On October 10, 1994, after four years of planning by a trio of art enthusiasts, South Carolina Artisans Center was first dedicated in a small building in downtown Walterboro. Its purpose was to serve as a venue for South Carolina artists to show off their creativity and craftsmanship, and for the public to enjoy handmade art inspired by the beauty and charm of the Palmetto state.
Twenty-five years later, the center is recognized by the legislature as the “Official South Carolina Folk Art and Craft Center,” and it has expanded into a restored 1880 Victorian cottage. It is also recognized as the #1 attraction in Colleton County.
We could list 25 reasons to visit the Artisans Center on this quarter-century anniversary, but you only need these seven:
1. It’s a Taste of South Carolina
Artists from 40 of the state’s 46 counties are on display, offering the visitor a taste of hand-crafted, indigenous art created by many of the state’s leading artists and craftsmen. “It’s our goal to represent all 46 counties,” says executive director Kristin Mumford.
2. You’re Nurturing Artistic Expression
The Center serves as a small business incubator for juried artists across the state. It promotes arts-based economic development and helps 300+ artists across South Carolina earn a living. To earn their place in the Artisans Center, artists must pass through a rigorous selection process that ensures both high quality and diversity of art. Everything on display is hand crafted in South Carolina.
3. It’s Free to Browse and Affordable to Buy
The typical piece sells for $26, making art affordable to everyone. Even if you don’t buy anything, the Artisans Center is worth the visit just to be inspired by great art.
4. An Eclectic Mix of Media and Styles
At the SC Artisans Center, find arts and crafts in every medium you can think of: ceramic, glass, basketry, wood, metal, fiber, recycled, oils, watercolors and much more. Buy a painting, a sweetgrass basket, a piece of jewelry, some pottery, a sculpture, a dish, a book or simply art for art’s sake.
For example, says Mumford, there are knives made of oyster shells and pine cones on display right now whose handles required 40 hours of whittling to carve. There are unique earrings and necklaces refashioned from shed antlers, feathers and crystals. Anderson, SC’s Katherine Krause produced the most popular items – paeans to the iconic Edgefield, S.C., face jug pottery featuring caricatures of human faces on them, harkening to the antebellum days when they were used to ward off evil spirits.
5. It’s in Walterboro!
Where else would you place a center showcasing the art of the Palmetto State than on the “Front Porch of the Lowcountry!” Nestled in Walterboro’s quaint downtown, the Artisans Center fits perfectly, anchored by tradition and a location as easy-going as sweet tea.
6. It’s a Non-Profit with an Essential Mission
The SC Artisans Center’s mission “is to showcase and market the handcrafted work of our state’s leading artists, while ensuring that art inspired by tradition is protected and nurtured.” It offers a variety of educational programs, including artist demonstrations every third Saturday.
The Artisans Center has been true to its mission since its inception. “It’s really a dream come true. To know it is in operation 25 years later gives me and the other founders a lot of pride,” says Mary Hunt, one of the founders.
7. A Handcrafted $60,000 Canoe!
The signature item, still for sale, is Philip Green’s handmade canoe, commissioned in 1999 but not finished until 2011. The 34-foot-long water craft is made of gleaming Honduran mahogany and would cost over $100,000 if built today. It hangs from the ceiling, so look up to find it.
The SC Artisans Center is one of Walterboro’s gems, and another reason the city is a great place to live and visit. To learn more about the good life in Walterboro, visit WalterboroSC.org.