All levels of art skills have been welcomed at the Society of Bluffton Artists since it was founded by seven local artists in 1994.
Almost 30 years later SOBA boasts 170 members at every level of expertise.
The non-profit 501(c)(3) was established to promote a “stimulating community environment” for the visual arts and assist area students and artists in enhancing their artistic abilities, its website notes.
The passion to spotlight art in the community is exemplified by the fact that the Society of Bluffton Artists is operated solely by artist-member volunteers. It is a community effort that has helped artists flourish — and SOBA continues to impact the area in many ways.
Art classes and workshops are available at the SOBA Art School, as are demonstrations throughout the year by prominent artists.
Its instructors teach mixed media, pastels and alcohol ink, acrylics, oil enamel, photography, watercolors and multimedia.
The 1,200-square-foot SOBA Gallery (with its wide front porches and brightly colored murals), located at the corner of Calhoun and Church streets in Old Town Bluffton, features regularly changing exhibits by artist members, outreach programs for children and an annual Judged Show that is open to all local artists.
“Our gallery is unique in many ways,” said Sandy Rhodes, community relations manager.
One of the initiatives that benefits students is the Naomi McCracken Scholarship, which is presented every year to a deserving local high school graduate who is pursuing a major in the art field at the college level. McCracken was one of the founding members of SOBA, and the scholarship is supported by the generous donations of Naomi’s family.
Children ages 6 to 12 can also participate in summer camp classes.
Learning is a priority at the Society of Bluffton Artists, something that is highlighted through its learning center, which is next door to the gallery.
The SOBA Art School offers classes for all ages. It has adult classes, children’s classes, weekday classes for homeschoolers, a summer camp and birthday parties.
The Society’s outreach programs schedule guest speakers specializing in a wide range of art forms.
The lessons help promote interest in visual arts in the community, according to the SOBA website (sobagallery.com).“We are all about spreading the joy of good art,” said Marie Burgeson, SOBA President.