Few cities of Greenville’s size offer such a wide array of cultural amenities, including its own well-regarded symphony orchestra and chorale, nationally recognized art museums, ballet companies and a number of theater organizations. No wonder art critic John Villani has named Greenville one of the “Best Art Towns in America.”
Heritage Green, Greenville’s downtown cultural campus for the arts, learning and entertainment, is home to four museums: Greenville County Museum of Art, Sergeant-Wilson Museum & Gallery, Upcountry History Museum, and the Children’s Museum of the Upcountry. Also located on Heritage Green is the Hughes Main Library and the Greenville Little Theater.
Greenville’s West End has evolved into a thriving arts district featuring galleries, working studios and monthly gallery crawls.
Greenville is also home to numerous festivals and arts-centered events throughout the year, including Artisphere, Fall for Greenville, Euphoria and Open Studios.
Artisphere, ranked as the nation’s #7 fine arts show, attracts art enthusiasts from throughout the nation for the three-day outdoor festival each spring. The event features a juried Visual Artist Row, Artists Demonstration Row, a juried exhibition of local artists, and outdoor stages with performances by local and national artists. Artisphere creates lively street activity with street musicians, acrobats, sidewalk artists, a wine tasting and special festival arts projects.
Greenville Open Studios is a weekend event held each November to showcase artists at work in their studios. During the event, local visual artists open their studios to the public and demonstrate how their art is created.
The widely-acclaimed Art in Public Places program consists of a diverse collection of public art displayed along Main Street. As you stroll the tree-shaded downtown, look for art works commemorating students at Sterling High School, Greenville’s first black public high school; a bronze statute honoring the “Father of Greenville”, Vardry McBee; a towering contemporary sculpture that graces the entrance to Falls Park, and several other imaginative works of art.
Also located in Greenville is the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities, a public residential high school for emerging artists interested in creative writing, dance, drama, music or visual arts. Performances and exhibits by students, faculty and guest artists are open to the public. Eight graduates of the school have been accepted to Julliard’s prestigious drama program in the past eight years.
The Metropolitan Arts Council (MAC) provides support to area arts organizations and many individual artists through its grants program and cultural planning process. MAC also advocates on behalf of all artists and arts groups and provides cooperative marketing opportunities promoting arts groups that might otherwise not have resources available to them.
In 2012, MAC distributed a record high of $366,404 to area arts groups, artists and schools, touching more than 450,000 residents in the Greenville County area.
Greenville is also home to two outstanding performance venues, The Peace Center for the performing arts and the The Bon Secours Wellness Arena, as well as other venues in colleges, schools, and churches.
The Peace Center for the Performing Arts
Architecturally and acoustically, The Peace Center is the perfect place to enjoy Broadway shows, classical music or performances by popular artists. Located adjacent to Falls Park, this impressive arts center includes the 2,100-seat Peace Concert Hall, 400-seat Dorothy Hipp Gunter Theater, and the TD Stage, an amphitheater located beside the Reedy River.
In addition to performances by touring shows and such stars as Diana Ross, Alabama, and The Irish Tenors, The Peace Center is home to four resident companies: Greenville Symphony Orchestra, Carolina Ballet Theater, South Carolina Children’s Theater, and the International Ballet.
Genevieve’s, the center’s new theatre lounge, is the perfect place for drinks and a light meal before or after concert hall performances.
The Peace Center is located on the site of three dilapidated factories, one of which built wagons for use by the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The arts center is named in honor of the local Peace family, which contributed $10 million toward its development.
Bon Secours Wellness Arena
The 15,000-seat Bon Secours Wellness Arena has attracted such headline acts as Prince and Jason Aldean, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, ice shows, professional wrestling, and monster truck rallies, as well as dog shows and concerts featuring a range of musical genres. The arena is also home to the Greenville Road Warriors ECHL hockey team. The facility has also hosted NCAA and high school basketball tournaments, arena football games and motocross racing.
The Bon Secours Wellness Arena, 650 North Academy Street, was built in 1998 to replace the outdated Greenville Memorial Auditorium. At the time, it was the largest arena in South Carolina and remains one of the largest in the state.
Children’s Museum of the Upstate
With 80,000 square feet of fun, the Children’s Museum of the Upstate is the seventh largest children’s museum in the country and the tenth largest in the world. Located on the campus of Heritage Green in downtown Greenville, the museum features 18 exhibit galleries, a traveling exhibit hall, two outdoor interactive exhibit spaces, and outdoor programming space. With more than a hundred individual exhibit components, kids and adults can simulate flight into space, design their own Formula 1 race car, or explore the Kaleidoscope Climber.
Greenville County Museum of Art
Greenville is justly proud of the Greenville County Museum of Art, ranked by connoisseurs as the premier American art museum in the South.
The museum is home to the world’s largest collection of watercolors by iconic American artist Andrew Wyeth. Including an example from the major period of Wyeth’s career, the GCMA’s collection is the largest of any public institution in the world.
The GCMA also has an impressive collection of paintings and prints by contemporary South Carolina artist Jasper Johns. The museum’s respected Southern Collection invites viewers to survey American art from colonial times to the present, ranging from 1726 pastel portraits and Civil War vistas to American Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism, American Scene and contemporary works. Of particular note is the exhibition David Drake: Potter and Poet of Edgefield District.
GCMA began in 1935 when three area artists and collectors met to form the Greenville Fine Arts League. The museum, located on the Heritage Green in downtown Greenville, provides nearly 90,000 square feet of exhibition, storage and classroom space.
