In the Moment, for the Past

Event organizer Judy Thompson sits in front of Saluda’s historic Gothic-detailed church. Photo by Karin Strickland

Saluda’s Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, with its distinctive square steeple and Carpenter Gothic details, has been a local landmark since the building was dedicated in 1889. Treasured for its original chestnut pews, hand-carved woodwork, and arched stained-glass windows, the church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, serves a tight Episcopal congregation of some 120, and will be the focus of an arts-based fundraiser this month to support its preservation.

The church was the inspiration of the Rev. John McCollough, a clergyman from the South Carolina Lowcountry who arrived in what was then called Pace’s Gap in the summer of 1880 to celebrate the town’s first Episcopal services in a room over Tanner’s Store on Main Street. Construction began that summer on the church, built on donated land on the hillside overlooking downtown. Tradition says that Rev. McCollough carved the altar himself, and, in an early example of upcycling, donated a mahogany dining table that had broken on the trip from South Carolina to form the church’s reredos and lectern. The first service was taken in the new church in 1889, with formal consecration bestowed two years later

For this month’s fundraiser, seven North and South Carolina artists will be creating new works at stations ranged around the event venue, the Saluda Center on Friendship Church Road. Canvases range from portraits — of humans by Rich Nelson, of animals by Susan Doyle — to landscapes by Richard Oversmith. The microlocal focus is strong, with Saluda artist Sam Smith working in watercolors, Scott Cardais fashioning his carved wooden boxes, and Michael Teal making stained glass.

But event organizer Judy Thompson says she’s “especially pleased” to have Renato Moncini of Greenville, SC, as the event’s special-guest artist. Moncini is well known for painting the moonscapes for NASA’s famous landings. Called “the first artist of space,” Moncini has work hanging in the Smithsonian. At the Saluda event, though, he’ll paint a local summertime landscape.

Besides the works in progress, other pieces by the chosen artists will be hung and tagged, with 40 percent of each sale donated to the church’s preservation endowment.

A silent auction, live music, hors d’oeuvres, and wine and beer ramp up the art-making attraction. “It’s a lot of activity packed into two hours,” says Thompson. “But this is one of our town’s most beloved buildings.”

The Art for Preservation Gala to raise funds for the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Saluda happens Saturday, June 23, 6-8pm at the Saluda Center on Friendship Church Road. $60. Tickets are available at the church office (72 Charles St.), by calling or e-mailing Jennifer Shand — 828-749-9740 or jenniferbshand@gmail.com — or at the door. RSVP by June 17. For more information, see transfigurationsaluda.org.

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