by Will Peebles for Savannah Morning News
Neighbors and artists from around Savannah gathered Sunday afternoon at a Parkside home to discuss what they’d like to see the city do to help Savannah’s art community.
Hosted at Rob Hessler’s home, the neighborhood barbecue featured hotdogs and beer, as well as a forum for folks to chat about the state of Savannah’s art scene. Hessler, who hosts WRUU 107.5′s “Art on the Air” program, said he hoped that the crowd of about 50 would be able to take a deep dive into the issues facing Savannah’s art community.
“Through the radio show, I get the opportunity to meet people from a lot of different, disparate groups that are in the art community, and they’re all from City Market to like Middle Earth area which is Roots Up and Location Gallery to Starland District where Sulfur Studios is to even like Laney Contemporary, even the Jepson Center,” Hessler said. “A lot of these people are doing incredible things, but they’re not connected at all.”
As he flipped hotdogs on his grill, Hessler explained the importance of the art community coming together to decide what they wanted from city officials, especially before the upcoming municipal elections.
“A couple of years ago, over 200 people went downtown to city hall when they threatened to cut the arts budget, and that was incredible,” Hessler said. “They all went and protested, and they didn’t cut the arts budget, and then they all went their separate ways.”
Savannah City Council hopefuls Nick Palumbo and Detric Leggett were in attendance on Sunday as well, which Hessler said provided a good opportunity to talk directly to potential policy makers.
“What do we want to see from our city officials?” Hessler said. “Once we can put all this together, we can start bringing it to the candidates. Let’s actually fight for some good things.”
Greg Davis was there enjoying the food and company on Sunday. He’s a woodworker and sculpturist who has been making art since he was a kid.
He said he would like to see more art-based initiatives for Savannah’s youth.
“There’s a big drop with kids. Growing up, I was part of this art community that fostered me and helped make me who I am today,” Davis said. “I think it’d be great to bring the focus on introducing art to kids, and early development.”
Local artist Becca Cook was there on Sunday as well. Cook makes fiber art and installation art.
She said she would like to see more opportunities for murals and other public art, as well as making public art sales a more accessible process.
“I used to live in Venice Beach, California, and it’s the street artist and performance capitol. There’s every kind of art you can imagine, but Savannah really limits that from happening,” Cook said.
Married couple Kenneth and Theresa Martin sat outside at a table with their fellow artists. Kenneth is an oil painter and Theresa is a doll decorator, and they both run an art program for veterans at the Jepson Center.
Kenneth Martin said he believes in art programs that would make art more accessible to Savannah’s African-American community.
“They’re doing a pretty good job, but connect with persons, for example, the Telfair’s Friends of African American Arts,” Kenneth Martin said. “Connect with them, and connect with local communities and see what they say. Talk about it. Because a lot of the people in the black community aren’t connected with the art community.”