Included with Tour Pass: Free Admission.
Art is the reason
A bustling seaport in the 1700s, Charleston was a melting pot of cultures, religions, and traditions. Powered by the rice and indigo trade, and slavery, it was the 4th largest city in America in 1790 – and the wealthiest. Like Philadelphia, Boston and New York, what distinguished Charleston then – was art.
While we were home to some of Americas earliest art, collectors, artists, who made the City both muse and subject – and taken our turn as one of the nations richest cities – in money and culture – so were we also home to Americas original sin, slavery – and a war that divided our nation.
In 1888, when Charleston was financially and culturally on its knees, benefactor James Gibbes left a bequest to the City to build an art museum.
When the Gibbes Museum opened in 1905, the nation celebrated what Charleston has always understood: the power of art – to inspire our imagination, heal our hurt, revel in our experience, rebuild what’s broken, nourish our souls, and release all that holds us back.
Through our complicated history, through light and shadow, we have persevered – humanity intact.
Art is the reason Charleston will endure.
In Charleston, we believe art is the difference between merely existing and being truly alive.
That’s why we immerse ourselves in every part of it – from fine art to craft – from nurturing its creation and celebrating its multicultural presentation – to inviting its interpretation and ensuring its preservation.
Because when we open ourselves to art, we open ourselves to the world – to people and ideas, to beauty, craft, process and detail, to different cultures, to pain and pleasure, to questions, expression and emotion, to truth and transcendence.
In the presence of art, we have the opportunity to see inside someone’s heart, mind, and soul and feel what they felt. That understanding and compassion make us more understanding, compassionate people, who, in turn, create a more compassionate, understanding world.
That is art’s gift.