Surrounding Morgan Square, on the walls and windows of local businesses, and even beneath your feet as you walk up and down Main Street – public art is everywhere in Downtown Spartanburg.
Spartanburg was one of the first Downtown Cultural Districts in the state, a distinction given to concentrated areas of cultural facilities, activities and assets. Along with indoor and outdoor music venues, museums, studios and workshops, historic sites, and more, the Downtown Spartanburg Cultural District includes 43 galleries and exhibit spaces, and 38 murals or other public art displays.
“I think it is critical that our Downtown experience remain fresh, welcoming and unique for not only our visitors, but for the downtown workforce and residents that enjoy visiting our downtown on a regular basis,” said Jennifer Evins, President and CEO of the Chapman Cultural Center. “Public art provides an experience that is free and does not require businesses to be open or a special event for people to learn what is authentic and special about our community.”
Downtown Spartanburg has fully embraced the power of murals as a way to bring color to an already vibrant city.
In June 2020, the newest piece of public art in Downtown Spartanburg came to life as 16 creative, dedicated artists came together to paint the message Black Lives Matter on Broad Street in front of City Hall to show support for the Black residents and businesses of Spartanburg.
Maybe the best-known mural in Downtown Spartanburg is the Love Where You Live mural. Inspired by HUB-BUB’s Love Where You Live Campaign, the mural is a literal wall of color, sitting across from the Daniel Morgan Clock Tower. The mural – hugely popular for photos and selfies alike – is adorned with key aspects of Spartanburg’s identity; from its 864-area code to 1831, the year of Spartanburg’s founding.
The mural was recently given a fresh coat of paint by artists Stephen Long and Jeremy Kemp. It was originally painted by Long, Kemp, and Russell Bannan, Eli Blasko, Aimee Wise and Lily Knights.
Just a stone’s throw from the Love Where You Live Mural is the Lucy Boland’s 100 Women Mural, brought to life by local artist and cofounder of Shelley Art Co., Lucy Boland.
Boland, who has a studio space at 146 E. Main St., gave new life to a space along West Broad Street across from Spartanburg City Hall, bringing a white background and retro, colorful lines that lead to sketches of three women.
Several businesses in Downtown Spartanburg have transformed their storefronts into vibrant murals.
Yogalicious’ location at 161 Dunbar Street is accompanied by bright colors on a white background literally bleeding onto the sidewalk, creating a cool, 3D effect. Local artist Maggie McDonald, co-owner of The Kindred Spirits, created the mural to reflect Yogalicious’ mission of helping find joy, patience and relief.
Speaking of Maggie and The Kindred Spirits, her talents are on full display at the arts shop’s location at 151 Spring St. The storefront features bright blues and a series of vines, which give a welcoming feel to the shop, which is a marketplace for all things handmade and one-of-a-kind in Spartanburg.
Courtesy of the League of Women Voters of Spartanburg County and local artists Nancy Corbin, Stephen Long and Jeremy Kemp comes “Determined: A Tribute to Angelina and Sarah Grimke.”
The mural celebrates the South Carolina sisters who were suffragists and abolitionists on the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The mural is on a wall of the Unitarian Universalist Church on Henry Street in Spartanburg.
Not all of Spartanburg’s public art requires paint, though.
Several sculptures can be found dotting downtown, from a series of bicycles representing Spartanburg’s status as a cycling-friendly community to an American Sign Language signal spreading the love.
The I Love You Sculpture at the edge of Morgan Square is the newest sculpture to be erected downtown.
The metal piece is a hand – made up of many small hands – with the thumb, pointer and pinky fingers outstretched, forming the American Sign Language signal for “I love you.” The sculpture was put together by students and faculty from the S.C. School for the Deaf and the Blind – which is located in Spartanburg.
Students traced their own handprints to make up the body of the larger hand and worked with a team of artists to overlay those traces onto the larger metal piece.
Scattered around downtown, the handiwork of artist Cody Roberts is known as Hoondirt.
Roberts’ popular metal sculptures include minimalist bicycles, abstract people, including one in Morgan Square, and more. Hoondirt art can be found around Spartanburg County, too, with Roberts’ work also on display at the Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport and Drayton Mills.
Further up East Main Street across from First Presbyterian Church sits a sculpture honoring one of the best-known minds in science.
A likeness of Albert Einstein is in the middle of a bench, arms outstretched with his legs crossed. The sculpture is one of downtown’s lesser-known pieces but is great for a photo-op. The genius of Einstein was brought to life by sculptor Gary Lee Price, one of many iconic personalities Price has captured in his sculptures across the country.
Spartanburg is and has historically been home to a deep field of talented musicians, and luckily, plenty of spaces for them to show off their talent.
Wednesdays through Saturdays from April to June and August to October, the Spartanburg Downtown Cultural District comes to life with a block of Downtown Programming featuring artists and musicians on the corners of Liberty and Main, Church and Main, Magnolia and Main streets, and the Pocket Park.
Weekday performances are from 5-7:30 p.m. Saturday performances are either from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. or 5-7:30 p.m.
The street music performances give these talented artists the chance to perform for new crowds throughout the year, taking their music from nightclubs, coffee shops and bars and bringing it to the streets. And, these musicians often have areas for tips, so feel free to contribute if you like what you hear.
No mention of music in Downtown Spartanburg would be complete without shout-outs for Music on Main and Jazz on the Square. Music on Main brings artists from various genres to Morgan Square for live performances from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays for much of the summer. On Fridays in the spring and fall, Jazz on the Square showcases some of Spartanburg’s best jazz musicians, again on Morgan Square from 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Downtown is also home to events featuring local, regional, and international musical talent. The International Fest features music from across the globe each year, while Spring Fling brings musicians to several stages during the weekend-long street festival.
The Melting Pot Music Festival is a showcase for multiple genres of music in Downtown Spartanburg. The daylong festival has a little something for everyone no matter your musical tastes.
Finally, we have pieces of art that are equal parts function and curb appeal.
The Creative Crosswalks – a partnership of the Chapman Cultural Center, OneSpartanburg, and USC Upstate – brought colorful, geometric designs to the street at the intersections of: Main and King streets, Main and Spring streets, and Main and Magnolia streets.
The vivid crosswalks were painted by local artists Michael Webster, Matthew Donaldson, Frankie Page (aka Frankie Zombie) and Adrian Meadows (aka Alias to Inspire).
Even electric boxes around downtown are adorned with art.
Russell Bannan and Eli Blasko were commissioned by the College Town consortium to come up with designs representing each of Spartanburg County’s colleges. Each electric box features college-specific colors with elements of design that are specific to that college. (Wofford’s iconic Terrier, for example.)
A box just outside of the Spartanburg Headquarters library was designed by artist Roderice Cardell, known as The Maddd Artist.
Chaser the Border Collie, the Spartanburg dog known for recognizing more than 1,000 words, is displayed on a series of window wraps that also aid with wayfinding on several East Main Street businesses.
The wraps promote downtown, Chaser’s connection to Spartanburg, and help with finding the nearest restaurants, drinks, or shopping. As a bonus, a Chaser statue will be erected in front of the Children’s Museum of the Upstate on Magnolia Street in 2020.
The Spartanburg Downtown Cultural District is a collaborative effort, spearheaded by the Chapman Cultural Center with funding from OneSpartanburg and the City of Spartanburg.