Arts gala returns after a year's hiatus

A popular fundraiser for local arts programs celebrates 30 years this September after taking a year off.

The Island School Council for the Artswill host its annual arts gala and auction, "An Evening of the Arts," Sept. 24 at Honey Horn on Hilton Head Island.

Work by local and regional artists is auctioned at the event. Proceeds support arts programs in local schools.

The auction was called off last year. Instead, the organization focused on aiding arts education in southern Beaufort County through smaller fundraisers and on preparing for its 30th anniversary this year.

Now, after a year's hiatus, the event is back and promises to be better, said Mira Scott, board president of the Island School Council for the Arts.

"The event will absolutely blow people's socks off," Scott said of the black-tie-optional affair.

The council has awarded more than $2 million for arts education programs since its inception in 1971, according to its website. The group also provides grants to teachers and college scholarships.The yearlong gap gave board members time to come up with new events and better ways to promote arts education in the area, Scott said. Among the changes to be announced at the fall gala are a new public art project, visiting artist program, membership drive and endowment.

"There are a lot of things we do in the community, and a lot of people don't know what we do. We said, 'Let's do a public art project,' " Scott said. "We wanted to reach the public a little more."

She said the board plans to use accommodations-tax money from Beaufort County and the Town of Hilton Head Island to help pay for the installation of public art at Honey Horn. The board has filed its request with the county and is scheduled for an interview with government officials later this month. Scott said the group plans to submit its request to Hilton Head in September.

The group is working with artists Walter, Wally and Kevin Palmer to create a small, useable amphitheater featuring an arched wall with glass mosaic depicting an aerial view of the island, along with two bronze bird statues. The council hopes to pursue a public project every other year, she said.

In the past, the auctions have raised as much as $50,000. Scott said she hopes to raise $60,000 this year, despite a poor economy.

"I think when people are passionate about things they try to support it the best they can, even in hard economic times," Scott said.

Gretchen Keefner,principal at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts, said she is excited to hear the event is back this year.

"We missed it a lot, and we felt its absence in the schools last year," Keefner said. "The impact is dramatic because the money raised goes directly to benefiting children, by allowing us to bring professional artists into the classroom. Those artist residencies authenticate the art and make it real for students. They see it's not just something you do in the classroom."