Art is alive in Savannah.
While Savannah Arts Academy and Savannah College of Art and Design give students the chance to create, the Telfair Museum and SCAD Museum of Art invites guests to discover different art forms. With over 25 galleries throughout Savannah, the art scene is not only big, but also diverse. The First Friday Art March is trying to celebrate this artistry in Savannah and help integrate art into the community so they can grow together.
The Art March occurs on the first Friday of every month. For one evening, local artists and businesses get together and invite people to enjoy art and each other. Galleries open with receptions, artists set up temporary shops along Desotorow (De Soto Avenue) and live musicians sing to crowds in coffee shops.
“It gives us the chance to build a community and build a neighborhood we want to live in,” said Lauren Flotte, the president of Art Rise’s board of directors. “It fosters a lot of pride for people, and because it is so accessible, it’s easy to invite other community members.”
Several studios and gallery spaces around town get involved and host events on these Fridays. The Grand Bohemian Gallery, Of Two Minds Studio, Non-fiction Gallery, Maldoror’s Frame Shop and Fresh Exhibitions are all involved in almost, if not every, Art March.
“Being fully part of the community is an important to us,” said Flotte.
For many years the art scene in Savannah struggled to get one event to pull the community together. That’s why the Art March started. They wanted to mix things up, give a voice to the creative community and build relationships with people.
“We hope Savannah becomes an art destination and people know that this is a good place to be an artist,” said Flotte.
To achieve this, community members started the First Friday Art March in 2012. They wanted to help local artists and businesses in the Starland District, which is past Forsyth Park. This venture grew and Art Rise Savannah, a non-profit organization that supports creative opportunities for local artists, took control of the Art March. They developed it by gathering businesses together, building relationships with artists and people throughout Savannah, starting events and marketing the program and its activities.
“We’ve had a plan and now it’s about us going out and doing that,” said Flotte. “Being active and involved.”
Members from Art Rise are among the crowds in the galleries and run around vendors at the market during the Art March. When they’re not doing all of the behind-the-scenes coordinating and processing, they are out in the community.
Because of their work, more companies got involved. Local businesses such as the Sentient Bean, Graveface Records & Curiosities, Black Orchid Tattoo and Anahata Healing Arts became a part of the Art March and consistently participate in each month’s activities.
In September 2013, Art Rise received a Weave-the-Dream grant. This enabled them to add free trolley rides so more people could visit galleries in different locations and stop by De Soto Avenue to shop through all kinds of artists’ vendors.
De Soto Avenue is where people will find the Indie Arts Market, Kids Activity Area and the Bike Scavenger Hunt check-in. At the Indie Arts Market artists set up tables and booths with their handmade goods so locals can peruse through the street and buy art.
“Savannah needs more outlets like this for artists,” said Jessica Duthu, a local designer and illustrator.
Graphic designers, painters and craftsmen all come together for this night of celebration. These artisans bring everything from beautifully illustrated cards to painted wooden jewelry and homemade stuffed animals. There are even vendors with handmade soaps, candles, earrings, necklaces, shirts and onesies—there really is something for everyone.
Shelly Kohli, a Mandela artist residing in Bluffton, brought her collection of jewelry and bags to sell at the Art March on February 7.
“I’m happy with what I did tonight,” said Kohli.
She sold jewelry and bags inspired by her intricate Mandela paintings. To create these she took different pieces from her Mandela designs and transferred them onto the necklaces, earrings and bracelets.
“I know it’s a good venue and I’ll come back,” said Kohli.
Many other artists feel the same way; they keep coming back. Caila Brown, a graphic designer and vice chair of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign, has a booth at the market every month.
“Savannah is such an artist-based town and a great amount of our membership base are artists,” said Brown.
She got involved in the Art March at the very beginning and started the Instagram Scavenger Hunt. Participants receive a map with photo instructions. They must go to certain businesses involved in the Art March, take special photos and post them on Instagram with the hashtag, “savartmarch.” These pictures get points and the winners receive merchandise prizes from the Savannah Bike Campaign.
It’s these kind of interactive events that aim for more community involvement. Art Rise wants this event to encourage artists, help the city and develop deeper relationship.
“It really is the heart of a community that’s growing,” said Flotte. “What is better than that?”