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.

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ECM seeking director of development

Our ECM-5.5x8.5-front-661x1024friends at Engaging Creative Minds are currently taking applications for the open position of Director of Development and Communications. ECM does great work in our community, integrating the arts and education “to inspire the creative and innovative potential of all students to achieve academically and become imaginative, adaptable, and productive adults resulting in stronger communities and an increasingly competitive South Carolina workforce.”

For more information on ECM, visit their website.

Congratulations to the Best of Charleston!

city paperThe Charleston City Paper’s Best of Charleston 2016 is out, and the Alliance is thrilled to see so many members representing the Holy City. Among the winners:

Readers’ picks:

Best Building Dock Street Theatre (third year in a row); Runner-up: Galliard Center

Best FestivalSpoleto Festival USA (second year in a row)

Non-Piccolo or Spoleto Play of 2015 – Grey GardensVillage Repertory Co.; Runner-up: Always … Patsy Cline, Midtown Productions

Cultural Event Spoleto Festival USA (fourth year in a row); Runner-up: Piccolo Spoleto

MuseumGibbes Museum of Art; Runner-up: Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry

Best Jazz Band Charleston Jazz Orchestra (fourth year in a row)

Best GalleryThe Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art

Critics’ Picks

Yarn BombEnough Pie project at St. Julian Devine Community Center

Place to Hear Vocal HarmoniesGaillard Center

Best New MuralEnough Pie‘s mural at John. L. Dart Library

Congratulations again to all the winners!

Friday Fiver: Joseph Demerly

Photo by Jonathan BoncekJoseph Demerly’s life has been theatre. Since he was a young boy, Demerly has been involved in all aspects of putting on a show. He carried that love into his professional life, and is now the Executive Director of Theatre Charleston, an alliance of local theatres with a mission “to promote awareness and visibility for live theatre in the Charleston area, and provide services that strengthen the operations of both the member theatres and performing arts organizations in general.” Demerly relocated here from Buffalo, where he was the managing director Kavinoky Theatre. One major aspect of his new career is overseeing the Unified Auditions, which will be held April 2. Theatre Charleston is partnering with the South Carolina Theatre Association to bring dozens of directors and producers to search for actors, designers and technicians. For more information on the auditions, click HERE.

What is one key piece of advice you would give to actors planning to attend unified auditions?

Auditioning can be scary and intimidating (at least it is for me!) Let your hair down, take a deep breath, and relax; have fun and show the directors that you’re confident in what you do. A flubbed line is a lot better than watching someone who isn’t confident. Be confident!

You moved to Charleston from Buffalo, NY. What is the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make living in the Lowcountry?

The bugs! I am not a fan of bugs. Oh, and those little lizards. And the frogs. I’m not a creepy-crawler kinda guy. Other than those things, the adjustment has been just great. The people down here are as nice as can be…and the weather isn’t too bad either (no snow!)

What is the favorite role you’ve played on stage? On a similar note, what is one role you have yet to play that you would love to?

I had the awesome opportunity to play Richard Loeb in “Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story” starring opposite its writer/composer, Stephen Dolginoff. Oddly enough, I played Nathan Leopold seven years earlier in “Never the Sinner.” As for roles that I haven’t done that I’d like to… Hmm. A role that I always wanted to play (and am now far too old to play) is The Writer in Tennessee Williams’s “Vieux Carre.” It is one of the last plays he wrote and, I believe, his most autobiographical; it’s beautiful.

How do you see the Charleston theater scene evolving over the next few years?

There is so much passion and a great deal of pride involved in anyone who produces or participates in live theater. Although I’ve only been in Charleston for eight months, I am pleasantly relieved that the theater scene is as large as it is here! My job as Executive Director for Theatre Charleston is to advocate for this area’s growing theater scene; I can only hope that it continues to grow and that those in the Lowcountry (and those who visit) will do themselves a favor and see a show! Bring your kids, invite your neighbors: the great thing about live theater is that it truly is participatory; the actors can HEAR you, too! I love everything about theater.

What’s your favorite guilty pleasure TV show?

Now that “Downton Abbey” is over, it has to be cooking shows. I particularly like “Masterchef” and “Worst Cook in America”. You can occasionally catch me watching one of the “Housewives of…” on BRAVO but I won’t admit to that in person.


