Explore Summerville's Public Sculpture Collection

By:Marie McAden


A barred owl perched on the balcony of Summerville’s Town Hall is in good company these days. The bronze sculpture is one of several pieces of avian artwork installed in the historic downtown as part of a public art collection.

B.I.R.D.S. (Birds in Residence Downtown Summerville) was initiated in 2013 to encourage visitors and residents to explore the streets, businesses and restaurants of Summerville on a bird scavenger hunt. Along with the barred owl, the collection now includes a mourning dove roosting on the entrance wall to Saints Cyril and Methodius Russian Orthodox Church, a white-breasted nuthatch hanging on the Single Smile Café’s brick building and a pair of Carolina chickadees.

The birds are the latest addition to Summerville’s Permanent Public Sculpture Collection. It includes 21 other works of art, from whimsical wildlife to engaging figures, scattered across town in ball fields, parks, municipal buildings and other public places. A self-guided tour offers visitors the opportunity to view the artwork.

The pieces were purchased by Sculpture in the South, a nonprofit organization created in 1999 as a way to beautify the town and inspire residents and visitors to appreciate and participate in the arts. Every May, the group hosts its signature fundraiser, Sculpture in the South Show & Sale, showcasing the diverse work of local, national and international fine art sculptors.

An oversized southern leopard frog — frozen in midleap across a pond at Azalea Park — was the first work of art purchased through the program. Over the last 15 years, 13 more sculptures have been installed in the downtown park, including a friendly-looking Labrador retriever sitting next to a park bench, a couple of curious foxes tucked near a group of azaleas, and five life-sized children and their dog playing “Follow the Leader” on a low serpentine brick wall.

The park’s wildlife contingent also includes a heron basking in the sun and a river otter gliding under water. At nearby Shepard Park is another animal favorite: a hippo protruding above the surface of a pond with a purple gallinule swamphen standing on its backside. On sunny days, it’s not unusual to see real turtles sharing the perch with the bronze bird.

At the Gahagan Sports Complex you’ll find “Dreamin’ of the Big Game,” a sculpture of a kneeling 6-year-old boy with glove and ball in hand, and “Antonio,” the largest piece in the collection. The imposing sculpture is 8.5 feet tall and is a contemporary interpretation of the human form with arms upraised.

You can pick up a free “Hands-On Guide to Summerville’s Public Sculpture Collection” at the Summerville Visitor Center, 402 N. Main St., or click here to download a copy. With advance notice, you also may schedule a guided tour of the collection conducted by a docent. Call 843.851.7800 for more information.

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