William Jay and The South Carolina Academy of Fine Arts

Derrick, Mary Beth, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Nelson, Louis, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia
Wilson, Richard, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia
Brandt, Lydia, School of Visual Art and Design, University of South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina is known for its beautiful, diverse architecture and vibrant history. Its cultural landscape created, and still creates a vibrant artistic culture that supports the progression of the arts in the city, and the larger United States. While this helps to define the city, many aspects of Charleston’s artistic history remain unknown. The South Carolina Academy of Fine Arts is one of the city’s earliest artistic institutions, formed to help sustain a flourishing artistic environment. This kind of institution was not new to America, but it was practically unknown in the southern landscape. In the early nineteenth century, American cities like Philadelphia and New York created Fine Arts academies to further distinguish America as having an artistic community that could compete with older, much more notable European Academies. These academies were difficult to maintain, and many of them failed. Issues between artists, who had the skill and imagination to create art, and the elite, who could donate money and artwork, continuously caused these Academies to fail. South Carolina’s Academy was much like this, but lived for a much shorter time, and the friction between the two parties was much more intense. Although its history has been investigated, historians have not looked at the building that housed the Academy and its role in reflecting the tensions between the elite and the artists on the Board of Directors.

This thesis is organized into three chapters. Chapter one provides a history of the South Carolina Academy of Fine Arts, including the founding Board of Visitors members and their role in its failure. The second chapter investigates the actual building that housed the South Carolina Academy of Fine Arts, and a short biography of William Jay and his previous designs. This chapter also includes two proposed plans of the South Carolina Academy of Fine Arts and discusses buildings that are similar to this structure. The third chapter discusses the role of the Charleston elite and their response to the Academy. It concludes with how the area surrounding the South Carolina Academy could have been a thriving artistic district, but all artistic organizations in this area failed due to lack of involvement from the elite and the Panic of 1819.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Joseph Allen Smith, Joshua Canter, Charleston art, John Blake White, Vauxhall Gardens, William Shiels, Charleston architecture, David Ridal Roper, Samuel F.B. Morse, South Carolina Academy of Fine Arts, Joel R. Poinsett, Broad Street, William Jay, James Wood, Charleston Theatre, Charles Fraser, Washington Allston, John S. Cogdell, Charles C. Wright, Broad Street Theatre, Greek Revival, Panic of 1819, Charles Simmons, American art academies, Charleston elite, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
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