Most months in Charleston are marked by a signature festival or event. The Lowcountry Oyster Festival gets things started in January, followed by Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in February and Charleston Wine + Food Festival in March. And on and on and on.

For the past 36 years, late May and early June have been all about the arts in Charleston. The Spoleto Festival USA—an internationally-renowned exhibition of visual and performing arts—has been a vital component of Charleston’s cultural heritage for over 30 years. The festival was selected as the American counterpart to the annual Italian arts and performances festival in 1977 by Pulitzer-Prize winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti. The Holy City has hosted the U.S. version of this annual creative festival ever since, providing a platform for young and experimental artists while gaining international acclaim.

Whether you attend the Opening Night Fête, the Festival Finale, or any of the critically acclaimed performances in between, there’s something for everyone at this year’s Spoleto Festival USA from May 25 – June 10.

Spoleto 2012 kicks off with Leo, a surprising physical theater production that asks one simple question: What would happen if the laws of gravity were to suddenly change?

Opening at Dock Street Theatrea longtime festival favorite, Ireland’s Gate Theatre, performs Noel Coward’s eccentric comedy, Hay FeverAudiences will also welcomeThe Animals and Children Took to the Streetswritten and directed by Suzanne Andrade and performed at Memminger Auditorium.

The 2012 dance program features the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, performing electrifying new works and iconic classics; Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, one of the edgiest dance companies; The Radio Show, inspired by an urban radio show; and A Crack In Everything, an innovative mix of choreography and ethereal video projections.

The Wells Fargo Jazz Series features seven talented artists; Ukulele prodigy Jake Shimabukuro; Brazilian vocalist Virginia Rodrigues; American vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant featuring The Aaron Diehl Trio; pianist David Peña Dorantes; double-bass virtuoso Renaud Garcia- Fons; and legendary New Orleans brass ensemble Rebirth Brass Band.

To learn more about Spoleto Festival USA 2012, visit SpoletoUSA.org. And tune back into our blog later this week, as we’ll invite our first guest blogger to offer some tips on ways to fill up your days while in town for Spoleto.