With more than 60 cultural institutions throughout the state (many of them in or near Savannah) open at no admission cost, Super Museum Sunday can be a bit overwhelming when deciding where to go. Here are some highlights to help sort your plan of action for Feb. 7:
Davenport House Museum
A spot that holds a special place in the heart and history of Savannah is this unique house museum on Columbia Square. There, visitors can revisit the life of the Davenport family in the 1820s.
What I like about the Davenport House is that the staff reflects the city’s history, warts and all. From the harsh lives of the house slaves to the yellow fever epidemic, nothing is off-limits in their true-life depictions of the past.
What’s truly special about this site is that it serves as a marker of Savannah’s first steps into widespread historic preservation. Believe it or not, in 1955, this beautiful historic home and garden were slated for demolition to put up — what else? — a parking lot. Thankfully, the seven founders of the Historic Savannah Foundation took up the cause and purchased the site mere hours before it was to be destroyed.
And be sure to check out their adorable garden while you’re there. If you really love the spot, you can even get married at the museum’s annual Valentine’s Day weddings exactly one week after Super Museum Sunday. Learn more at www.davenporthousemuseum.org.
-- Heather Henley
Ulysses Davis folk art collection at the Beach Institute
One of Savannah’s best-kept secrets — and richest treasures — is the collection of folk art by Ulysses Davis (1913-1990) on permanent display at the Beach Institute. A barber by trade, Davis carved wood when business was slow at his west Savannah shop, crafting imaginative wood sculptures inspired by the Bible, American history and African art. Often adorned with rhinestones or beads and “painted” with shoe polish, his whimsical wood carvings attracted national attention during the artist’s lifetime and have been featured at the the American Museum of Folk Art in New York, the High Museum in Atlanta and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
The Beach Institute has more than 200 original works by this self-taught artist in its permanent collection. Don’t miss Davis’ hand-carved collection of busts of U.S. presidents, ranging from George Washington to George H.W. Bush (who was in office when Davis died). Additional highlights in this quirky collection include spiritual sculptures, walking canes and fantasy-inspired carvings. Learn more at www.visit-historic-savannah.com/king-tisdell-cottage.html.
-- Allison Hersh
National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force
Award-winning author Steve Snyder will be at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force on Feb. 7 autographing his book “Shot Down.” Based on his father’s true life story, “Shot Down” recounts the heroic tale of the B-17 bomber and her crew after German fighters took them down over Belgium and what happened to the crew and the Belgians who risked their lives to save them. “Shot Down” has won 16 national awards, and features more than 200 period photographs of the people involved in the rescue of the crew.
“Initially I had no intention of writing a book, and it wasn’t until December 2012 that I actually decided to do so,” Snyder said. “Based on all that I had learned over the previous years, I felt that the story of my father and his crew was so unique and so compelling that it just had to be told and people needed to read about it.” Learn more at www.stevesnyderauthor.com.
-- Adam Messer
Hold onto your hats, arts and culture lovers: A new kid is hitting the block. Located at 1930 Montgomery St., between 35th and 36th streets, the Welmont is poised to be the next go-to exhibition and performance space in an already fast-changing area of the city. Situated just off the Bull Street corridor north of the Starland District, the Welmont is sure to become a destination spot and is certainly a welcome addition to the vibrant creative growth that’s been going on south of Forsyth Park.
The Welmont is being billed as more than simply an art gallery. It’s a multi-faceted exhibition space that will include not just art shows, but also music performances, movie nights and various community outreach programs. It’ll also feature a beautifully designed retail space in the front room and, at some point in the hopefully near future, a beer and wine bar.
The building will also feature a mural on the exterior of its north wall, which will change every six months or so. The opening reception for the space is from 7-11 p.m. Feb. 5 during the First Friday Art March, and you owe it to yourself to check it out. Owner Charlie Crosby, who also runs STEAM Printing (not exactly a “new kid”) has done an incredible job. Learn more at www.facebook.com/thewelmont.
-- Kristopher Monroe
MORE NOTEWORTHY SITES
Georgia State Railroad Museum
655 Louisville Road; 912-651-6823, www.chsgeorgia.org/GSRM
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; programming starts at 11 a.m.
Enjoy continuous train rides, rail car rides, blacksmiths working with fire and steel, a locomotive tour of car 2715 and tours of the office/executive boxcars. Tricentennial Park museum complex is a place for the young and the young at heart. It also includes the Savannah History Museum at 303 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and the Savannah Children’s Museum at 655 Louisville Road.
Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum
460 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.; 912-777-6099
Hours: Noon-4 p.m.
Down the street from Tricentiennial Park is the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum. There will be a photo exhibit on an embattled historic college and the state of the American dream. “Without Regard to Sex, Race, or Color: The Past, Present, and Future of One Historically Black College” features photographs by Andrew Feiler. Look for the painting of “Forty acres and a mule” on the historic meeting in Savannah, Jan. 12, 1865.
Lucas Theatre for the Arts
32 Abercorn St.; 912-525-5040, www.lucastheatre.com
Hours: 1-4 p.m.
The Lucas doesn’t usually have tours on weekends because of regularly scheduled performances or movies. Several staff members will provide 30-minute tours, taking guests on stage to see the theater from a performer’s perspective and then give a peek backstage. Don’t forget to enjoy the classic interior architecture while you’re there.
Andrew Low House Museum and Girl Scout First Headquarters Museum and Program Center
329 Abercorn St. and 330 Drayton St.; 888-223-3881, www.andrewlowhouse.com
Hours: Noon-4 p.m.
The Girl Scout center is behind the Low House because Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of America, lived as an adult in the Low House and had her scout meetings in the cottage behind the house. The Low House also is considered by many to be the most authentically restored museum. And the builder was one of Savannah’s original cotton factors, who set the price of cotton for the entire South.
WEBB Military Museum
411 E. York St.; 912-663-0398, www.webbmilitarymuseum.com
Hours: Noon-4 p.m.
Gary Webb, the founder and collector of all you will see, will be at the museum, which isn’t normally open on Sundays. He is enthusiastic about his collection from the Civil War to Desert Storm and happy to tell you all the original stories.
Bethesda Academy’s William H. Ford Sr. Museum & Visitors Center
9520 Ferguson Ave.; 912-401-0663, www.bethesdamuseum.org
Hours: 1-4 p.m.
The Ford Museum isn’t typically open on weekends, only by appointment on Saturdays. Bethesda Academy was founded in 1740 by the Rev. George Whitefield as the Bethesda Orphan House and Academy and is the “oldest continuously operating child-caring institution in the country.”
Pin Point Heritage Museum
9924 Pin Point Ave.; 912-355-0064, www.chsgeorgia.org/PHM
Hours: Noon-4 p.m.
Not usually open on Sundays, this museum gives a perspective of actually being there when the A.S. Varn & Son Oyster and Crab Factory was in operation. The buildings stand as they were and signage explains the processing and path of the oysters from when they came off the boats to being put in the cans. It’s also an opportunity to better under the Gullah/Geechee community, and Pin Point is also where U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was born.