The Hilton Head Island Institute has pitched the fall debut of its lecture and panel series as a gathering of world-wise intellectuals, but at least one portion of its program will have a local focus.
Members of the Mitchelville Preservation Project and the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra said they have spoken to institute members about collaborating on events to celebrate the island's Gullah heritage.
The orchestra wants to collaborate with the Hilton Head Choral Society and several predominantly-black churches for a concert of Gullah spirituals, including "Kumbaya," a song with roots in the Sea Islands of the Lowcountry, according to orchestra president and CEO Mary Briggs.
Such concerts will be woven into the institute's schedule of events, tentatively planned for nine days in early October.
"It's absolutely our intention to partner with as many of the organizations that fit within our relatively small first season," institute board member John Shkor said.
Most mornings will start with lectures, followed by forums and outdoor activities in afternoon, and cultural events in the evenings, Shkor said.
Institute leaders have offered few specifics about their plans, but executive director Jack Alderman said the organization will announce more information about the program later this month.
The institute received a $25,000 accommodations-tax grant from Hilton Head Town Council on Thursday.
In addition to the grant money, council also passed a resolution Thursday stating the town "endorses ... Hilton Head Island Institute and urges the community to step forward, in ways large and small, to bring this initiative to fruition."
Alderman said the grant will be used this spring to promote the event.
Council awarded the money despite an Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee recommendation that the group receive no money. In making it recommendation, the tax committee said the institute was not a proven tourism driver.
State accommodations taxes, also known as "bed taxes," are a 2-percent levy on overnight lodging used to fund tourism-related projects and organizations.
The institute requested a $150,000 grant.
A total of 19 organizations were awarded the grants. The average grant was $53,473.
"We are pleased with the forward thinking by the Town Council," said Shkor. "While we are would have liked the full $150,000 grant, we appreciate the town's support. ... Twenty-five thousand dollars is serious money."
The town's contribution increases the institute's fundraising total to around $120,000 according to Shkor.
The institute received a $65,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry in August -- $32,500 was given outright and $32,500 more is available as a matching grant. The institute has nearly met the matching requirement with private donations, said Shkor.
The institute's fundraising goal is about $500,000, which could be raised or lowered depending on programming that hasn't been finalized.
Though the majority of fundraising has been from grants, most of the support will come from private donations, Shkor said.
Alderman said the institute's board members will be donating their money, as well, though he declined to say who has donated or how much.
"We're confident that we can raise the rest," Alderman said.
Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.