Cacky River's photograph of Roseate Spoonbills
Cacky River's photograph of Roseate Spoonbills

WORTH THE DRIVE: Palmetto Bluff’s Artist-in-Residency Program

Updated August 8, 2023 at 3:59 p.m.

Burls and Steel's Damascus steel utility knife with redwood burl handle

“Just over the bridge,” as we like to say here, lies a beautiful, upscale, riverfront community which many of us have never visited. Palmetto Bluff,  situated about 25 miles from downtown Savannah, has thoughtfully created a vibrant arts initiative and an artist-in-residency program that operates from March through December. 

Through offering an exciting calendar of events and engagements, marketing director Maggie Hackett says, “our hope is to foster lasting connections through a diverse curation of artists, craftsmen, musicians, and makers.” The arts initiative welcomes Savannahians to enjoy both the varied and interesting programming and the natural beauty of the pristine setting.

With workshop costs ranging from free, to very reasonable, to quite expensive, I have been impressed by the variety of creative genres, and by the diverse race and age of participating artists. For example, last year the residency featured Charleson, SC’s first Poet Laureate, African American Marcus Amaker, who is also an opera librettist, graphic and web designer, videographer, and musician with more than 30 albums. And earlier this year, famed West Fraser was invited to discuss his representational and plein air paintings of the Low Country. Savannahians may remember his 2012 solo exhibition “A Native Son: Paintings by West Fraser” in his hometown’s Telfair Academy.

Last year, my husband and I attended an informative and fun glassblowing workshop taught by Brandon Price, owner of Savannah’s Blown Studios. And earlier this year, Savannah-based fibers artist Stella Rae Schmidt taught Hapazome, a Japanese technique of flower pounding, and marbling & botanical monoprinting (see my January 2022 column on her work). As the working artist, Schmidt enjoyed her stay on the property, saying, “Everything is very tidy and the grounds are immaculate- it was heaven to walk around barefoot!  Everyone was charming and engaging…I was definitely busy and there was not much time to amble or play but I was there to promote my work and teach classes in surface design. I had meet-and-greet gallery hours and three classes to teach all in less than a week.” She was particularly appreciative of the employees at the property’s working farm, saying, “The Farm planted many varieties of seeds gleaned from my very own garden specifically for my classes.”

The residency of artist and gilder Alan Shuptrine kicks off on Wednesday, August 23. There will be a complimentary evening reception featuring both a watercolor demonstration and an interactive experience with gold leafing at the beautiful FLOW Gallery + Workshop, situated in Palmetto Bluff’s Wilson Village. A painter and master craftsman residing in Lookout Mountain, TN, Shuptrine is known for his realistic watercolors, oils, gold leaf, and handmade framing, and his works are in the permanent collections of several American museums and hundreds of corporate and private collections. The son of recognized painter Hubert Shuptrine (1936-2006), he continues the legacy of realism that both Andrew Wyeth and his father established. 

On August 24 Shuptrine teaches a beginners’ watercolor class, demonstrating such techniques as wet-in-wet, wet-on-dry, and drybrush techniques. Basic workshop supplies and lunch will be provided, and the class is priced at a fairly modest $125. Then next Friday, August 25 an immersive watercolor workshop tailored to intermediate and experienced painters will focus on painting the unique elements of the Lowcountry, including fauna, grasses, oyster beds, water, and southern oaks. Again, lunch is included. 

And finally on August 26, there may be a spot left in Shuptrine’s gilding workshop; Participants will learn about the historical background, materials, and various techniques of applying gold to a frame or decorative work of art and have hands-on experience with the time-honored tools and materials of a gilder to create their own take-home treasure enhanced with acrylic paints and 23 Kt. gold leaf. 

Through the end of the year, the residency program  presents a new southeastern artist each month in a similar format: a complimentary reception, workshops, and time to interact with the artist and see their finished creations in FLOW Gallery + Workshop. Here is what is coming up:

From September 20-23, Palmetto Bluff welcomes ceramicist Melissa Bridgman. A full-time potter based in Memphis, TN, Bridgman holds a Masters in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi and has taught with the Memphis Brooks Museum and the Center for Arts Education She primarily creates fine ceramics for table, kitchen and garden, and her reasonably-priced workshops include opportunities to make an oyster ornament or an oyster plate, and a chance for kids to learn pinch pot making during a Saturday morning session.

In October, the artist-in residency will be Susan Mayfield, an accomplished teacher and painter who splits her time between the South Carolina coast and a home in the high mountain desert of Colorado. A graduate of the College of Charleston, her pastels and oils are characterized by extremely vibrant color. Mayfield’s residency takes the form of a two-day plein air painting workshop in pastels, oils, and acrylics which will include lunches and “gentle critiques,” and a one-day plein air workshop in which participants board a skiff at Wilson Landing Marina to visit and paint on Page Island, a secluded island of luscious maritime forest. 

November welcomes Ben and Sydney Spurrier, owners of Burls & Steel, a small Charleston, SC business that creates one-of-a-kind, hand-forged knives. The husband-and-wife team will teach two workshops in which participants will select, heat, hammer, and shape a blade, and attach a handle, while learning about the process of creating patterns in Damascus steel. 

And finally in December, Charleston native and wildlife photographer Cacky Rivers teaches a “Birds by Land” and a “Birds by Sea” workshop. Perfectly suited for both bird and photography enthusiasts, the sessions will help in the discovery and identification of different bird species and also in the best camera settings, lighting, and composition in which to capture them.

For further information or to purchase tickets, go to and visit the “Arts Initiative” tab found under the “Experience” tab. FLOW Gallery + Workshop highlights both the artist-in-residency program and a beautifully curated collection of work by southern artists. It is situated at 76B Boat House Street in Wilson Village, and Palmetto Bluff is located on the May River between Savannah and Bluffton, SC.

Published August 8, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.


Beth Logan

Born and raised in Northern Ireland, Beth Logan had a career in healthcare HR and marketing. An artist and former gallery director, she serves on the board of nonprofit ARTS Southeast and has a passion for showcasing Savannah’s arts community, travel, oil painting, and cocktails!
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