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Arts and Culture

Time to get your muse on, from high art to Lowcountry blues.

Charleston is America’s original artists’ colony. Throughout its 300-plus-year history, our city has been a playground for painters, jazz musicians and playwrights. This is where the New World’s first public theater was established as well as the country's first resident ballet company and its first museum.

The College of Charleston plays a leading role in the cultural life of the city. The Cougar Activities Board brings in big-name bands, movies, comedians and inspiring speakers. The School of the Arts stages multiple plays, musicals and operas every semester. Our weekly classical and jazz concert series are standing-room-only affairs, and the Concert Choir and Gospel Choir are nationally renowned.

We’re proud to be partners of the Spoleto Festival USA, the premier arts festival in the country. For 17 unforgettable days every summer, the College and the city host 700 events spanning the best of international performing, literary and visual arts. Our students, faculty and staff also perform in Piccolo Spoleto, a fun-loving offshoot of the original festival designed to reach all residents of the region, young and old.

Charleston is also home to numerous clubs and venues that feature a wide variety of live music ranging from bluegrass to jazz to contemporary rock and the blues. Recent performances have included the Dave Matthews Band, ZZ Top, Widespread Panic, Lyle Lovett and his Large Band, Rilo Kiley and Explosions in the Sky.

College of Charleston students are actors, sculptors, jazz drummers and a cappella singers. Nearly 5,000 students (half of all undergraduates) take a School of the Arts course each semester and 600 are majors in visual arts, theater, dance and music. To better serve their needs, the College constructed a $27.2 million performance, rehearsal, studio  and classroom space — the Marion and Wayland H. Cato Jr. Center for the Arts — which opened in 2010.