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Art alive in Bluffton: Society of Bluffton Artists moves to new home, expands class offerings

By HILARY KRAUSSpecial to The Bluffton Packet

A change in locations already has painted a prettier picture for the Society of Bluffton Artists.

Since moving to 8 Church Street in Bluffton at the end of May, the nonprofit organization has seen a tremendous jump in foot traffic, resulting in a considerable increase in sales, spokeswoman Sandra Wenig said. The gallery is now at the intersection of Calhoun Street -- the main shopping and tourist street in historic old town Bluffton. It's next to Pluff Mud Art and two doors down from Maye River Gallery. The building had been occupied by Hodge Podge Emporium.

"If we were lucky, in the old gallery we'd get five people the whole day. People never bothered going down the street," Wenig said. "Here, people go from one of the galleries to another."

In addition to increased foot traffic, SoBA's Center for Creative Arts was formalized by offering more structured classes to its members and the public.

The society was established in 1999 and has a membership of about 150 local artists. For the past eight years, artists' paintings, pottery, photographs, ceramics and jewelry had been displayed and on sale at 48 Boundary St.

The society has been renting the building from the town of Bluffton for $1. In exchange, a scholarship fund and free after-school art programs were formed. The after-school programs will start up again in January.

However, for years, the town has told SoBA that the Boundray street building eventually would be demolished, Wenig said.

"They never gave us a definite time. This time, they said it would be before the end of our lease at the end of Sept," she added.

When SoBA found out the Church Street building was available, it moved quickly in relocating. The new space is about 1,200 square feet and slightly bigger than the old gallery. Renovations, such as knocking down walls and removing one of the two bathrooms, have added space. The gallery also has more natural light, which enhances the artwork.

Unlike the old location, the new space is not set up for teaching. Classes will be offered at the old gallery until the building is demolished. At the time, the town has offered space at Town Hall, 20 Bridge St., Wenig said.

The summer is filling up with learning opportunities at the arts center. Local artist Ted Jordan will conduct a bring-your-painting critique on July 7. Jordan, the creator of Hallmark greeting cards' successful Mahogany card line that celebrates African-Americans, will critique up to three paintings per person.

Lynda K. Potter, a Bluffton artist and longtime teacher, will hold a water media workshop on July 9 and again on July 23. Sun City Hilton Head resident Diana Tomlinson, who also focuses in watercolors, will teach workshops on July 13, 14 and 15.

An open house is planned for September, Wenig said.