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Discover Beaufort’s Many Art Galleries and Museums

Marie McAden Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.
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Beaufort’s vibrant arts scene offers something for everyone. Whether you’re into music, theater, the visual arts or history, you’ll have no trouble filling your itinerary with events, activities and tours.

The range of offerings runs the gamut from performances by the Beaufort Orchestra to Gullah-inspired productions to opera, musicals and presentations by performing artists in the Center for the Arts at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort.

The selection of museums in the city is just as diverse. Here are a few to consider:

Santa Elena History Center – Learn about the nation’s first colony—yes, Santa Elena was established before the English settled Jamestown—at this museum featuring the interpretive exhibit, “America’s Untold Story.” The museum also displays artifacts discovered at the site of the Spanish settlement in what is now the Legends Golf Club at Parris Island.

The Arsenal – Built in 1798 as the headquarters for the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery, the building now serves as the Beaufort History Museum. Inside are exhibits chronicling the city’s past, from the arrival of Native Americans to its role in the Revolutionary War to the Civil War and reconstruction.

Pat Conroy Literary Center – This museum honors one of South Carolina’s favorite sons, author of such best-selling novels as “The Prince of Tides,” “The Great Santini” and “The Lords of Discipline.” The center hosts readings by acclaimed authors and the annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival.

John Mark Verdier House Museum – A Federal-style mansion built in 1804 by a prominent cotton plantation owner and merchant, it went on to serve as the headquarters for the adjunct general of the Union Army during the Civil War. In addition to offering docent-led tours of the restored home, the museum features a collection of Civil War-era photos and exhibits on the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery and Robert Smalls, the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress.

Thibault Gallery – The display of original artwork includes everything from oil and watercolor paintings to fine art photography. On any given day, you can stop in and see artists at work. Along with art pieces, you can buy hand-painted wine glasses, fine art note cards, glass art, giclée prints and more.

Beaufort Arts Council

York W. Bailey Museum at Penn Center – This fascinating museum tells the story of one of the schools set up to educate newly freed slaves after Union troops took control of Port Royal Sound in 1862. Located on nearby St. Helena Island, the school closed in the 1940s but later served as a retreat site for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Gullah Geechee Visitor Center at LyBensons’ Gallery – This little shop at 1908 Boundary St. specializes in original artwork, rare collections and antiques that depict the African, Gullah and African America culture. You’ll find books, exhibits and documentaries showcasing the Gullah lifestyle and traditions.

Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.