The Society of Bluffton Artists

SOBA teams up with local art students

Local High School students collaborate with artist members on murals in Old Town Bluffton; Students will be SOBA’s Featured Artists for February

Visitors strolling through Old Town Bluffton can spice up their social media feeds now thanks to a pair of colorful murals on the walls of the front porch at the Society of Bluffton Artists gallery. The fun photo opportunities at the corner of Calhoun and Church streets are the result of a collaboration between SOBA board members and a group of Bluffton High School students under the guidance of visual arts teacher Kristen Munroe.

Inspired by posts on YouTube, the board decided to create interactive murals and involve young artists in the project. With the approval of the SOBA Board and Bluffton High School administration — and financial support from Corner Perk owner Josh Cooke — the project was launched. But as is the case with many things during the current coronavirus pandemic, the project hit some snags.

The pandemic caused several bumps in the road toward creating this community collaboration. What would have been a monumental task under ordinary times, art teacher Kristen Monroe pulled off in the midst of a full blown pandemic. Her dedication to her Bluffton High School students, and to the completion of this project, shows the kind of devotion that we have all come to appreciate in our public school teachers.

Planning for the murals began in the Spring of 2020, and a group of 15 students began to actually paint them in the month of October. Because social distancing measures had to be observed, only a few students could work on the murals at a given time. One of the murals is a garden scene with a large set of brightly colored monarch butterfly wings that people can “wear” for their photo op.

“I’m really happy with the results,” says Munroe.

The other mural is a three-dimensional piece that shows an ocean scene full of Lowcountry species — spadefish, redfish, blue crabs and turtles. It is an action photo opportunity for guests, as they can attach themselves to a hook being dangled from a sea turtle’s mouth.

“The murals are not like I envisioned — they are actually much better than I expected,” Monroe says, giving most of the credit to the students. “They should be very proud.”

“We are thrilled to be working with the youth in our community,” adds SOBA president Mary Ann Burgeson. “I think this mural gave them something positive and fun to do while waiting for our new ‘normal’ to appear.”

The murals won’t be the only work of the Bluffton High art students on display at the gallery, as SOBA has selected them to be the Featured Artists in February 2022. Throughout the month, a wide array of the students’ art will be on exhibit and for sale inside the gallery, ranging from paintings and pottery to photography.

“The SOBA Gallery has just been so wonderful,” says Munroe. “They very much want to be involved with the local students and support them.”