This is the final installment of the questions I asked various members of Savannah's arts community about the most notable arts events they experienced in 2018. This was originally going to be just one article, but I got such a great response I had to split it into three installments.
Without further ado, here's the final batch of responses. Thanks so much to everyone. Happy New Year!
Rachel Reese, curator of modern and contemporary art at Telfair Museums
Most notable event involved in: “I was really proud of the various communities of people we gathered around two exhibitions that were on view at the same time: Carrie Mae Weems' 'Sea Island Series' and Paul Stephen Benjamin's 'Reinterpreting the Sound of Blackness.' Carrie's show provided the opportunity to reunite a body of work from 26 years ago shot in our region and on view for the first time, and, during that time, both the scholarship and public interest in telling the accurate stories of the Gullah Geechee communities on our coast have exponentially increased. Through her work, we were able to partner with the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission and I hope it is only the beginning in building a conversation around this important history and living communities relevant to our region.
"Paul Stephen Benjamin's exhibition was on view concurrently and it offered a very contemporary and intersectional look at issues around African-American identity, patriotism, and even masculinity. And I just loved seeing audiences respond to his work — the photos shared on social media were so engaging! Excitedly, we were able to acquire work by both Carrie Mae Weems and Paul Stephen Benjamin for our permanent collection!”
Most notable event not involved in: “I have been so thrilled to see the high level of exhibitions and programming at Laney Contemporary this past year, which was the first full year of exhibitions at the gallery. Susan has such a sharp eye and critical mind; I am so glad she is in town and an integral part of our contemporary art scene!”
Ben Tollefson, artist and assistant curator of SCAD Exhibitions
Most notable event involved in: “I think the most interesting art event of the past year that I was involved in was deFINE Art at SCAD. It was a handful of days packed with programming. Some highlights for me were the artist panel 'Being Human,' in which 10 artists were asked to show five images in response to the question of what it is to be human and give a lecture or narrative on the images. It was so open ended that it lead to really powerful, funny, insightful, beautiful responses. I also loved the performance by Glitter Chariot at Gutstein Gallery. It was pop, rockabilly and soul meets wacky costume, Sesame Street personae, tragedy, trash, artifice and glitter.”
Most notable event not involved in: “I think the most interesting art event that I was not involved in was any performance by the House of Gunt. This troupe of performers always brings the weird, and they are inspirational for their hilarity, experimentation, and courage to go all out with performances.”
Calvin Woodum, artist
Most notable event involved in: “My 'Transition: From One To The Next' solo exhibition at Savannah State University. As I realized during this show, I had not exhibited in a bonafide gallery space. I had exhibited in nice restaurants, gourmet cafes and coffee shops. And the reason being, 10 or 20 years ago, other than SCAD galleries, I honestly didn't love any galleries in Savannah. But in the last 10 years, Kobo Gallery (later streamlined their space), Non-Fiction, Oglethorpe Row Gallery, Location Gallery, and the LGBT Center all popped up on the scene. I have always thought the galleries in City Market are great to be here, but they are just too saturated for my aesthetics.
"Having this show was just another step up for me. Outside of the SCAD or downtown art scene, it put me on another radar of art enthusiasts. But most importantly, as I approach my 10-year art anniversary, this show was a preview of that 10-year retrospective show that will take place in September of 2019.”
Most notable event not involved in: “'Reinterpreting the Sound of Blackness' exhibition by Paul Stephen Benjamin at Telfair Museums. For me, because of the last three presidential elections, the racial tension in America has heightened. A lot of buried emotions have erupted to the surface from both races, but in particular, from hate groups... In a sense, racism has resurfaced in a way that was unexpected although we were not at all surprised. By this I mean, it's the subtle things about racism that usually capture my attention.
"In Paul Stephen Benjamin's talk with Rachel Reese, they talk about the different names of the different types of black paint. I think his exhibition showcases the horrors of our past beautifully, yet in a subtle manner, and gave me such a renewal, a jolt and sense-of-being pride to be black in America ...”
Emily Earl, photographer and co-founder of Sulfur Studios
Most notable event involved in: “I'd have to say 'Alternative to What?,' a national call-for-entry exhibition that invited artists to submit work exploring creative capture or output of photographic imagery, challenging photographic artists to ask themselves, what does the term 'alt process photography' mean now? Co-curated with Bridget Conn. Also, I am super proud of our first year of the ON::VIEW Artist Residency program; we've been able to host so many interesting artists doing a diverse range of work.”
Most notable event not involved in: “I'd have to go with Betsy Cain's recent exhibition 'Saturation' at Laney Contemporary. Not only was the work incredible and mesmerizing, but I thought the curation and installation was really well done. The soaping of the mirrored walls as a backdrop to her work was really brilliant.”
Axelle Kieffer, artist
Most notable event involved in: “I loved the 'Lyric' show at Sulfur Studios. It was not only the perfect opportunity to work on a collaboration piece with my partner Jordan Fitch Mooney, but also it made me think about my work process beyond my own boundaries. I liked the concept: to express visually what we feel while listening a particular song. It seemed an impossible task to put the abstraction of music onto a 2D surface; nonetheless, all the artists did a great job.”
Most notable event not involved in: “I would say on the top of my head that I remember Henry Dean's show at Sulfur Studio. His new body of work was laid out quite wonderfully. These paintings mistreated by nature embraced one with a soft warmness. It was a very immersive experience. There was something amazing going on with the uncontrolled marks left on the canvasses, the contrast between the open wounded canvasses and the meticulous feeling of each piece.
"The show seemed to be examining the paradox of the controlled and uncontrolled, the tug-of-war between the artist and their art, while making use of the forces of nature in the process. I found this to be a very cohesive exhibition.”
Phillip Davis, teaching artist and founder of The Indigos
Most notable event involved in: “An event that I was proudly involved with that I feel was notable and very interesting had to be the annual Spoken Word Festival, hosted by the Spitfire Poetry Group, this year in collaboration with The Indigos and other creative groups. This week-long event in April, which is National Poetry Month, was filled with soul relating works of art through mediums such as poetry, rap, and singing.
"Welcoming any and all artists in the Savannah and surrounding areas, and even further, to come out and showcase their work and more importantly, to express themselves in a space with other like-minded individuals. There were a number of open mic shows, workshops, and major performances by major artists, including nationally known poet Danez Smith, that were open to the public. The goal as always was to continue to create and grow the space for artists and build this particular community more in Savannah.”
Most notable event not involved in: “Being a teaching artist for the DEEP Center, the event I sadly missed and was unable to attend was the 'Go Back And Fetch It' performance and art exhibition event, hosted by the DEEP Center's Block By Block program. The event was centered and focused around the Savannah Gullah Geechee community and was a year-long process for those involved with putting on this creative production. Performances told stories of Savannah's past and present, along with addressing injustices and envisioning a future full of community healing and restoration.
"It's beyond a pleasure to be able to work and grow through and with the DEEP Center. This event to me was a huge event that shows exactly what DEEP is about and a blueprint of how they plan to change the community one young person, one workshop, one creative community event at a time.”
More best picks
This is the third of three installments. The first was published Dec. 9. The second installment was Dec. 23.
Kristopher Monroe is a writer documenting the intersection of art and community. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @savartscene.