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Old Town Rock Hill Is a Vibrant Center for the Arts

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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For a city known for its recreation and sports facilities, Rock Hill has plenty to offer the arts-minded. In Old Town Rock Hill alone, there are three visual arts centers, a historic home offering tours, three museums and do-it-yourself craft and paint and sip studios.

Just blocks away, Winthrop University is home to art galleries, a recital hall, a performance center offering stage and dance productions, and an auditorium featuring a 5,000-pipe organ considered one of the largest and finest instruments in the South.

The city also boasts a natural history museum, a Catawba Indian cultural center and a monument paying tribute to the African-American business district that once thrived along Black Street in downtown Rock Hill.

If you enjoy exploring the local visual arts scene, you’ll want to spend time visiting the galleries on Main Street in Old Town Rock Hill. The Center for the Arts, housed in two restored century-old buildings, features three galleries — the Dalton Gallery, Perimeter Gallery and Lewandowski Classroom Gallery. Managed by the Arts Council of York County, the galleries host exhibits throughout the year displaying the work of local, national and international artists.

The Arts Council also manages the City Hall Rotunda Gallery on the second-floor landing of Rock Hill City Hall and Gettys Art Center, housed in Rock Hill’s historic post office and courthouse. Today, the 1930s building — a cultural landmark itself — is home to artists' studios, galleries and shops, including Downtown Artistry and the Rock Hill Pottery Studio and Gallery.

You’ll also find Nailed It D.I.Y Studio on the Main Street corridor. Offering open studio hours, the workshop invites would-be artists to drop in and create any of a wide assortment of wall art and decorative items.

Once you’ve checked out all the galleries on Main Street, head to Winthrop University where you can view the work of students, faculty and professionals in the Rutledge and Elizabeth Dunlap Patrick galleries located in the Rutledge Building and the Lewandowski Student Gallery in McLaurin Hall. All of the exhibits are free and open to the public.

Winthrop University also is home to the Barnes Recital Hall, a 200-seat venue for vocal and instrumental chamber music concerts, and Johnson Hall, a performance center built in the Classical Revival style. Each year, the university’s Department of Theatre and Dance presents four main stage productions (three in theater, one in dance), two student choreography showcases and other informal performances.

While you’re on campus, be sure to stop by Byrnes Auditorium to marvel at the Aeolian-Skinner organ valued at $1.8 million.

For those who enjoy museums, you won’t want to miss the Museum of York County, featuring a Smithsonian-style Naturalist Center with some 2,000 specimens, a planetarium, museum store, nature trail and a playful learning space for young visitors.

Equally as entertaining is the Rock Hill Fire Department Museum, where kids can dress up in firefighter uniforms, slide down a fireman’s pole and play in an authentic ambulance. Old Town also is home to the Comporium Telephone Museum, offering a fascinating history of the telephone. Admission is free to both museums.

During your visit to Rock Hill, be sure to stop by the Catawba Cultural Center, showcasing the culture of South Carolina’s only federally recognized tribe. The center provides an overview of the rich history and heritage of the Catawba Indian Nation and includes exhibits and a craft store featuring works created by native artisans.

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.