Colton Ballet Celebrates 50 years of The Nutcracker
The holiday season brings to mind family, friends and of course … The Nutcracker! Come celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Colton Ballet’s The Nutcracker and experience the same magic and grandeur that Ron Colton, director emeritus, brought to Augusta in 1971. Your entire family will enjoy this classic holiday tale that has become a season favorite in the region.
Colton Ballet Company will present a brand-new set for Act 1 for the 50th-anniversary production. From the festive Party Scene to the exquisite Snow Scene, made complete with new costumes, Colton Ballet’s The Nutcracker promises to be an unforgettable event.
Join Colton Ballet Company of Augusta as this holiday favorite comes to life November 26–28.
For ticket information, visit www.coltonballetcompany.org.
(Photo coourtesy of Colton Ballet)
A Purposeful Restoration Bath Gardens
By Randy Pace
The restoration of Bath Gardens in Bath, Ga., holds meaningful inspiration for Catherine “Sweetie” Fleming who is spending her days in the detailed design and execution of the property’s renovation. The canopied site — 55 acres of pristine woodlands with numerous underground springs — was a family gathering spot for cousins, parents and grandparents where Fleming played as a child. Today, Fleming is on a mission to restore the same European-style garden retreat that her grandfather worked hard to create in the 50s.
“My grandfather said he thought the garden would probably ‘go back to seed.’ I see the beauty and vision of his creation, and the thought of letting it disintegrate was like throwing a work of art into the trash.”
The “Austrian Valley at Bath, Ga.,” as coined by The Atlanta Journal–Constitution in 1968, once housed picturesque brick terraces overlooking fountains nestled under conifers, pink azaleas and white dogwoods in early spring. The land was originally purchased in 1958 by Fleming’s grandfather, Alonzo Plumb Boardman, Sr. (known as “Lonnie”), with the vision of recreating a European hillside like the Austrian valleys he and his wife had visited. After Lonnie passed away in 1972, the charming landscape and Austrian-style lodge fell into a slump of inconsistent maintenance. Several decades later, in disrepair and overgrown, it was much like the initial “jungle” Boardman, Sr., cleared in the 50s.
In 2018, Fleming received ownership of the land. Her vision is simultaneously sentimental and community-spirited with the goal to “restore the [original] garden and give it to the public for use.” The functional aspect of that dream led to hiring WP Law Fountain Division (Lexington, S.C.) who made several significant improvements: replaced all the clay pipes connecting over 18 springs on the grounds; repaired the dam at the end of the cement pond and rebuilt the sagging brick terrace; re-cemented the pond to preserve the fresh waters; restored ornate fountains. Rollins Landscaping added French drains and irrigation systems for re-establishing the elaborate landscaping. The cascading hillside beneath the upper terrace will feature a variety of ornamental and indigenous species that provide consecutive color throughout every season.
Fleming remarks that her motivation is more than the ownership of a piece of land or family name. She adds, “We want the garden to be used by as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible, for as long as possible.”
Bath Gardens will be available in 2022 for wedding celebrations and planners, moviemakers, general public events and corporate rentals.
(Photo by Randy Pace)
There has been a lot of change downtown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While we have lost some Augusta staples, others have transformed themselves to fit the ever-changing lifestyle. The Bee’s Knees and The Hive downtown have been reimagined to better fit into Eric Kinlaw’s community-centric vision.
Kinlaw has redesigned The Bee’s Knees into a small coffee shop and bakery featuring six Georgia-roasted coffee blends, including some selections of coffee and tea available to take home. The secret found in the new caffeine hub is the curios and live plants, though Bee’s knows it very well, as they started as a curio shop in 1998. Each of the bakery pastries are handmade daily using ingredients from local farmers, but Kinlaw also features local favorite, Haute Doughnuts, on the second Wednesday of every month.
Over at The Hive, Kinlaw has decided to implement a few new changes that he hopes will help the local community he’s so passionate about. While the spot will still serve as a retail-style taproom, he’s implemented a bodega – a small grocery store – that offers fresh fruits and vegetables and smaller items for those with limited access to a regular-sized grocery store.
