Piccolo Spoleto Charleston Art Festival

Showing New Work

May 27 - June 11, 2022 

Marion Square

Meeting and Calhoun Streets

Charleston, SC

Showing New Work

May 27 - June 11, 2022 

Marion Square

Meeting and Calhoun Streets

Charleston, SC

April, May, and June are particularly beautiful months to visit Charleston as it becomes a palette of colors with the camellias, magnolias, wisteria, tulip trees, azaleas and more, adding to the joyful spirit throughout the area! When the April flowers begin to bloom, can Piccolo Spoleto be far away?! Mark it on your calendar today!

When I visit Charleston from rural Summerville, the car ride can exceed an hour for a twenty five mile trip! But, if I travel by boat, it’s only a thirty minute trip as the city is wrapped by two rivers—the Ashley and the Cooper – with the entire Atlantic Ocean nearby! And when arriving by boat, I am greeted by the magnificent colonial homes stretched out along the battery wall, homes that harbor many stories about their owners, the earthquakes, the hurricanes, and the wonderful people who come to visit! If houses could talk, it is my guess, most of them would tell the fascinating stories about the people who once lived there!

Although the city herself has physically changed, her spirit remains alive and positive; her physical assets remain in tact; and her citizens’ blood still runs “Southern”! So, not surprisingly, even after “fortyish” years of painting houses, painting them still inspires me to relay their stories through my art. I still see houses I have missed, so I have created several new "house paintings" for the 2022 PICCOLO SPOLETO FESTIVAL coming this May.

What is Piccolo Spoleto and Spoleto Festival USA?

Spoleto Festival USA is an annual arts festival held in Charleston, South Carolina. The festival features a variety of events, from concerts to street performances to exhibits. Here you'll find opera, dance, theater, classical music, and jazz. It takes place for 17 days and starts Memorial Day. Spoleto Festival USA was founded in 1977 by Gian Carlo Menotti as a way to celebrate the arts in Charleston. The Festival is meant to replicate the Festival Dei Due Mondi (The Festival of Two Worlds) in Spoleto, Italy.


Piccolo Spoleto means "Little Spoleto" and is the local and regional artists' accompaniment to the international talent brought in by its parent Spoleto Festival. It heavily features the visual arts in addition to performing, and literary arts of the Southeast.


Festival Dei Due Mondi is a summer festival around June and July in Spoleto. It's famous and known as "The Festival of Two Worlds," a vision of Gian Carlo Menotti. This is where you can see the love of both American and Italian cultures intertwined within the festival. This festival was introduced alongside the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in SC. This "twinning," as it was called, was around for about 15 years until the feuding between the Menotti family and the board of the US festival grew to the point there was a separation in the early 90s. There were some long and grueling fights over the direction of the festival, financing, and more.


The festival went through some financial hardship that would eventually bring back some of the former people who ran it to help. During this time, the festival was going into the red and needed expert help and guidance. Once some of the original people were back in place, it was quickly turned around, and what once was a money pit had changed into something affordable and even made money later in the 90s.

More History of the Spoleto Festival USA

This concept was then spread to Australia in hopes that its love could be shared. However, this started in the mid to late 80s, but by the early 90s, the festival changed its name to the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts. It was no longer associated with the other two. Even without the 'twinning" in place, Italy and the US festival continue.

The death of Menotti in 2007 brought about even more changes. This time there would be changes in who would run the festival in Italy. Eventually, the Italian Minister of Cultural Affairs was appointed. Talk started about having the festivals rejoin together, and as such, the mayor of Spoleto attended the opening ceremony of the Spoleto Festival in the US in 2008.

Every year, the Festival stages its own operas, which are frequently rarely performed masterpieces by well-known composers or traditional works reimagined. It also features classical, jazz, bluegrass, soul, and blues music and theater, dance, and music programs. The Festival has featured over 200 world, and US premieres since its establishment.

The Goals of the Spoleto Festival USA

The Festival aims to produce high-caliber programming while maintaining a commitment to young artists, all forms of the performing arts, a passion for contemporary innovation, and a desire to provide unique performance chances for established performers. One of the Festival's guiding principles is to allow new artists to collaborate with seasoned directors, designers, and performers.

What to Expect if You Attend the Festival

Don't worry if you're going to the annual Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, and you're unsure what to anticipate. Here's how to make the most of one of the country's most popular cultural evenings so you can schedule your next vacation before you even check out of your hotel.

Smiles are genuine.

