With the weather cold and unrelenting, a rarity for mostly balmy Savannah, a march seemed like just the appropriate thing to ‘warm’ things up on an unseasonably brisk Friday evening.
An Art March, that is.
Art Rise Savannah kicked off January in style with the First Friday Art March, a catch-all gallery hop and art market spanning mid-Forsyth Park to the Starland District.
I started the march, the first of 2014, with a stop at the Indie Arts Market along DeSoto Row, the unofficial hub of the Starland District. After browsing for a few minutes, while examining one of her unique wares, I started chatting with Corey Houlihan, owner of Ink & Bone, an apparel company selling hand-painted hats, clothing and wood art.
“This is such a cool opportunity to sell art,” says Houlihan, who successfully raised over $3,000 for Ink & Bone with a recent Kickstarter campaign. “I feel really grateful, because my art is not really gallery-type art, so this is a really great way for me to be able to try to sell and show my art.”
At the end of Desoto, in front of the Fresh Exhibitions Gallery , I spoke with Scott Barrett, a tall friendly man dressed in jeans and a navy blazer. He was doing his first-ever exhibition, “Abandoned,” a collection of gripping photographs exploring the abandoned spaces inside an old hospital outside of Boone, N.C.
The photography work has been cathartic for Barrett, who explored themes of human abandonment (with the childhood experiences of his foster daughter) through the work.
“My wife would tell you, I don’t have an emotional bone in my body,” joked Barrett, a retired former CIO of Blockbuster Video and now a part-time student at SCAD. “It’s all numbers, technology and running a business … So this has been a good experience for me to just step back, with this project and thinking about our foster child and the struggles that [she] had.”
Next up was a quick stop at Foxy Loxy, the neighborhood coffee shop that’s become a staple of the neighborhood after opening. As is usual for a Friday night at the ‘Lox,’ the place was hopping, with Savannah troubadour Markus Kuhlman and his Clouds & Satellites bandmates belting out acoustic rockabilly gems in front of the faux fireplace.
Four blocks up on Bull Street, I stopped in the Non-Fiction Gallery, featuring artists Max Shuster, Perry Angelora, Jenny Eitel and Ahrong Ki. After walking through the spacious well-lit Bull Street venue, I was introduced through a mutual friend to Jenny Eitel, a 2012 SCAD BFA alum, whose Geist collection features collages of gesture drawings layered atop each other to reveal a new order and form amidst chaos.
Eitel, who grew up in Michigan, found that an abstract class a few years back at SCAD opened her mind to more exploratory artistic journeys
“I was always very representational and traditional,” she recalls. “With gesture drawings, a lot of times, you’re not even looking at your page. You’re just intuitively drawing. There’s a lot more feeling and emotion.”
Eitel is one of the many SCAD alums to stay and build a creative life in Savannah even after the classes end.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for [SCAD] people who decide to stay here, to be a fine artist here in Savannah. There’s a great close-knit community here that supports artists.”
A few blocks up at The Sentient Bean, the scene was live, as the popular coffee shop was overflowing with what looked like the after-party of a rock ‘n roll show. After a little investigation, and a few laps around the retail space, I walked over to the main wall to see Savannah Rocks!, a collage of local rock and roll memorabilia chronicling Savannah’s often rich, rugged and robust musical history.
The 30-foot display featuring a collection of photos, posters, magazine and newspaper clippings going back over 50 years. The bulletin board will stay on display in The Bean until March 6th, when it will travel to Blick Art Supplies on Broughton Street.
After a little bit of country and rock and roll, the next stop was the Grand Bohemian Gallery, part of the opulent Mansion on Forsyth Park. The gallery features several local artists, including a few which sold paintings during the evening’s March. After taking a self-guided tour of the gallery, I sidled up to Cassidy Hatcher, who was enjoying some of the artwork displayed in the well-appointed atrium.
“I’m really glad there’s something like this in Savannah,” says Hatcher, who attended Savannah Arts Academy and is now a college student in Atlanta. “It’s good to see Savannah becoming more progressive.”
An 8.45 p.m. trolley ride from The Mansion took me back to the Starland District, to the Anahata Healing Arts, where a vibrant scene of live art, drum circles and arts & crafts vendors seemed like it could go on all evening. Next door, at Of Two Minds Studio, talented artist Jared Seff was finishing another portrait of one the evening’s patrons.
Alas, a few minutes later, the clock struck 9 o’clock, and another Art March was officially in the books. At the end of a fun evening, I was to left to my own thoughts to take in the night’s festivities, to recall and review what I had just seen during my first Art March.. In spite of the cold, a collection of people gathered to celebrate art with a profound sense of community, and that is something special.