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Friday Fiver: Deane Valentine Bowers

ImageYour trash is Deane Valentine Bowers’s treasure. Or, at least, it could be soon. Deane is an environmental folk artist, and her creations are crafted from items she finds strewn about. She finds dual inspiration from the beauty of the Lowcountry and her desire to clean up the community.

“Inspiration is always found in the beauty and simplicity of the South Carolina coast. For this reason, I am passionate about being an environmentally conscientious artist and I make it my mission to create eco friendly art. Using mostly discarded, abandoned, and reclaimed materials, my ‘recycled folk art’ celebrates these forgotten things,” she said.

Originally from Richmond, Va., Deane now lives on Seabrook Island. Her mixed media sculptures are colorful and vibrant, and each is a fun exploration to discover how she has repurposed the items she has collected to create her art. And the fact that she’s working to clean up litter is a tremendous added bonus.

“That shattered, busted and cracked piece of metal or wood lying in the streets or on the beach is the focal point of my mixed media, found object sculptures. Items that otherwise would end up in landfills and waterways are given new and important value in my “recycled folk art.” I am constantly amazed at the abundance of materials I find and rescue within just a few city blocks. Great pride is taken in cleaning up my surroundings with the hopes of keeping the coastline beautiful and pristine,” she said.

We chatted with Deane for this week’s Friday Fiver.
When/what was your first work of art done from recycled materials?IMG_7349

My first piece created from found objects and recycled materials was in 2005. It was a very simple “bird shack” made from cardboard, tissue paper, salvaged wood, wire, bottle caps and sticks. I will never part with it because it is a great reminder of how far I have come in working with reclaimed items. Before working with recycled materials, I primarily focused on clay and paint. I hand built ceramic pieces for many years and sold them in many retail locations throughout the Southeast. I was growing tired of working with ceramics and the level of detail and precision it required. You have to be a perfectionist when hand building pieces to ensure they will make it through two kiln firings and not develop hairline cracks or air bubbles. It is also a very expensive medium to work in between the cost of the clay and glazes, not to mention the power needed to fire up the kiln.

On a girls weekend to the beach with a fellow artist and best friend, our beach plans got rained out and we had no back up plan. We both had brought minimal art supplies with us and decided to be creative until the rain stopped, which it never did! We had to be industrious in finding more items to work with. I began walking the beach and the neighborhoods around the beach house looking for things to use. I was amazed and delighted at what I found and how freeing working with rescued materials was. No kiln firings to worry about, no expensive art supplies to purchase and no right or wrong way to create with them. Plus, there was the added satisfaction that I was cleaning up my surroundings and picking up materials that could potentially be harmful. And these things were free, plentiful and right out the front door!IMG_7362

Your art is crafted from scrap items you find, often on the street. What is your most exciting find that you’ve put to use?

Metal scraps are always my most favorite finds. Especially when they are so street worn they have developed holes in places and have a wonderful rusted color to them. There is no telling how long they have been in lying in the streets or where else they have been. I respect and adore these pieces and always put them in a central spot on my found object sculptures. And I am fortunate to find these metal scraps frequently abandoned in the streets or parking lots.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in creating art from recycled materials?

Go for it and have fun. There is no right or wrong way to work with them. Give them a purpose that is totally different from their original use. Take a walk around the neighborhood and collect whatever you see discarded and go from there. I always clean my materials in very hot water and Simple Green, an Ecofriendly cleaning solution before I get started. Oh, and make sure your tetanus shot is up to date, just in case you have a mishap!

What was the last thing you were listening to on your car radio?

Pandora radio on the Nashville station!Image_2

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

One thing I wish would magically happen in Charleston: I would love to see more trash and recycle bins placed throughout the city, especially in the busiest areas of the city and in the city parks. I am disheartened when I see people littering and not taking pride in keeping Charleston beautiful. The amount of rescued materials I collect from the streets, parking lots and beaches of Charleston is staggering. And when I look around, I notice there are no trash or recycling receptacles for people to put their trash in, so no wonder! And if there are trash containers available, they are often overflowing.