If you've reserved a room at a hotel like the Charleston Place, Kings Courtyard Inn, or Andrew Pinckney Inn, you can expect the door to be cheerfully held open for you. This will not be because it is a requirement of the staff. That door is held open because it's what people do when they're delighted to see you and want you to be as happy and comfortable as possible. South Carolinians are accustomed to greeting visitors in this manner, and they are delighted to welcome you. You will feel at home from the second you step foot in the city, which is full of very inviting people.

The muscles in the neck and shoulders have a visible slackening.

"Things move at a slower pace in Charleston," people typically comment. That isn't entirely accurate. The city hums with financial, commercial, and other professional activities every day. That isn't slow in the least. The "slowness" perceived is actually a mystical elixir imbued in the low country air.

It's scorching outside!

But here's the thing: it's not quite as horrible as it appears. Art, music, crafts, and excitement will surround you. Yes, the heat is overshadowed by the magnificent Spoleto events taking on around you, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't dress appropriately. On the peninsula, there's also a touch of formality that pervades the sartorial sensibilities.

Women - Let's Take a Look at What to Wear:

The air is allowed to circulate freely thanks to flowy maxi skirts and dresses, which are quite popular for the festival. There's a rationale for this trend's persistence. Put on a long, flowing dress and spend the morning organizing your day's activities from a blanket on Marion Square, afternoon performances at Dock Street Theatre, and a glass of wine at The Rooftop, one of Charleston's best rooftop bars. What are the chances? On your way home, you might even stumble onto an impromptu cocktail party.

Don't forget your hat! Hats are popular among the festival in this area.

For your feet...Sandals that are cute but flat work well. Comfort and aesthetics are essential. There's no subtle embarrassment quite like tripping over cobblestone in 4-inch heels. As is customary in similar situations, it almost invariably happens in front of a crowd - or, much worse, in front of a packed horse-drawn carriage. If you're not planning on riding a pedicab to supper, reconsider the killer heels and settle into something more sensible.

Men - Let's Take a Look at What to Wear:

A little seersucker is never a bad idea. Seersucker hasn't remained a Southern wardrobe staple merely because of its attractive looks. Whether it's worn as pants, shorts, a blazer, or a suit, the fabric is light, travels well, and easily transitions from casual to dressy.

Again, don't forget your hat!

To get around, most people prefer biking. Typically with the crowds, you will get around faster than your friends with cars and have a much easier time finding parking. If you aren't into biking on your own, there is also a large fleet of pedicabs at your disposal. This allows you to enjoy the world around you while getting to where you need to be.

2021 marked the 45 years of the Piccolo Spoleto festival, and it is still going strong.

The Outdoor Exhibits at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival USA

Marion Square is converted into a lovely open-air market, with some of the area's best and most imaginative artists exhibiting and selling their work. As you meander through the park and browse the artists' tents, you'll see unique photography, encaustics, acrylics, watercolors, pastels, oils, and more. There are more than 60 artists on hand to answer questions and display their work. I am one of those artists. Come visit me at my tent.

The Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Exhibition is a great way to enjoy the creativity of our local visual arts community. Whether you're in the market for a new acquisition or simply window shopping, you should check it out. It certainly offers a memorable experience!

This Portion of the festival is open from 10-5 pm Monday through Friday and 10 am-6 pm on the weekends of the festival. Admission to this area is free, and the artists are constantly changing up their displays, so don't feel like you shouldn't visit more than once. Visit often as you may easily miss something.

New and returning artists will display their work, so even if you've attended this famous event previously, each visit will be unique. The juried outdoor display is free and accessible to the public.

There are contests among the artists as well where there will be Best in Show, First, Second, and Third Place. There are also Merit Awards and Honorable Mentions should you want to try to find them throughout the art festival.

Except on Sundays, when many of the artists are painting, the show gives two free art demonstrations every day at 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. after the first weekend. Enjoy this festive and creative ambiance, as well as these free art lessons, in historic Marion Square, one of Charleston's largest public outdoor venues.

Other Information Regarding the Outdoor Exhibit

Most of the parks that the festival is in do have restroom facilities nearby. However, it is encouraged that you think ahead as they will be limited. There will be other outdoor facilities also brought in.

If you have had the privilege of learning or hearing about this Piccolo Spoleto Festival USA, you should take a minute to set up a trip. While this isn't something that everyone will enjoy annually, it is something that you should certainly join at least once, and you never know ... you may be just be one of our yearly returning Piccolo family. The beautiful shows and artwork are amazing to those that enjoy culture and art. There is so much to see and do that there is surely something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you come for a few days or a week, you will have plenty to do and see and enjoy.