An artist’s rendering of the proposed Live Oak Performing Arts Center in Bluffton.
Once, every now and then, a series of astonishing circumstances are presented to a group of astonishing people. We’re seeing it now in the Lowcountry. And that rare occurrence has now set in place something almost unimaginable.
The outcome of that rare juxtaposition of circumstances and people of impressive foresight, a collaboration really, will result, step by step, in the construction of the Live Oak Performing Arts Center in Bluffton Village, near the post office and public library.
Two years of planning have already been invested in the proposed $5 million arts center that will serve as a home for both Live Oak Christian Church of Blufton and Main Street Youth Theatre. The partners view it as the Bluffton community’s “ONE HOME.”
The greater purpose of the facility is to serve the entire surrounding community.
All of the possibilities the facility will offer will be available for vocal groups, dance troupes, school presentations, adult theater groups, regional acts, musical performances … it will reflect the artistic heartbeat of Bluffton.
Clearly, those visionary people, as they took the first investigative steps, were responding to the hope, then the need, for a perfect venue for the performing arts.
Other visionaries, over time, added other thoughts or concerns.
Most wanted to face the driving difficulty of performing arts groups vying for space for performances and rehearsals. Others were anxious about scheduling, availability and increasing expense. All recognized the significant opportunity to take action … immediately.
The dream was shared by many, most especially by the representatives of the youth theater and the church.
It was their partnership, after all, that truly began the creative investigation, goals, objectives, and careful planning toward our arrival at this incredible place.
Happily for me, as a resident of Bluffton and Hilton Head for approaching four decades, and as an art writer and a participant in close touch with the cultural communities, I was fully committed and in place when I was invited to an early focus group meeting to discuss the arts center.
Attending that particular meeting, overseen by youth theater board vice chairman Daniel Cort, were many of the professionals involved in the outcome of this extraordinary plan, along with specialists in the details of critical focus areas.
A kind of leit motif that quickly emerged from the impressive, enthusiastic, and animated group was making it clear that MSYT has enjoyed a long association with its location at the Hilton Head Preparatory School Main Street Theatre on Hilton Head.
But the growth on the island and in Bluffton has resulted in that group’s need, and the need of other performance organizations, to consider a location that would provide more performance opportunities, plenty of rehearsal space, and a solution to complex scheduling issues — as well as confront dramatically increasing expenses.
I observed the important details each one offered so impressively and objectively.
I also heard frequent references to the changing demographics of Bluffton and nearby Savannah.
I’ve met and talked with artists, actors and musicians, in front of the curtain and behind the scenes, and many have shared with me, publicly and privately, how they would appreciate a true performing arts center — and all of its benefits — which would be closer to their communities.
Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka expressed that the Live Oak Performing Arts Center will enhance Bluffton’s community profile in many ways. Not only, by the way, for the current residents, but those considering making Bluffton their home or their place of business.
I think that scenario will surely become much like it was for our area’s early dreamers of all of those years ago — and I was one of them. We may finally see what we had in mind for our treasured, community … the home of the Bluffton Eccentrics.
Today, encouraged by the growth on Hilton Head and the expansion of Bluffton to include Okatie and Sun City and Savannah, we are becoming that dream community, with a focus on the cultural arts envisioned by the dreamers of years past.
Information and a close up look at the plans for the new arts center went public on March 4.
The gathering included a broad variety of supporters of the Main Street Youth Theatre; those interested and involved in the performing, visual and cultural arts; along with community leaders in Bluffton, Hilton Head and the greater Lowcountry.
They were provided a careful look at the concept, its development, and the plans now in place. The organizers hoped for Greater Lowcountry support generally, and from the Bluffton and Hilton Head communities, specifically.
Cinda Seamon, chairman of the board of directors of MSYT, and one of those people with a dream, pointed out that about two years ago the board was presented with the conceptual idea of a performing arts center in the heart of Bluffton. She added that the idea, though almost a dream come true, seemed unattainable. But she explained that the members and others involved remained hopeful and that as they took one step at a time, they would move toward making the dream a reality.
Happily for me, I had been invited and involved in a number of important conversations, lunches, telephone conversations leading up to this important evening, and was totally looking forward to regrouping with those with the dream … the fascinated, the longtime theater friends, volunteers, major contributors and spokespersons who will all come together to bring about this extraordinary project.
This outward and visible sign of the importance of the cultural arts in Bluffton and in the Greater Lowcountry, with a bricks-and-mortar destination, will speak loudly to all about the degree of our expectations toward the cultural arts.
During the evening of the unveiling, presentations described the youth theater’s 22-year history on Hilton Head (“Where We’ve Been”), a preview performance of “Peter Pan, JR” by MSYT (“Where We Are”), and presentation of plans for the Live Oak Performing Arts Center (“Where We Are Going”).
With it came a request that the community come together to share in building this amazing new home.
“However big, however small, we invite you to be part of it all as we build ‘ONE HOME’ for our community, “ said Cort.
To learn more about how you can give or volunteer, call 843-384 2206, or visit www.msyt.org/onehome.
It does not seem accidental that the amazing performance of “Peter Pan JR.” came with it the tag line: “Then come with me where dreams are born.”
What: Live Oak Performing Arts Center. A building of approximately 17,000 square feet; seating approximately 400; with concession area, dressing rooms, green room, black box, and state of the art audio visual, sound and lighting.
Where: Bluffton Village, near the Bluffton post office and public library, within the cultural and historic district of Old Town Bluffton.
When: Projected opening: fall/winter 2021.