Imagination and education...A Bluffton Public Art Project Highlights Crabby Creatures
Author: Debbie Szpanka
You see them all the time along our beaches, in marshes and along mud flats and lagoons, but do you really know them? Besides being amused by their frenetic squirming, have we overlooked getting well-acquainted with our crabby neighbors? Fiddler crabs are a staple of our coastal culture and yet are often overshadowed by the larger animals, in size and reputation, such as the dolphin, egrets and sharks.
The 2015 Leadership Class of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce has taken note of the fiddler crabs’ “middle child” dynamic in our community and has embarked on a project to change that.
“The fiddlers are mysterious by nature,” said Erin Schumacher, a Town of Bluffton planner and member of the Leadership Class. “They like to sneak around and hide quickly, so there is a logical reason why they are often overlooked. By accepting and highlighting that natural trait, the Leadership Class will spotlight them as we hide sculpted fiddlers all around Bluffton’s Old Town and create an educational scavenger hunt for kids and adults.”
The “Follow the Fiddlers” project will install 10 bronze fiddler crab sculptures throughout Old Town Bluffton, mainly on Calhoun Street. The fiddlers will be accompanied by informational storyboards to educate the public about crabs as well as other local marine life in the Lowcountry and in Bluffton’s May River.
Besides bringing crabs to the attention of residents and visitors, class members say the fiddlers will add another dimension to Bluffton’s Old Town attractions.
“Let’s face it; fiddlers are odd-looking characters,” said Scott Chandler, a Bluffton police officer and Leadership Class member. “Taking this coastal character and giving fiddlers a spotlight on Calhoun Street among the shops, dining and festivals gives kids a fun reason to visit Old Town.”
It also gives Old Town its first public art, which mixes well with the numerous art galleries in the area.
“What makes public art fun is when you take something really small and make it really big or vice versa,” Schumacher said. “We are taking a detail in the marine life story and giving it a headline. That’s fun, that’s educational and it also makes really great public art. Projects like this add another dimension to a town or city’s environment, making those areas the epitome of an area where people live, work and play.”
The fiddler crabs will be sculpted by Savannah artist Susie Chisholm, who has been commissioned previously to produce sculptures around Hilton Head Island. Schumacher said she and her fellow class members hope their project inspires other public art initiatives.
“We hope this project brings smiles, maybe a few giggles to those who find the fiddlers hidden in Old Town,” Schumacher said. “We are also proud that this project adds another layer of excitement to visiting Bluffton and hope more people use art as an educational and entertainment component of our region.”
This project is the fourth Leadership project in 30 years to be exclusively located in Bluffton and the first Leadership project to add a permanent series of installations along Calhoun Street. “Follow the Fiddlers,” is scheduled to be installed in May.
The project is projected to cost about $14,000 and, so far, the class has raised about half of the projected costs. Class members are currently seeking donors to aid in the construction of “Follow the Fiddlers” in the form of materials, services and financial donations. Contribution levels are: Blue Crab – $2,500; Stone Crab – $1,000; Marsh Crab – $500; Hermit Crab – $250; Fiddler Crab- $100. Each donor, at these levels, will be recognized on a plaque.
All tax-deductible donations may be mailed to: “Follow the Fiddlers,” c/o Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 5647, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina 29938. Checks should be payable to the Chamber; please designate “Follow the Fiddlers” in the memo section of your check.
Fun Fiddler Facts
• You can tell the difference between a female and male crab by their claws. A male crab has two claws; however one is much larger than the other. A female crab’s claws are the same size.
• Fiddler crabs shed their shells as they grow; they are more reclusive when they shed their shell. They are protecting themselves as they wait for their new shell to harden.
• Fiddler crabs communicate by a sequence of waves or gestures.
• Fiddler crabs live for about two years.
About the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class
The Hilton Head Island–Bluffton Chamber of Commerce Leadership program is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year, as it began in 1985. The program selects members through an intensive interview process. The nine-month class dedicates one day a month to learn various facets of the community, such as the education system, local government, law enforcement, cultural offerings and more. The program is designed to develop a corps of informed residents of the region who are prepared to be leaders for non-profit boards, community organizations and public office.