Friday Fiver: Carolyn Rivers

Carolyn Rivers

Carolyn Rivers

Carolyn Rivers is looking the change the world. Founder and director of The Sophia Institute, Carolyn guides the organization as “she focuses on personal and societal transformation that fosters the emergence of the Feminine, cultivating wisdom and mindfulness, for a more just, sustainable, flourishing world.” The Sophia Institute conducts retreats, classes, and seminars year-round. Their next event, More Lessons in Becoming Myself on Saturday April 30, features Academy Award winning actress Ellen Burstyn, who “chronicles through story and poetry her latest lessons in her transformative journey as a woman and an artist.”

We sat down with Carolyn for this week’s Friday Fiver:

What is the significance of “Sophia” in your organization’s name?

Sophia means “divine wisdom” in the ancient Greek and is portrayed in all the world’s traditions as the Feminine divine nature. In Christianity she is portrayed as Sophia or Mary, in Buddhism as Tara or Quan Yin, in Hinduism as Saraswati. She’s also the basis of philosophy- philosophy, the love of Sophia. At Sophia Institute our work is centered on the rise of the feminine, cultivating wisdom and mindfulness, for a more just, sustainable, and thriving world. Wisdom awakens us to new ways of living and being on the planet that honors the sacredness at the center of life and moves us to love in action to make the world a better place.

The Sophia Institute seeks to bring change to our world by “using a new model of spiritual partnership and integration between feminine and masculine values.” What is one way you hope that people can see the world differently through this new model?

I think the world is in a time of profound transformative change as more and more people awaken to what they are truly called to, to a wholeness that is part of their own innate nature. We have the opportunity now to move from “power over” or domination, to “power with” or true partnership and to cultivate a world that is more egalitarian, just, sustainable, and potentially a much more conscious world.

Your next speaker is acclaimed actress, storyteller, and author Ellen Burstyn. Why Ellen Burstyn as your choice for a speaker?

Ellen Burstyn

Ellen Burstyn

We’ve always loved Ellen Burstyn and the roles that she’s portrayed for women in our culture through film and theater. When we read her memoir Lessons in Becoming Myself we were truly moved by that, because we understood that the roles that she’s chosen and portrayed so well come out of a deep wellspring that she has found within herself, a wellspring that she’s cultivated, she’s worked hard to excavate through study, through her depth in Sufism, and through her mentor Lee Strasburg who really helped her perform from this deep wellspring, from her own true nature.

When you travel in your car, what’s on the radio?

Either its music like that of Harold Budd or All Things Considered.

If you could wave a magic wand over Charleston, what one thing would happen instantly?

Charleston would become a model city for greening consciousness and for greening the planet — for racial justice and environmental justice. It’s really what Sophia Institute is investing in now. It’s central to our evolving work.

Interested in being a Friday Fiver? Email

Barnes and Noble Fundraiser

We are so excited to be teaming up with our friends at Barnes and Noble in West Ashley to raise money for the Alliance! Come out tomorrow between 9 and 6 and paint a piano, join in for sing-a-longs, make some art, and buy books; a portion of the proceeds will go to helping us continue to support the arts in Charleston! If you can’t make it, no worries, just use the code 11828720 at ANY Barnes and Noble location or online at checkout and a portion of your purchase will go directly to The Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts.

So go ahead and get that Mother’s Day gift (yes, it’s coming up!), stock up your summer reading library, or just pop in and say hi and join in the fun!


Piccolo Lineup Announced!

This morning, Piccolo Spoleto announced their 2016 program calendar and poster and this year looks particularly exciting! Their Program Guide is gorgeous (shoutout to our friends at Annex Studios!) and packed full of classic Piccolo events, new shows, park openings, and more.

Check out the full lineup here!


Support the Arts on Giving Day!

The Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts is participating again this year in Lowcountry Giving Day! Lowcountry Giving Day is a day-long challenge to the community to show their support for the nonprofits that provide essential services.brand_stamp_3d

The Charleston Arts Alliance is an essential piece of the Lowcountry Arts puzzle. By providing a comprehensive arts calendar, business development workshops, our Lowcountry Arts Fund, and more we are able to support the entire network of nonprofit arts in Charleston.

By supporting the Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts, your donation gets stretched even farther out into the arts community.

Check out our “Arts Matter” video below and see what your donation goes to support!

