There is so much power and exhilaration in movement – even the smallest steps require careful intention. And the experience of that movement, the journey from one place to another, can be just as important as the destination.

It was the exploration and meaning of movement that inspired Spoleto Festival USA’s 2023 season poster, which features commissioned photography by Elizabeth Bick, assistant professor of photography at the College of Charleston. An internationally renowned arts festival, Spoleto takes place in Charleston annually over 17 days and features a variety of visual and performing arts at venues across the city, including at the College. The festival kicks off this year on Friday, May 26, 2023.

poster of people dancing with a shadow of palmetto tree in the background“I was imagining what people would look like walking from place to place and I really wanted to use the backdrop of the area where most of the festival is being held,” says Bick. “I really wanted to use that kind of space in between the performances that people will be looking at and have them kind of empathically imagine then that this could be them walking past this Palmetto shadow.”

Bick, who joined the faculty in 2021, worked with her College of Charleston colleagues to cast 12 students from the Department of Theatre and Dance in the School of the Arts to move through the space for a series of images. The final poster includes nine frames of 10 students.

“I was drawn to Elizabeth’s work through an exhibit at the (College’s) Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art,” says Spoleto Festival USA General Director and CEO Mena Mark Hanna. “This work represents the vibrancy of Charleston and of the festival; it captures beauty and art in everyday expression.”

For the Spoleto piece, Bick, whose work has been exhibited internationally, says she was inspired by the joy the festival brings to the region – “a joy of being, of moving, and living. I wanted the work to echo that energy.”

Bick credits School of the Arts Dean Edward Hart ’88 for making a small gesture that led to this big opportunity.

“This commission would have never happened if Edward hadn’t invited me to a dinner at College of Charleston President Andrew Hsu‘s house where I met the artistic director of Spoleto,” she says, adding “it’s genuinely an honor to work with the students and the School of the Arts on this project.”

The College’s relationship with Spoleto goes back to the festival’s inception in 1977, but Hart says having a faculty member from the Department of Studio Art chosen to create the festival’s poster, and include students in the imagery, is a particularly special milestone and another example of “our School of the Arts being the Artistic Heartbeat of Charleston.”

“Elizabeth is the quintessential artist/teacher and has energized our photography program not only by her teaching, but in her amazing professional work,” says Hart. “While the College’s connections with Spoleto Festival USA are innumerable, it is a particular honor to have Elizabeth chosen to join the ranks of Jasper Johns and David Hockney as a Spoleto poster creator.”