May 2016 Programs

Time_Machine_May_2016May brings to Charleston a profusion of flowers and a general feeling of great anticipation.  Tens of thousands of students are eagerly looking forward to the end of the academic year, while tens of thousands of tourists and locals are eyeing the arts calendar of the upcoming annual Spoleto Festival USA.  Add to this mix the local celebration of National Bike Month, and you have the recipe for some real Charleston fun.  Why not celebrate the end of the school year by bicycling to a performance of  Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess? It’s almost summertime, and the livin’ is easy . . . .

Is South Carolina History Relevant?

As 21st-century technology brings the world to our fingertips, the distant past might seem increasing irrelevant.  In the lowcountry of South Carolina, however, our past continues to shape the world around us. We cannot truly understand our community and move forward in harmony without acknowledging the complex past that shaped our imperfect world.  Thank goodness our state educators know this fact, and have mandated a year-long course in South Carolina history for all third- and eighth-graders.  As the school year comes to an end, I’ll speak to a group of eighth graders (and anyone else who’s interested) about the many reasons why it’s important to study South Carolina history, and why they’ll appreciate this knowledge in the future.

  • Tuesday, 10 May at 11:15 a.m.,  John’s Island Regional Library, 3531 Maybank Highway, Johns Island, SC 29455 (with students from Haut Gap Middle School)


The Sounds of Charleston In Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess

While composing his operatic version of DuBose Heyward’s 1925 novel, Porgy, George Gershwin made several pilgrimages to Charleston in 1933–34 to learn about the musical traditions of the South Carolina lowcountry.  Some of what he heard merely inspired the musical fabric of Porgy and Bess, but some local sounds Gershwin transplanted directly into his 1935 opera.  This month I’ll dust off my musicologist hat and conjure up some audio excerpts for a discussion of the sounds Gershwin absorbed in Charleston and how they influenced the creation of Porgy and Bess.

  • Saturday, 21 May at 3 p.m., Mt. Pleasant Regional Library, 1133 Mathis Ferry Road, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464


Charleston Bicycles into the Age of Mass Production, 1910–1960

The rise of the automobile pushed the bicycle to the sidelines in the early twentieth century, but the two-wheeled cycle industry continued to expand and to find new customers.  In this new installment in my ongoing annual series on Charleston’s bicycling history, we’ll take a look at why cycling in Charleston surged during the Great Depression and how baby-boomers drove the post-war market to new heights in the 1950s.

  • Tuesday, 24 May at 6 p.m., Charleston County Public Library Auditorium, 68 Calhoun Street, 29401


Questions? Drop me a line at butlern[at] or call 843–805–6968 for more information.