Friday Fiver: Holy City Sinner

holycitysinnerYou probably know Christian Senger, but you may not know it. He is most known by his blog handle, Holy City Sinner, which debuted in August 2011. Since then, it has grown to be one of the most popular local Charleston blogs, having been voted best Twitter feed in the City Paper’s Best of Charleston for the past two years. Senger said he focuses on the wide array of Charleston offerings that make the city unique. “Holy City Sinner is centered around the beautiful Holy City and its talented residents. We have some of the best cooks, musicians, charities, events, and people in the nation who demand your attention,” he said. As for the name? Senger sums it up thusly: “Although Charleston is known for its strong religious base and southern hospitality, it is also well known for some hedonistic behavior. Much like many of his fellow residents, this blog’s creator can often be found trying to balance the city’s equally enticing extremes. Holy City Sinner hopes to celebrate the many sides of this historic and lively city.”

You now have almost 20,000 followers. If you could go back and tell 2011 Holy City Sinner you’d have that reach, what do you think your reaction be?

To think I’d even have half that amount of followers would have shocked me. Each step along the way has been a pleasant surprise. I thought there would be a segment of Charleston that would appreciate what I was trying to accomplish, but I never thought I’d have the support of that many people.

You post dozens of tweets each day about the various goings-on in Charleston. How do you decide what to share with your followers?

Honestly, I try to include just about anything I can. There will be at least one person who is interested in each piece of news or information I come across. One of my goals has always been to inform people of things they may not have heard about otherwise and Twitter has been the best medium to accomplish that.

You’ve kept your followers up to date on myriad events happening in the Charleston area day in and day out. What is the best kept event secret in Charleston – the one event more people should put on their bucket list?

This was probably the most difficult question to answer. There are so many great events and it was impossible to choose one. However, after just a little bit of stressing out, I chose the Jail Break events, which are going to be changing in some fashion, but were always a lot of fun. Attendees could roam free in the Old City Jail, which was fun enough, but there were also performances and exhibits featuring local bands, comedians, artists, dancers, and artisans. It was a great opportunity to see the Charleston creative community while checking out a unique building.

Charleston is known for its fine dining, and you share plenty of delectable food news with your followers. But what is your fast food guilty pleasure?

Growing up in the Northeast, I never experienced places like Zaxby’s or Chic-fil-a, so those have become my go-to fast food places.

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

As much as I love this city, there are certainly things that ail it. A lot of those issues came up in the recent mayoral election – traffic, homelessness, downtown’s poor drainage, public transit issues, the rising number of the rising cost of living downtown is pushing many people out of the city, the rapid gentrification of the city is doing the same for lower income families, and despite what some think, there are still racial issues that need to be addressed and fixed. Of course there are other big issues that plague the state and Charleston – domestic violence against women, education, and the rising number of HIV infections.  Those are all things I would fix if I had a magic wand.


Friday Fiver: Jo Ellen Aspinwall

Jo Ellen AspinwallJo Ellen Aspinwall is the embodiment of following your dreams. After 15 years as a high school teacher, Jo Ellen decided to chase her passion: theatre. After earning her MFA in Directing from the University of Southern Mississippi, she moved to Charleston to dive into the full-time world of theatre.

Jo Ellen has directed and designed three dozen productions, including multiple Piccolo Spoleto entries. In 2010, Jo Ellen received the Bob Knowles Award for Outstanding Artistic Integrity and Professional Discipline for The Lost Colony. She is also the co-founder of Storytree Theatre.

Her current show, Dorothy in Wonderland, opens this weekend and runs through March 13 at Footlight Players. We sat down with Jo Ellen for this week’s Friday Fiver.

Your upcoming play features two of the most iconic fictional worlds of all time. As a director, how do you balance the two to ensure neither overshadows the other?

Most of the story takes place in Wonderland, so it’s a little out of balance naturally. But it’s a lot of fun to watch the Ozian heroes encounter such completely different rules and expectations in this new, topsy turvy world. One of my favorite moments is when Dorothy throws a glass of water on the Queen of Hearts (spoiler alert—she doesn’t melt!).

Once we’ve seen the worlds of Dorothy and Alice collide, suppose you could direct a sequel. What two fictional characters would you love to see come together next?

