Art Rise putting Savannah creators in the forefront

Article on Savannah Now by Leslie Moses.

Once, Erika Tate’s workspace was void of art. The walls around her stark. Simply put, “The lack of art is sad,” said the CEO of research and consulting firm bluknowledge. She needn’t worry. Artwork is on the rise in Savannah if Art Rise Savannah has anything to do about it. And they do. The group adds bold strokes to the art scene here: “Savannah’s future is in the arts,” said Clinton Edminster, executive director of nonprofit group. “And Art Rise Savannah is set up to be the most connected and dynamic organization to take us there.” It’s not a think-tank. It’s a movement, Edminster said. They put feet to their artistic support, and get half the credit for the paintings Tate now sees while working. “It’s everywhere!” Tate said. “Art Rise art is on all four walls.” Art Rise partnered with workspace business ThincSavannah to put the works of artists such as Savannah’s Jen Salmon in view of workers like Tate. But they also hosted a reception, welcoming art lovers outside ThincSavannah’s walls to enjoy the paintings, too. It gave Salmon’s uniquely made barefoot paintings their first audience outside of her own apartment — for free, “which is a great thing as well,” she said. Low-cost display is in Art Rise’s roots. The organization emerged from a gallery started by two SCAD students in 2000 to a low-cost exhibition site, eventually becoming Art Rise Savannah in 2013. It’s in the “SOFO” area, so-called by locals since it’s “south of Forsyth” Park. Some say the zone lacks attention the city gives to the oft-toured area northward to River Street. But as of late, the SOFO zone is not to be ignored. As high prices for downtown property push businesses south, Art Rise Savannah connects businesses to each other and the community, and boosts economic life there. “We see this in sales, customers, national press recognition and the atmosphere of a thriving community of young professionals,” Edminster said. But the group doesn’t see art as “just another product,” focusing on the sale, according to Edminster. He understands economics of land, labor and capital. But Edminster likes when “creativity” is in the mix. “By adding in imagination, we begin to recognize what makes us human,” he said. Art Rise Savannah birthed Savannah Art Informer and the Fresh Exhibitions Gallery. Both support a culture that values art: The former through interviews with artists at; the latter by creating opportunities for artists to show work throughout the city. “These programs may not be as financially viable for us to run, but without them, we would lose the soul of what makes art great; the discussion,” Edminster said. Still, economic spinoff happens. Art March is key. The amped-up gallery hop includes local artists, live music, handmade goods, vendors and children’s activities every first Friday. The night grew “to new levels” when Art Rise Savannah took the reins, according to Jennifer Jenkins, who early on helped start the event with Art Rise. Jenkins owns Foxy Loxy Print Gallery & Cafe, a popular hangout in the SOFO area that’s an Art March participant. Art March Fridays are now one of the cafe’s highest-grossing days due to the increased foot traffic during the event, she said. Local painter Harry DeLorme also tips his hat to Art March. He has exhibited his work in Savannah for decades before participating in two exhibitions linked to Art March. “I know for a fact that attendance at these openings was larger due to inclusion in Art March, which I think is a very successful program,” he said. Art Rise is increasing local interest and excitement about contemporary art, according to DeLorme, who works as an artist and senior curator of education for Telfair Museums. Art March even drew Marcia Banes, “not really an art lover,” to art. She moved to Savannah eight years ago, and without the first Friday event, said that she wouldn’t know about multiple art centers in Savannah. They now roll off her tongue, and she can give you the 411 about many of them: The Cultural Arts Gallery, the Non-Fiction Gallery, Telfair’s Jepson Center for the Arts and Fresh Exhibitions. She volunteered to teach trolley-riders about the galleries during Art March. “I’ve just always considered myself someone who didn’t care about art before that,” Banes said. And she’s still not a huge art fan, but she loves seeing so many people come together for the event. Inside the galleries, artists talk art, meet buyers and hear onlookers’ feedback. “It helps me to understand the work,” said artist Isaac McCaslin about the feedback. The co-owner of Of Two Minds Art Studio has a talent for surreal, figurative oil paintings, and won multiple awards. But he values monthly recognition through Art March, and visitors’ reactions to his paintings. “These interactions are an important source of inspiration for me, and I have (Art Rise Savannah) to thank for many of them,” McCaslin said. SCAD grad EmmoLei Sankofa also has a bigger audience because of Art Rise. It linked the composer and sound artist to devoted supporters, and featured her in an Art Informer entry. “Art Rise has given me a platform to impact and inspire others,” Sankofa said. “They have given me access to a new, refreshing audience who have become loyal fans of my work.” They set the bar for excellence, according to Bea Wray, executive director for The Creative Coast. She mentions Art Rise’s “positive energy.” The group is a hub for the “cool people” The Creative Coast sends their way, and Art Rise introduces the Creative Coast to other cool people, according to Wray. “We are more optimistic, creative and inspired,” she said, crediting Art Rise. “We believe that change comes quickest by leading by example and taking action in our community,” Edminster said. “Personally, I’m just not interested in talking about things that’d we’d like to do, or hope to see happen. We’re going do it. Or we won’t.”
This has been a News Recap by The Creative Coast! Here we provide our news mentions and bi-weekly columns… just in case you missed them. Source: Savannah Now]]>