30th anniversary of PlayBack “The Band”
Three decades ago, in October 1991, a group of local musicians decided to combine their talents and form what would be known as PlayBack “The Band” (PBTB) featuring Tutu D’Vyne. The group quickly became a household name in the River Region – mainly due to their weekly gig at Surrey Tavern.
With a diverse set list featuring various genres from hip-hop to funk, blues, rock, pop and country, they propelled into the scene as Augusta’s premier wedding band. Notably, they opened for President Bill Clinton’s legendary Augusta Riverfront speech in 1992, along with opening-act shows for Riley B. King (better known as B.B. King), Lou Rawls, New Edition, MAZE and, most recently, Gladys Knight in July 2018 at the Bell Auditorium.
Countless Augusta area brides and grooms fondly review their wedding videos and photos as they watch PBTB light up the dance floor, with Tutu D’Vyne at the helm. Augusta magazine has honored the group several times in their “Best of Augusta” awards and categories throughout the 1990s.
Dr. Tom Mack’s 100 Things to do in Augusta Before You Die
Well-known Arts and Humanities columnist for the Aiken Standard, Dr. Tom Mack, has authored a new book all about the hidden (and not so hidden) gems of our lovely city. You may have read some of his previous works, Hidden History of Aiken County or Hidden History of Augusta, so it comes as no surprise that his new book also features the ever-changing River Region.
A local resident who graduated with a Ph.D. in English from Lehigh University in 1976, Mack’s love for writing and literature has kept him a driving force for student success. As a specialist of American Literature and member of the English Department at the University of South Carolina Aiken since 1976, Mack currently holds the honorary title of distinguished professor emeritus. His prolific literary achievements and accolades do not go unnoticed. After beginning his weekly Arts and Humanities column in 1990, he has continued to shine a spotlight on local music, theatre, literature and visual arts. Suitably, he was awarded the 2013 media award by the Greater Augusta Arts Council for his dedication to the column.
A work in progress since February 2020 (with a few COVID-19 delays), 100 Things to do in Augusta Before You Die is a short compendium of 100 things to do, see and explore in our lovely area. Even if you’ve lived in Augusta all your life, I guarantee there’s a location or activity that you may have overlooked. Not only are there 100 things to do, but there is also the occasional tip to enhance your experience at a few of the locations whether dining, shopping or enjoying a recreational spot.
“I think now is the perfect time for a book like this to come out because people are just dying to get out and explore,” said Dr. Mack during his book presentation and signing at the Morris Museum of Art last month. From Jenks Farmer’s crinum lilies, to Porkchop’s Happy Robot with southern cuisine and nightlife in between, the itineraries are divided by season and by category. So, pick your path and get exploring or – if it has been while – rediscovering.
Ciamillo Wood Works
When Dr. Louis Ciamillo Jr. had enough of COVID-19 he decided to do something about it. An Augusta University emergency physician with 20 years of experience, Ciamillo Jr. found that at the height of all the lockdowns and mounting restrictions of 2020, he needed a way to combat his anxiety and boredom. It was not negotiable. So, Ciamillo Jr. decided to turn his stress into something useful. He solicited the help of his son, Louis Ciamillo III, and they got busy building a walnut desk for his brother’s business. What started as a fun family project propelled the father and son team into creating sophisticated wooden cutting boards and selling them locally.
Ciamillo Wood Works was born.
In February 2021, Ciamillo Wood Works launched a Facebook page to showcase some of their products and sell what they could to pay for their growing hobby. Now, nearly two years from their catalytic start, the product line is growing as well as their circle of consumers. Ciamillo Jr. has had a personal interest in woodworking for many years, but this latest endeavor is different because it is a family affair. He says, “I am very happy to start this business with my son. My wife also helps with sales, shipping and local delivery. We are definitely no longer bored!”
The Ciamillo Wood Works products include valet trays, various styles of cutting boards (engraved or with initials), walnut cheese boards, charcuterie boards, Qi wireless charging trays and grill boards. The sophisticated craftsmanship and rich finishes make these products great ideas for wedding or holiday gifts.
Prices vary in size and functionality.Visit www.facebook.com/ciamillo.woodworks.
