FOR NEARLY a quarter century, the Telfair Museums’ "I Have Marks To Make" annual exhibit celebrates the power of art in transforming everyday life, for everyday people.
It is in fact one of Savannah’s longest-running and most successful community programs of any type.
“It’s a great culmination of outreach throughout the year, plus work throughout the community. It’s our 24th year – I guess next year to mark 25 we’ll have to have a really big celebration,” laughs Harry DeLorme, Telfair Museums’ Senior Curator of Education.
All the works in “I Have Marks To Make” are drawn from participants in community partner organizations, and more than half were created as a result of Telfair’s Therapeutic Outreach program.
“The whole point of the show is that art has the potential to change lives — not just for artists or for those trained in art. Art-making can have meaningful impact on anyone’s life. It’s a core part of life,” DeLorme says.
“Looking at the range of people participating — kids and seniors and people from all walks of life and all kinds of situations – it is truly one of the most diverse events in town.”
The show’s opening – always an important event in Savannah’s calendar – is this Sunday afternoon at the Jepson Center.
Partners this year include the Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision, Inc., EmployAbility, and Ruth Byck Adult Daytime Care Center.
Major support for “I Have Marks to Make” comes this year, as every year, from the City of Savannah. “ Otherwise we would not be able to do this,” says DeLorme.
The show “really strikes a chord with a lot of people. It’s a very different sort of exhibition than anything else we do. This one’s juried, not curated, it’s very democratic. The works are coming from participants or from organizations we work with. What I’ve noticed over the years it really touches people who view the exhibitions, touches the particpants, and really empowers people,” DeLorme says.
“Making art really changed their life. We’ve seen that particularly with the veterans painting group we’ve been coordinating for some time. Some vets talk about how art helps them cope with their lives.”
Some citizen artists are new this year, and some have participated before. But they all share a common desire to create art for art’s sake.
While the central mission of “I Have Marks to Make” is the same each year, there is a different theme for each edition.
This year, inspired by the Jepson Center’s Contemporary Spotlight artist Pam Longobardi, many of this year’s participants created artwork using materials collected by Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers and the Chatham County Conservation & Recycling Education Center.
Sand toys, bottle caps, candy wrappers, and other miscellaneous items were transformed into colorful works of art to promote local recycling efforts.
“We hope to connect the projects we’re doing in the community to what’s happening at the museum. It’s not just a random art project,” explains DeLorme.
“We’re trying to make connections to art and to content and themes at current exhibitions. That’s a way of bringing our content out into the community.”
The show is a graphic example of the Telfair Museums’ programming that brings art to the people. “We do something like 160 outreach sessions a year, most recently our STEAM programs at neighborhood centers and libraries all over town,” says DeLorme.
“It’s very important to us to bring the museum out in community who might not otherwise come through our doors.”
For the longtime Telfair employee DeLorme, it’s personal.
“I grew up with a developmentally disabled brother, who unfortunately died in his teens. I remember him making art, and what that always meant to him. I’ve taken that with me personally,” DeLorme recalls.
“That’s informed this idea that art isn’t just made by artists or for people who frequent art musuems. Art has the potential to change anyone’s life for the better.”