Steady flow of visitors to Sumter County Gallery of Art

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An exhibit showcasing the batik work and oil paintings of Mary Edna Fraser at the Sumter County Gallery of Art has seen a steady flow of visitors since it opened on Feb. 23.

“Her oil painting is relatively recent, and this is the first time she’s exhibited her batiks with her paintings and it’s very successful,” said Gallery director Karen Watson. “She was really happy with this.”

Fraser is a Charleston-based artist who has photographed the coast of the Carolinas and Georgia from the vantage point of her family’s 1946 Ercoupe airplane.

In an artist’s statement, Fraser said each area she focuses on is carefully researched, “often by hiking the terrain, exploring the waterways by boat, and painting studies on location.”

Fraser’s exhibit runs through April 21, and Watson said she thinks it is one of the best the gallery has had in some time.

Enjoying the gallery on Thursday afternoon were Arlene Janis of Sumter and her longtime friends Joyce and William Anderson, who were visiting from Red Lion, Pennsylvania.

Janis moved to Sumter in 1994; her late husband Henry and William served together in the Navy many years ago and they’ve been close friends ever since.

“My husband was his boss when he was a kid,” Janis said, laughing.

After a trip to Myrtle Beach they came back to Sumter County to take in some culture, as they’re well familiar with concerts at Patriot Hall, plays at Sumter Little Theatre and strolling around Swan Lake-Iris Gardens.

Janis is a member of the Sumter Newcomers Club and wanted to see Fraser’s exhibit as well as another at the gallery featuring the work of Virginia Scotchie and her students, having heard about it from Jane Collins.

“It’s something else,” Janis said, while perusing Scotchie’s work.

“It’s quite imaginative,” Joyce Anderson said.

Also on Thursday, curator and assistant director Gardner Cole Miller was working on an installation featuring the work of local artist Michael Broadway.

Art education director Amanda Cox said she’s excited about new Friday night events known as “Art a la Carte,” which are one-night workshops. This week participants will be making batik scarves.

“We’ve got 12 people in the class already,” Watson said.

Cox said Art a la Carte happens on the first Friday of the month and has gained in popularity. The last class involved ceramics and the next one will involve jewelry making.

“We got into this with wine, cheese and painting but Amanda’s able to offer so much more – she’s an excellent instructor and it’s really taken off,” Watson said.

Morgan Edwards, a new gallery assistant, is also a yoga instructor at Southern Bliss and will be leading a “Paints and Poses” class in May, Cox said.

Virginia Scotchie is the head of ceramics at USC in Columbia and works in sculptural ceramics. Several of her students’ art is being exhibited as well.

The gift shop at the Gallery of Art hosts a wide range of unique items representing a broad, diverse spectrum of artwork, jewelry and more.

"It's the best kept secret in Sumter," Watson said.

Sumter County Gallery of Art is located at 200 Hasel Street and is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. For more information, call (803) 775-0543 or visit

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