H O W  T O  G I V E

  • Text: Text ARTSMATTER to 33923
  • Online: Visit (click on schedule donation and search for Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts)
  • Mail: Please make a check out to The Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts and send to 293 East Bay Street Charleston, SC 29401

All donations must be received by May 3, 2016. 


Questions? Email or give us a call at 843.577.5288

Friday Fiver: Mark Sloan

Mark Sloan has seen the Charleston arts scene change dramatically since he took the helm of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in 1994. A North Carolina native, Sloan is an accomplished artist who has exhibited across the country, and has authored or co-authored 14 books, with topics ranging from Russian contemporary art to 20th century circus life. At the Halsey, Sloan has showcases a wide range of contemporary art and brings an interactive component to each of the exhibits, in particular on each exhibit’s opening night, which usually features the artist. We sat down with him for this week’s Friday Fiver.By Nancy Santos

The Halsey’s current exhibit is “Young Contemporaries,” an annual showcase of College of Charleston students and recent grads. What trend(s) did you find in this year’s submissions?

There seems to be quite a lot of figurative work this year. It varies year to year, but the figure is present in sculpture, printmaking, photography, drawing, and painting.

The Halsey prides itself on finding art out of the mainstream to showcase. What artist with “out there” art were you most pleased to see the public’s reaction about?

Well, Jumaadi, our Indonesian visiting artist was pretty Out There, and the public seemed to eat him up. He was in residence for 45 days and did a variety of projects while here, including creating an evening of shadow puppet theater with local puppeteer Geoffrey Cormier and a group of dedicated artists and musicians, working with Academic Magnet High School students to produce an evening of shadow puppet theater that they produced, and he made an exquisite series of paintings, drawings, and cut outs that we displayed in the gallery. More than 100 people came to his going away party, so he had a big effect on our small community!

Visitors to the Halsey, particular during openings, are able to meet and chat with the artists. Tell us a little bit about the positives of the public having personal interaction with the artists.

We have always been committed to de-mystifying the creative process. One of the best ways to do that is to create opportunities for the public to interact with the artists in an informal setting. That way, people learn that artists are just like everyone else, but they happen to work in a visual medium.  It has been gratifying to witness these interactions. One visitor asked artist Lonnie Holley if he could articulate his reasons for making a particular piece. His memorable response was “If I could describe it in words, I wouldn’t have to make it.”

You have been the curator since 1994. How has the art scene in Charleston changed since then?

Charleston has changed tremendously since 1994. I think the contemporary art scene has grown exponentially.  It has been wonderful to watch the transformation and to have been a participant in this city-wide effort.  I am so pleased to see that we now have many other venues for the display of contemporary art—both for profit and not for profit spaces. The level of sophistication is also much higher. People from other major cities who have moved here brought their expectations, and Charleston has risen to the challenge. There seems to be much more community engagement with art and artists now. I think the Kulture Klash series did a great job of breaking down barriers between artists and audiences.

If you could wave a magic wand over Charleston and make one thing happen immediately, what would that be?

You mean, if I were a fairy princess?  I would magically transform the attitude toward local arts philanthropy.  I have lived and worked in Richmond, Charlotte, San Francisco, and upstate New York before moving here. I can tell you that getting people to financially support non profit arts organizations is much harder here than anywhere else I have lived. It seems the people here feel entitled to it, and therefore do not give. The Halsey Institute has an even harder time fundraising because many people wrongly assume that the College provides us with all the money we need.  That is certainly not the case. We have had to become quite successful at raising money through grants, private foundations outside of South Carolina, through earned income (traveling show rentals and catalogue sales), and through corporate sponsorship.  We do have a robust membership program now, but it has taken years to cultivate.


Interested in being a Friday Fiver? E-mail

Upcoming workshop: Selling Without Selling Out

The Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts is teaming up with 4th Wall for a fantastic workshop on April 27. Selling Without Selling Out is the perfect place for artists looking to enter the business, or those looking to enhance their brand.

Space is limited, so sign up soon! For details, click here.

Friday Fiver: Geoff Yost

Photo Credit: Colin J. Johnson, colinjjohnson.comGeoff Yost loves the creative process. As a partner and graphic designer at Annex Studio, Yost and his team collaborated with the Arts Alliance to develop, a calendar dedicated to the arts in the Lowcountry. Prior to opening Annex, Yost worked on numerous high-profile events, including the 2014 Inaugural Ceremony for the Governor of Virginia and President Obama’s 2012 Election Night in Chicago.

