Originally created 02/27/06

Legislator's office also gallery



COLUMBIA - Rep. Skipper Perry's legislative office decor doesn't change with the season.

It's more like month-to-month.

"The artwork that was in here looked like it was stolen out of the Motel 6," he said with a laugh.

That was the Aiken Republican's first impression in late 1999, when the newly elected state lawmaker stepped into the central office space he would share with three other legislators.

So he contacted an artist friend who agreed to loan some of her pieces.

And that led, in turn, to an "Artist of the Month" program that, to date, has showcased the talents of 22 Aiken-area artists. At least one other lawmaker has started a similar project.

Mostly, it's paintings. Once, it was pottery. This month, it's photography.

"Anything like this is an opportunity for exposure," said Shelly Marshall Schmidt, whose equine-themed photos and photo illustrations currently adorn the walls.

Ms. Marshall Schmidt has made a life saying "yes" to opportunity.

In 2003 and 2004, for instance, she helped with the Horseplay fundraiser, in which life-sized, fiberglass horses were painted and displayed throughout Aiken.

That led to a trip to Italy.

When Exxon needed a race car photographer, she said "yes" to that, too.

"Each one is just an opportunity I like to, when asked, take advantage of," she said.

Mr. Perry's project exposes local talent to a whole new audience, Ms. Marshall Schmidt said.

Each month, he introduces the new artist on the floor of the House. Soon thereafter, Mr. Perry says, people start stopping by to see the work.

Sometimes, the pieces find a new home.

Late last year, Sally Donovan displayed her artwork in Mr. Perry's office, and it ended up one floor up - in the personal office of House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

Mr. Harrell first asked to borrow two of Ms. Donovan's paintings, but he liked one of an oak tree and race track so much, he decided to buy it.

For ethical reasons, Mr. Perry does not broker any sales, but an assistant keeps a price list and contact information for each artist, in case anyone is interested in purchasing. Mr. Harrell was, and Ms. Donovan wrote him a "thank you" note back.