A dynamic new arts organization is taking shape in Savannah that's well positioned to become a vibrant, unifying force.
"We'd like to be a leader of the arts in the South," said Clinton Edminster, executive director of Art Rise Savannah. "Even beyond Savannah. We're preparing to take over the world with art!"
Art Rise Savannah recently emerged from the dissolution of Desotorow Gallery, located in the reinvigorated Starland District, just south of Forsyth Park. This freshly minted organization - helmed by Edminster and president of the new board of directors, Lauren Flotte - has taken over operations of the First Friday Art March and is looking to grow in a direction that helps support the creative economy in a way that benefits not just artists, but the community at large.
Both Edminster and Flotte are SCAD alumni, but their previous aspirations as artists have evolved into something that's maybe a bit more fulfilling and all-encompassing.
"People ask me if I'm still making art and I say, 'Yes and no,'" Flotte said. "I've totally changed mediums, but this is my art now, and it feels more right than graphic design or photography or any of that ever did, because this is how I can accomplish my real goals as an artist. I could never have effectively done what we're doing just as a photographer."
The guiding principle of Art Rise Savannah is to elevate the level of quality in everything they do while providing a variety of opportunities for artists and members of the community.
Along with expanding their participation in events like the Partnership for a Healthy America's Play Streets, they've also rebranded their gallery space as Fresh Exhibitions, which will adopt a new model in how they represent artists who show there.
Where the former gallery charged a flat fee to exhibit - regardless of merit and spawning a break-neck weekly rotation of shows - they now require a small fee to evaluate proposals for each submission period to determine the top candidates for monthly exhibitions. This includes help with marketing and coordination for those awarded fellowships.
"As this program develops over time, I think it can become a mark of quality in the community," Flotte said. "I think the exhibition fellowship program is such an important thing in Savannah because there's nothing else like it. It's going to up the ante.
"Already, the shows we have lined up from the first round are some of the best shows I've ever seen at this space," she said.
In January, they're also set to launch the Savannah Art Informer, an online art journal.
"I want to see these programs flourish and expand, and I have in my head a million ideas of where we might go next," Flotte said.
The First Friday Art March on Nov. 1 is Halloween themed, with a kids' activity area that includes mask making and a costume contest beginning at 7:30 p.m.
As always, there will be live music, local artists and an after-party at the Wormhole.
Each program is an extension of Art Rise Savannah's larger vision of creative connection through art.
"Part of what we're trying to do is make Savannah an art destination," Flotte said.
"And our brand is quality and excellence," Edminster added.