SAVANNAH HAS many hidden gems. Most are tucked down some cobblestone path—a breeze for locals to find, but a challenge for any visitor.
The Grand Bohemian Gallery defies such conventions.
Nestled inside the Mansion on Forsyth Park—Richard Kessler’s park-side property —this eclectic gallery is swept up inside Kessler’s reverie of baroque grandeur, speckled with elegant modern touches.
The crimson walls and rich, dark wood of the gallery is bathed in natural light from a large window that lends an airy contemporary feel to this otherwise romantic, European-inspired space.
Music from the hotel drifts into the gallery as Gallery Director Dayna Caldwell explains, “Art is really a staple in what the Kessler Collection is. So the Grand Bohemian Gallery is really an extension of that, offering a retail and exhibit space for people to be able to take part of the experience home with them.“
Four other Grand Bohemian Galleries can be found at other Kessler properties across the nation in Orlando, St. Augustine, Ashville, and even a far-flung sister in Taos, New Mexico.
Each makes available the effortless opulence that Kessler desires to share with his guests.
“He has that old world classical taste and desires to recreate that for people. He enjoys it so much himself,” Caldwell says.
Original works of art can be found throughout the Kessler Collection properties, but as Caldwell says, “The gallery venue allows you to experience art differently than when it is hanging on the wall as if part of the décor.”
The gallery showcases a wide mix of works from local, regional and even international artists, in a variety of mediums and styles. From oil paintings to handcrafted jewelry, the gallery aims to make the elegant lifestyle of the Kessler Collection available to guests and locals alike.
“I think the artwork here that I try to curate is that blend that appeals to classic taste and design, but also has that contemporary feel about it. It’s refined,” says Caldwell.
Caldwell is currently preparing for one of several shows that will take place across the group of galleries this year. Beginning January 30, each gallery will feature works by artists Donna Dowless and Amber Higgins for the 6th annual Heart and Soul exhibition. Installed just in time for Valentine’s Day, the exhibition will remain up through February.
Toronto based artist Higgins’ handcrafted jewelry inspired the annual affair. Her signature heart shaped glass pendants make a striking statement when strung on silver chains or beaded cords.
From playful glass filigree applied in monochrome, to brilliant layers of shimmering and milky glass in colors both subtle and eye-catching, Higgins’ utilizes a variety of techniques to create her beads.
“Inside each bead is a painting,” Caldwell says, tracing the swirling colors of the glass with her fingernail. “With Amber, the minute details that she puts into her work are just exquisite. She’s handcrafting everything and she has a great eye.”
This year the Grand Bohemian Gallery has paired Higgins’ wearable artistic statements with the bold paintings of Dowless.
Crowned Orlando’s “Ambassador of Love,” Dowless creates richly colored and textured images inspired by love. Her paintings careen through the endless forms of love felt in a lifetime—the love one has for a friend, lighthearted love, sensual and passionate love, and even mature love, the type only time can affirm.
“She is just the type of person that is always exuding love and peace so her work has always revolved around that. It’s feminine but still kind of edgy,” Caldwell says.
Dowless and Higgins both create works that reflect openness to life, love and experience. Each forged a path to their means of expression and neither has formal training.
“The aura in the work—especially with these two artists—it is very energetic and passionate, so those things really shine through and maybe it is because of the life experiences they draw into their work,” Caldwell says.
Friday, Feb. 6, the gallery will kick off a weekend of Heart and Soul events with open hours during the First Friday Art March from 6-9pm. Saturday, the gallery welcomes the public to meet Higgins from 5:30-8pm. On Sunday, an afternoon artist reception with Higgins from 2-5pm will round out the weekend celebration for Heart and Soul.
While many have passed by the Mansion on Forsyth Park without realizing such an active gallery was right next to the hotel’s entrance, Caldwell invites everyone to come experience the space.
“This is an ideal venue to exhibit art,” says Caldwell. “I really am able to seamlessly curate art from across many media, styles, and techniques. We almost have something for everybody. It’s a special place.”