Hunting Island Visitor Center getting a remake

3 mins read

As a barrier island, Hunting Island is constantly undergoing change. Change at the hands of the wind, the tides and especially the power storms of the late summer and early fall.

Now the Hunting Island State Park’s Visitor Center is undergoing a complete transformation of its own over the coming year.

To kick off the work, six Beaufort Academy art students from Paula Quinn’s class came to the park on Monday to see the initial sketches and meet the artists.

Artist Aki Kato is painting a complete surround mural depicting the various ecologies of the island, including the salt marsh, the maritime forest, the dunes, the beach, and the ocean.

The skies and landscapes will include many of the plants and animals that live on the island. Aki Kato will complete the murals in about five months.

Classically-trained Kelly Richard is a Hilton Head Island sculptor who works in papier mache — not the papier mache we remember from school days, but a mushy material she calls mud made from paper that can be molded into exact replicas of the creatures she represents. 

These will be nearly life-sized models and will be flying into the room or perch on a tree — all integrated with Aki Kato’s murals. 

In addition, the room will house a theater for films and a touch screen display presenting five short videos about important features of the island: The Lighthouse, The Turtles of Hunting Island, The History of Hunting Island, Barrier Island Ecology, and the Civilian Conservation Corps Builds the Harbor River Swing Bridge.

To commemorate the swing bridge connected Hunting Island with Saint Helena Island, Merlin Redfern, a former Friends of Hunting Island board member, architect, and builder, is constructing a scale model of the bridge. 

The model will open and close using the actual lever and lights from the bridge’s wheelhouse. For the next few years, until the bridge is replaced, a temporary lever will be used.

The second year, additional displays will be added to the room, including a virtual lighthouse so those who cannot climb to the top can see the 360-degree view.

Visitors are welcome to watch the transformation by viewing the changes through the glass doors from the lobby, or from 2-3 p.m. on Tuesdays, Aki Kato will welcome visitors into the main room to see the progress of his work and ask questions. 

For more information, contact Carol Corbin at 770-265-7630 or Visit the Friends of Hunting Island website at

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