Two national caliber exhibits on the south Strand have hit grand slams this summer.
A Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition, “Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America,” continues through Sept. 5 at the Georgetown County Museum. Brookgreen Gardens, on U.S. 17, between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield Beach, again presents the National Sculpture Society’s 82nd annual Awards Exhibition, through Nov. 1.
Batter up – Hike!
All the colors everyone sees upon walking into “Hometown Teams” provides its own style of cheer. Mary Boyd, a Georgetown County Historical Society board member who helped arrange and shepherd the exhibit’s visit, said this marks its sixth and final stop across South Carolina.
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“You just can’t miss with sports,” Boyd said. “Everybody’s affected by it.”
She also said how “everything in our culture” has big sports ties, through entertainment, food, music and language.
A small set of bleachers beg turning over some cushions for tidbits, such as acts by athletes with hopes for generating good luck: wearing the same socks throughout a baseball season, and not shaving whiskers during a winning streak.
Guess which U.S. president was first to toss ceremonial first pitch? This opened a Washington Senators game in 1910 in Washington, D.C., by the sixth of seven native Ohioans to occupy the Oval Office: William Howard Taft, later chief justice for the U.S. Supreme Court, 1921-30.
Some of the most famous sports figures played more than one game and scored new gains on a global scale.
Learn about Manning-area native Althea Gibson, known as “the female Jackie Robinson,” who, playing tennis in the early 1950s, became the first black to compete at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, and join the Ladies Professional Golf Association, in 1964.
An American Indian, Jim Thorpe, won Olympic gold medals in 1912 for the pentathlon and decathlon, all before careers in the Major League Baseball and in the NFL. Posthumously, he also earned induction in 1963 into the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s charter class.
This exhibit fills the first-floor gallery, where representatives from four local high schools – Andrews, Carvers Bay, Georgetown and Waccamaw – and four former high schools – Choppee, Howard, Pleasant Hill and Winyah – each amassed a collection of mementos for display around the room’s perimeter, showing how easily a person might never outgrow school spirit. (Visit upstairs as well, to behold a wealth of artifacts that pre-date this nation’s birth, as well as trials and tribulations through the Civil War.)
Flip cards on one post contain names of new sports, including slamball, quidditch and underwater hockey. Another display touts some famous sports films, each with a background summary, such as “Remember the Titans,” “The Rookie,” “Miracle” and “Seabiscuit.”
Reading the various themed stations across the gallery, find out that the first baseball trading cards were tucked into packages of cigarettes, and later, bubble gum, then by the 1980s, were sold without either. Some Smithsonian handout cards highlight sports, asking such intriguing facts as the longest ride ever surfed on a wave (41.3 miles, in 2011) and fastest registered speed on bicycle (167 mph, in 1995.)
Some other notable firsts:
▪ Athlete pictured on a Wheaties box – the New York Yankees’ Lou Gehrig, in 1934.
▪ Football helmets – made with leather, in 1890s, but not required in play till the 1930s; and plastic, 1939, with facemasks added in 1950s.
▪ Pep squad – Princeton University, in 1880s.
▪ Organized cheer squad – University of Miami, in 1898.
One spread in the hall shows how sports talk also has gone way off field, court or ice, into everyday parlance, with such expressions as “par for the course,” having a “game plan,” and not being “in the same league.”
New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra and legendary Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi pioneered the book on sports quotes, and many others have weighed in, for laughs and introspection. Pick from a stack of printout cards to take home.
As late comedian Rodney Dangerfield opined, “I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.”
Brian Sipe also pondered, “The only way to maximize potential for performance is to be calm in the mind.” Who was that? He won the NFL Most Valuable Player award for 1980, quarterbacking the Cleveland Browns.
Tradition figures ideally
Brookgreen has played host to the annual National Sculpture Society showcase since 1999, said Robin Salmon, walking through Rainey Sculpture Pavilion last week on the day before the 2015 exhibit opened.
The gardens’ vice president of art and historical collections/curator of sculpture, Salmon said she can’t wait “every year” to see what juried sculptures will be set up, coordinated and presented by a dedicated crew across the two halls, one for human figures, the other for animals. Amid the different techniques artists use, she agreed the art’s evolution never ends.
The gateway into the wildlife wing is framed by bronzes of two animals that deserve more respect and admiration than their commonplace maligning in society and storybooks: “Hanging Fruit Bat” by Tony Hochstetler, and “The White Lady” by George Bumann. Both figures bear sweet, gentle expressions, too.
Salmon spoke about Bumann’s stated inspirations to create the wolf with clay and coloring, and his living by Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
“He has the model right outside his door,” she said.
The great blue herons that make up Walter Matia’s “House of Lords” impress Salmon for their life size, on their own wall, and for the impetus for artwork: the pomp and circumstance of Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee celebration into Parliament’s House of Lords.
Salmon said this exhibit, with pieces by 57 artists – 33 human figures and 24 fauna and flora, reflects the largest number in several years, and the majority of the submissions has trended from west of the Mississippi River from the Northeast. She counted five or six from Utah alone, and two circular pieces, with a person or horse atop, depending on the gallery.
Arranging the placement of each sculpture every year starts “with Xs on paper” and many shuffles of items in the halls, Salmon said, and figuring out the right size pedestal for each, and whether some merit a riser atop that. Bas reliefs pose their own challenge, but they always manage to fit in. Leo E. Osborne made “Remorse,” a bird with its bill tucked under a wing, with maple wood burl, dyed.
Stopping by an alcove with Andre Harvey’s “Ginkgo Leaf,” Salmon voiced her intrigue with its detail down to every vein on the thin bronze leaf on its thicker stem, with a stylized art-deco flair.
In her 40th year employed at Brookgreen, Salmon said this annual exposition, in step with the whole outdoor museum across the gardens, make this site “the Valhalla of American sculpture,” in keeping with founders Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington’s vision of highlighting “figurative foundations found in nature.”
For this National Sculpture Society exhibit, the Brookgreen People’s Choice Award remains a tradition, so everyone’s encouraged to cast a ballot in each gallery.
Just in the first two weeks last year, Salmon said, every artwork had received at least one vote, illustrating the wide appeal this collection of sculpture continues to cast.
Don’t leave without seeing Scott Rogers’ “Baseball,” showing nine players in a team pose, including one player barefoot, but that’s not S.C. native “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, from the infamous 1919 champion Chicago White Sox. This piece shows a tintype from the 1890s.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.
If you go
‘Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America’
WHAT: Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition
WHEN: Through Sept. 5
WHERE: Georgetown County Museum, 120 Broad St., Georgetown
OPEN: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays; and this Thusrsday only, until 7 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $5 ages 19-59, $4 ages 60 and older, $2 ages 7-18, free ages 6 and younger
ALSO: Myrtle Beach Pelicans mascot Splash will greet visitors 3-4 p.m. this Saturday for autographs and photos with your own camera
INFORMATION: 545-7020 or www.georgetowncountymuseum.com
National Sculpture Society’s 82nd annual Awards Exhibition
WITH: Animal, human and nature-based works by 57 artists
WHEN: Through Nov. 1
WHERE: Brookgreen Gardens, on U.S. 17, between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield Beach, across from Huntington Beach State Park
HOW MUCH: Free with admission, which lasts seven days: $15 ages 13-64, $13 ages 65 and older, and $7 ages 4-12, and free ages 3 and younger
OPEN: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
ALSO: “Stayin’ Alive: The Music of the Bee Gees” concerts – with Dustin Brayley, Eric Anthony and Ryan Guerra – 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10-13, for $30 (or $25 members)