A new space for University of South Carolina Beaufort art students and faculty comes with one of Beaufort's best views.
USCB's Sea Islands Center opens today on Bellamy Curve, where Boundary Street turns into Carteret Street, a spot overlooking the Beaufort River.
The building was once the Bellamy Inn and most recently was the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce office.
The renovated space will include a gallery, faculty offices and a studio for students.
"It's a definite upgrade," said Jon Goebel, an assistant professor and studio art program coordinator. "It's a million-dollar view. I'm very happy to be in this office."
The building was purchased about a year ago by the Beaufort-Jasper Higher Education Commission for the school.
The gallery's first show, "Monumental Ideas in Miniatures Books II," opens at 5:30 p.m. today with a free reception. The show features tiny books made from materials such as rice paper, tea bags, wood blocks and mailing envelopes. It will run through Nov. 30.
Goebel said he plans to bring in a variety of artwork to the gallery, including 3D installations, multimedia or large ceramic work.
"It will expose them to a kind of art we don't see so much on Bay Street or in Bluffton," he said. "I'm hoping to bring in artists from all over the country that are doing things we don't do here."
The building might also be the home of the Sea Island Institute, if and when it hires staff members.
The institute, which gives grants to USCB professors for local research, is governed by a steering board. But the group, which gave out about $25,000 last year -- its first year to award the grants -- could eventually hire a staff if money is available.
"Rather than put money into administration, we've put it into the research at this point," Harvey Varnet, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, said. "Our preference is to do the work, as opposed to chat about it."
Students may also work in the gallery as part of a co-op arrangement. They would sign up to work a few hours in the gallery in exchange for studio space on the third floor.
The space -- currently two rooms, with two more to be added -- will be the school's first space solely dedicated to studios for art students, Goebel said. About 16 students can currently work out of the space, which would accommodate the whole senior class of studio-art students.
Goebel said juniors and seniors will be able to use the space. If they don't go the co-op route, there might be competition for the studios.
"The studio spaces will give students more privacy and buy-in," Goebel said.