Mayoral Candidates Respond to ACCHH Questions on Arts, Culture & History


My name is Patti Maurer, and I am reaching out to you on behalf of the Arts & Cultural Council of Hilton Head (ACCHH). Currently we have a collective membership of 43 performing and visual arts organizations, along with museum and cultural entities, individual artists and arts professionals. As an established 501 (c) 3 organization, the ACCHH coordinates, promotes, communicates and showcases the arts and cultural entities of the Hilton Head region, for the purpose of creating an arts destination, enriching the quality of life and speaking with one voice on cultural issues.


As a candidate running for Mayor of Hilton Head Island, the ACCHH respectfully requests your responses to three questions, which will be shared with our membership. Please note that our purpose for these questions is to keep the Arts, Culture, and History in the conversation, and not meant to endorse one candidate over another.  We believe that this would be the most productive format to have the collective voices of the arts community heard and recognized by any and all of the future elected officials.

Barry Ginn and Alan Perry did not respond to the questions.


1) What specific actions would you as our next Mayor, propose, support and implement  to promote Arts, Culture and Heritage on Hilton Head Island?

 Kim Likins: 

As Chairperson of the Community Services Committee I provided the leadership to form the Town’s first Arts & Cultural Strategic Planning Committee, and serving as the Town Council liaison and committee member. This dedicated citizens group collaborated with the local arts and cultural organizations and created a Strategic Plan for Arts and Culture on Hilton Head Island. This plans recommendations were implemented, including creation of the Town’s Office of Cultural Affairs, which is headed by Jenn McEwen and a citizen’s Culture & Arts Advisory Committee. Specific actions include:

·      Expanding the prominent marketing of the Island’s arts and culture both through the Chamber of Commerce’s Visitor and Convention Bureau and the Town’s new website and other marketing initiatives.

·      Continuing work to create a unique Island Cultural District and pursue the distinguished Cultural District designation from the SC Arts Commission.

·      Working with the cultural community to identify and highlight the economic impact on the community to maximize the impact of public funds to support cultural and arts assets. This includes continued ATAX support for existing and new cultural ventures.

·      Insuring continued funding and support of the Town’s Office of Cultural Affairs

John McCann: 

The arts are an integral part of our culture on Hilton Head Island. We need to promote and support our home as a  vibrant cultural destination – a destination that inspires, that creates a sense of artistic excitement, and that enriches our diverse community.

We are blessed to have over 100 art related organizations on the island and we should support them in a number of ways:

A) The DMO needs more direction and needs to increase its focus on our artists and art offerings. 
B) We need to continue to support Jennifer McEwen and our Office of Cultural Affairs. 
C) We need more art related festivals and we need to better integrate art into our existing festivals and events. 
D) We need more family oriented arts and culture events.
E) We need to better integrate technology into our offerings, using mobile apps and streaming to more effectively share 
our arts and cultural activities with residents and visitors.
F) We need to find better ways to highlight the rich legacy of our historical arts and cultural heritage.
G) Local leaders need to attend and vocally support arts events in our community.
H) We should establish an annual Day for the Arts to celebrate the extraordinary artistic talent of our Island.
I) We should obtain South Carolina arts commission cultural district status.
J) Using the beauty of our Island and the rich legacy of our historical arts and cultural heritage, we should develop a 
variety of signature arts and cultural events to showcase our artistic talent to a broader audience.
K ) And, we should formalize our arts and cultural partnerships with community schools.

Through these steps, and with thoughtful and engaged leadership, we can add specific actions to the Comprehensive 

Plan and make these goals become reality in the next 4 years.

Michael Santomauro: 

As the only candidate that can be a full-time mayor for Hilton Head Island, I will devote my mayoral energy to make it my my mission for Hilton Head to become : “The Island of the Arts”.

I am the only candidate who wants to be your mayor on a full-time basis. None of my opponents are willing to do that— my opponents only want to be your mayor on a part-time basis — this is not enough mayoral work-time to oversee a two billion dollar island economy.

I will open a free public-art park, create teen arts internships and develop a series of classes and workshops featuring guests and local artists.

As a full time mayor I will have an open-door policy for the artist to contact me for help to facilitate his or her needs.

Rochelle Williams:

I would propose to speed up the Mitchellville [sic] project. I believe this area should be a market place to showcase the Gullah heritage. We should have Artists, Basket Weevers [sic], indigo dyers, farmers, shrimpers, fishermen and other activities that promote the Gullah Culture and it should all be marketed properly however I feel the heritage does not only consist of the Gullah culture but all of the settlers on the island and the rich history of this island that I love including the wars and military presence which made this island what it is


 2) Name ways in which the Town could use the Arts, Cultural, and Heritage organizations on the island as a tool to trigger the next wave of economic development in its pursuit to revitalize and modernize the economy?

 Kim Likins: 

Our Arts and Cultural assets already contribute significantly to our Island economy, both by employment (spend) and ticket sales (revenue). As opportunities for arts and culture on the Island, expand so will their contribution to the economy.

·      Developing Mitchelville Freedom Park will allow it to offer more frequent on-site programming permitting their contribution to our economy to expand exponentially. The same will be true with the renovation of the Zion Cemetery and Banyard Mausoleum.

