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Judge Realty shines in public art project

'I want more private enterprises to do public art. The city has been really great working with us and it's really not as hard as people think.'

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THIS WEEKEND, Judge Realty unveils its latest public art installation on its Abercorn façade.

“Come Rain or Come Shine” is based on Savannah’s sporadic rains and references Johnny Mercer’s song of the same name.

The fun starts April 6 with a block party at Judge Realty, complete with bouncy houses and a dunk tank as well as refreshments for the adults. “Come Rain or Come Shine” opens that evening and will remain on display through May 6.

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Last week, Connect sat down with the team, which includes owner Lori Judge, marketing manager Lauren Pitcairn, and artists Ben Tollefson and Elmer Ramos, who joined by phone from Indiana.

How did this project come about?

Ben Tollefson: When we first met with Lori, she laid out some very general ideas about what she likes to see in a project, and she mentioned the environment. That was a launching pad for Elmer and I. We started thinking about the very short but very powerful bursts of rain that are kind of specific to Savannah.

We’re doing sculptural pieces attached to the wall, like floating off of it. We’re working with elements of weather, so we have rain, clouds, and a gigantic rainbow.

Elmer Ramos: Even though I don’t live there anymore I wanted to make something talking about Savannah and how important it is to me.

Lori Judge: This project is about the community. It’s our way of giving back to the Savannah and the neighborhood.

BT: That really informed the aesthetics of the project as well. Elmer and I were thinking, What can we really do for the community? We both use a bright color palette in our work.

ER: We wanted something uplifting.

How did you decide on the title?

BT: I title a lot of my works based on lyrics. I was listening to the song “Come Rain or Come Shine,” this old jazz standard, and I was like, that’s a really great title for this piece. Then I randomly looked it up and it’s a Johnny Mercer song, so it fit!

How did this pairing of artists happen?

LJ: I told Lo we were looking for a new project with new artists, and Ben is Lo’s roommate.

BT: [laughs] Proximity!

Lauren Pitcairn: I didn’t have to search very far! It started with Ben and evolved into Elmer through the early stages of Ben and I talking about it at the house. That would be the easiest route because I’d be living with him while he’s working on it.

How has the collaboration gone so far?

ER: It’s gone really well, I think. Since we work with shapes and colors and we work with limited amounts of information, that’s what we’re communicating.

BT: Elmer didn’t move too long ago, and we conceptualized the entire project before he left. The design aspect of it was all set. He’ll be here for a week, so that’s when fabrication will happen.

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Tell me about working on public art here in Savannah.

ER: Well, I really appreciate Lori giving us the opportunity for us to work on this scale. Artists never really get these opportunities, especially emerging artists—

BT: Especially in Savannah!

LJ: I want more private enterprises to do public art. The city has been really great working with us and it’s really not as hard as people think.

BT: The paperwork seems daunting because there are a lot of points you have to check off in a proposal, but it’s truly not.

ER: I think they try to scare you with the hoops you have to jump through, but you have to scare them back with a really kickass proposal.

LJ: Our proposal sailed straight through.

LP: We tried to cover too many bases [laughs].

LJ: We hope that we’re carving a path for other private people to do it. We want to make it easier. That’s why we’re picking different kinds of art instead of just a mural or monument. We’re doing 3D projects and other things.

BT: It’s not a monument that will stay up for a hundred years. This is a month-long project.

Ben and Elmer, what’s it been like working on this project?

BT: For me, this is so exciting because I’m collaborating with another talented artist, I get to work with Lori who has put her trust into my vision of what the project is, and it’s large-scale. I’m a traditional easel painter, so most of my practice is in my studio alone. It’s exciting to be out of it and working with other people [laughs].

ER: I think for the community, that’s really important to me. There’s this stigma that you have to be creative to be an artist, but creativity is not just about art. Creativity is a skill everyone should have—it’s not about being an artist.

BT: It’s also exciting to respond to architecture. I’m a painter, Elmer is a printmaker, so it was a challenge for us that we’d never encountered.

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