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Pawleys’ old Town Hall serves as exhibit space for artisans

It’s probably one of the smallest buildings on an island where historic homes date back 200 years and multi-million-dollar houses perch over the Atlantic Ocean.

But the little white building, known simply as Pawleys Island’s old Town Hall, is extra special to people like Vida Miller, Tanya Ackerman, Gail Joley, and a host of other artists, photographers and authors involved with the Waccamaw Neck Arts Alliance.

The 600-square-foot building is where these artisans come together to showcase their work and greet visitors to the historic island.

Quite simply, Miller said, “We treasure this unique little building.”

This will be the fourth year that WNAA has exhibited at the old Town Hall, located at the corner of Waccamaw Drive and the North Causeway to the island.

The old Town Hall building is located on the corner of Waccamaw Drive and the North Causeway on Pawleys Island. (Photo courtesy of WNAA)

The group will next exhibit their art every day from July 7 through Labor Day on Sept. 4. In addition to the summer art shows, the group shows their work in the old Town Hall other times of the year, around Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

A part of all sales go to the maintenance and upkeep of the building, which was used for official town business until September 2016 when town officials moved out due to flooding from Hurricane Matthew. A new Town Hall building opened in February 2019 just across the North Causeway. The old building was renovated to be used for art displays.

“The old Town Hall is a very special location for our art shows,” Miller said, “and we have also conducted several workshops in the building.”

Miller, the founder of WNAA and an award-winning artist, owned and operated Gray Man Gallery in Pawleys Island for 42 years. She has studied with international and local artists and has served on several art council boards, including the South Carolina Arts Alliance, for which she is a current board member.

Waccamaw Neck Arts Alliance member Joanne Willoughby holds one of her paintings during a recent exhibit at the old Town Hall on Pawleys Island (Photo courtesy of WNAA)

She said the Pawleys Island area has grown over the years into a “haven for the arts” and the primary goal of the WNAA is to promote local arts and humanities. Members include visual artists, potters, photographers, and authors.

WNAA has an annual show at the Rice Museum in Georgetown, and members also display their art at local galleries in the Georgetown and Pawleys Island areas, as well as participate in numerous art-related events.

“Our group, along with the many other art venues and art-related activities in the area, have a great economic and humanitarian impact on our communities and the state,” Miller said.

WNAA member Lee Brockington signs copies of her book, “Pawleys Island: A Century of History and Photographs.” (Photo courtesy of WNAA)

Gail Joley, an award-winning watercolor artist originally from Toledo, Ohio, moved here 21 years ago from Illinois. She is a member of the Georgetown County Watercolor Society and the Waccamaw Arts and Crafts Guild.

Joley’s painting, “Shrimpboat Reflections,” was juried into the South Carolina Watermedia Society’s 2009 Annual Exhibit. She won “Best of Show” in the Winyah Arts Association Annual Exhibit in 2006 and was an award winner at that show in 2008 and 2010.  Joley has been juried into Waccamaw Arts and Crafts Guild’s annual exhibits nearly every year since 2007, and has been juried into the show again in 2023.

Her watercolor batik painting, “Calm After the Storm,” was awarded Best of Show in the Georgetown County Watercolor Society’s Annual Member Show in January 2020 and her painting, “Safe Harbor,” won an Honorable Mention award in the current Georgetown County Watercolor Society Annual Members Show at the Rice Museum. Joley’s original paintings and prints are available at Island Art Gallery, Gray Man Gallery, and Seaside Framing, all located in Pawleys Island, and through her website,

Gail Joley, a member of WNAA, stands with her painting, “Safe Harbor,” which won an Honorable Mention award in the current Georgetown County Watercolor Society’s annual Members Show at the Rice Museum. (Photo courtesy of Gail Joley)

Joley has been a member of the WNAA since its inception and said it allows her to know more of the area artists and people who visit Pawleys Island.

“I like exhibiting and selling at the old Town Hall because customers are usually staying on the Island, and they often come in with an intention to purchase something from a local artist to take home,” Joley said. “I also enjoy working there during the shows as the customers are interesting people with personal history with the Island.”

Tanya Ackerman, an award-winning photographer and owner of Chasing the Light, a photography business, has also been a member of WNAA since the beginning. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she moved to the area about 20 years ago. She’s been an award-winning photojournalist for 25 years, including more than 15 years with the Coastal Observer newspaper in Pawleys Island.

People look through artwork inside the old Town Hall

The South Carolina Press Association named Ackerman as Photojournalist of the Year an unprecedented four times. Ackerman released her first book, “Pawleys Island: Chasing the Light,” to critical acclaim in 2016. Her second book in the Chasing the Light series, “Pawleys Island: Seasons of Light,” was released in 2020.

Ackerman has participated in all the shows at the old Town Hall on Pawleys Island. She’s glad to be part of the WNAA, she said, because it’s a great way for local artists to share their work with the community and visitors to the area.

“It is also a great way to meet Pawleys Island visitors and connect with people in the community,” Ackerman said. “We are all united by our love of this area and Pawleys Island.”

By Clayton Stairs / tourism manager for the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce