New fine arts center blessed at St. Francis by the Sea School

HILTON HEAD — Fine arts received an official blessing at St. Francis by the Sea School on Aug. 29. A new music and art building was dedicated  by three priests including Father Michael Oenbrink, the administrator; Father Gerald Lutz, the former parochial vicar; and Father Robert Morey, pastor of Holy Family Church.

The whole school attended the dedication. Children lined the walls outside the building while teachers kept the enthusiasm in control.

The new center is the first part of a campus plan that includes a gym and auditorium in its next phase, according to Tom Loosbrock, chairman of the building committee.

The fine arts building is linked to the main school by an outdoor walkway. It includes a lobby and two specially designed rooms, one for music and performance, and one for art. The art room features lofty ceilings, skylights, north-facing windows for optimum natural light, and a patio where students may draw. The studio has more storage space, a sink and a special room for a new medium.  

“We now have a kiln so the students can work with clay and ceramics,” said Lisa Sweeney, director of visual and performing arts at the school.  

“The building is perfect. We will get to work with a lot of different mediums. We will even be able to work with glass,”

Sweeney teaches pre-kindergarten through eighth grade music and middle school visual arts. She said the music room has risers, more space and a small stage where they can perform. Also, it has better sound. The music room was built with special materials so the surface will enhance acoustics.

“The idea was to make it a very special place for students so they could enjoy art and develop their talents,” Loosbrock said.

They will not be the only ones to use the facility. Michael Rockers, principal of St. Francis, announced that the choir will use the room to practice and they hope to hold adult classes there.

This phase of the project cost $1.3 million. It included plans, site clean-up and construction costs. Construction on the arts building began in January.

The first steps of planning began in 2006. The building was designed by FWA Architects of Hilton Head and built by Fraser Construction. The center was dedicated to the family of Charles D. Polhamus.

Mike Flint, a building committee member, said St. Francis used the funds raised in conjunction with the Diocese of Charleston’s capital campaign. A couple of donors made large contributions that helped them achieve their goals.

“This is just one of two as part of an overall plan that will complete our campus,” Flint said.

St. Francis by the Sea School will start construction on the multipurpose building in the fall. It will include the gymnasium and auditorium.