West Pelzer Municipal Center transformed into Art Gallery

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Residents of the Town of West Pelzer talked about two subjects they like, burning and bird houses, Tuesday. Mayor Blake Sanders said the two subjects are favorites for the town because they like both. Burning is a popular pass-time and the fact that the town is a bird sanctuary, and has a walking tour, he said.
However the discussion was not held during the council meeting, but afterwards, and it was about art, specifically paintings by upstate artist Glen Miller, which are on display in the West Pelzer Municipal Center.
Miller’s work was the debut art exhibition for the “GRAND Gallery”. Twelve paintings were displayed on the blank white walls of the Council Chambers room, transforming it into a contemporary art venue.
One of the paintings on display featured what could be a pile of leaves or camp fire burning while others had bird houses in them. About thirty people listened intently as Miller talked about his art and answered questions about his art.
Miller is an award-winning painter who has trained hundreds of artists in the Upstate.  He studied art at East Tennessee State University and did his graduate work at the University of South Florida and the University of Tennessee before coming to the Upstate in 1979. His first job was as a teacher at Woodmont High School. Since then he has fostered Upstate culture by teaching art at all levels.  After teaching at Woodmont, Newberry, and Travelers Rest high schools, he focused on teaching at the university level. He presently serves at Furman University.
His paintings blend fictional and real things to tell a story. When asked about some of the people in the paintings, Miller said his work is fictional, with invented figures and natural elements he has encountered on hikes, growing up in Southern Appalachia, and from his back yard.
The fictional people in his works are not the main element. According to Miller, he paints scenes where the people are not more significant than the nature surrounding them. Many of the nature scene are from photos he has taken of actual places.
When asked about the bird houses in some of his art, Miller said that it is use of symbolism. “It is not that important that that you know what I’m doing,” he said. “But looking for something that interests you.”
He went on to explain that “birds take flight. It is a way to contain the bird, to house that bird,” he said. “It is a symbol of hope – and it is a neat little shape.”
In response to another question, Miller explained that his newer work often includes “an element of search.”
Miller said he was glad to be the first to exhibit in West Pelzer’s GRAND Gallery series. He said it is an opportunity to “take art to the people. They don’t always go to it. We are bringing art to people who would otherwise not see it.” Miller’s art will be on view through May 24th and can be seen by appointment during regular business hours.
West Pelzer resident and artist Andy Gambrell, helped organize the event and spoke. Gambrell thanked the town for hosting the GRAND Gallery which he said is an all volunteer project.  He said he appreciates the community support. According to Gambrell, the name came from the first two letters of Greenville and the first three letters of Anderson. “West Pelzer is a part of both,” he said. The gallery location takes advantage of West Pelzer’s position between Greenville and Anderson and celebrates artists from both communities. Gambrell said he wanted to bring artists from Anderson and Greenville together so they can interact. The GRAND Gallery will include a series of invitational exhibitions and will feature artists from across the upstate and will include experienced artists and emerging artists.
“Aspiring artists can come and learn from the art,” he said.
The next exhibition will be June 4 through July 26 by Anderson University Fine Arts students who will have the opportunity to share their work with the public.
West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders said, “We are trying to add value to the community. We are looking at the story of West Pelzer. The experience of people is changing. Everyone has a different story. We are about telling a story.”
“We couldn’t be happier that Glen Miller was the first artist to exhibit in our GRAND Gallery. He is very fitting choice.”
Sanders said “It felt really cool to have that art displayed in a small space. It is the perfect size space for our town to do this,” he said. It is exciting to be able to bring art here.”
Sanders said the mix of seasoned veteran artists and students work that will be on display during the series will be interesting.
“It will be fun to watch what and hear what people think.”
(Photo above – Artist Glen Miller talks with West Pelzer residents about his art)