Congratulations to Bluffton, the state’s newest officially designated cultural district!
A yearlong effort to have Old Town Bluffton designated as a state cultural district paid off on Wednesday.
The S.C. Arts Commission Board unanimously approved the town’s application during its quarterly meeting, according to Doreen Baumann, co-chair of the Bluffton Creative Initiative, the group which has led the push for the designation since early last year.
Baumann made a presentation to the board Wednesday in Columbia.
The board “congratulated us on the ‘thorough and substantive’ application, and Board Commissioner Budd Farillo expressed his compliments by saying it was the best application he has read in 13 years,” Baumann wrote in an email on Wednesday. “He said we have come a long way and should be very proud of what Bluffton has accomplished.”
A cultural district is defined by the state as “an easily identifiable geographic area with a concentration of cultural facilities, activities and assets which serves as the center of cultural, artistic and economic activity.”
Uses can include galleries, live performance venues, theaters, art studios, museums, public art pieces, and restaurants, banks or parks that make their space regularly available to artists.
Bluffton became the sixth community in South Carolina to earn the designation since state legislation was passed in June 2014, allowing the creation of such districts. It joins Rock Hill, Spartanburg, Columbia, Lancaster and Beaufort, which also recently gained approval.
Bluffton’s cultural district will span from Bluffton Village south to the May River, and from Burnt Church Road west to Cahill’s Market on May River Road. That area includes 120 cultural attractions and roughly three dozen annual festivals and events, according to town documents.
Though no state money is tied to the designation, organizers have said it would generate exposure for Old Town, its businesses and culture through state marketing.
Town Council voted in November to submit a formal application to the state on the Creative Initiative’s behalf.
Image: The Historic Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival attracts 20,000 visitors annually.