I came across the South Porch Artists Residency by way of an ad in the Summerville Orchestra’s program. In fact, the S.O.’s concert weekend of Nov. 11 is when they hosted guest composer and conductor, Chris Pilsner, who performed one of his works at that weekend’s concerts.
This haven for artists began shortly after partners Brad Erickson and Brian Protheroe moved here last year after spending decades in Northern California. They ended up purchasing the beautiful, historic 5-bedroom Federalist style home built in 1835 in Summerville and started the artists residency for those artists who need a quiet respite or are passing through the area and need accommodations. Residencies can go from anywhere from between a four-day stay up to four weeks. The property also has a modern 3,300 square foot cottage studio offering residents additional bedrooms and over 2,000 square-feet of studio and making space.
Regan: How was this idea born to create the Lowcountry’s first artists residency? Did you have something like that in California?
Brad Erickson: As a playwright, I’ve been to several artist residencies, and they were incredibly important to me in terms of my own writing. While I was on a retreat near the Joshua Tree National Park five or six years ago, I realized this is what I wanted to do next in my professional career. From that point on, Brian and I kept an eye out for a property that could work.
R: Brad, you are an award-winning playwright, actor, arts administrator and advocate from San Francisco. What do you hope the artists residency will do for creatives and this area?
Brad: Yes, for nearly two decades, I was the executive director of the “Theatre Bay Area,” which is one of the nation’s largest regional performing arts service organizations. I see the convergence of art, scholarship and the spirit as provocative to our residents and life-giving to our community. I attended Chicago’s Goodman School of Drama (now known as the Theatre School of DePaul University). I am excited about our new residency here because I really see it as an extension of my career supporting artists and engaging folks with the arts. We just finished our first season of residencies, and we’re thrilled that our artists told us their time here offered everything we hoped it would — a break from their everyday lives, dedicated time for their artmaking, a beautiful space, a welcoming community, and a supportive group of fellow artists.
R: Brian, you come from a talent and organizational development background. What are your dreams for this venture?
Brian: The purpose of South Porch is to provide time and space for creatives to hone their craft which is very much aligned with my profession of talent and leadership development. In the corporate world, organizations want employees with skill sets that are both sustainable and in demand, and I provide learning experiences for employees to discover, cultivate, and build their professional skills. I get a lot of joy when I see individuals achieve their development goals, because they are nurturing their passion, and that’s what I hope for our residents here.
R: Do you solely cater to artists?
Brad: Yes, we’re focused on people coming to work on a creative project. We intentionally define “creative work” really broadly in order to welcome all kinds of artists, writers, scholars and clergy. All candidates complete an application process where they tell us about their work.
R: What makes this place special? Did you have to renovate the building?
Brad: Before we came to Summerville, Brian and I looked at a lot of properties in a lot of different places. When we saw this place, we knew it had all the components we knew we needed. It was big enough to house a cohort of artists. It had a lot of empty space for studios and artmaking. It was beautiful.
Brian: When we purchased 516 Central Avenue, the main house was in wonderful condition, but there was a lot to be done in order to transform the property into an eye-catching and functional artists residency. I had taken time off from work and was able to spend several months painting and furnishing the property. Keep in mind, we moved from a one-bedroom home in San Francisco, to this seven-bedroom property, so this was no small undertaking. We are so grateful to all the local vendors and craftsmen we’ve worked with. Folks like Summerville Antique Gallery, Novem Bathroom & Tile, Peartree Homes for building out the back cottage, Ferria Landscaping for the gorgeous brick patio, and The Works Landscaping for sculpting an oasis out of a jungle.
R: Do you plan to hold special creative socials or events there at all?
Brad: We definitely want to create ways for our artists to interact with the local community. We envision salons and artist talks, authors reading from their works. One of our visual artists this spring wants us to open the studio while he is here so folks can watch him create. We’d love to partner with local arts groups to host events.
Brian: We have already seen the residents and the local community enjoy engaging with one another. The artists loved checking out the strong, local arts scene, like the Public Works Art Center, Summerville Orchestra, and Flowertown Players. The artists and our neighbors developed a great rapport, often over a glass of wine!
R: How do artists get in touch with you to learn more?
Brad: Our website is a great place to start. We’re also active on Facebook and Instagram. Next year, residencies run January 30 to June 26 and again in the fall, September 11 to November 13. To apply, folks can visit our website and submit a completed application to email@example.com.
Mary E. Regan, Columnist, is a Freelance Publicist with her ProPublicist.com consultancy.
Seeking new publicity clients and writing projects. Story ideas? Email: Mary@ProPublicist.com.