Greenville Symphony Orchestra
The orchestra began as a group of volunteer musicians in 1948 and is now recognized as one of the finest symphony orchestras in the Southeast. Greenville Symphony Orchestra offers a variety of concerts and programs for classical music lovers and pops enthusiasts. World-class concert facilities, musicians at the height of their profession, an internationally known music director and conductor, and a community that embraces symphonic music all have combined to made the Greenville Symphony Orchestra what it is today.
Organized in 1961 as the Rotary Civic Chorale, the Greenville Chorale has grown from 45 singers to more than 200 talented performers selected by audition. Providing the Upstate with a talented symphonic community chorus, Greenville Chorale performs throughout the year at The Peace Center, Furman University and at many area churches.
Carolina Ballet Theatre
Carolina Ballet Theatre, Greenville’s only professional resident dance company, entertains and educates its audience through the dynamic medium of dance. Two new ballets have been added to the repertoire for the current season, along with several programs for students of all ages. The Ballet Theatre performs at the The Peace Center for the Performing Arts.
Founded in 1983, Centre Stage is a year-round, 285-seat regional theater offering a wide range of entertainment within easy walking distance of Falls Park. Augmenting its subscription season of music, comedy and drama, the theater also hosts art exhibitions, chamber music concerts, independent film screenings, guest lectures, and other special events. The Centre Stage performance facility is noted for its unique configuration, comfort and intimacy.
South Carolina Children’s Theatre
For more than 25 years, South Carolina Children’s Theatre has provided entertaining live theatre for the Upstate region. The Theatre offers young people and adults an opportunity to work with talented directors, choreographers and musicians, as well as the opportunity to be on stage at The Peace Center. Family members and other volunteers assist back stage, constructing and painting sets, making props and sewing costumes. In addition to performance theatre, SCCT’s Conservatory for Theatre Arts provides a professional teaching facility offering year-round
education in the dramatic arts to young people from ages three to eighteen.
Greenville Little Theatre
“Little Theatre” came to Greenville in 1926 as “The Greenville Artists’ Guild”. The Little Theatre, showcasing talented performers from throughout the Upstate, produces a number of popular plays each year, including such favorites as Fiddler on the Roof, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Hello, Dolly. Greenville Little Theatre offers classes for theatre student of all ages and Greenville Little Theatre On Tour has performed for more than 50,000 schoolchildren. The STUDIO 444 series offers offbeat material while grooming the actors and directors of tomorrow.
The Warehouse Theatre
At The Warehouse, you’ll see the sort of theatre you can’t see anywhere else in the Upstate region. From re-envisioned classics and intense plays everyone knows, to some of the most cutting-edge new works, you’ll find the finest mix of emerging talents, local professionals and artists from around the country. Housed in a converted textile warehouse in Historic West End, Warehouse theatre produces fifteen or more performances each year, including The Upstate Shakespeare Festival at Falls Park, Improv and much more.
Metropolitan Arts Council
Established in 1973, the Metropolitan Arts Council (MAC) provides funding and other vital services to individual artists, arts organizations and arts education programs throughout Greenville County. It houses Greenville’s public art gallery at 16 Augusta Street in the West End district of downtown. MAC is the area’s only advocacy agency for all forms of visual and performing arts. In 2006, MAC awarded over $125,500 to Greenville’s cultural community, and it is an official re-granting agency of the City of Greenville, the South Carolina Arts Commission, Michelin North America and BMW Manufacturing. For more information, call 864.467.3132
Sergeant-Wilson Museum & Gallery at Heritage Green
As an innovative satellite of the Museum & Gallery at Bob Jones University, the Sergeant-Wilson Museum & Gallery at Heritage Green provides visitors an opportunity to learn about and experience fine art.
The museum rotates special exhibits of works selected from the university’s world-renowned painting collection and features interactive educational displays that bring the
art and times of the Old Masters to life for all ages.
You’ll also want to visit the M&G at Bob Jones University on Wade Hampton Boulevard to see what is considered one of the major collections of European paintings in the United States.
Roper Mountain Science Center
There’s no better place to study the natural sciences, particularly space and physical sciences, than the Roper Mountain Science Center on Roper Mountain Road.
At the Science Center, you’ll find the Living History Farm, The Darell W. Harrison Hall of Natural Sciences, the Simms Hall of Science, the T.C. Hooper Planetarium and the Charles E. Daniel Observatory.
The principal telescope at the observatory is a 58.4 cm (23 in) refractor originally installed at the Halsted Observatory of Princeton University in 1882. The telescope was rebuilt in 1933 and transferred to the U.S. Naval Observatory in 1964. The eighth largest refractor telescope in the United States, it was acquired by the Greenville County School District in 1968 through a donation from the Charles E. Daniel family.
Museum and Library of Confederate History
Located in downtown Greenville’s Pettigru Historic District, the Museum and Library of Confederate History contains a large collection of Confederate relics and artifacts, both military and personal, as well as a research library and gift shop.
An entire room is set aside for researchers and genealogists and the museum has become a treasure for visitors, school groups, writers and families seeking information about
their Confederate ancestors.
Upcountry History Museum
The Upcountry History Museum is nothing like the dusty repositories of the past. Using the latest in technology, the museum uses photos, videos and realistic scenes, combined with interactive technology to engage both young and old and transport them back in time.
Operated by Furman University, the Upcountry History Museum displays the regioinal history of fifteen Upstate South Carolina counties from the early 18th century to the present.