·      Working harder to keep our Island’s wonderful art galleries from moving to the mainland. Identifying HHI as a place to make and buy art will help to encourage the business of arts on the island.  Attracting artists and artisans, musicians, etc.  and by promoting HHI as a great place for artists to live and work by showing them the variety of our arts assets.

·      Using art to revitalize some of our Island’s vacant commercial buildings by turning them into art enclaves. Creating spaces for artists’ studios, galleries and maker-space is a perfect opportunity for helping the arts community support the local economy as well as keeping them part of our vibrant Island art culture.

·      Implementing more projects like the bicycle path cultural trail map to involve families in art. 

·      Examining and implementing best practices used by other towns which have proven solutions to improving economic development as highlighted by organizations such as Art Place America or Americans for the Arts. 

John McCann: 

We must make it our mission to educate people about what a vibrant and distinctive arts and cultural destination Hilton 
Head Island is. We have so many unique arts and cultural assets to share, The DMO needs to do a better job highlighting 
this and the Office of Cultural Affairs can help coordinate efforts throughout the island to raise our profile. The Town of 
Hilton Head Island and the DMO need to provide our local artists with the necessary tools to support our marketing 
efforts and raise the visibility of our arts community. There is no doubt that the arts can bring people to our island and 

benefit our economy – we must embrace the efforts that support this goal.


Michael Santomauro:

 I strongly believe that the island economy is not a problem . Our island economy is overheated and over-developed. 

Unrestrained development will turn us into another Myrtle beach before imploding on us, unless we put a growth moratorium on new development, both commercial and residential. Let’s not lose our vision of why we came here — tranquility! Overdevelopment is a bad thing, once something is built it is irreversible. Remember in economics, overgrowth is not a good thing.

A growth moratorium is a win-win for all of us. It is good for the business community, since there is a shortage of labor. It is good for home values, because traffic problems will not worsen and the environmental beauty of our island will be preserved. Medical facilities and wellness centers will be exempt from the moratorium.

Hilton Head Island has 193 restaurants, fifteen supermarkets, and countless other stores — it is obvious we are overdeveloped.

Density: Hilton Head Island has 958 people per square mile, this is ten times the national average of 91. During the high season it swells to 3,600 people per square mile. Overwhelming? I think so.

Have you had enough? The developers sold us a vision, now they are getting overly greedy. Stop the unnecessary over-development of our beautiful island.

Instead, let’s put more into the arts it will STILL  be good for our economy and it will good for our soul.

Rochelle Williams:

I feel that plays, shows and movies would be a great start. People like entertainment. If we could market the Art and cultural center and the heritage organizations in a way where people would be intrigued to learn the history of the island and all that the heritage offers and where and how the culture has evolved then we should be able to benefit from this project.especially with the Arts, Cultural and Heritage organizations marketing events from Florida to North Carolina and out to Ohio about events.

3) How do you envision the Arts, Cultural and Heritage organizations playing an integral part in fostering a multi-dimensional community?

 Kim Likins: 

Arts and Culture play a vital role in fostering a multi-dimensional community. They speak to the heart and soul of a community and act as a catalyst to bring people together. Our Island’s unique Gullah Geechee culture combined with that of a generation of musicians who have grown-up creating Island style music, and an increasing Latino population who are settling in the area, make us a melting pot of rich diverse ethnic culture. With a citizenry young and old who deeply appreciates these assets, arts and culture should be a natural cornerstone upon which we work to build this vital vision.  Examples of ways to foster a multi-dimensional community include:

·      Developing Mitchelville and Gullah heritage sites and culture

·      Fostering festivals and concerts with our Latino community

·      Initiating more projects like painting murals at the rec center involving all age groups from school kids to seniors

More than 3000 of our citizens participated in an engaging visioning process to help guide the future of Hilton Head Island. This process helped us determine what we value, what are our greatest challenges, and most importantly what we aspire for our future. Now it is time to take this collective thinking and put it into action. We need to work hard to encourage community leadership, businesses and citizens to actively participate in implementing the vision strategies for our great future.  Ensuring that Arts and Culture are a prominent part of that vision is vital to our future success. 


John McCann: 

We should continue to promote greater collaboration between all interested parties and the Town. We are stronger 

together. The impressive and thoughtful plan that Jennifer McEwan developed will position us well going forward. It will 
enhance our collaborative objectives – and it will show that the arts, culture and history are alive and well on Hilton Head 
Island, and ensure that they play a significant role in our economy and in the quality of life here now – and for years to 


Michael Santomauro:

 I will like to work with the ACCHH to experiment with direct democracy and it will be a creative effort to bring art and politics together .
It will also increase our “Social Capital” that is lacking on Hilton Head Island . 

Rochelle Williams:

I believe that if people know more about this island and it’s heritage the island will be more respected. Once people realize that this island is rich in history and not just beautiful beaches and restaurants but history from stoney to seapines and the way we get along as a community the guests might want to follow suit. Not saying that they will but it is worth a try. I believe options and awareness will give our guests the best possible opportunity and experience while visiting our beautiful island. Thank You.