Notes For Newcomers: The Art of Making Art Accessible

By Phil La Borie

Notes For Newcomers: The Art of Making Art Accessible

If you’re anything like me, the idea of exploring an art museum can be somewhat intimidating. First of all, there’s usually an admission fee. Once you pay it, you’ve invested in the process, so you want to get something worthwhile out of it. Right? Fair enough. However, there’s all that artwork hanging about to look at and artists’ names to remember – a tough enough task in and of itself.

And how about those knowledgeable comments from fellow spectators? They always seem to be very authoritative, at least they sound that way to me; so when I hear them, I always wonder if I really understand what I’m looking at.

Then there’s the final, haunting question when you’re done looking at all the work: “Can you remember who painted, drew, sculpted, photographed or created what, and when was it done?”

And in some cases, while it is significant and important work that has been created by well-known artists, there’s simply too much to take in.

For instance, I recently visited the new Whitney Museum in New York City. Talk about intimidating! Eight (count ‘em 8) floors of modern art on display for your viewing pleasure or brain pain depending on your point of view. In my case, while I loved the work, my head simply went into overload mode. After seven floors, I simply couldn’t face the eighth. Far too much information!

Fortunately, the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum (The Art Museum) in Myrtle Beach is just the opposite. The Art Museum displays wonderful work from both local and nationally recognized artists in relaxed and manageable surroundings.

With 3,100 square feet of exhibition space in 11 galleries, The Art Museum visitors have the opportunity to take their own sweet time to examine and enjoy the individual works of art, leisurely read the background explanations and artists’ statements, and fully absorb the work on display.

And even if there’s a good-sized crowd of gallery-goers, it never feels overcrowded. As Goldilocks said, “It’s just right!”

Located in a former beach house 300 yards or so from the ocean at Springmaid Pier, the Art Museum provides a breath of fresh air that will invigorate your senses, enliven your sensibilities and awaken your soul without overloading your brain.

According to Patricia Goodwin, The Art Museum’s Executive Director, “We see ourselves as sort of our community’s front porch. The Art Museum is a comfortable place where visitors can enjoy a welcoming atmosphere, explore the art at their own pace, or even take a guided tour, if they wish. We’re dedicated to being one of the finest visual arts museums in the Carolinas with an aim to inform, educate and celebrate the arts through unique exhibitions and interactive educational and creative programs for people of all ages.”

Museum Curator Liz Miller adds, “With ten to twelve exhibits a year, there’s always something new on display. And with nearly 200 pieces in our permanent collection, we have a wide variety of older and newer work to draw from.”

Education Coordinator Arielle Fatuova says, “The kid’s classes here are so much fun. It’s very rewarding to watch how involved children get when they really get into a project and make it their own.”

In a world that can sometimes be remarkably devoid of the vision, understanding and compassion that art can engender in all of us, the Art Museum is a welcoming beacon to hone in on.

Admission to The Art Museum is free-of-charge, but donations are always appreciated.

When you do visit The Art Museum, be sure to stop by the Museum Shop. An extensive display of local artists’ and artisans’ work is always on display. Take a minute and have a look, you just might find something you can’t live without.

As a final thought, I’d like to quote from the Swiss artist Paul Klee.

Many years ago, Klee wrote, “A line is a dot that went for a walk.”

In this writer’s opinion, the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum is much more than simply a dot on a map; it’s a direct line to a thoroughly rewarding experience. And even better, it’s a short trip because the Art Museum is right in our own backyard.

You can call The Art Museum for current exhibit details at 843-238-2510 or email them at

About this writer

  • Phil La Borie Phil La Borie is an award-winning writer/artist based in Garden City, South Carolina. His work has been published in AdWeek, The Kaiser-Permanente Journal, Westworld Magazine and online at Phil is the 2015 winner of the Alice Conger Patterson Award offered through the Emrys Foundation. He can be reached at

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