Ahhh! Nothing like the beach on a sunny summer day. There are some great ones along South Carolina's fabled Grand Strand, especially in and around Myrtle Beach, which also offers up a passel of family friendly attractions, live theater productions, exceptional golfing and one great big Ferris wheel – all only five hours east on I-2
But you know that already. Here's what you might not know. Myrtle Beach is also an appealing place for art lovers to visit. Oh yeah, arty tarties! You lovers of color and form and craft and imagery. You art animals, you! Myrtle Beach beckons. Myrtle Beach points its long, sandy index finger your way and curls it back in a come-hither gesture you shouldn't ignore.
"The arts abound," is what Joy Young, director of cultural tourism at the SC Arts Commission, says about Myrtle Beach. "Overall, visitors will be surprised by the many arts and cultural offerings in Myrtle Beach and areas close by to include; Brookgreen Gardens, historic architecture, along with visual art galleries, entertaining live music and engaging live theater. And the Burroughs & Chapin Art Museum is a gem of the arts community."
Not to mention, Art in the Park, which I had the pleasure of experiencing not too long ago. It was a nice, summer day but not too hot. Chapin Park's natural beauty was embellished with the colorful beauty of elegant artifice, everywhere in evidence throughout the park under tent tops, on tabletops, hanging from limbs, floating in the air tethered by string. And the great thing is, Art in the Park isn't just an annual event. There are six of these two-day art extravaganzas a year during four different months. So whatever season seems to be prime art time to you, Art in the Park is ready for you.
Below are five good places to enjoy art in Myrtle Beach and the surrounding area.
In a building that looks like the residence of a well-to-do beach lover (it was, back in the 1920s), the museum named for land-donating founders is called most often, and mercifully, the Burroughs & Chapin Art Museum or, even more thoughtfully, the Myrtle Beach Art Museum. Whatever you call it, it's about as inviting an art museum as you're likely to ever encounter. There are 10 galleries, six on the first floor that feature rotating exhibits. There are also several permanent galleries, including one focused on a dozen distinctly Southern artists, and another featuring maps from the early 17th century to the mid-19th century. Plus, an art studio for workshops and classes, a tea porch with an invigorating ocean view for receptions and special events, and a museum reception room with a baby grand.
Burroughs & Chapin Art Museum, 3100 S. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach, S.C., 843-238-2510, www.myrtlebeachartmuseum.org
When you work up an appetite for food to go along with the one you have for art, Collectors Café & Gallery should be your next stop. The lunch menu has soups, salads, wraps and sandwiches, while dinner offers delectable dishes like scallop cakes with grilled vegetables, rack of lamb, bacon-wrapped shrimp and all sorts of things, including an extensive wine list. While you nosh (and after), check out the striking museum-quality art hanging on the walls all around and the pieces of sculpture. There are more than 100 pieces here from artists worldwide and just down the street.
Collectors Café & Gallery, 7740 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, S.C., 843-449-9370, http://collectorscafeandgallery.com
About 15 miles inland from Myrtle Beach, Conway is an appealingly quaint little town with the appealingly skilled glass-blowing duo of Ed and Barbara Streeter. Together they design and handcraft blown glass, glass art pieces of many varieties, glass sculptural pieces, stained glass, glass tabletops and more. They also provide occasional glass-blowing demonstrations, glass-blowing classes, and various special events, including art openings. You know how you get mesmerized watching a fire? The same thing happens watching blown glass being produced – only with various shapes of twirled glowing golden glass. It's just so ... primordially Promethean. Take special note: Conway Glass will be moving to a century-old building at 708 12th Ave., just down the street from its current location, on Sept. 1.
Conway Glass, 209 Laurel St., Conway, S.C., 843-248-3558, www.conwayglass.com
If you've never been to Brookgreen Gardens in Murrels Inlet, S.C., you owe it to yourself to go – even more so if you're an art lover. Just south of Myrtle Beach, Brookgreen contains within its 9,100-acre Lowcountry landscape, the largest and most comprehensive collection of American figurative sculpture in the country, which is exhibited within the gorgeous flower and botanical gardens on the grounds. Its impressive 1,400-plus works by 35 artists range over time from the early 19th century to the present. Brookgreen Gardens is host to the annual juried exhibition of the National Sculpture Society, the oldest professional organization of sculptors in America.
Brookgreen Gardens, 1931 Brookgreen Drive, Murrells Inlet, S.C., 843-235-6000, www.brookgreen.org
Myrtle Beach's Art in the Park has been going on since 1972 and now has grown to include six annual two-day events in two primary locations – Chapin Park on North Kings Higway and Valor Park at Market Common on Farrow Parkway. Presented by the Waccamaw Arts & Crafts Guild, this happy expression of artistry and Southern hospitality features jewelry makers, woodwork, glass art, photos, painting and almost anything else you can imagine in two- and three-dimensional artwork. Art in the Park usually features about 40 artists, about half local and many of the others from elsewhere around the South.
Art in the Park, Myrtle Beach, S.C., 843-446-5749, http://wacg.org/art-in-the-park
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