Art on the Outside: Michele Roldán-Shaw’s Dolphin Mural on Calhoun Street

Mayfest is an amazing annual celebration of regional artists and artisans, but local painters, potters, sculptors, woodworkers, jewelry makers and craftsmen make Bluffton the “HeART of the Lowcountry” every day.

Michele Roldán-Shaw Dolphin Mural in Bluffton

In addition to the colorful galleries, eclectic shops and tasteful eateries lining Calhoun Street and adjacent avenues, new public art occasionally pops up in Old Town. Recently, a painting of a mother and baby dolphin leaping out the water replaced D. Pierce Giltner’s weatherworn shrimp boat image on the corner of Bridge and Boundary Streets.

Giltner, an esteemed local artist who operated Gallery Without Walls next to The Store on Calhoun Street for several years, asked Michele Roldán-Shaw to create a new installment on the former Town bulletin board; prepping the wood, providing the paints and studio space and even installing the finished piece.

Michele Roldán-Shaw's Dolphin Mural in Bluffton“It was his kind way of lending a hand to a fellow outsider artist—meaning we don’t have formal training or a lot of slick marketing behind us, so we have to be innovative and make our own way,” she explains. “I’m very grateful to Pierce for giving me this opportunity!”

Perhaps best known as a freelance journalist (and longtime Bluffton Breeze contributor), as well as the author of two true adventure tales called “Rambler’s Life,” Roldán-Shaw’s first love was art. 

“I have been doing art for as long as I can remember,” explains the avid outdoorswoman. “However, I have no formal schooling—I just follow my own muse! When I moved to Bluffton 13 years ago, I started painting the local flora and fauna I saw in my explorations.”

For instance, her Lowcountry mural at the Coastal Discovery Museum includes a black snake slithering up a palmetto tree (a memory from a visit to Hunting Island), as well as a pod of dolphins with one tiny, black newborn fin in the center (as seen on Bull Creek). She also spent several years showing her art at various Calhoun Street galleries while painting more murals for businesses and private residences.

Today, Roldán-Shaw’s primary focus is on her writing, although she still does commissioned pieces and original artwork for family and friends. A table she had painted long ago with a mother and baby dolphin provided iconic inspiration for her most recent project.

“[Dolphins] are one thing NOBODY ever gets tired of seeing,” she says. “I am very pleased with how the painting has been received in the spirit of town beautification that everyone can enjoy.”

To view Roldán-Shaw’s gallery of artwork, inquire about painting commissions or learn more about her books, call (843) 304-3460 or visit