Spoleto Festival Kicks Off with a Call for Unity through Art

May 27, 2019

Congressman Joe Cunningham talks about art bringing people together
Credit Victoria Hansen

As welcoming as the cannons and confetti, summer temperatures that would stretch into the 90s sizzled on the steps of Charleston’s city hall.  The 43rd annual Spoleto Festival opening ceremonies began on cue, with bells ringing, paper fans flapping and spectators  seeking shade beneath wide brimmed hats.

This year, Erik Van Heynington, a bass baritone in Salmone welcomed the crowd with a distinctive national anthem.  The chair of the festival’s board, William Medich spoke about the festival’s role in the city and the performances on the way.  Then, newly elected Congressman Joe Cunningham stepped up to the podium and a roaring round of applause.

“It’s been said politicians don’t bring people together, artists do,” said Cunningham.  “If that’s true, I think it’s safe to say that art has never been more necessary than it is right now.”

The congressman from the first congressional district challenged people to open their minds to art over the next 17 days, especially art that makes them uncomfortable.

Shakespeare's Globe performs at Spoleto's 2019 opening ceremony
Credit Victoria Hansen

The festival runs through June 9 at 11 indoor and outdoor venues.  It features operas, plays, chamber music, dance and jazz.  The opening ceremonies closed with a special presentation from Shakespeare’s Globe.