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BEAUFORT, S.C. (April 30, 2026) – BEAUFORT, S.C. – The City of Beaufort and the Beaufort Cultural District will unveil on May 6 the six new benches that will be added to the Cultural District’s Bench Project. The event will be held at 5 p.m. on the lawn at USCB’s Center for the Arts, and the public is invited to attend.
The Bench Project began in 2019, when six artists were sponsored by various Beaufort organizations to design benches that celebrated the art, history, and culture of the Beaufort region. The six benches were placed in prominent places around downtown Beaufort, fulfilling both a practical and esthetic need. (Read more here.)
Earlier this year, the Cultural District Advisory Board accepted applications for sponsorships for six more benches.
The sponsors and artists include:
Sponsor: Beaufort Arts CouncilArtist: Diane Britton Dunham. Dunham’s paintings have been recognized internationally as a genuine illustration of the history and tradition of African-American Southern culture. Her bench celebrates The Mather School, founded in 1868 as a boarding school for black girls in the aftermath of emancipation. For 100 years, The Mather School offered interdisciplinary education. Its legacy lives on in the Technical College of the Lowcountry.
Sponsor: City of BeaufortArtist: Shawn Hill. Hill, a graphic designer and photographer, made photographs from around the City that illustrate the City’s commitment to ensure that Beaufort is a place where “history, charm and business thrive!”
Sponsor: Fripp Island Golf & Beach ResortArtist: Linda Silk Sviland. Sviland, a graphic artist who retired to Beaufort a couple of years ago, worked in acrylic latex to create a bench that has iconic scenes from the movie “Forrest Gump,” much of which was filmed in and around Beaufort.
Sponsor: Tabernacle Baptist ChurchArtist: Rev. Johnnie F. Simmons. Simmons, a Vietnam War veteran, grew up on St. Helena Island and is known as a Gullah artist. He uses paint and wood-burning techniques and the Gullah language to tell stories in his artwork. His bench, entitled “The Black Church,” memorializes the Tabernacle Baptist Church, which was founded in 1811, and in 1863 became the first Baptist church for African-Americans in Beaufort. (Photo is of Rev. Simmons and the bench he designed and painted.)
Sponsor: Pat Conroy Literary CenterArtist: Aki Kato. Kato is a native of Yokohama, Japan, has lived in Beaufort since 2003. He has worked on numerous commissioned artworks for Pat Conroy and his family, and painted the large-scale mural at the Pat Conroy Literary Center. His bench evokes Conroy’s first book, “The Water is Wide,” a novel based on Conroy’s year as a teacher on Daufuskie Island.
Sponsor: Private donorsArtist: Lisa Gilyard-Rivers. Gilyard-Rivers is known for her Gullah and heritage-themed works. Her bench captures the tranquil view of the downtown Waterfront Marina. The artwork conveys the Lowcountry sun as it shines down on the boats as they gently sway beside the marsh. On the back of the bench, a Gullah couple can be seen enjoying the view of the water near the oak tree-lined road.