Myrtle Beach's Art Museum Offers Cultural and Educational Experiences

December 2020
Written By: 
Charles T. Glazer
Photographs by: 
Ryan Smith Gauthier
Image Contributor: 
courtesy of the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum

The Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum offers cultural, educational experiences to the Grand Strand

The Grand Strand’s only art museum is one of the many area assets that enrich the lives of locals and visitors alike. The Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum has been serving patrons for 23 years at its beachfront location at the southern end of Ocean Boulevard near the Springmaid Pier. It is operated by a nonprofit institution to provide the millions of Grand Strand visitors and local patrons a world-class art experience. Since 2003, the museum has provided free admission to all visitors.

The museum building is a work of art itself. It is housed in a vintage beach cottage that was once the vacation home for the families of two successful Carolina textile manufacturers. Built in 1924 by Eugene Cannon, owner of Cannon Mills, the cottacge was originally in the Cabana Section of Myrtle Beach near 54th Avenue North. It was later sold to Col. Elliot White Springs of Springs Industries and was renamed Springmaid Villa.

In 1975, the cottage was sold again and was scheduled for demolition, but a group of local residents saved it and moved it eight miles south to the museum’ s present location. Myrtle Beach Farms Company, a predecessor to Burroughs & Chapin Company, donated the land for the new site. It took three days to move the 150-ton building.

Patricia Goodwin, executive director of the museum, came to this role in 2002 after a successful career at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia. “I often marvel how a staff of six full-time and two part-time professionals can keep this wonderful art museum fresh and engaging year-round,” she says, “with new exhibitions installed every 12 weeks—exhibitions that rival those displayed in much larger museums.” 

“Not to mention touching the lives of hundreds and hundreds of children each year,” she adds, “welcoming thousands of visitors and offering students the chance to create hundreds of pieces of pottery. But it all happens every year. And with their enthusiasm and creative energy, our staffers make it fun for me to come to work each day!”

The museum is governed by a board of trustees that is chaired by Elizabeth Benton, a community leader and patron of the arts. The 15 members of the board of trustees are very active and involved in helping Goodwin and her staff achieve the museum’s mission. “Our board is a dedicated group of community leaders, up to 20 at any given time, from around the Grand Strand,” says Goodwin. “From fundraising and event coordination to strategic planning, they help keep the museum running like a successful business, as well as a community resource.”

The museum features 11 galleries that display exhibits of art on a changing, rotating basis, showing a wide variety of artwork from regional, national and international sources that are entertaining and thought-provoking. Exhibits include paintings in all media—oils, acrylics and watercolors; pencil, pen and ink and pastel drawings; collage and multimedia pieces; sculpture, pottery and ceramics; textiles, photography and video; and much more.

First opened in 1997, the museum is a result of a 13-year effort to organize and launch by a visionary group of local artists, patrons of the arts, business and cultural leaders, and other concerned citizens. In 2001, the museum’s board chair, Lineta Pritchard, led an effort to have the City of Myrtle Beach purchase the museum’s building and grounds, and lease it back to the museum. Free of a mortgage, the board and Goodwin took the bold step to make the museum admission free to all visitors in 2003.

In 2013, the Museum received the prestigious Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for Outstanding Arts Organization from the State of South Carolina. This award honors South Carolina-based arts organizations for doing an outstanding job as innovators, supporters and advocates of the arts. The Verner Award is designated as the official “Governor’s Award for the Arts.”

In addidtion to regular staffers, the museum also has also has a team of volunteers that averages 12 active people, but swells to several dozen for special events, exhibits and fundraisers. Shari Corley coordinates volunteer activities, the gift shop and reception activities.

“The Art Museum appreciates the efforts and commitment of our volunteers who make our day-to-day operations not only possible, but successful,” says Corley. “We could not be more grateful for the selfless group of women and men who give of their time, talent and treasure to ensure our community and our visitors enjoy a wonderful experience. As a wholly nonprofit institution, the Art Museum could not exist without these wonderful and generous people.”

As with any worthwhile not-for-profit organization, the museum conducts numerous fundraising endeavors. It enjoys a small endowment, but relies on annual memberships, foundation giving, special fundraising events, an allocation from the South Carolina Arts Commission and a share of the Myrtle Beach accommodation tax revenue.

Special events include the Tour of Homes and Luncheon held most springs, the Bag Ladies Luncheon, and an annual Collectors’ Event, where local artists donate works to be auctioned. 

