Tuesday, July 31, 2012

DA+AH: A Guide to the Savannah Art Scene

Katherine Sandoz, (waterway) palm & creek, 7 1/4” square, water-based media on panel, 2010

Through all my traveling I’ve found that many cities and towns have their own exciting art worlds functioning outside of the mainstream scene in New York City. Not only that but many artists, educators, dealers, and enthusiasts are doing a great deal in their communities to promote the arts.

I want to highlight these great places so that you might consider visiting them in your travels as well. Each post will be an interview with at least one person who is influential and/or passionate about their city’s art scene.

To start, let’s get to know the vibrant art scene in Savannah, Georgia. I had the pleasure of visiting for the New Year’s Eve celebrations back in December/January. And saw some of the great work people are doing down there first hand. I fell in love with one artist’s work and got to know her over the ever so useful internet since then. I’m pleased to introduce you to Katherine Sandoz.

Katherine paints, illustrates and creates in a barn behind her house in Savannah, Georgia where she has lived since 1995.  Her paintings, while typically abstract, honor the color and vibrant nature of the land, traditions and people of the low-country. You can browse and purchase her work here and check out her daily musings on her blog here.

Thank you so much, Katherine!

Jamie Hurst:   Tell me about yourself and your role in the art scene of Savannah.

Katherine Sandoz: Arriving to Savannah in 1995, I’ve received two MFAs from The Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), taught illustration there for 9.5 years, and art directed two independent galleries in the city that featured many of the up-and-coming artists at the time.  Since 2005, I’ve maintained a studio in a barn located behind my house and paint, illustrate and make daily.  My community service is always art-related with an emphasis on education and I consult for and independently curate events throughout the year. I contribute to Salted & Styled, founded by photographer Chia Chong and food producer and stylist Libbie Summers, as well as to Dr. Harrison Key’s blog Big Chief Tablet for The Oxford American. My blog features my work, the work of Savannah artists and designers and, loosely, life in the south.

I am very fortunate to count a number of Savannah’s brightest artists and designers as my closest friends and collaborators.

source:www.ossabawisland.net, Jack Leigh, “Leaning Oak in Fog”, 2002.

JH: Describe the art scene of Savannah. What is the history? The vibe? Is it known for anything like abstract expressionist or performance art movement, etc? Is it underground or mainstream? Large scale or intimate?

KS: Historically, the architecture, squares with their sculptures and monuments, and, of course, the live oaks with their Spanish Moss have been the art of Savannah – that and in the fine living rooms one could share, by invitation, the world-class art that had been collected on the citizens’ great adventures across seas.  In this way, the experience of art in the city was by and large an intimate one. 

In the 1970s, led by Francis Dalton “Skeeter” McNairy, Terry Lowenthal and Ron Strahan, there began a movement that attempted to bring contemporary art to the city and to the forefront of its imagination.  However, regional and Savannah-based art collecting did not take hold until SCAD opened its doors in 1979.  In the last three decades, the community at large has seized the idea and the work that is being produced in the city.  The college not only consistently hosts internationally and locally/regionally acclaimed artists and trades people to the university gallery walls, lecture halls and classrooms, it brings in thousands of students and invests in them and their work.  At the same time, independent curators, pop up galleries and multi-purpose spots have multiplied and flourished.  Today, you can find art and artists everywhere.  Don’t be surprised for a second that the young gentlemen pouring your wine just had his work published on the cover of  New American Paintings or if the cute mommy with the baby carriage in Forsyth didn’t just sign a contract with Chronicle for a new book on art and design. 


Local author and artist Jane Fishman says, “The beauty of Savannah is the size. It’s big enough not to run into the same people all the time, small enough to be able to leave your house 10 minutes before you have to get somewhere, big enough for a variety of groups to dip in and out of, small enough for those particular groups – artists, writers, gay folks, parents, twentysomethings, 60-plusers, neighbors  -- to overlap and not become stratified as in big cities where no one has time to be with anyone other than “their own kind.”

photo source:shopSCAD, instagram, july 2012

photo source:shopSCAD, instagram, July 2012.

JH: Are there regularly scheduled art shows like biennials, open air fairs, or First Fridays (something a visitor especially should not miss)?