We sat down with Geoff for this week’s Friday Fiver.

Annex created the platform for the arts calendar at What separates the platform from other arts calendars on the web?

When the Alliance approached us to build an arts calendar, we knew using a third-party tool wasn’t going to work. For one, many of the existing calendar tools are clunky and difficult to use for developers, but more importantly, difficult to use for the visitor. We wanted to make sure the new arts calendar was super easy to use.

To accomplish this, we built a custom piece of software we call CurtainTime. CurtainTime is optimized for performance, chiefly ease of use, but under the hood too. A modern web application needs to work on every device, quickly, and there were many advantages to building a solution from the ground up.

We’re still working on improving CurtainTime, and since we’re the developers, and we’re not relying on someone else’s timeline, we can make improvements to add features and customizations for the Alliance and other clients much faster. Ultimately, that means every visitor gets a better experience and arts organizations, hopefully, fill more seats.

You are a font aficionado. How do you determine the perfect font for a particular project?

I love typefaces. I have since I was a very young kid. Some people say that type doesn’t matter, or there’s no difference between them, and to that I say: write the next memo to your boss in Comic Sans and see how that goes over. Like music, typefaces have tone, timbre, and rhythm. And, they change depending on the space in which they’re used. A kid’s birthday invitation might be the perfect place to use Comic Sans, although I probably still wouldn’t. A business memo, not so much.

For our projects, we start everything with research. We know the goals of the project. From that understanding, we start to get a feeling for the typographical style need to meet the goals. So, we’ll rely on our favorites, and some standbys, including the enduring Futura, the ‘Obama font’ Gotham, the classic Caslon, or my current favorite Harriet. We’re susceptible to trends, too. Proxima Nova and Lato get heavy use, two of the most popular typefaces on the web today (Proxima Nova is used for the headlines here on From the dozen or so go-to typefaces, we’ll look for specific typefaces that best match the project.

I’ll say this, there’s a special moment when you find the perfect typeface for a project. There’s an art to selecting type, but it’s the gut feeling that wins every time.

On your website, you say that at Annex, “Our charge is to bring all of this together: technology, design, experience, knowledge. And when we add you, your story, and your goals to the mix, something magical happens.” Tell us about the magic.

We do our best work under these conditions: first, we let our client be the expert in their business. Second, the client lets us be the expert in our business. We expect to learn from our client, and to teach them. We expect the same in reverse. Time and again, we’ve found that if these conditions are met, the magic happens. Everyone is bringing their strengths to the table. It allows us to be the most creative, and it ensures the client gets a design solution to their business problem.

The magic might be a great piece of underlying technology, like CurtainTime, or four beautiful designs for fundraising loyalty cards, like the Alliance’s ArtsMatter Card. Those creative solutions are the output of a trusting, curious relationship between client and agency. And, because we develop all of our designs and technology in house, we’re able to stoke that creative fire.

The Annex team all went to the College of Charleston. How does that Charleston tie help you in your work?

Yes, the four partners, our part-time developer, and our intern are all College of Charleston folk. We learned how to design and write code while at the College, in this city. As a result, the city is a constant source of inspiration. We’ve looted the Charleston urban fabric for everything from color palettes to patterns and symbols. We’re even exploring creating an original typeface, our own, with inspiration drawn from old Charleston signage and printing.

We also love admiring, collaborating with, and drawing inspiration from the other creative firms and organizations in town. There’s a great sense of community here and whether it’s a tech happy hour, a new exhibition at City Gallery, or an artist lecture at the Halsey, there are a million ways we connect with Charleston to stretch our creativity. A peaceful lunch in the Cistern Yard on the campus can be a perfect recharge, too.

If you could wave a magic wand over Charleston, what would instantly happen?

Charleston has to further its support for artists and creative professionals. Our city’s vibrancy comes from its diversity of thought, and the city deeply needs to address the growing difficulties people like me and other artists of all kinds have in maintaining a presence in the urban core. Affordable housing, better transportation, and real incentives to be creative are needed. Not sure I have the solution, but we will not continue to be the destination we are for so much of the world if a growing number of the people that make the city what it is are not able to make a life here.

Interested in being featured in a Friday Fiver? Email