A couple brings an old house back to its creative roots.
Most people work in a setting with co-workers who help problem solve, provide feedback, and motivate them throughout the day. Musicians, writers, artists, and creative thinkers, however, typically work alone. They are challenged with finding enough uninterrupted time to pursue their creative endeavors daily, and do not have the input of others to help hone their skills. Artists in Residency programs are retreats for space and resources that allow for social interactions between fellow residents and instructors. In July 2021, after years of searching for the perfect location, play- wright, Brad Erickson and his husband, Brian Protheroe, a leadership development consultant, purchased 516 Central Avenue, in Summerville with the intent of establishing South Porch Artists Residency. A year later, in August, they opened their doors and have had a steady influx of artist residents.
After twenty years of running a theater service company, Brad was ready for a change. He organized and participated in several artists in residency programs throughout the country. While attending a retreat, it occurred to him that running an artist residency was something he would enjoy. Instead of standing in line, waiting for an open position, he talked to Brain, and they decided to purchase a property and “make it happen.” From their home in the San Francisco Bay area, Brad and Brian spent several years researching prop- erties all over North America—intent on finding the right place to establish an artist’s residency. They looked at everything from vineyards, estates, to haciendas. They specifically wanted a location ripe with opportunities for their patrons to engage and interact with the local community. Brad had worked with Spoleto in the early 1990’s. So, naturally Charleston was on their radar.
In May 2021, they visited Charleston and the surrounding communities. To their surprise, they were captivated by the of the Town of Summerville’s viable town square, with stores, restaurants, and businesses co-mingling to create an active, livable community. The older homes nestled between the pines providing both solace and inspiration and an active artist community were also appealing. Not to mention, the house they were interested in purchasing was once the home of southern fiction writer Glenn Allan and artist Ravenel Gaillard. Going through their list of criteria, they asked themselves, not should we, but why would we not buy this house? So, they did.
In July 2021, they relocated to Summerville, and began the process of forming South Porch Artists Residency. They recognized the benefits that artists’ residency provides uninterrupted time in a safe space; an opportunity to gain insight from others and to expand bodies of work in a nonjudgmental environment. But they also acknowledged most programs are not feasible for artists who are balancing life-work responsibilities to attend. The stays were too long for most and the application process can be incredibly competitive. They envisioned an inclusive, afford- able nonprofit program with flexible durations of stays in a community that had an artistic center and opportunities for entertainment and recreation. He states, “Our goal is accessibility. Accessible means many things, for example the back house meets the ADA standards. We are looking at ways to make the main house ADA accessible. We have streamlined the application process, so artists don’t have to wait months for a reply. We also accept emerging as well as accomplished artists, who can benefit from a residency. We are also focused on having a communal dinner, strictly volunteer, where residents collectively contribute to the meal, eat together, and have conversation, access to each other’s work, and share ideas.”
South Porch Artists Residency has an air of genuine hospitality. The five- bedroom home is an eclectic mix of modern, traditional, boho and Lowcountry. The detached back house has an apartment and studio. The spacious property offers a welcoming reprieve for its residents to work. To date, South Porch Artists Residency has hosted several artists, writers, and musicians, mostly from the Southeast. Brad states, “the idea is not that you must go far away, you just must get away to concentrate on your art.”
Brad and Brian have wholeheartedly embraced their new community with open arms and have received a warm welcome in return. When talking about their decision to move to Summerville, Brain reiterates, “Moving here and being within walking distance of the well-used town square, and looking at the beautiful oak trees with Spanish moss, was idyllic but it wasn’t until we actually moved in, and we met the warm, lovely people that we really felt comfortable with our decision.” AM