Arts and Culture in Bluffton
Written by Charlie Wetmore
hen I first moved to the area in the early 1990s, Bluffton was a town of less than 1,000 people. If you counted all of the areas outside of the town limits, there might have been 5,000 people living on the mainland. We used to live just north of the four-way stop that’s in Old Town. I remember walking around town with my family many times. We used to walk to the library on Boundary Street (now the SOBA Art Gallery) and spend hours there. It was, and still is, pure heaven to take a leisurely stroll through that part of town.
I honestly can’t remember any art galleries or shops in the area back then. I’m sure there was one or two somewhere, but they weren’t prominent in my memory. What about today – the shops line Calhoun Street and stretch down Boundary Street and May River Road. You can easily find paintings, prints, posters and pottery all throughout Old Town.
What about theater? Back then; the only theater in the area was on Dunnagan’s Alley in Hilton Head. No, the Arts Center didn’t even exist on Hilton Head back then. There weren’t enough people in Bluffton to even consider live theater. Today we have the May River Theater. In a few years it will be ten years old. I recently attended a performance of “Love Notes,” an original production. It was wonderfully written, produced and performed. And the theater was packed.
What about the symphony? The Hilton Head Symphony is now in its 26th year of performances on Hilton Head. Last year, the symphony brought a performance to Bluffton for the first time. This year they came back and my wife and I had the pleasure of seeing a performance of “Carmina Burana”. It was absolutely wonderful. And you know what else? The Bluffton High School Auditorium (where the performance was) was absolutely full. I was told they will be back twice next year. I can’t wait.
I also can’t wait until we grow enough in Bluffton to be able to have our own performing arts center – one that can be supported by the community. I think back to fifteen years ago. Did anyone really think that Bluffton would be turning into the arts and cultural center that she is becoming? Because of this, I feel confident that a performing arts center will become a reality in Bluffton’s future. Maybe not for a decade or so, but it will come. The hunger of the community for the arts will demand it.
Along those lines, have you noticed what has happened to the selection of eateries in the Old Town area in the last fifteen years? The only two I can recall from that long ago are Squat N Gobble and Stubbie’s Pizza. The next closest restaurant to the east was at Moss Creek Village while I can’t recall anything to the west. Today we have Squat N Gobble and Sippin Cow on the west; May River Grill, Pepper’s Porch (the relocated Deer Tongue Shed) and Bluffton BBQ in the center; Calhoun Street Café (formerly Rebecca’s) and the wonderful new Wine & Tapas Bar – Corks along Calhoun Street; Monster Pizza (where Stubbie’s once was) and Myrtle’s (our old Post Office, of all things) on the east; and Mr. Butcher’s Deli, Downtown Deli, Mi Tierra’s and Bluffton Coffee House to the north. I get the feeling I may have missed one or two and I am sorry for that, but you get the idea. Two restaurants back then compared to at least thirteen today – and that’s just in the Old Town area.
Fifteen years ago a trip out to eat meant you would normally go to Hilton Head or Savannah. If you desired to go to a gallery, theater, symphony or a show it also meant the same trip. Now, that trip is much shorter and the local options are much more diverse. While growth of an area has drawbacks like constantly being concerned about the quality of water in our local waterways, it also brings benefits like those mentioned above. Take some time this month to enjoy the cultural options that have come to Bluffton.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at:
Council Member, Town of Bluffton