Old jail to be turned into arts venue

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Top photo: This rendering is what the old Beaufort County jail will look like once renovations are complete.

By Kat Walsh

Instead of housing those who made trouble, the old Beaufort County jail will soon be home to those who make art.

The Beaufort Arts Council recently purchased the building with the intention of making it the future home of the King Street Arts Center, which will include BAC offices, an art gallery and Mather Academy’s extensive curriculum of art classes.

A fixture on Monson and King streets, the county jail building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and has sat vacant since 1992.

“We are so excited to move into facility that will help us continue to support artists, residents and visitors through arts education, collaboration and community involvement,” said Ali Salters, BAC’s business development manager.

The move will allow the BAC to grow in more ways than one; not only will the new building allow for more space for classes, studio exhibits and the art school, but the grounds will also be given new life as an outdoor artistic venue available for large scale activities and events, showings, even oyster roasts, said Delene Miller, president of the Beaufort Arts Council.

“It’s a great little campus, a delightful setting for artists, events and the community.”

There will even be a Raku kiln installed outside, giving clay artists, pottery students and the community the opportunity to participate in or observe a group firing.

The new location will also serve to promote the mission and reach of the BAC.  In addition to having the Santa Elena History Center, University of South Carolina Beaufort and Black Chamber of Commerce as neighbors, the King Street Arts Center is also adjacent to the Arts District.

The Arts District is a designated neighborhood – known as the Northwest Quadrant – that gives artists the opportunity to live, work, create, display and sell their artwork from their property. With approximately 40 percent of the area within the Northwest Quadrant currently vacant, the Arts District is one way to incentivize current and future residents to return vitality to the neighborhood.

The goal – to become a hub for artists to continue their education and a destination for artists to live and work – is ambitious, but possible, said Miller.

“Going forward, we are really upping the ante to infuse the arts on a larger scale by creating a destination for residents and visitors alike to have a one-of-a-kind experience.”

With adjacent boundaries and missions, the new King Street Art Center and the new Arts District are well positioned to complement one another in creating a vibrant and welcoming arts destination.

Exactly when the BAC and Mather Academy will relocate from their current space on Port Republic Street depends upon the completion of renovations.

Funding for the work will come from a variety of sources, including a capital campaign, donations and their annual fundraiser.

Enrollment at Mather Academy is also an extremely important part of that equation, said Miller.

“So in terms of what the public can do to help, come to classes, attend our fabulous Beaux Arts Ball, or donate.”

While the building is in almost total disrepair, Miller believes it will be a fabulous venue in the end – and says that a handful of jail bars from the original cells might find a place on display as a memory of what the building once was.

For additional information, visit www.beaufortartscouncil.org, call the BAC at 843.379.2787, or email info@artsbft.com.