A few months ago, I started noticing social media posts about the arrival of a new downtown gallery on Bryan Street.
Initially concerned that it might be a bit off the beaten path of the Historic District, I visit the New Savannah Art Gallery on a recent sunny late afternoon. I find a beautiful red brick warehouse space flooded with light, the front doors (actually on the Lincoln Street side of the building directly across from Abe’s on Lincoln Tavern) open to invite the many locals, passers-by and, of course, tourists walking to and from their hotels and inns on Bay and River streets.
“There are people everywhere! rejoices jewelry designer Cathy Sizer. Sizer and seven other artists constitute the founding members of the Gallery. All eight of them had exhibited together at the old Savannah Art Association gallery on Chippewa Square, a space I had thought was great for foot traffic when it opened.
However, visits were lower than expected and sales, especially after the three-month Covid-19 shutdown, were even lower. When the landlord informed the Association that his lease would not be renewed with generous five months’ notice, Sizer took action.
Founding member and photographer Joe Shields is the real estate agent who found the current building directly behind and owned by the Staybridge Hotel on Bay Street.
The then tenant, an office at Berkshire Hathaway Realty, was moving and there were already two other offers in place by the day Shields called the rental agent. With no time to waste, the eight founding members courageously took a leap of faith, made the highest bid, and began to form an LLC and transform the office into a serene and welcoming home for their art. .
Shields tells me, “One of the most amazing things about what we’ve done is that among the eight of us, each has different skills.
For example, on the afternoon of my visit, photographer Molly Cusick is at the sales counter, leaning over her phone, teaching Shields how to access and operate the gallery security system she just set up; wood turner Roy Yarger is a master carpenter who designed and built the exhibition panels and print media, found the best layout for the space and installed the lighting; and several members use their masterful social media skills (the day I arrived, the company was among the top listings in a Google Search of Savannah Galleries. Their name choice doesn’t hurt!)
The founding partners worked hard and are proud of their new space.
“We consider it a real gift, despite such hard work! Sizer laughs.
The eight founding artists are equal partners of the LCC and actively engage other artists to grow their ranks. They have carefully created different levels of membership, dues, benefits and involvement for those who wish to join them (access this information on their website).
At the time of writing, three new artists have been shortlisted and six more artists on consignment will join in January.
They also plan to regularly host jury exhibitions and “Spotlight” artists. Sizer and Shields are particularly excited about the Spotlight exhibition space, located in the glassed-in corner of the gallery, which houses the former conference hall.
The gallery will spotlight local and regional artists of great merit with a focus on women and minority groups who may have been under-represented previously. Local businesses and individuals are sought to sponsor these rotating exhibitions of guest artists.
The first Spotlight sponsor is the iconic Crystal Beer Parlor of Savannah, and the first Spotlight artist is William Kwamena-Poh, who will show his work at the gallery’s opening celebration on Friday, December 3.
Savannah-based Kwamena-Poh paints watercolors of everyday life in her native Ghana, focusing on paintings of fishermen, women and children at the market, beach or chophouse (restaurants and eateries) and sensitive portraits of women in their traditional colorful fabrics.
Self-taught artist, Kwamena-Poh uses an opaque watercolor called Gouache and works on a dry surface of three hundred pound paper.
He sees his work as a way to educate viewers about his culture and society. Usually found painting in his own studio, located upstairs in the City Market, he is often on the road to participate in various public and private juryed exhibitions across the United States.
A recipient of countless blue ribbons, Kwamena-Poh recently returned from her mother’s 90th birthday celebrations in Ghana and will be back from the Thanksgiving Weekend Cocoa Beach Art Show in time for the Savannah Gallery of Art festivities.
In addition to artist Spotlight, the gallery will also present its first jury exhibition on December 3. The partners have designed a cleverly named “21 and Done!” show to inaugurate 2021. (“Good riddance!”, laughs Shields). The entry fee was $ 21 and, of course, twenty-one artists were selected. The show will be judged by Savannah sculptor, artist and cabinetmaker John Mitchell, MFA, and cash prizes of $ 1,000 will be awarded that evening.
The eight partners are: Wayne Chambers, a student of the famous New York Arts Students League, who has been painting for 59 years!
Her original watercolors and giclee prints on canvas showcase iconic homes and squares in the historic district and the marshes of the Low Country.
Garry Covell, a self-taught artist, exhibits works in many styles using a variety of media. During my visit I saw a canvas splattered with Jackson Pollack paint and colorful graphic portraits of musicians such as Bob Marley, Ray Charles and Janis Joplin.
Molly Cusick takes nature photos that are infused into a coating on aluminum using high heat and pressure. She recently returned from a year and a half spent in New Zealand during the lockdown and many of her exhibits are trees and flora there.
Patricia Elliott Lamar, member of the American, Southern and Georgian Watercolor Societies, exhibits paintings of Low Country scenes.
James Mravec, who teaches illustration at SCAD, has worked in interactive media for over 35 years. Long interested in wildlife conservation, his oil paintings focus on wildlife art, savannah scenes, and fantastic illustrations.
Joseph Shields, an award-winning international photographer, shows incredibly crisp images of Savannah and Tybee vignettes.
Her impeccably matted and framed work can be found at the Lamar Dodd Art Center in LaGrange, the Huntsville Museum of Art, in private and corporate collections, and is represented by two picture agencies.
Cathy Sizer has been creating her unique jewelry for 15 years using vintage materials that she sources wherever she can.
Roy Yarger, a member of the American Association of Woodturners, shows expertly turned and turned pieces of wood in which he laminates different woods together in intricate patterns.
The Savannah Gallery of Art, already open seven days a week, will host its grand opening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, December 3. She will feature works by gallery members, Spotlight artist William Kwamena-Poh, and twenty-one guest artist in the “21 & Done!” »Exhibition with jury which runs until December 31st. The gallery is located at 304 East Bryan in Lincoln. Log on to 912.358.0287, Instagram @ savannahgalleryofart or SavannahGalleryofArt.com