The annual greening of Savannah has happened and whether you're a resident or visiting from out of town, this time of year presents an excellent opportunity to investigate the artistic sights and sounds of the city.
St. Patrick's Day is the largest tourist draw of the year and it's surrounded by the city's busiest few months, when the weather is still mild and the collective energy is jubilant.
Last week, the Savannah Stopover Music Festival took over the town, and this week, all the Irish eyes are smiling. But what's there to do after you've soaked up the parade festivities and downed the requisite stout or few?
There are plenty of St. Patrick's Day festival-related activities to choose from, but there are also a number of exciting art exhibitions on view if you're pining for a quiet respite from the crowds. Whether you're a resident or visitor, below are some highlighted art shows that are well worth checking out.
SCAD deFINE ART 2019: SCAD Museum of Art, 601 Turner Blvd.
This annual program of exhibitions, lectures and performances has helped define Savannah as something beyond just a historical city, but also a city on the cutting edge of contemporary art. While the core programming of deFINE is over, the related exhibitions are still on view for the next few months or so.
Some of the highlights include South Korean-born art star Lee Bul's incredible “City of the Sun” exhibition, which includes her brave new imaginings of conceptual future architecture. Monica Cook's fabulously weird “Liquid Vessels” is also a favorite, as is Carla Fernández and Pedro Reyes' socially conscious, fashion-forward “Think Twice.” There are also a number of wonderful Karl Lagerfeld photographs on display from SCAD's own collection, not to mention the museum itself is a lovely structure to walk through — and it's only a hop, skip, and a jump away from the downtown festivities.
Jaume Plensa, “Talking Continents”: Telfair Museums' Jepson Center, 207 W. York St.
As I mentioned in a recent Do Savannah article, Spanish-born sculptor Jaume Plensa is known world-wide for his visually arresting and intellectually reflective works of art. “Talking Continents” is both a meditative and visually stimulating installation made up of 19 stainless steel sculptures suspended from the ceiling. Each cloud-like orb is constructed from numerous individual die-cut characters taken from eight different alphabets. On the five largest pieces sits a human figure symbolizing the five largest continents.
Plensa's aim is to “unify individuals through connections of spirituality, the body, and collective memory” and this exhibition perfectly embodies this idea. Also on view at the Jepson is the first museum survey of the work of visionary video game designer Keita Takahashi, as well as the ongoing “Complex Uncertainties” exhibition, which includes local, regional, and national artists working in postwar America.
Nearby, the newly expanded Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters offers a fascinating glimpse into Savannah's many faceted past.
Pictorial Wood Mosaics by Herbert Albin: Roots Up Gallery, 412-C Whitaker St.
“Lush: A Celebration in Pink”: Location Gallery, 417 Whitaker St.
Just on the edge of downtown near the northern corner of Forsyth Park is Savannah's Design District with a number of creative offerings, including the two shows up at neighboring galleries Roots Up and Location Gallery. Both galleries regularly feature exceptional work from local and regional artists.
Roots Up specializes in folk art, self-taught and other visionary artists and their current featured artist, Herbert Albin, is truly a unique addition. Albin's wood mosaics are made using exotic tonewood and they are remarkable in and of themselves, but once you begin looking around at the other featured artists, you might get lost in the sauce.
Location Gallery's “Lush” show is part of their three-year anniversary and features many local artists who are helping to define what the Savannah school of art might look like if that were actually a thing. Both galleries feature truly exceptional work right across the street from each other.
“Tondo in Toto” and “Judgment Day Circus”: Sulfur Studios, 2301 Bull St.
A bit farther afield, south of Forsyth Park, is the Starland District, Savannah's de facto arts district. And at its heart is Sulfur Studios, the multi-purpose creative driver of Starland's art scene. Sulfur features many different arts and culture happenings on any given day or week. Find a juried exhibition that includes a number of talented locals and others, as well as their ON::VIEW artist residency, a month-long site-specific project by select local and regional artists.
“Judgment Day Circus” is described as “a puppet production inspired by the chaos and reigning spiritualities of our times.” 'Nuff said. Nearby is Starland Cafe, a great place to get lunch and also see Sulfur-curated artwork. The current featured artist at Starland Cafe is Anya Mitchell and her geometric confections inspired by Amish quilt squares.
Out on Savannah's southside is the work of Carmen Maria Aguirre at the Jewish Educational Alliance gallery, 5111 Abercorn St. Aguirre is the director of the Grand Bohemian Gallery at 700 Drayton St. on the east side of Forsyth, which is also worth checking out.
Laney Contemporary Fine Art, 1810 Mills B. Lane Blvd., is slightly off the beaten path, but it's one of the premiere contemporary fine art galleries in the region and certainly worth the effort. On view is “Vernonburg: A March Survey” by Katherine Sandoz, as well as the work of famed photographer Jack Leigh, whose photos are on permanent view at Laney.
There are plenty of other art destinations in Savannah that are worth seeking out and, though many of the above locations get mentioned in this space a lot, it's a good starting point for out-of-towners looking to get an art fix in between their St. Patrick's celebrations. Check out dosavannah.com for other notable goings on.
Kristopher Monroe is a writer documenting the intersection of art and community. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @savartscene.