This year, 86 local artists will be featured at Marion Square. The free exhibition is open to the public daily through June 7.
What makes the outdoor show so much fun for audiences, said Scott Watson, director of the city of Charleston's Office of Cultural Affairs, is that artists commit 16 days to be on site with their work, answering questions and doing demonstrations.
In "The Great Paint Out" on May 25 and June 1, all participating artists will set up easels and work on new paintings. Each artist is stationed in a square white tent. In addition, two highlighted artists will do demonstrations every other day.
"Some people are coming specifically to Charleston's main public plaza to see these works of real rich creativity, crafts and technique," Watson said. "Other folks just happen to be on their way to theater and passing through Marion Square."
First launched in 1979, Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Exhibition focused on promoting artists based in South Carolina. Vicki Ellis and Lesley Johnson are the longtime coordinators. Ellis pointed out that this is a good opportunity for local artists to have their work seen, attract attention from galleries and socialize with audiences and other artists.
Even though artist Elaine Berlin has a full-time job running a family business, she has participated in the art show for 26 years. She said she looks forward to being in her tent, painting and meeting people.
"A lot of us have been seeing each other every year, getting new information and growing new techniques," she said. "It is a learning thing for us, too. So we enjoy it."
Artists often are curious about those who take their works home.
"Paintings are personal," noted first-time participant Amanda McLenon. But the show gives artists a chance to mingle a little and get to know some of the buyers.
Tate Nation, an organizer as well as a participating artist, said he rarely sits down in his tent. "I'm always on my feet talking to people, which I love to do, totally love it."