Art Flourishes Among the Thoroughbreds
Paint with broad brush strokes in Thoroughbred Country, South Carolina, where folk art, antiques and Mennonite works adorn the land known for its racetracks
The galloping of internationally acclaimed horses may be the familiar soundtrack of Thoroughbred Country, South Carolina, but off the training grounds, local art sings its entirely unique song. Situated along I-20, between Atlanta and Charleston–just east of Augusta, Georgia, lies Thoroughbred Country, South Carolina. This four-county area is made up of rolling hills, parks, Civil War sites which often host events, plantation homes and more. The quaint countryside bursts with visual art–folk art, antiques and Mennonite works fill its shops and galleries.
Start the art lesson at the Jim Harrison Gallery in Denmark, South Carolina. Before his passing in 2016, Harrison established himself as one of the premier chroniclers of earlier twentieth century rural life, capturing the heart of America’s agrarian society through his acclaimed landscapes. Harrison is also known for his iconic Coca-Cola paintings after he entered into an agreement with the company in 1995. Harrison’s art lives on in his hometown gallery. The gallery features bronzes, etchings and a variety of limited and unlimited edition reproductions from Harrison’s more than 35-year career as an artist.
While taking in the charm of Denmark, be sure to step into The Caroline Collection. Located inside the historic AT&T building, The Caroline Collection is one of the largest privately owned antique stores in the Southeast. Peruse three floors of eclectic, ever-changing inventory in vignette settings. Porcelain, pottery and paintings cover every corner. Can’t find what you are looking for? There are three other store locations located on the same street.
Make a pit stop at God's Acre Healing Springs in Blackville. Legend has it that Native Americans reverenced the springs for their healing properties as a gift from the Great Spirit, even leading wounded British soldiers to the waters during the American Revolutionary War. Today, visitors still travel great lengths for a taste of the clear waters. While you’re in the area, stop at the Healing Springs Country Store. Grab a pimento cheese or deli sandwich while browsing local craftwork to take home. Order ice cream from the counter and grab a jug to go; fill it up with the legendary water before moving on to your next cultural stop.
Area museums both educate and enlighten guests about Thoroughbred Country’s rich history. Step inside the Blackville Heritage Museum to explore the area’s unique past. Discover Native American artifacts, old fossils, tools and items used in older homes, businesses and farms in the area. Car enthusiasts will delight in the fully restored Model T and Model A Ford cars on display. Tours are offered from 2-4 p.m., Tuesdays, or by appointment. Discover Barnwell and the South’s heritage through exhibits, guided tours and special programs at the Barnwell County Museum. Peruse Native American artifacts, Revolutionary and Civil War relics, as well as travelling art exhibits, dramatic presentations and local artwork. Vocal and instrumental performances are available. The museum is open from 3-5:30 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday; admission is free.
Continue your cultural adventure through Barnwell at the Little Red Barn Pottery and Art Gallery. This cozy studio is the former historic Leigh Commissary and is now home to Master Potter, Liz Ringus’ exquisite works, as well as works by other local artists. Explore Ringus’ traditional South Carolina face jugs, functional stoneware pottery, as well as antique furniture. The gallery also features local honey, jams and gorgeous hand-stitched quilts made by area Mennonite women.
The Mennonites are a division of the Christian church known for their emphasis on issues such as peace, simplicity, community and mutual aid. A large population of Mennonite people reside in nearby Blackville; that’s also where you will find Miller’s Bread Basket. Make a pit stop and fuel up with mouth-watering Mennonite and Amish downhome cuisine, delicious desserts and delectable fresh-baked breads.
A full day of art hunting will have you ready to settle in for the night, eager to dream about your treasures. Check into the Wisteria Cottage. This rustic bed and breakfast is the perfect setting to unwind. The 1940s hideaway sleeps four, with two bedrooms, one bath, with a claw foot tub, and a small kitchen. This darling place sits on 25 acres of picturesque land, complete with trails, bird-watching opportunities and a gorgeous garden.
Think outside of large museums and step inside the many artistic gems that make Thoroughbred Country shine.