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Oasis of art with an ocean view: Museum plans move to join downtown revitalization efforts

That octopus lurking just beyond the dunes of the Springmaid Pier wants to relocate to downtown Myrtle Beach. 

Because that’s where all the hip public art will be hanging around soon, and this giant sea sculpture wants in on the artsy action.

Named “Ringo” by the environmental sculptor Jim Swaim who created him, the octopus art display is a permanent exhibit housed on the front lawn of the Franklin G. Burroughs and Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum south of the city near Market Common. 

Environmental sculptor Jim Swaim created ‘Ringo’ the octopus, a permanent display on the front lawn of the Franklin G. Burroughs and Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum. Photo by Audrey Hudson.

But as Myrtle Beach looks to revitalize the downtown area by establishing an arts and innovation district, museum staff and supporters are already beginning to visualize how Ringo might look on the public square — next to an exquisite piece of architectural splendor for the museum to call its new home.

“We just can’t think of anything more exciting for an art museum, than to be the jewel in the crown of an arts and innovation district,” said Patricia Goodwin, the museum’s executive director.

As one of the finest visual arts museums in the Carolinas, it only makes sense they would seriously planning for a downtown move and envisioning what that will look like.

They want it to be an artistically “Wow!” building, Goodwin said, befitting the numerous prestigious exhibits held there each year.

For a small, and relatively young museum that’s only been in operation since 1997, Goodwin says they are competitive in the works they acquire and exhibit.

The fine arts museum features local and regional works, as well as nationally notable and talented artists such as Ansel Adams, Frank Lloyd Wright, Norman Rockwell, and John James Audubon.

At its core, this museum is the heart of the Grand Strand community, and its art often reflects our societal changes.

Which brings us back to that giant octopus.

“Ringo” was part of an extraordinary art exhibit collected by the museum last year; “Can’t You Sea, Ocean Plastic ARTifacts.”

The goal was to raise awareness about the threat of plastic pollution to marine life, and some of the

Artwork by Pam Longobardi, displayed at the Franklin G. Burroughs – Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum during the ‘Can’t You Sea | Ocean Plastic ARTifacts’ exhibit in 2019. Photo by Ryan Smith Gauhier.

artists, including “Ringo’s” creator, used actual garbage in the creation of their pieces. 

Bringing “Ringo” downtown would be a natural extension of public arts, like the mural creations already completed or underway.

It could be the beginning of a sculpture garden surrounded by a labyrinth of greenery — an oasis of art with an ocean view.

“Why be in a southern community like ours, if you can’t explore and enjoy the arts outside?” Goodwin asked.

The relocation downtown of the Burroughs and Chapin Museum could be the impetus for galleries, artist studios, and boutiques to follow along on the city’s path to revitalization.

Look at the Gibbes Museum of Art and what they bring to Meeting Street in Charleston, Goodwin said.

The Myrtle Beach museum already offers art and pottery classes for the community and tourists, and sees expansion as an opportunity to diversify learning options within an established art district.

“You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy art, you can be a lover of art who comes to look, create, shop, or have a cup of coffee in a brand new art museum cafe,” Goodwin said. 

“The possibilities are endless.”

The challenge will be the extensive fundraising effort a relocation effort like this will require. 

The museum is funded by a variety of private sponsors, through memberships and contributions from businesses and individuals, and during several fundraisers held each year. 

The museum also operates with the help of grants from other non-profits, and the South Carolina Art Commission.

So when would a downtown move likely happen?

It could take years to raise the money needed just to construct the building, let alone fund the additional costs of operations or any expansion of exhibits and educational offerings.

But as the arts and innovation district unfolds, expect to see this museum reserving a prime spot sooner, rather than later. 

Artwork by Sayaka Ganz, displayed at the Franklin G. Burroughs – Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum during the Can’t You Sea | Ocean Plastic ARTifacts exhibit in 2019. Photo by Ryan Smith Gauhier.