December 2011

Art League of Hilton Head

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr.

When sitting down to dinner, have you ever taken a look at the fork in your hand, the chair that you’re sitting on, or all the furnishings in the room for that matter, and considered them works of art? “Look at that fork,” challenges local artist Sheri Farbstein. “Somebody designed it. Art is all around us—your shirt, your furniture, whatever. Somebody designed all of it.”

Farbstein works in two- and three-dimensional fine art crafts: sculpture, glass, metalwork, jewelry, and woodwork to name a few, and she’s on a mission, spreading the word that art is everything and everything is art. “Three-D artists do not get the exposure they deserve,” she said. “People are educated in terms of paintings.” And the fine art crafts too often get left out of the conversation in her view. So she decided to take matters into her own hands in terms of changing perceptions—or perhaps, misconceptions—about, and opening more eyes to the fine art crafts.

To that end, Farbstein has spearheaded the launch of the Fine Art Crafts Guild of the Art League of Hilton Head with a goal “to have a piece of quality art in every home,” starting with our own little corner of the art world. Designed as a showcase for the most innovative and original fine art crafts in the Lowcountry, the guild gives member artists a venue to exhibit their work at the Art League’s Walter Greer Gallery with an “Official Crafts” seal, designating excellence of craftsmanship, and all of the privileges that come with Art League membership. Additionally, they’ll have an opportunity to have their work judged in an annual show called CraftHiltonHead. The inaugural CraftHiltonHead 2011 takes off this month with a reception and opening on December 1, and the work will remain on display all month in the Walter Greer Gallery’s featured exhibition space.

“The 3-D arts have long been neglected,” said Art League vice president Carolyn Males. “So, Sheri decided to rectify this by starting the guild, which promotes excellence in fine crafts. No cute wooden duckies or crocheted toilet paper holders here! Just beautiful ceramics, weavings, metalwork, bronzes, basketry, jewelry, assemblage…there is no other show like it in the area.”

Farbstein isn’t quite sure why 3-D art doesn’t receive the attention and exposure that it deserves. Maybe it’s because, in many cases, it’s right under our noses (like she said, art is all around us) and we just don’t notice. Or perhaps it’s a matter of perception, where we might associate the term crafts with souvenir shop merchandise. If you’re of either of those mindsets or are just growing more curious, a visit to CraftHiltonHead this month is in order. You might be surprised at what you see. “It’s going to be quite eclectic,” said Farbstein. “For example, I’m a sculptor, and I do big floor pieces. I face walls and fireplaces, but I also make tea pots.”

Without giving away the store, Farbstein hinted at some of the other things you might see at CraftHiltonHead, including massive pieces by artists who work with unexpected materials like railroad ties, or even sewer pipe. And there will be exhibits from artists with whom Art League members and fans are already familiar. Sculptures by Mark Larkin and master metalworker Kevin Eichner, and assemblage works by Caroll Williams are some examples. “These are high-end, excellently done crafts,” Farbstein said. “I think I’m going to do some things with heads this time.”

Heads? That’s intriguing isn’t it? I could tell you what she means by that, but then I’d have to kill you! So you’re going to have to drop by the Walter Greer Gallery at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina to check it out for yourself. CraftHiltonHead runs throughout the month of December. It’s a great opportunity to see art in a different way and a chance to learn something new. This, by the way, is exactly what the Art League of Hilton Head wants you to do: learn about and get excited about art.

It started as art foundations so often do: groups of artists getting together to form a community and create channels to get their work out in the open. The Art League of Hilton Head began in 1971 when approximately 30 local artists created a community in conjunction with an exhibit of famed local painter Walter Greer’s work. Today, the League has over 500 members, including 220 exhibiting artists, and makes its home in the gallery bearing Greer’s name at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina after a number of years in the Pineland Station shopping center and various locations around the island prior to that. Art League officials feel that with the recent move into the Arts Center, the group is finally, truly home. “We’re so proud to be in this beautiful Walter Greer Gallery because it helps make a better overall art center,” said publicist Gabriele Hoffman.

Excited as they are about their new digs, though, the Art League of Hilton Head has intentions far beyond the walls of the Greer Gallery, and we’re not just talking about the satellite, or “pop-up,” galleries at Bear Creek Golf Club in Hilton Head Plantation and at Hilton Head Hospital. “One of the things we’d all like to see is that we become the visual arts organization in this community,” said Males. “We see this as a creative hub. We bring artists together and give them a place where they can educate and train themselves and then have a place to show their work.” She then asks hypothetically, “Can we make Hilton Head and the Lowcountry another Santa Fe?”

Who knows? But the Art League of Hilton Head is certainly going to try with their formula of: Love Art. Live Art. Learn Art.

Love it at the Walter Greer Gallery, where you can see a new featured exhibition every month, and you might be surprised to find that owning beautiful, original art is not necessarily out of reach. “The art can be affordable and you can have original pieces instead of prints,” Hoffman said of one of the greatest benefits to having an organization so dedicated to promoting the work of local artists. Wouldn’t it be great to know that the picture hanging on your wall or the planter in the corner of your living room is a one-of-a-kind original?

Live it at the Art League’s series of regular events like Fabulous Fakes, where artists put their own, often whimsical, spins on classic works, or Got Art? where you could win a chance at purchasing a donated original piece for only $100; or the National Biennale, a juried show that occurs every other May at the Greer Gallery. This is a chance to experience the work of artists from around the country and around the world. “We’ve had entries from 30 states and abroad,” Hoffman said.

Learn it at the Art League of Hilton Head Academy. The Academy, located on Cordillo Parkway, offers classes in painting, pastels, drawing, mixed media, photography and printmaking, and the 3-D arts like sculpture, ceramics and jewelry. Courses are offered for all skill levels, beginner to professional, and are also a great way for collectors to gain a deeper knowledge of the pieces that they buy.

“There’s a misconception out there that you have to be a member (of the Art League) to take advantage of all of this,” Hoffman said, “and that only artists can be members.” Neither is true. “We’re here to help everybody learn about and enjoy art.” To that end, Hoffman—and everybody at the Art League—has a special message for those who may be a little intimidated, or feel that the world of art is out of their league (no pun intended). If you’ve rarely or never set foot in an art gallery, give the Art League of Hilton Head a try.

“You might be surprised at what you see…something that you wouldn’t expect to see on Hilton Head and how affordable an original piece can be,” Hoffman said. Or, if you’re not quite ready to jump into originals, she added, “Print processes are so sophisticated these days that you can have these beautiful pieces if you need a more affordable option.”

Looking to the future, the Art League plans to branch out even further with mixed media events, pairing art with fashion or art with food for example. “And we would like to start a lecture series on various topics like how to frame or how to appreciate and how to buy art,” Hoffman said.

With all of that going on, maybe that “next Santa Fe” thing isn’t so far out of reach. We’ll just do it with palmetto trees instead of cacti.

For more information, call the gallery at (843) 681-5060 or the academy at (843) 842-5738 or visit

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