Goodwin remarks about how the museum is navigating the pandemic: “Yes, the Art Museum is open to the public and presenting wonderful exhibitions and programs. But, like many cultural organizations around the city, state and country, the museum continues to have financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re enthusiastic about this year’s Giving Tuesday campaign, as well as our year-end Annual Giving efforts. We need to remind folks that it takes a community to keep an Art Museum alive and thriving—we hope, mr decades to come.”

A key part of the museum’s mission is community outreach and art education. The museum has a very active program to bring art to area residents, especially children and youth. Tracey Roode, education curator, oversees several programs, including Kid’s Art, the Teen Art Program (TAP), Early Art Education, and library, school and summer education programs.

“As curator of education, my goal is to continue improving and expanding our programs to engage more children, adults, families and organizations in our community through art,” says Roode. “I also strive to make the numerous benefits of an arts education more accessible and inclusive to all members of our diverse community. My vision for the future of our education department is to develop the capacity to have professional artists and art educators as adjunct instructors who would teach the majority of our art classes in various studio spaces. This would enable us to offer medium-focused classes for students of all skill levels and to broaden our adult program offerings.”

Roode says the museum offers numerous programs for adults too, including “Watercolor Wednesdays,” docent tours and road trips, workshops, lectures and gallery talks. She said she envisions, along with other staff members, the possibility of developing satellite locations of the Art Museum in distant areas within its expansive community of Horry and Georgetown counties to increase access to the arts.

Of course, the heart of the museum is the art exhibits themselves. When asked about the exhibits, Goodwin says, “Since opening in June 1997, the Art Museum has prided itself on presenting the very best in visual arts exhibitions, as well as a host of outreach programs for audiences of all ages. With our emphasis on quality programming and inclusiveness, we think we have a lot to be proud of.” Curator Liz Miller has a deeply personal involvement in all the exhibits, from planning, to assembling works, to installing them and publicizing the museum. “As curator, I am the caretaker of the museum’s permanent collection,” Miller says. “I coordinate and install our exhibitions, typically looking for art that exhibits extraordinary talent, but also educates, tells a story, relays a message or makes some kind of social commentary.”

Miller said it’s rewarding when visitors tell her that they learned something new or now see an idea or concept in a new light or from a new perspective. 

She adds, “Perhaps one of my most memorable exhibitions was Can’t You Sea?: Ocean Plastic ARTifacts, which took place during the summer of 2019 and featured six artists/activists whose work is dedicated to the elimination of plastic waste in our oceans. The subject matter was tough, as the didactic information on our text panels proved to be overwhelming and a big wakeup call to many; however, we were able to present it in a way that was fun, exciting and approachable, due to the amazing art created by these artists using only discarded and rescued-from-the-water plastics as their media.”

Other noteworthy shows have included two exhibits of Ansel Adams photography; the famous quilts made by the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama; an exhibit featuring the diverse foods of the South; and several shows of Jonathan Green’s art, one of the nation’s leading painters of the Southern experience.

When Miller plans the exhibition schedule, she often develops a theme for the year. Since 2020 is the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, the theme has been women in art. Exhibits have included female artists and/or works that feature women’s issues. Next year’s theme is “New Perspectives,” and exhibitions being planned will usher in art that helps patrons gain fresh and new perspectives on a range of subjects. 

Miller and her colleagues at the museum have so many visions and ideas for the future of the museum’s exhibitions. “One of my biggest wishes is to convert our ground-floor space under our building, which is exposed to the outdoors, into an exhibition space for murals and street art and our front lawn into a small sculpture garden,” she says.

The newest addition to the museum’s programs is the pottery studio, which is just two years old. Natalie von Lowentfeldt manages the studio, the only one of its kind in this area. The studio is named for Lineta Pritchard, one of the founders of the museum. It includes six pottery wheels, an area for hand-building, stations for glazing and cleaning, and a kiln room.

The pottery programs have an education focus for students who are 16 years of age or older. It features small, intimate classes with plenty of hands-on instruction. The studio’s instructors give students at all levels of experience the one-on-one attention that pottery work demands, working with them to nurture their creativity, enhance technical strengths and improve their techniques. A popular program is the “Grab and Go Glazing,” in which patrons select unglazed (unfinished) pottery and paints, take them home to decorate them, then bring them back to the studio to be fired and finished.

So, the Art Museum has something for everyone! And, since art is in the eye of the beholder, it would benefit local residents and traveling visitors alike to behold what is in store at this wonderful Grand Strand gem.

Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum 

3100 S. Ocean Blvd. (near Springmaid Pier)
(843) 238-2510

Visitors should check the museum website or call ahead for current admission schedule.
Museum is generally open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission is free.


Images by Ryan Smith Gauthier and Courtesy of the Art Museum.