Going Green : Porgy & Bess

It's safe to say Spoleto 40 is going Green, Jonathan Green that is. 

Starting with the Spoleto Festival poster. Green is only the second artist from South Carolina to have their artwork used for the official poster. Needless to say he has not taken the opportunity lightly.

Who better than Green, a low-country native raised in a Gullah community, to trust as the visual designer of this oh-so-Charleston performance?

 We were curious what all of the Porgy and Bess fuss was about - so when we found out this years #spoletoSCENE tickets included a free pass to the dress rehearsal, we signed ourselves up! What a show! Besides the phenomenal opera - it was a refreshing visual experience - all thanks to Green. 

 His punchy-palette & bold prints come alive on stage. It's as if you're watching one of his famous oil paintings come to life.

The last time Charleston saw a production of Porgy and Bess was 1970. Appropriately timed to christen the newly rebuilt Galliard Center. It was a world class performance but in our perfect world, Beyonce and Jay Z would've revamped the soundtrack. Let's hope to revisit, say Spoleto 60? Or we'll settle for an HBO special. 

In his narrative paintings, Green is referencing his life in Charleston as part of the Gullah community. On stage he shines a light on a man who has decorated the city of Charleston since 1938 with his ornamental iron work.

Philip Simmons, a renowned Charleston Blacksmith, lives on in Porgy and Bess in the form of a veiled iron gate. Simmons spent nearly a century living in the Eastside neighborhood of Charleston. It was there, as a boy, he took to the trade. With over 500 pieces under his belt, Simmons has left quite the impression on the Holy City in the form of gates, fences, grills, etc. His work can be seen all over the peninsula!

 Simmons pictured here at his eastside home next to his bottle cap portrait by local artist, Molly B. Right.

Simmons pictured here at his eastside home next to his bottle cap portrait by local artist, Molly B. Right.


Location is everything. As a boy Philip Simmons attended Buist Academy on Calhoun St. fatefully located beside the Gaillard Center. A life of accomplishment spanning a tiny low-country peninsula brings new meaning to the phrase "where ever you go, there you are."

You know it's summer in Charleston when the circular wrought iron (cough cough Simmons) signs start popping up all over downtown. Spoleto Festival 40 is upon us and Charleston is heating up - literally! Just ask the artists in Marion Square ;)