According to my wife, Julie, this year’s Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston, South Carolina—aka SEWE—comes “just in time for you to pick up my perfect Valentine’s Day make-up gift.” It hurts me that she’s already planning on my blowing it on my favorite holiday of the year (cough-cough), but she does have a point. The South’s premier wildlife art and sporting exhibition, SEWE brings a dizzying mix of paintings, sculpture, woodcarvings, antique decoys, flying dogs, parties, concerts, and conservation education. From February 16–18, across five venues in the heart of Charleston, you can learn to cast a fly rod, and watch sheep dogs, birds of prey, hunting retriever, and live art demonstrations. And, as I evidently will, you can certainly make up for any lost gift-giving opportunities in your recent past.
Julie and I go every year, and you can bet we’ll be downing bowls of steaming chicken bog at the conservation exhibits around Marion Square, checking in with favorite knifemakers and silversmiths, and cheering on competitors in the DockDogs competition. (No one loves leaping Labradors more than Julie.) But I’m looking forward to some of the new additions to the SEWE lineup. Here’s what’s on my new-to-do itinerary. Note: Unless specified, all these events are included with a SEWE ticket.
Live from SEWE
Held at Charleston Place, SEWE’s Quick Draw/Speed Sculpt and Auction has been a huge hit with attendees. Artists have one hour to start and finish original works, which are then auctioned on the spot. You can wander around and watch the entire process, and the talent on display is incredible. This year, SEWE has more live-action showcases planned: Pencil It In will feature four artists working in pencil, scratchboard, and graphite, and Opposites Attract lines up four artists across a variety of media.
Flights of Feather
A few years ago, I wrote a G&G piece on the exquisite shadow-box art Chris Maynard creates from intricately deconstructed feathers. I definitely plan to catch up with him during SEWE, when Maynard will be the artist-in-residence at the Dewberry hotel. You can see his work on display, and meet the artist in person at the hotel’s Living Room on Friday from 6–9 p.m. and Saturday from 3–6 p.m. Maynard’s creations are astonishing in their detail and composition, and I’m always inspired by how he can make the tiniest bits of quill and vane tell sweeping stories of the hidden lives of birds.
Songwriters in the Round
Moonlight on Shem Creek, firepits ablaze, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres aplenty, and a night of live storytelling, music, and shoulder-rubbing with a group of accomplished Southern songwriters: The new Lowcountry Lyrics is an intimate event at a private waterfront home and a brand-new concept for SEWE. Tickets are $175 each, and I suggest moving quickly.
A growing hub of SEWE action is at the Charleston Marriott, across the street from Brittlebank Park. The expanding Sporting Showroom (Friday–Sunday) features exhibits of decoys and fine sporting arms, plus a wish-list offering of guides, lodges, and outfitters. Ducks Unlimited will also host an adventure trip auction on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Sporting Showroom is a great place to escape any windy weather and catch a break from the enthusiastic crowds at Brittlebank Park. And did someone mention a Bloody Mary and mimosa bar?
If you’re perusing the goods at the Gaillard Center, stop by a new panel discussion on Saturday highlighting the role of women in wildlife conservation. Moderated by Julie Scardina, a lauded animal trainer and educator, the panel will feature Mandy Feavel, director of operations for South Carolina’s Avian Conservation Center/Center for Birds of Prey; Amy Kight, director of Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Florida; and Dr. Forrest Gomez, director of conservation medicine for the National Marine Mammal Foundation. Hear their personal stories, and learn about conservation efforts on land, sea, and sky.