The Venue Steals the Show at Charleston Gaillard Center

Lifting the curtain on a new era of the city's performing arts

By Clare Sweeney,

This will be your special perspective from a seat at the Charleston Gaillard Center — Photo courtesy of Alison Massari / Charleston Gaillard Center

Originally opened in 1968 as the Charleston Municipal Auditorium and Exhibition Hall, the Charleston Gaillard Center we know today began as one of the more contemporary local buildings of its time, holding 2,750 seats and the promise of a future filled with cultural development and the arts.

Flash forward to less than two years ago, when Charleston welcomed an all-new Gaillard Center venue replacing its older counterpart – a stately, grand façade that, instead of attempting a contemporary look, mirrors the great performance halls of Europe.

With its reopening – a night marked by a celebratory gala complete with a performance by world-famous cellist YoYo Ma – the new Gaillard Center became one of the most beautiful buildings in the city's historic district.

Nestled between George and Calhoun Streets on the lower half of the downtown Charleston peninsula, the new Gaillard Center is still supported by the Gaillard Performance Hall Foundation – established with the mission of creating a new cultural center that honored the traditions and successes of the older venue.

The GPH Foundation set out to heighten Charleston's musical and theatrical performance arts to the same level of notoriety that its architecture and cuisine now enjoy, with hopes of creating "A civic touchstone that cultivates imagination and celebrates its people."

Be one of the 1,800 locals and visitors making up the audience inside the Martha and John Rivers' Performance Hall — Photo courtesy of Charleston Gaillard Center

Today, the newly imagined Charleston Gaillard Center is surrounded by stunning landscaping on all sides, with a quiet residential block of George Street at one side and bustling Calhoun on the opposite side. From either point of view, the new Gaillard Center architecture and design gives passersby a hint at the grandeur inside.

The new Gaillard Center, though uniquely Charleston in its friendly and welcoming atmosphere, was designed to impress and awe its audiences. The main attraction is, of course, the 1,800-seat Martha and John Rivers' Performance Hall.

In addition to the grand meeting, convention and banquet event spaces at the Gaillard, the venue also plans to host a variety of performances specifically planned in partnership with local schools, teachers and learning organizations – a piece of its deep and ongoing dedication to youth access to the arts.

Planning on seeing a play or performance at the new Charleston Gaillard Center? Tickets to any Gaillard Center show may be purchased online 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The ticket office is available for in-person ticket purchase Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., opening two hours prior to performance times for weekend shows. 

Vivid blues and soft pastel pinks set the stage for any Gaillard Center performance — Photo courtesy of Charleston Gaillard Center