Augusta Ballet’s The Nutcracker
The Augusta Ballet, performing company of the Columbia County Ballet, will present The Nutcracker in the Columbia County Performing Arts Center on Friday, December 10 at 7 p.m.
The ballet will feature guest artist, Michael Viator, as the Cavalier to the Augusta Ballet’s Sugar Plum Fairy, Gracie Stager, and guest artist, Olivia Viator, as the Arabian Princess partnered by Augusta Ballet’s Gabriel Hughes.
For tickets, visit the Columbia County Performing Arts Center at www.thecenterofcc.com.
For John’s Sake
By Steven Uhles
We talk a lot about James Brown around here, and rightfully so. He earned the honor to be considered this community’s most famous native son. He changed – more than once – the very face of popular music. Not many people have influenced their field as profoundly as the Godfather of Soul and even fewer have any real ties to Augusta. Certainly, Jessye Norman would qualify. Perhaps Hulk Hogan. The argument might be made for former Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, if you are feeling fiduciary. But there’s a name that rarely rises, despite being born in Augusta and raised in the not-so-faraway community of Allendale, South Carolina.
Those unfamiliar with the name – although the New York Times declared him, in 2018, America’s “foremost living artist” – have certainly seen his work. Painterly representations of American flags. Bold targets. Simple numbers and letters, sometimes stacked and sometimes in series, elevated to the level of high art. Jasper Johns, more than any other 20th Century artist, represents the bridge between the loose and emotive style of Abstract Expressionism and the bold figurative compositions of Pop Art.
It’s not surprising, I suppose, that Johns’ Augusta connection has and continues to fly under the radar. The truth is that while his art is famous, coveted by both collectors and museums, Johns, now 91, has himself eschewed the spotlight, living quietly and alone for decades. Recently, a double exhibition of the artist’s work opened simultaneously at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of Art in New York City. When asked about the exhibitions, he said he would not be quoted and that the shows were not his idea. It was the statement of a man who seems to prefer that his art speaks for him.
With exhibitions of Johns’ paintings and sculptures being mounted to much fanfare (and expense) at top-tier museums around the world, the prospect of bringing even a small selection of Johns’ works to Augusta seems fairly far-fetched. But it should be noted that while the one-of-a-kind pieces remain realistically out-of-reach – his 1958 painting Flag sold in 2010 for a reported $110 million – Johns’ career extends well beyond those works.
He has, since 1960, also been a prolific printmaker. The Augusta community might not be able to pull in a painting or sculpture, but I believe an exhibition of prints might not only be possible but an interesting approach to discussing his evolution as an artist.
I am not, in any way, saying that siphoning a selection of prints from the museums and collectors that currently hold them rightfully near-and-dear would be easy. It may not, in fact, even be possible. It merely seems like the most obvious, and probably high-profile, way to acknowledge and celebrate the artist’s local roots.
It is not, however, the only answer. We’ve made much of James Brown and Jessye Norman without broadcasting their music from every street corner. Their art is celebrated without direct engagement. Why are we not affording Johns the same respect? Where are the statues, or, if a statue seems extreme, the plaque? We have become a city of murals – and yet the most notable visual artist with Augusta ties remains underacknowledged. Maybe we could name a gallery at the University after him? How about a Johns Road? Wait. There is already a Johns Road. Can we add a Jasper to it?
In a perfect world, I would love to see some sort of acknowledgment from Johns as to his Augusta-area roots, but that seems unlikely. His time in town was short and his life in the region not always happy. He has never been considered a Southern artist, associated more with the New York scene that turned the world on its mid-century ear. Just as Jackson Pollock is rarely referred to as “that guy from Wyoming”, so Johns has, by choice, lived and been associated with New York. To ask him to identify otherwise, particularly at this late date, seems foolish.
My point is this: Augusta remains a city working to establish its cultural identity. To most of the world, we are a golf town with a side of James Brown. Which is fine. But we have the opportunity to take something people believe they understand and, by adding a layer, elevating it. It’s what Jasper Johns did when he painted his famous flag and, by celebrating one of art’s most captivating personalities, perhaps we can do the same.
Appears in the November/December 2021 issue of Augusta Magazine.