All good things must come to an end. After almost five years of Art on the Air, this week was my last episode as a presenter.
David Laughlin and I began the program on December 6, 2017, after about a month of planning and preparation. A few years later he left the show and I continued, often without a host, often with my wife and fellow artist Gretchen Hilmers in second place. I was also occasionally joined by the talented Tamara Garvey, and I am pleased to announce that she and new co-host Melissa Taylor will be taking over the show to ensure it continues to serve the Savannah artists for the foreseeable future .
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As this will be my last art-off-the-air column, I have a strong urge to spend it expressing my gratitude to all the amazing people who have made the radio show possible over the nearly five years that I’ve been hosting it. have supported.
On closer inspection, however, it must be enough to simply say “thank you”. My appreciation knows no bounds, but there are just too many of you to name.
Instead, allow me to share three observations I’ve gathered from conversations with around 500 local artists.
The biggest names are also the most professional
Susan Laney, Jerome Meadows, and Jose Ray are three people I imagine almost everyone reading this column will know by name, if not the work they do. But did you know that they are also incredibly humble, always available and responding to emails within hours if not minutes?
There are many in the creative scene who are equally professional. So if I’ve interviewed you, but you’re not one of the three I mentioned, I’m not saying you don’t do all those things too. My point is that if anyone could get away with being watched over their time or delaying sending pictures until the last minute, it’s these three people.
Art from the air:José Ray continues to flourish with his new nature exhibition at the Grand Bohemian Gallery
Previous writing:With projects in New Hampshire and Tennessee, Jerome Meadows hopes for public art in Savannah
And yet, the only problems I’ve ever had with artists when it came to making schedules, getting pictures of their work or project, or even sharing the article I just wrote about them, were those of the non-established people who need publicity most.
I recently interviewed a person who told me during our conversation that it was the first time someone had reported their art in the newspaper. But when I tried to get more pictures of them by repeatedly messaging them on Instagram and email, they completely disappeared. To this day I have not received a reply from them even after I sent them the links to the column about their work and the radio show with their interview.
Talent is important. No one would dispute that Meadows and Ray own it supremely and their artwork reflects it, or that Laney is a brilliant curator, putting together some of the best shows in Savannah. But they’re also incredibly easy to cover as art writers and radio show hosts because of their professionalism.
What artists say about their work is just as important as how it looks
When Laughlin and I started Art on the Air, there was a question about whether a show that was about something to be seen (visual art) could be translated into an audio-only format.
We learned early on that the answer to that question was a resounding yes, not because we spent our time meticulously describing artworks to create images in the minds of our listeners, but because artists are incredibly interesting people.
Art from the air:Savannah City Market gallery artist David Laughlin brings color to nature in new series
There are many, many reasons why artists create art, but few would argue that one of the main roles of creative people in our society is to reflect the world around us. Given the challenges facing our local, national and global community, artists are one of the most connected sectors of our population. Alternative perspectives and hidden truths are often revealed through their artworks and subsequent discussion of that work and the ideas behind it.
I remember a conversation I had with local fiber artist Katie Glusica, an interview that has bounced back almost two years later. For nearly an hour she and I immersed myself in her perceived connections between the threads in a fibrous web and the physical concept of particle/wave duality. It was absolutely mesmerizing and even if you had never seen Glusica’s work in person, it was something that might make you reconsider the world around you.
Art can do that, and so the “why” of an artist’s work is just as important as the “what.”
Savannah still has some work to do to support its artists, but it’s getting better
A few months ago, I spoke to multidisciplinary artist Kathryn Shriver about her decision to leave Savannah due to high rents and a lack of opportunities. Michael Mahaffey, one of the few local artists who can live from their art alone, has long threatened to leave the country. And when art advocate Clinton Edminster tried to get the city to allow some “blank walls” so local graffiti artists could practice in the Starland District, a Historic Site and Monument Commissioner likened allowing such a permit to legalizing murder.
Art from the air:Kathryn Shriver should do big things in art in Savannah. Instead, she leaves town.
The art scene:Proposed outdoor space to practice mural painting rejected by the Savannah Commission. Here’s why.
But then there’s the Enmarket Arena mural (actually a collection of four different compositions), a project that’s paying some of our finest artists handsomely to create what will ultimately be the largest floor mural in all of Georgia.
The City of Savannah also recently completed collecting submissions for its Storm Drain Art Project, another paid art opportunity. And Sulfur Studios’ transition to the not-for-profit Arts Southeast has significantly increased its scale and reach in an exciting way that is only just beginning to materialize.
Detailed:ARTS Southeast plans to bring together regional, local artists in Savannah
It’s still a challenge to make a living from art alone in Savannah. Few of the hundreds of artists I’ve spoken to in my nearly five years hosting Art on the Air can. Many more work at the waiting table or behind a sales counter and spend the hours in monotony until they can devote themselves again to their studios and their passions.
But the new opportunities offered by the city and organizations like Arts Southeast have created the potential for many more artists to make the leap to full-time creation. And with numerous other possibilities on the horizon, including the recent passage by the Cultural Affairs Commission of a new public arts funding mechanism, a plan to get more dollars into the hands of local artists that is soon to be presented to City Council the future bright from savannah artists.
Art off the Air was a companion piece to the radio show “Art on the Air” hosted by Rob Hessler and Gretchen Hilmers. The column can also be found at savannahnow.com/entertainment.
Rob will continue to cover art for the Savannah Morning News through his bi-weekly Art Scene lifestyle column, as well as regular articles covering specific events and happenings in Do Savannah.