The City Magazine Since 1975

Native Talent

May 2018
Native Talent
WRITER: 

Contemporary artist William Halsey nurtured the city as an educator for more than 40 years. 

William Halsey, an artist honored by today’s Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, grew up in Charleston “surrounded by flaking plaster, mortarless brick walls, and rotten wood.” Yet he saw these things as “delight, rather than decay,” and through this lens developed a unique style in painting and sculpture that conveyed beauty amidst disarray. Though many of his peers flocked to New York City during the abstract expressionist movement, Halsey refused to leave his hometown, whose streets continued to serve as his muse. He, in turn, nurtured the city as an educator for more than 40 years, first teaching at the Gibbes and later forming the Charleston School of Art with his wife, Corrie McCallum, and a third artist, Willard Hirsch (Halsey is pictured here with students during its active years from 1953 to 1964). He also established College of Charleston’s studio art program in 1964, where he was a professor and artist-in-residence for nearly 20 years. Halsey passed away in 1999, but Charleston has not forgotten him: just this year, Mayor Tecklenburg declared March 14 William Halsey and Corrie McCallum Day, recognizing the couple’s zeal for education and their lasting impact on fine art in the Holy City. 

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Photograph courtesy of Louise Halsey