Hmmmm…this is a tough one! How about Hermione Granger and Anne of Green Gables? Or a sudden outbreak of zombies in a Dr. Seuss world? On a more adult level, the boys from Supernatural getting a visit from The Doctor!

What was your favorite fantasy book when you were a child?

I was a big fan of Madeleine L’Engle and the Wrinkle in Time trilogy definitely started my life-long fascination with fantasy stories.

Most recently you directed “A Streetcar Named Desire” at Footlight. How does your directing differ from a serious drama to a children’s fantasy?

Ultimately, every show is about telling a story. That’s where the work always starts, regardless of the specifics. The differences will come in style and scale of choices, in the focus of our energy in rehearsal—I find myself becoming much “bigger” when working on a children’s show, louder, faster, goofier.

You have an extensive theater resume, with many stage classics under your belt. That said, what is your guilty pleasure TV show or movie? 

Oh dear—I have a number of them! Probably the guiltiest is America’s Got Talent. There is something I just can’t resist about all those people every season fighting to live out their dream; I especially love watching acts who have been honing a particular skill for decades get the chance to perform for a huge and enthusiastic audience. I get ridiculously mushy about it…


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Mural a fitting tribute to librarian Hurd

IMG_5227What was just a plain cream brick wall of a library branch is now exploding with color and, more importantly, serving as a memorial to a fallen librarian who served there for so many years.

Cynthia Hurd was the longtime branch manager of the John L. Dart branch of the Charleston County Public Library (CCPL) system and was one of nine killed in last year’s Emmanuel AME shootings. A bright and vibrant mural is being painted in her honor as a collaboration between CCPL and Enough Pie. Muralist R Robots (a.k.a. Nick Kuszyk) anticipates the painting will take about four days to complete.

Library manager Kim Odom said Hurd was a friend and mentor, and the mural reflects the values she brought every day to her community:

Cathryn Zommer, Executive Director of Enough Pie, is excited about bringing the mural to one of the oldest library branches in Charleston.

The community is encouraged to come out and watch R Robots paint the mural. On Thursday, from 3:30-5, the community is invited to paint the book carts inside the Dart Library, taking inspiration from the mural. The Dart Library is located at 1067 King Street.

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Redux Contemporary Art Center

REDUX CONTEMPORARY ART CENTER is a nonprofit organization committed to fostering creativity and the cultivation of contemporary art through diverse exhibitions, subsidized studio space for visual artists, meaningful education programs, and a multidisciplinary approach to the dialogue between artists and their audiences.

Redux Contemporary Art Center is thrilled to announce that after a five-plus year search, the organization’s new home has been secured at 1056 King Street, on the ground floor of the two-story warehouse that once housed Port City Paper and a roller skating rink. This stunning building was built circa 1942 but has been vacant for 15 years or so. This new location will more than double the footprint of Redux, from the combined 7,200 sf of the original locations at 136 St. Philip Street, where the organization has resided since its founding in 2002. The entire operations of Redux will be moved to 1056 King Street, with a target opening date of first quarter 2016.

Offering affordable studios for emerging local artists is central to the mission of Redux, and these new studios will be spacious, professional, and affordable with improved amenities for artists.

Upcoming Exhibits:

Gabriel Lovejoy: Positional Ambivalence: 

Positional Ambivalence attempts to celebrate the medium of paint, in many forms, as a vehicle for communicating complex ambivalence.

Exhibition on view: May 6 – June 17, 2017


Mayor Tecklenburg to kick off CJO season

Charleston’s newly inaugurated Mayor John Tecklenburg will take the stage to help the Charleston Jazz Orchestra kick off their 8th annual season.

The opening concert – “When Swing Was King – will be held Saturday, Feb. 20, at the Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St. The CJO will treat audiences to tunes from the 1930s and 40s, with such classics as “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “Minnie the Moocher.” Mayor Tecklenburg will be a special guest artist on a piece by legendary jazz man – and Tecklenberg’s great uncle – Fud Livingston.

For more information or tickets click HERE.

For a sneak peak of the concert, check out the video below:

CJO’s WHEN SWING WAS KING rehearsal, featuring Mayor John Tecklenburg from Jazz Artists of Charleston on Vimeo.