Nov 30 2009

The preservation practices of Tina Mayland

Artist Tina Mayland in front of her recently commissioned sunset painting.

Artist Tina Mayland in front of her recently commissioned sunset painting.

By Kristin Hackler

The customer couldn’t believe her eyes as she stared at the ribbons of crimson, violet and copper spilling over a thick bank of loblolly pines and pooling on the rippling mirrored surface of a Lowcounty creek. “You don’t really have sunsets like that around here, do you?” she asked the artist incredulously. All Tina could do was laugh. “Of course we do!” She grinned. “That’s why we live here.”

Tina Mayland, a Charleston native who paid her dues in the north, becoming a Vice President of Marketing with ATT in New Jersey, returned to her homeland a little more than a year ago to “retire” on Seabrook Island. Though once you meet Tina, you realize that there’s no such thing as retiring for this vibrant artist.

“I spent my first year of retirement taking art lessons from every artist I could find,” said Tina. “I just didn’t want my gravestone to read ‘Increased profits for ATT 2.1%’,” she laughed. So once she exhausted every artist she could find, and joined every organization on the island with which she had an interest, she realized that there was still more she could do. So she looked to her roots.

In the mid-1950s, Tina Mayland’s grandfather purchased New Cut Plantation on Wadmalaw Island. The plantation home had been built in the early 1800s in Rockville, and after the Civil War it was floated down the river to New Cut. When Tina’s grandfather purchased the land, it was with the intention of retiring. But true to her lineage, her grandfather just couldn’t spend his retirement in passivity. For 34 years after retirement, Tina’s grandfather pursued his lifelong passion of cattle farming. At the age of 95, his family finally came to him and told it was probably time for him to stop raising cattle. He asked what he could do instead and they replied that he could raise pine trees for as long as he wanted.

“Every morning after he gave up cattle farming, Grandpa would wake up, go out on the porch to peer across the plantation at the trees, and would say ‘Yup, looks good’,” Tina smiled. He died at 96 and he couldn’t have been happier with his life.

When it came to handling the estate, Tina and her family couldn’t stand to think that one day, New Cut Plantation might be steamrolled over and built into a new subdivision. So they contacted the Lowcountry Open Land Trust to put the land into permanent conservation. And when Tina thought about what she could do now that she was “retired”, she decided that her time couldn’t be better spent than working for the Trust.

“Charleston has done a marvelous job with preservation, especially in the 1930s when the City decided to save all of the old architecture,” said Tina. “To date, the Lowcountry Open Land Trust has saved more than 80,000 acres of land, but we need to keep the Trust going so we can continue to monitor the land and ensure that it exists in conservation ad infinitum.”

In her role as director of fundraising and memberships, Tina has been able to gear her passionate, energetic nature toward bringing in new members and helping to raise the $600,000 per year necessary to keep the Trust’s doors open.

And in her spare time, she paints. In a way, she’s still preserving the land of her childhood, except instead of through deeds and trusts, she doing it through oils and canvases. Her memories of climbing trees, wading through marshes and building forts in the wilderness of Wadmalaw island are translated into warm, wistful, poignant paintings of Charleston’s fairytale landscapes.

“I did what I had to do, now I get to do what I want to do,” smiled Tina. “If I’m not saving the Lowcountry, I’m painting it.”

Tina Mayland’s art is on display at Spencer’s Gallery, located at 57 Broad Street in Downtown Charleston, and her work is usually included in the Seabrook Island Art Guild’s art shows, a group of which she is a member. Tina is also on the board for the Charleston Artist Guild and is the chair of their workshop programs. To view more of her work, visit

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