Magazine feature has Hilton Head arts community in mile-high spirits

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Magazine feature has Hilton Head arts community in mile-high spirits

By GRANT MARTIN
gmartin@islandpacket.com
Published Monday, December 19, 2011   |  480 Words  |  

It might sound blasphemous, during a time of year when religious holidays abound, to characterize a recent surge of interest in the local arts community as a gift from above.

But that appears to be the case, as several businesses and organizations reported a boost in sales after being featured in a 24-page story promoting the art and cultural community on Hilton Head Island in this month's issue of U.S. Airways Magazine.

"That story has really lit things up for us," said Ben Whiteside of Morris & Whiteside Galleries, which sells paintings and sculptures. "Our website traffic's up 15 percent since it came out."

Whiteside said he even recently received a call from a woman, still on the airplane, who had recognized a piece of artwork featured in the magazine.

"So far, I've been really pleased with how things are turning out," he said.

The exposure isn't as serendipitous as it might seem -- and it's hardly the result of divine intervention -- as each of the businesses and groups featured paid for the publicity.

Their expenditures were subsidized in part by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

"We have a phenomenal arts community, and this is a great way to showcase that," said chamber spokeswoman Charlie Clark. "This exposure is invaluable."

Clark said December is the busiest month of the year for airline travel and that the magazine could reach five to six million people.

Last week's Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra concert sold out after its ticket office received what spokeswoman Sarah Bergin said was a deluge of last-minute requests.

"We were just inundated," Bergin said. "We didn't expect that at all. I'm sure this article is helping."

The feature also highlights the Mitchelville Preservation Project, art galleries along Calhoun Street in Bluffton and the new Studio Art program at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

Steve Mitchem, vice president and publisher of the magazine, said he was unaware of the area's artistic attributes until meeting with chamber delegates earlier this year.

"When I thought of Hilton Head, I didn't really think of a big arts community," he said. "I thought of the beach and the golf. We'd written about those obvious assets before."

"But I was amazed at the cultural diversity in the area," he said. "I think that arts and culture define the personality of a community, and I'm glad we could show more of what that area has to offer."

Follow reporter Grant Martin at twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

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