Savannah is fortunate to have so many thriving, well-established arts organizations, but we saw some significant leadership changes during the past year.

Lisa Grove left her position as director and CEO of the Telfair Museums this spring to join the Obama Foundation and its planned Obama Presidential Center. Robin Nicholson, currently executive director of The Frick Pittsburgh, will take over the Telfair’s top spot on March 1.


Rob Gibson left his position as artistic and executive director of the Savannah Music Festival in summer 2018. David Pratt returned to Savannah to take over as executive director, and the SMF’s marketing and managing director Ryan McMaken moved up to artistic director.

Peter Shannon, artistic director and conductor of the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra, will be stepping down at the end of the 2018-19 season. The search committee recently announced an impressive list of eight possible replacements, each of whom will guest conduct a concert in the 2019-20 season.

Regardless of these changes, the SPO, SMF and Telfair Museums will likely thrive in 2019 as they did in 2018. As I have said in previous columns, we are lucky to live in a city where so many residents value and support the arts.

I can’t possibly mention all the great performances and arts events that I attended and covered during the past year, but as I look back at my columns, photos and calendars, I am most struck by the sheer diversity of experiences the city offered in 2018.


Among my personal highlights were the 10th annual Junk 2 Funk Fashion Show at Savannah Arts Academy, Gus Dapperton’s Savannah Stopover performance, Savannah Stage Company’s production of “Cabaret,” the Jack Leigh retrospective at Laney Contemporary, SUSTO’s show for Stopover in the Yard at The Grey, “Monet to Matisse” at the Telfair’s Jepson Center, T. Hardy Morris’ and Aaron Lee Tasjan’s stellar gigs at El-Rocko Lounge and, most recently, the impromptu exhibition at The Sentient Bean in honor of the late artist Mike Williams.

I will also remember 2018 for the Savannah Music Festival’s ambitious outdoor finale at Trustees Garden, which included Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Savannah’s own Velvet Caravan and many other acts. It felt magical to sit with friends on the bluff as the dusk turned into night.


Whenever I share a list of personal highlights, I hear from readers who think I should have written a completely different list. I understand the impulse to tell others what they should value the most, but we don’t want to live in a world where our experiences are so codified.

I am not big on New Year’s resolutions, but I am hoping to find new ways to support the local arts in 2019. And I hope some of you resolve to do the same.

Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged ( and hissing lawns ( Email