Walter Greer - Artist Pioneer of Hilton Head Island
by Gabriele Hoffmann
Walter Greer passed away on October 5 while all of Hilton Head was preoccupied with an approaching hurricane. Greer, 96, had spent close to 60 years here, brought art and artists to the Island and shaped its community.
Greer, a South Carolinian, had a successful career in his brother’s textile company in Greenville and he cast it all aside to become an artist. What determination, courage and vision! In 1959 Walter Greer first visited Hilton Head and a year later he decided to build his first home and studio in scarcely inhabited Sea Pines. He became the Island’s first resident artist, he was so taken with its beauty. Soon he met the love of his life, Margaret, a gifted writer, with whom he shared the rest of his life.
Greer enjoyed the solitary environment on Hilton Head − it was still a Gullah island then − but missed the communication with the art world. So he invited prominent, contemporary artists to exhibit in a large room in the William Hilton Inn and became the Island’s first art gallery director. Numerous talented artists followed him and settled on Hilton Head.
In 1970, Jack A. Morris, Jr., current owner of Morris & Whiteside Auctions, extolled the virtues of Greer’s art and wrote: “Walter Greer seeks expression of emotional truths which are part of the landscape and people around Hilton Head”, and likened his work to an “exaltation of the South Carolina Lowcountry.”
Walter Greer was a founding member of the renowned artist “Round Table” (1970-1994) that included Joe Bowler, Coby Whitmore, Ralph Ballantine, Joe DeMers and Ray Ellis, to name a few. They met weekly at The Red Piano Gallery, discussed each other’s work and shared ideas.
In 1996 the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina named its exhibition space the Walter Greer Gallery in his honor. One year later, a major retrospective of Walter Greer’s artwork was exhibited there. Greer also was a founding member of the Art League of Hilton Head which moved into the gallery space at the Arts Center in 2010.
Last but not least, Greer was very engaged in committee work towards maintaining the natural beauty of our island environment and promoting “the theme of man in harmony with nature.” For Walter Greer “art [was] sunshine for the soul and nourishment for the spirit.”
AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS
Commissioned works in collections of The South Carolina Governor’s Mansion
Board-room portrait of the President of Emory University
Corporate: Simmons World Headquarters,
C&S Bank of
South Carolina National Bank Bicentennial Collection, 1976
Many private and public collections.
One-man Exhibitions up to 1997
Richland County Museum of Art, Columbia, SC
Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, SC
Listed in Who’s Who of American Artists.
Sources: The Red Piano Gallery, Island Packet