KS: Gallery Hop:  first Fridays of the month, check hipcalendar.com
Savannah Music Festival:  Spring in Savannah, ear and eye candy
SCAD Film Fest:  all the stars, starlets, major producers and directors descend on the city.  Not to be missed:  the master workshops, the people watching, the student entries.  Oh, and the movies!
SCAD Style:  industry bigwigs talk about how it’s done in a four-day lecture and exhibition series
Telfair Art Fair:  a weekend of local and regional fine art, artisan and craftworks.  the home town booths always shine!  Outdoors.  Not to miss:  the children’s workshops and exhibit in the square.

JH: What are the must-see museums, galleries, and hot-spots?

KS: Atwell’s Art & Frame:  frameshop exhibiting emerging and best loved Savannah artists
The Butcher:  fresh meat!
Gallery Espresso:  coffee, tea, snacks and art in the heart of downtown
Kim Iocovozzi Fine Art: specializing 20th century American works and often a contemporary emerging local artist
Jepson Center/Telfair Museums:  in addition to local, regional and international artist exhibitions, the complex hosts one of the larger collections of Kahlil Gibran works.
Kobo Gallery:  hosts many of Savannah’s emerging artists and artisans
Local 11 Ten:  local food and local art
Meadow Lark Studio:  off the beaten path, but worth the trip!
No. Four Eleven:  lifestyle, art, furniture, tabletop
The Paris Market:  local art, finely curated lifestyle goodies, gorgeous staff, art and furniture, excellent coffee bar
SCAD Museum of Art:  world-class architecture, interactive spaces, galleries and classrooms with blue-chip exhibitions curated by the college and industry royalty
SCAD exhibitions (see calendar)
shopSCAD,   featuring works by SCAD students, faculty, staff and alumni – all disciplines! AH-mazing and has a brand-new look as of July 2012!
Whitney Gallery:  in the “design district

photo source:s hopSCAD, instagram, July 2012. Works by Suzanne Rader

Who are the locally celebrated artists, past and present?  

KS: At one point, Savannah had erected more public sculpture and monuments than Washington DC.  You can see in every square examples of that long preserved and honored tradition.  Be sure to step inside the churches, cemeteries and museums!  Look on the porches of the downtown homes; many hang paintings and 3D works.
Past:  Larry Connatser, Myrtle Jones. David Delong, William Posey Silva, Hattie Saussey, Lila Cabaniss, Paul Stone, Emma C. Wilkins, Augusta Oelschig, Johnny Mercer, Jack Leigh, Charles A.D. Murphy, Ben C. Morris

Present:  There are far too many celebrated working artists to list individually, and the spectrum of styles and presentation is far-reaching, but if you visit the locations given asterisks above you will surely see a great deal of the established and rising talent.  Long time resident and graphic artist, Peter E. Roberts notes, “The art produced in Savannah is a true mosaic of genres which offers endless possibilities for experiencing, interpreting, and collecting.”  To be sure, whether fashion works, jewelry, leather goods, animation, styling, illustration, painting, writing, music, assemblage, sculpture, fibers or photography, and everything in between, the city is rich in history, tradition and example.  Ever the “hostess city”, Savannah always invites the artists to the party whether to design, decorate, consult, exhibit, act as personalities or any and all of the above.  You have only to lean over to the next table and someone will tell you all about it and then introduce you to someone else who will most likely invite you to their living room to view, critique, and appreciate their collection!

SeeSAW mural at 34th & Habersham, photo:Josh Branstetter
JH: Is there anyone doing work in the local community that should be highlighted? For example, is anyone touching the community through art education or is a curator or gallery owner creating innovative or notable shows?

KS: SeeSAW:  founded by Savannah artists Matt Hebermehl and James “Dr. Z” Zdaniewski, the organization coordinates with the city and Savannah artists to plan and execute public works throughout the city and its many neighborhoods, most recently Candy Chang’s internationally acclaimed and exhibited “Before I Die” wall in two Savannah locations.
SCAD:  check their site prior to your trip; their partnership with the city, its businesses and its artists ensures something community oriented, collaborative and open to the public occurs almost every day.

For the art-invested Savannah visitor:
Christine Hall Photography:  book a “last light” session with this Savannah artist and family photographer, 10% discount for HHT readers.
Scribble Arts Studio:  drop the kids at Scribble for some serious art for kids led by Savannah artist Carrie Christian.
Portrait artist Troy Wandzel:  choose between 1 and 4 hour seating in his studio which itself is an art happening!  You will never forget this unique experience and the painting, obviously, is yours forever.  Book ahead:  troywandzel@yahoo.com

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