During the year, the Coastal Discovery Museum hosts between 6 and 8 temporary exhibits in the Discovery House’s Temporary Exhibit Gallery. The exhibits vary in theme and subject matter related to Lowcountry history, natural history and art. Visiting the Coastal Discovery Museum’s exhibitions will introduce you to the many facets of Hilton Head Island.

Depending upon the exhibition, there are often demonstrations, talks and workshops offered during the year. Some artists will paint in the gallery or ‘plein air’ on site during their show while others will present workshops about how to take nature photographs. For our younger visitors, several of the exhibitions feature ‘scavenger hunts’ or other activities.

Many exhibitions have ‘artist coffees,’ demonstrations or classes offered during their installation. Here you can meet the many of the exhibiting artists at gallery walks and coffees. It is a great opportunity to get to know the artists, their methods and vision for their works.

Please contact the Museum or check the event calendar for more information.

Response to Nature: The Watercolors of P. A. Kessler

May 6th – June 28th (Meet the Artist – 5 – 7 PM on May 23rd)

The Coastal Discovery Museum is proud to announce that our upcoming exhibition, Response to Nature: The Watercolors of P. A. Kessler, will feature a local artist with an international reputation.  Even surrounded by the fascinating natural beauty of the Lowcountry, we all too often walk past it without taking the time to slow down and appreciate its magnificence up close.  Pam’s work gives us pause to stop and reflect on the beauty of nature that can be discovered in a flower, a nest, or a feather dropped along a path.

Pam’s intrigue with the natural world was inspired by her dad, an avid outdoorsman, who taught her not just to look carefully at living things, but also how to “see” them.  As she began to meticulously paint orchids in the 1970s, her fascination with the intricacy of nature and attempting to accurately represent it led her to look at her subjects under magnification – according to Pam, there are no words for how amazing nature is; however she comes as close as anyone to expressing this through her art.

From her focus on orchids, she naturally branched out to explore other elements we see in the natural world.  Not only does she accurately capture the inert remains of insects and birds from which life has departed, she also pays tribute to their architectural achievements – the intricate architectural achievements of both birds and wasps.

One of the fascinating aspects of the Pam’s work is its departure from the static images created by historic botanical painters, the additions of ID stakes and other elements of human interaction suggest human interaction, and her images inspire viewers to think about our interaction with nature.  Diane McMahon, an accomplished writer has provided a response to several of Pam’s pieces as an opening to encourage visitors to add their thoughts to these poignant images

It is artists like P. A. Kessler who help the Coastal Discovery Museum inspire our visitors to care for the Lowcountry.  In the tradition of botanical illustrations, both original works of art and high quality reproductions will be available for purchase.  Please join us at the Coastal Discovery Museum and add your response to this exhibition from May 6 through June 28th, 2019.  There will also be an opportunity to meet the artist at our reception on May 23, between 5 – 7 PM

Artist Biography:

Pam Kessler is an accomplished artist with a refined sense of draftsmanship, composition, and watercolor technique. Her artistic insight – a far more elusive quality – is what has earned Pam a growing national reputation.

Pam is a member of both The Society of Botanical Artists in England, and the American Society of Botanical Artists. Her work has been featured in major watercolor exhibitions and is well represented in many corporate and private collections, including Dr. Shirley Sherwood’s collection of contemporary Botanical Art and the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation.

Her plants are rendered with a delicacy and grace that faithfully capture their essence. She does not portray beauty in isolation, but as a revelation of interaction between observer and observed. An active response will yield a depth of vision denied the passive observer.

Additional art works and contact information can be found on the artist’s website:

Artist’s statement:

Botanical painting has an ancient history, but contemporary botanical painters are faced with the same dilemma as their predecessors.  Which master should they serve – art or science?  The answer is always – both.  You have to embrace the freedom of one without discarding the discipline of the other.  It is important to draw from life exactly what is seen and to paint this as accurately as possible.

A botanical painting is always on a background of pure white.  It acts as the field on which the plant (and, also for me, the nest, feather, or insect) rests.  This white space is very important because it helps reveal the essence of the subject.

In my mind, the role of the contemporary botanical artist is to open people’s eyes to the wonders in nature.  By accurately representing the subject, all the amazing details that we quite often miss are open to view.

Botanical painters don’t disturb or upset, but enlighten and open ways for better understanding and delighting in our natural world. P. A. Kessler




Nikon Small World: Recognizing Excellence in Photography through the Microscope

July 1, 2019 – September 13, 2019

The oldest and most respected competition of its kind, Nikon Small World celebrates the world’s best photomicrographers, who successfully find the intersection of art and science under the microscope by using a variety of sophisticated microscopy techniques. Nikon’s Small World is regarded as the leading forum for showcasing the beauty and complexity of life as seen through the light microscope.  This year, the Coastal Discovery Museum is one of eight venues to host their traveling exhibition featuring the top 20 photographs selected as winners in the 2018 competition.