The story is told that the Reverend Howard Finster gave up preaching because one Sunday night he asked who remembered his Sunday morning sermon. No one did. He then began fixing bicycles and TV’s. Sometime later he was painting a bicycle with his fingers, and when he looked at the paint on one of his fingers, he had a vision.
God told him to become an artist to spread the word of the Lord.
The Reverend Finster followed that vision and has had art showings across the United States, including the Smithsonian Institute.
Since that time 20 + years ago, the Summerville native has produced over 46,000 paintings. He has been on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, the Johnny Carson Show, and painted the covers of R.E.M. “Reckoning” and the Talking Heads “Little Creatures”. Rolling Stone Magazine voted ‘Little Creatures’ the number one album cover in 1985. R.E.M.’s video ‘Radio Free Europe’ was filmed in the Paradise Gardens in 1983.
Sunday, my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting Paradise Gardens and had the pleasure of talking with Rev. Howard Finster’s grandson and caretaker of the gardens, Andy Wilson. He told us at least 100 stories about the garden, the paintings and random stories of his “Paw-Paw”. He showed us around the place and took us to the Garden. I went out not knowing what to expect, I was in amazement. There was another couple out walking around the garden taking pictures and asking questions to Andy.
There are hundreds of sculptures and paints throughout the garden. It is truly amazing. The Church was original his house. In the Church there are hundreds of old magazines and books on Finster and his art. Up the winding staircase are drawings, paintings, sculptures, and even pictures of Finster and his family throughout the years.
Paradise Gardens is a maze of abstract, symbolic sculptures, and structures. The presence of the Scriptures, their lessons and Finster’s messages from God pervades throughout the garden and church. Howard Finster was truly a visionary man who shares his unique gift freely with anyone who takes the time to care.
Paradise Gardens is only open Saturdays and Sundays from 12-4, admission is free and they have lots of The Reverend’s artwork (remakes) and reprints for sale. They do have a few pieces of Finster’s original work which will cost you.