says, “The exhibit consists of 12 paintings that depict each theme in the song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ using wildlife as subject matter. The project was a challenge to say the least. While some themes in the song were a natural fit for wildlife, like Seven Swans a Swimming, other themes required much research and creativity. My goal for the project was not to literally describe every theme in the song down to the exact detail, but to find unique and even clever ways of using a critter to describe the theme.”

The pieces, complete with a description that describes Tako’s thought process in creating each painting, will be on display at the Charleston Place Hotel and will be available by silent auction or can be purchased as a complete set.

Returning for a second year is the special Duet & Quintet event, which will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday in the ballroom at the Charleston Place Hotel.

Artists Grant Hacking and John Seerey-Lester will paint an original oil painting while sculptors Scott Penegar and David Turner create a piece out of plaster and clay, all to the background of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Woodwind Quintet.

A live auction will be held afterward for attendees to bid on the one-of-a-kind pieces.

While not new to SEWE, but a recent addition in respect to the 33-year history, the Quick Draw/Speed Sculpt event will offer attendees the chance to see the imagination, talent and process behind SEWE artists.

Participating artists will paint or sculpt an original piece from start to finish in just one hour.

“You can feel the energy in the ballroom as the artists dig in for an hour of solid painting/sculpting while crowds gather round to watch,” says Wooten.

The following artists are participating:

Patricia Griffin

Heiner Hertling

Julie Jeppsen

Mark Kelso

Ryan Kirby

Hilarie Lambert


Scott Penegar

Stefan Savides

David Turner

Ronnie Wells

The Quick Draw/Speed Sculpt event will take place at 3 p.m. Friday. After a short period of drying, framing and setting, a live auction will be held for attendees to bid on the one-of-a-kind paintings and sculptures.

Also added to the line-up within the last seven years, a group of local and regional artists and artisans will be taking up residence at the Mills House Hotel for the weekend.

“The Mills House Hotel exhibit is another favorite of mine,” says Wooten. “The mix of exhibitors in the Mills House range from ethically sourced skins to locally made wood tables and has a strong representation of local artists and artisans.”

Featuring everything from painters, sculptors, woodsmen, authors, artisans and craftsman, the site hosts the Wednesday night Opening Reception, which offered VIP members the first opportunity to check out the offerings from the following participants:

Amanda McLenon (Circle the Stream) of Charleston

Brackish Brand of Charleston

Cecilia Murray of Charleston

Charleston Views of Charleston

Christina Hewson of Charleston

Holly Glasscock of Catawba

JI 9 Sculpting of Columbia

Kathy Clark of Sullivan’s Island

Landrum Tables of Charleston

Matt Wilson of North Charleston

SC Joggling Board Co. of Florence

Shrimp, Collards & Grits of Hilton Head

The Coastal Gallery, LLC. of St. Helena

Exhibit hours for the Mills House are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

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