Past presidents’ art highlight SOBA show

Past president and artists, from left, Dee Johnson, Sandra Wenig, Dave Dickson, Helen Evans, Terry Brennan, Emily Wilson, Lynda Potter, Chris Clayton and Marian Sanders
Past president and artists, from left, Dee Johnson, Sandra Wenig, Dave Dickson, Helen Evans, Terry Brennan, Emily Wilson, Lynda Potter, Chris Clayton and Marian Sanders

Dave Dickson is past president and a longtime member of the Society of Bluffton Artists. But, on the day of my visit to the gallery, he was fulfilling one of his many responsibilities as a gracious volunteer.

He was carefully wrapping a package of several pieces of original art a couple from Centerpoint, N.Y., had selected. As they stood nearby, he answered their questions and encouraged their interest. Two groups of art appreciators arrived to see the work in the gallery, and two others thanked him effusively on their way out the Church Street exit.

The gallery has more than 100 artworks in place in a variety of formats, styles and mediums, and they are offered by both experienced artists and emerging ones.

“Things have really changed since my first connections with SOBA,” said Dickson. “What is now known as SOBA actually began very informally, around 1994, when a small gathering of very dedicated artists simply met informally, once a month, and shared their artwork and enjoyed the friendship of other artists. They even exhibited their artwork annually, at The Town Hall in Bluffton.”

“The artists wanted to move forward, though. They wanted to become an impactful arts organization,” he said. “Lynda Potter became the very first president (and) laid the groundwork, followed by Helen Evans in 2001, who had the idea of actually having a real gallery, expanding the membership and maybe to begin to offer programs, classes, special exhibits and scholarships ... .”

The small but growing group happily followed her leadership and were not only supported by SOBA members but by the Town Council.

“Sometime in 2002 many SOBA members involved themselves with the restoration ... of the old Bluffton Library down on Boundary,” said Dickson. “We saw to making that space a kind of gallery for exhibiting the members work... . That was a big step.”

Dickson said another real turning point came when SOBA wanted to send their thanks to the community for its generosity by creating after school art classes for 4th and 5th grade students at no cost.

In 2003, SOBA organized and staged the inaugural Old Town Art Walk.

“The Old Town Art Walk started under my regime,” said Dickson. “It was so successful, and, I have to say, still is.”

“We moved from our Boundary Street library location when we were able to open this gallery almost five years ago. It really changed our direction, again,” said Dickson. “... We were able to open our Center for Creative Arts ... where we now offer and provide so many of the art options our earliest organizers imagined back in those formative years. We now have 185 members, artists and patrons, who are engaged ... not only as artists, but as volunteers, teachers, organizers, fund raisers and chairmen of special events.”

The good news is that the upcoming exhibition at the gallery will feature the artwork of its past living presidents. Their work will be in place from Sept. 6 until October 2. Plan to visit the gallery and enjoy particularly the artwork of past presidents Lynda Potter, Dee Johnson, Helen Evans, Emily Wilson, Terry Brenan, Dave Dickson, Chris Clayton, Sandra Wenig and Marian Sanders.

A wine reception is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 9 at the gallery.

Artist, musician, teacher and writer Nancy K. Wellard focuses on portraying and promoting the cultural arts, first in Los Angeles and, for close to 30 years, in the Lowcountry. Email her at

‘Wildlife Art and More’

Bluffton artist Sandy Utsey Rhodes is the featured SOBA artist for the month for August.

A South Carolina artist who enjoys living and painting at her family home just at water’s edge along the May River, she focuses on a variety of settings and formats, created in oil.

“Wildlife Art and More” is on view through Sept. 4.