Hilton Head Island has always had pretensions of grandeur -- more like Palm Beach than Myrtle Beach.
A hallmark of upscale communities is the fine arts. We have only two professional fine arts organizations, the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra and Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, each with its own problems.
The arts center continues to suffer from the mistakes of the past when the original funding campaign failed and led to nearly irreversible compromises, including poor design. The small auditorium, frequently sold out, has little potential for increased revenue despite remarkably high quality productions. Currently, community attitudes toward the arts center are not congenial, with newspaper tutorial, accountant-style, efficiency lectures and Sun City Hilton Head surveys of Tiki Hut theater aficionados. Furthermore, it is inappropriate to classify this professional group with the many laudable amateur groups here.
Fine arts in our country are in financial difficulty everywhere. Only philanthropy keeps them going. On Hilton Head Island, we have a substantial contingent of full- and part-time affluent residents. (Just look at the high-priced homes on the market.) Money is clearly the issue for the arts center. The town's allocation of accommodations tax money seems reasonable. What is missing is reliable -- able to be spent now -- funding from our affluent community.
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A number of gated communities have successfully addressed similar problems with a real estate transfer fee. Town Council should consider a similar "fine arts infrastructure fee" on real estate transactions over, say, $500,000.
Hilton Head Island