BY VICKIE MCINTYRE | PHOTOS SUPPLIED
PALMETTO BLUFF INITIATIVE FOSTERS CREATIVITY AND COMMUNITY CONNECTION
What’s the latest buzz enveloping Palmetto Bluff?
No, it’s not about another celebrity on the premises, though it does concern which notable artist is in residence.
This past February, Palmetto Bluff — along with South Street Partners, which purchased the residential and resort community in 2021— launched The Arts Initiative, a multi-faceted program designed to foster communication and connection between art, community, and the beauty of the Lowcountry.
In April, they opened the FLOW Gallery + Workshop, formerly a children’s clothing store that now showcases the work of Southern artists. Later that month they also kicked off the Artist in Residence program, which culminated with an evening concert under the stars, followed by the program’s inaugural Flow Fest, a day-long celebration outdoors featuring an art market, children’s activities, food trucks and live music.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” says Maggie Hackett, Director of Marketing, “and the feedback we’re getting is great.”
The initiative consists of three pillars: Artist in Residence, otherwise known as “AIR;” FLOW Gallery + Workshop, a nod to the May River that borders the community; and Artist in Nature, a future phase of the program using the Lowcountry landscape as both canvas and inspiration.
“It’s not just visual art,” stresses Hackett, who rattles off a list of participating creatives from Artists in Residence, Artists of Palmetto Bluff (who live within the Bluff) and selected artists that covers everything from painters and leather designers to poets and map makers.
All of it is on display and available for purchase at Flow Gallery + Workshop, the hub of the Arts Initiative, located in Wilson Village next to Melt, the ice cream store, on Boat House Street. Browsing hours are Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“We have lots of visitors, so I help them get acquainted with the artists,” smiles Olga DiBartolo, FLOW Gallery Specialist, as she fluffs pillows scattered on an eclectic mix of seating. “Sometimes it’s like a big party.”
The Gallery serves as both an everyday gathering place as well as vibrant space to host receptions and workshops. Future plans include happy hours and coffee talks.
“It’s a really popular spot and every month it looks different,” adds Hackett.
Shannon Whitworth, a painter and musician from North Carolina, initiated the Artist in Residence series that featured a welcome reception followed by three days of gallery hours and group workshops.
No one walked away disappointed.
Patricia Grandieri, originally from Boston and currently building a home in Palmetto Bluff, attended one of Whitworth’s workshops and raved about the experience.
“It was the best workshop I’ve ever taken, and I’ve taken a lot,” she said. “She taught us to try different mediums with overlays chalk, and paper. She made me realize, I can do art, and I’m going to frame the picture I made.”
Whitney Klomparens, of Charleston, said both her children, Greyson 8 and Coralynn 6, loved their experience.
“It wasn’t your average art class, and they felt like real artists for the first time,” she says, detailing how each child had their own easel, apron and one-on-one time with Whitworth. “She made a really big impact on my kids, and we still keep in touch with her.”
On the final day of her stay, Whitworth joined her husband, Woody Platt, of the Grammy-winning Steep Canyon Rangers, on an outdoor stage. Surrounded by palm trees and circling hawks, they sang originals and cover songs as guests indulged in an elegant buffet featuring filet mignon sliders and roasted oysters.
At evening’s end, Whitworth expressed her gratitude for the Artist in Residence experience with praise, hugs, and tears.
“It was beautiful and emotional, in a very positive way,” she says. “It was a gift all the way around for me.”
Similar praise was echoed by and for glass blower Brandon Price (Blown Studios) in May, bag and luggage brand, J. Stark in June, and Brackish jewelry and bow ties in July.
This month’s resident artist is Mary Landrum of M.L. Provisions, the sole custom hat maker in all of Mississippi, known for her ability to weave clients’ stories into her designs. Although The Mad Hatter Mixer on Aug. 10 and the workshops require purchased tickets, anyone can stop by during her gallery hours to chat and see her work.
“Launching this Arts Initiative has been a labor of love,” says Hackett, marveling at the array of experiences that have occurred so far and all the future possibilities.