The stagnant economy, declining art market, and suffering American arts institutions have not deterred a band of young artists who've chosen to claim new territory in Savannah.
Inroads to Savannah's rising underground arts culture continue to be blazed by the efforts of Desotorow Gallery's First Friday Art March. I've heard many visitors to the Hostess City inquire where the underground art scene is in Savannah — our SoHo, our Chelsea, our Meat Packing District, our Bloomsbury, our Left Bank.
Whereas the Telfair and SCAD Museums and great historic house museums such as the Davenport House are essential stops for any visitor, the First Friday Art March is a perfect chance to discover its subterranean art world. On my preview of galleries setting up for this Friday's Art March, I was struck by how very bohemian, in the 19th-century sense, this scene truly is, vividly recalling the collaborations of England's Charles Swinburne, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelites.
Local businesses and galleries south of Gaston open their doors for the First Friday of each month to celebrate the local arts, but the First Friday celebration emanates from De Soto Avenue between 40th and 41st streets in the Starland District. This Friday, Aug. 2, marks the second March orchestrated by the new leadership at Desotorow Gallery, and the lineup is hopefully a harbinger of things to come.
Connect readers learned about the dynamic trio of 13 Bricks T-shirt company founders last week, whose mission is promoting artistic imagery and messaging by way of organic cotton T-shirts.
I stopped by the Desotorow Gallery to observe the installation of the collaborative mural and pyramid by this team of artists. They're creating their installation to be accompanied by a live performance of pop electronica band, Electric Grandma.
"The combination of their music with our collaborative art is in keeping with how we see the arts. They're connected parts of a greater creative whole," explained 13 Bricks' co-founder Emily Quintero.
This is a nearly perfect echo of the critic Walter Pater's maxim of 1873 that, "all art aspires to the condition of music." I was also reminded of James A.M. Whistler's preoccupation with the notion of synesthesia, or taking a musical approach to composing his paintings he called "symphonies," "arrangements," and "nocturnes."
Music seems to be playing a more prominent role in the First Friday Art March. Lauren Flotte, Desotorow Gallery's board president, says, "We're going to be bringing in more musical acts, with a DJ welcoming people into the entrance of De Soto Avenue, and Electric Grandma closing it off."
This Friday also marks the inaugural First Friday Art March Afterparty at the Wormhole from 9 p.m. until closing, with four live musical acts, plus food and drinks. The afterparty is designed to bring art marchers together to discuss the works of art they've seen, and to hopefully make meaningful introductions among patrons and artists for future collaborations.
The attitude within this growing movement clearly embraces the 19th-century slogan coined by Theophile Gautier, "art pour l'art."
With arts institutions struggling for donations and commercial galleries shutting down across America, this grassroots, bohemian approach may be a winning strategy to keep art central to our lives.