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Artisans Center has positive effect on area’s prosperity

The South Carolina Artisans Center is celebrating its 19th year of operation, and has had 2,297 visitors walk through the door over the past three months alone.

The art gallery is home to the most talented artists in the state. More than 300 juried artists have their artwork for sale. They have created works of exceptional quality within every artistic medium.

Visitors to the center find handmade jewelry, sweetgrass baskets, loomed shawls, pictures, photographs, and one-of-a-kind garden sculptures at the center. Many of them also discover the many things to do in Downtown Walterboro, and the hospitality and friendliness that our community has to offer.

The Artisans Center, designated by our State Legislature as the “Official South Carolina Folk Art and Craft Center,” promotes the creative works of a diverse array of artisans in the state within a complimentary setting of historic homes, oak-lined roadways, antique stores, museums, and restaurants. After visiting our town and businesses, people leave with wonderful, memorable experiences.

The objective of the Artisans Center is to promote and highlight a wide diversity of artisans within our state, and to showcase Walterboro as a location in which to both visit and shop. Artisans Center Director Gale Doggette said Thursday that the center first opened two doors down from the center’s current location at 318 Wichman Street. The Colleton County Arts Council is now located where the center once was.

“Our old building got too crowded, and this building is 100 percent handicap-accessible. A USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) grant helped our expansion, and that was one of the requirements. Our old building was just 1,700 square feet, and this building is 3,600 square feet.”

“This is the old Detreville House, and was built in the late 1800’s. The renovations had to be approved by the members of the South Carolina Archives and History.” She added that the building’s roof is currently in need of repair, but the Archives and History members and also Colleton County’s History Revue Board need to approve the work. The repairs will cost approximately $15,000.

“Some of our artists are just starting out, and showing their artwork here, but others are seasoned professionals,” Gale said. “We accept artists from all over the state, and, since the center’s inception, we have juried in over 700 artists, although there are currently just over 300 artists at the center. Prices for artwork run from three dollars up to $78,000 for a hand-made canoe, but artwork at the center usually ranges from $20 to $25.”

Gale said half of the money from the sales goes back to the artists, and, by the time the insurance and overhead costs are covered, nothing is left. “That’s why we rely so heavily on grants and fundraisers.”

Gale said that the single largest industry within the state currently is tourism, and the Artisans Center was the catalyst for this. “We draw from 15,000 to 18,000 people per year, and bring in anywhere from one-fourth to a half-million dollars.”

Gale noted the area wasn’t capitalizing on the fact that Walterboro has two I-95 interchanges that lead into Walterboro before the idea of the Artisans Center was conceived and acted upon. She added that, since the center has been open, almost a third of the people who stop in also go on to other downtown locations. “We encourage them to do this. People tend to fall in love with Walterboro, and we get many repeat visitors, and also people who stay overnight, and then spend the next day in Downtown Walterboro.”

Gale said that many students visit the Artisans Center while on field trips during the school year. “We get anywhere between 1,200 to 1,600 per year. We take the students on tours, and the students always have a great time. Some of them even said they had the best time of their lives while here.”

Rick Tobin, Editor (434 Posts)