Leslie Lovell was born in Sanford, N.C., and relocated to Savannah almost a decade ago with her late husband, the beloved local fixture and community activist Francis Allen. Eventually, she and Francis opened Roots Up Gallery, where she now curates one of the most unique and eclectic showcases for unusual art in the region.

The gallery represents over 75 different artists from throughout the South and beyond and focuses primarily on those who are self-taught and developed their talents and skills without benefit of formal instruction. Some are relative unknowns, while others are quite famous, with work held in esteemed private collections and museums worldwide. From 5:30 to 8 p.m. May 1, Roots Up celebrates its fifth anniversary with a show of new paintings, drawings and mixed-media pieces by respected local Helen Durant.

Leslie encourages folks to follow her on Instagram via @leslielovellarworks and through rootsupgallery.com.

 

Last book you read? Praying For Sheetrock.

Last TV series you finished? Chef’s Table.

First type of art you ever attempted? My third year out of college I tore up sheets trying to make a collage painting using those dreadful '80s colors. It never saw the light of day!

First piece of art you ever bought with your own money, and when? 1985, when I lived in New Orleans. I bought three sketches of the city from artists working in the market in the Quarter. I still remember that feeling of buying real art.

Most recent artistic accomplishment? I'm finishing an oil and cold wax piece for a group show through Location Gallery supporting Hospice Savannah.

Most recent record you fell in love with? Dire Straits’ “On Every Street.”

One musical act you’re embarrassed to say you enjoy? Engelbert Humperdinck.

Three artists or performers you’d most like to have dinner with? Mark Knopfler, Meryl Streep and Keanu Reeves.

Your inspiration for opening Roots Up Gallery? Francis and I were both inspired by completely self-taught artists who’d developed their own voice. It is art in the purest form and we felt it needed to be shared.

The biggest misconception people seem to have about self-taught artists? Most buyers of self-taught art are intellectually curious and like interesting, different pieces. However, the modern art world fought tooth-and-nail to keep self-taught artists from being accepted. So, contemporary self-taught artists are often the ones who have misconceptions — about themselves! Many are hesitant to think they are in fact artists, simply because they were not trained.

Cats or dogs? Cats.

Wine or cocktails? Both. They each have their place.

Most important lesson being a working artist has taught you? Time management. If you are serious about being an artist, you have to make time to work.

One talent you wish you had? Singing.

One talent you could easily do without? None.

If you could change one thing about the art scene in Savannah, what would it be? I'd like to band together and actively seek out national press coverage for the art scene here. I'd also like to help create a united front to promote not just galleries, but all locally owned businesses south of Oglethorpe, so visitors know how much more Savannah has to offer than just what’s on or near the Riverfront.

Bowling or miniature golf? Miniature golf.

Collusion or no collusion? Collusion.

Favorite Southern expression? Bless her heart.

The last thing that made you laugh out loud? So many things, including the new Savannah Confidential Walking Tour! But the very last thing was Ramsey Khalidi (local sustainably-sourced building renovator). He just stopped by the gallery.

 

Each week, 20 Questions features a different noteworthy figure of the local arts and entertainment community in a Q&A session curated by veteran writer Jim Reed.