Union Pier

Mar 27, 2023

By Jean-Marie Mauclet

Regardless of the way the State Port Authority was offered the Union Pier property free of any reverter clause, the City of Charleston should regard “this once-in-a-century opportunity” as an opportunity for all citizens, a common opportunity, a common. The manner in which commons are treated is a political issue. A people’s issue.


Since Gwylène Gallimard and I moved to Charleston, in 1984, to open a French Café on Broad street, we have observed how the city, since hurricane Hugo, has succumbed to gentrification and tourism. It is difficult to understand and accept the violence with which underserved local populations are uprooted and sent packing. Without any public transportations to bring them to their workplace, downtown. We are installation artists, who have shown their work throughout America, always to promote social equity and racial justice. In Charleston, among other works, at the City Gallery at Waterfront, in 2018, we presented conNECKted: Imaginings for Truth and Reconciliation. That show only confirmed our dedication to ethical causes.


For the last 3 years, exactly since Martha Lou’s restaurant closed, shocked as I was to see yet an other Charleston landmark fall, l have been building -in my studio- a dream of an equitable Charleston! With partner TINYisPOWERFUL.org, we call it “A TALE OF CHARLESTON”. Today, in view of the push by the Port Authority to hand the Union Pier to outsider developers, I am renaming it “A TALE FOR REPARATIONS”. You enter the Tale through the arches of the Bennett Rice Mill. They open on an entirely Green Urban Landscape where habitat is planned around an Education Center , an Urban Farm, a Hydroponics and Fish Farming Complex, combined with an ‘Elevated Common’ of small-scale eateries, Tiny Businesses and community gathering spaces – … As for habitat: equitable access to property or rentals, at prices which do not reflect the bloated Charleston market but is based on income!


Sorry, I don’t really have any leverage on my dreams. If everything may not be for-real in a tale, we know that it always reflects the (un)conscious aspirations of the protagonists, their hopes, their visions. That is why, in my studio and in my dreams, I pay active attention to such fancies and transform them into physical reality. The proposal above is just an artist’s transparent screen, on which to apply one’s own differences.