A vibrant hub of civic, intellectual and artistic activity, the new Gaillard Performance Hall will remain easily accessible, pedestrian-friendly, and well-located near other educational, cultural and performance venues within our city.

Connect with Us
The Project > Gaillard History

Worthy of the World's Greatest Performances.

A center of diversity, learning and the arts.

When Charleston's Municipal Auditorium and Exhibition Hall, known to us as the Gaillard, was unveiled on a lovely evening in July 1968, our city dressed up to share the excitement and sense of anticipation.

At the time, the contemporary building, as it was referred to, was viewed as a way of spurring Charleston into a future of growth and wealth; it was a symbol of ambition for Charleston's economic prosperity, for its cultural growth, its status and civic pride. The Gaillard represented hope-confidence in what could be.

The Gaillard fulfilled those promises. With its 2,750-seat music hall and its large multipurpose exhibition hall, the Gaillard took its place as Charleston's star venue. It gave a home to the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, and with the founding of Spoleto Festival USA in 1977, it helped propel Charleston onto the world stage, making possible thousands of memorable performances and civic events.

But, sadly, the Gaillard no longer serves Charleston's civic or artistic needs, and we must act now.

 

Charleston gave birth to the country's first theater and later, to the first opera performance.

A City Of Arts

The dawn of American performing arts.

When the Gaillard Auditorium was planned and built, it was beloved and state-of-the-art. To some it may still be, though the community has been imagining a new building for decades now. In truth, the Gaillard has become an obstacle to our city's growth in the arts, and this should be alarming to all.

The inadequacies of the performance hall threaten to thwart Charleston's sustained accomplishments and potential in the arts: With poor and disappointing acoustics, a stage too large for small performances and seating often too abundant to fill, the performance hall is a missed opportunity in nearly every way.

Dressing up the inflexible exhibition hall for nearly any event, meanwhile, is costly and difficult. The Gaillard's overall facilities, from bathrooms to kitchens, are inadequate and unaccommodating, and especially for the elderly and disabled, the building is awkward and inaccessible. Dressing up for an event there feels anticlimactic and disappointing, and indeed, nearly everyone's experience there suffers from a lack of anticipation and magic.

Charleston's unprecedented opportunity to build an elegant and acoustically perfect performance hall and a business-ready, flexible exhibition hall is our fortuitous chance to reinvest in the arts and to extend and broaden our business possibilities.

Ways To Support

While the city's other venues have undergone renovation, the Gaillard has not.

An Outdated Facility

From inception to rebirth.

Music has been at the heart of Charleston's cultural life and heritage since Colonial times. Small concerts were advertised as early as 1732, and amateur musicians, gentlemen of famous families, and members of the South Carolina legislature gathered to play in Charleston's council chambers. Impromptu amateur musical gatherings were held at taverns around downtown, and slowly fall-to-spring concert series subscriptions began to appear, catalysts for socialization among the wealthy. By the time the St. Cecilia Society was founded in 1766, annual private concert series were the backbone of musical life in Charleston, which had become a sort of unique musical satellite of London. An orchestra organized and was funded, and on the eve of the American Revolution it comprised about 25 musicians.

read more

Charleston applauded the first opera in the nation, and by the 1820s it had become a regular stop on the itinerary of traveling performers in opera, theater, and orchestral music. Hibernian Hall, opened in 1840, became a popular venue for bands and small orchestral performances, but still only for whites and the wealthy (black bands, very active in the city, were called for fun events and parties!). The Charleston Academy of Music followed, in 1869, and remained the main musical venue until the Dock Street Theater reopened, more or less as we know it, in 1937, after several reincarnations and additions. In the 1930s the precursor to the Charleston Symphony Orchestra was founded and began to offer an official concert series, but the musical scene remained segregated and stratified for decades to come.

The opening of the Gaillard as a municipal building, followed by the launch of the Spoleto Festival, brought a democratizing force to Charleston's classical music and cultural scenes, which previously had been held in private venues dominated by private subscription events. The democratizing power of the Gaillard continues into the future as the building remains municipal and public, but renovated partially through generous private contributions.

Ways To Support

Questions

Frequently Asked

A new Gaillard Center is essential
to the cultural life and economy
of our city.

Learn More

Architectural

Gaillard Center Plans

Get acquainted with the architectural
plans, renderings, and models of
the new Gaillard Center.
And just imagine.

Learn More

Charleston's

New Civic Centerpiece

The new Gaillard Center is an
important community commitment.
Every dollar counts, including yours!

Ways To Support

"The Gaillard Performance Hall, as it is envisioned, will deliver on the dream of every child and parent in the
greater Charleston area as to a magical event space."

Nella G. BarkleyFounding Chair,
Charleston Regional Alliance
for the Arts