Functional art

Cultural touchstones in our city and through our artists

History, culture, art

The City of Beaufort is rich in history. It’s rich in culture, and it’s rich in art. Walk the Beaufort Cultural District and you will soak up all of that -- arts and cultural venues, historic sites, and organizations and businesses dedicated to preserving what makes Beaufort unique.

Designated a Cultural District

The Arsenal, home to the Beaufort History Museum,

In 2015, the South Carolina Arts Commission recognized Beaufort's Cultural District. It's one of only eight such districts in the state. "It is a walkable area that is easily identifiable to visitors and residents and serves as a center of cultural, artistic and economic activity. A cultural district may contain galleries, live performance venues, theaters, artist studios, museums, arts centers, arts schools, and public art pieces," the Commission says.

But where to sit?

The Cultural District Advisory Board, which administers the Cultural District, recently embarked upon its first major art project for the district.

Surveys showed that visitors to Beaufort’s downtown and Historic District said there was not enough seating for them to "sit down and take it all in."

Art that you can appreciate -- and sit on!

The solution? Benches as art …. Six benches, made by craftsmen from LowCountry Habitat for Humanity, and painted by local artists. And Beaufort has so many local artists! It’s not surprising …. The beauty of our environment is inspirational.

Meeting with the Arts Commission

Artists point to their work at Santa Elena Center.

In January 2020, the benches were placed at six key locations throughout the Cultural District. Members of the SC Arts Commission visited on Jan. 23 and met several of the artists.

A walking tour

Visit each bench! (And enjoy our beautiful city while you do!)

Sponsor: Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce

Artist: Omar Patterson

Theme: Low Country Dreaming

Location: Corner of Bladen and Duke streets

Material: Acrylic latex

Details: Artist Omar Patterson’s “Low Country Dreaming” evokes iconic images of the Low Country – sunset, palm trees, and marsh grass – along with historically significant African-American figures – Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Beaufort’s legendary Robert Smalls. Patterson wanted his bench, sponsored by the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce, to have “images that were significant to Beaufort’s African-Americans.”

“It took me about three weeks to paint the bench,” he said. “I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s such a blessing to be part of something so great and historic, and to capture the spirit of the Low Country.”

Sponsor: Beaufort Digital Corridor

Artists: Jess O’Brien, Aaron Miller, Shawn Hill, Shelley Barratt, Brian Canada

Theme: Plug in

Location: Corner of Carteret and North streets

Details: "We 'plug in' to the Beaufort community via the different facets that these customized benches represent. The connection of Beaufort with its livability and rich history is plugged into the region and beyond with the Beaufort Digital Corridor providing the 'plug in' to the future."

Sponsor: Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity

Artist: Linda Silk Sviland, pictured with two Habitat carpenters, Rick Eastin and Ken Crooke

Theme: Seeking to put God’s love into action

Location: Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park

Materials: Oil paints and spray paint

Details: Linda Silk Sviland painted Habitat’s bench, using the organization’s blue and green colors to show a blueprint of a home and the actual finished home. The words “these are my plans for Saturday” are painted over the blueprint – a tagline that Habitat sometimes uses. "I think it’s a wonderful way to make art,” she said. “Other cities have done beautiful sculptures, but there is no function other than beauty. This is functional art – it’s a terrific way to have the public see art that is useful.”

Sponsor: Reconstruction Beaufort

Artist: Ginger Noah Wareham

Theme: United when the impossible suddenly became possible

Location: Corner of Craven and Scott streets, next to the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park

Details: The Reconstruction Period, the era immediately following the Civil War and emancipation, teaches us when it comes to justice and equality, what may seem impossible is indeed possible. And it all began right here, in our South Carolina Sea Islands.

Sponsor: Santa Elena History Center

Artists: Frank Anson, Tom Van Steenbergh (in photo), Sandy Dimke (in photo), Lynne Darling

Theme: Beaufort’s earliest history and heritage

Location: Courtyard at Bay and Bladen streets

Materials: Woodworking and acrylic paints

Details: During America’s first century, a 16th-century battle to claim the New World took place on present-day Beaufort land and waterway, marking two of seven flags (Spanish, French) that have flown over Beaufort in 500 years.

Sponsor: University of South Carolina Beaufort

Artists: Mary Ann Ford and John Rodriguez; master builder Greg Rawls

Theme: Beaufort College – Rich Heritage of Education

Location: Entrance to Center for the Arts, Carteret Street

Details: Through Beaufort College, USCB continues one of the oldest traditions of higher education in the nation. In 1795, Beaufort College was chartered by the

South Carolina Legislature and authorized to confer degrees in the liberal arts or sciences “usually conferred in other colleges in Europe and America."

Meet artist Linda Silk Sviland