Saturday, February 27, 2021

Campaign goes live to save dilapidated structure that was a showcase for Black history

Posted By on Sat, Feb 27, 2021 at 8:03 AM

click to enlarge The Kiah House Museum building is considered an important site of Savannah’s Black history. - NOELLE WIEHE/CONNECT SAVANNAH
Noelle Wiehe/Connect Savannah
The Kiah House Museum building is considered an important site of Savannah’s Black history.
A Savannah building on W. 36th Street was once recognized as one of the Treasures of America, but now, while the roof caves in and creatures make their way in and out of the structure, it has made less prestigious lists and is losing its charm.

Now the community is raising money through a GoFundMe campaign to preserve the Kiah House Museum building as an important site of Savannah’s Black history.

“Since its establishment in 1959, it was unique in its design for its historical purpose, yet for 20 years it has been allowed to deteriorate to the point of shame instead of raising pride in this historic community,” said Deborah Johnson-Simon, the founder and CEO of the African Diaspora Museology Institute, and the GoFundMe campaign organizer.

The Kiah House Museum building was built in 1910. It served as a home to Calvin Kiah and Virginia Kiah in 1951, who lived on the second floor. The Kiah Museum was opened in 1959 on the first floor, and was one of the first Black-founded museums in Savannah. Notable past visitors to the museum include Rosa Parks and Margaret Burroughs.

click to enlarge Laura Seifert, founder and director of Savannah Archaeological Alliance, points out restoration needed at the Kiah House Museum building. - NOELLE WIEHE/CONNECT SAVANNAH
Noelle Wiehe/Connect Savannah
Laura Seifert, founder and director of Savannah Archaeological Alliance, points out restoration needed at the Kiah House Museum building.
The site has risen from the bottom of Savannah’s “100 Worst Properties List” to close to the top, Johnson-Simon said. “We just want to see it loved,” said Laura Seifert, founder and director of Savannah Archaeological Alliance.

The museum housed artworks, historic-preservation pieces, a fountain from the Bijou Theatre in the backyard, and natural-history specimens. The objects and artifacts that comprised the collection can be attributed to Virginia Kiah and her mother.

The Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum honors Virginia’s mother, and was opened in 1978 in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Her mother promised Virginia, after they were turned away from entrance into a museum in Baltimore, that one day she would not only be able to be an artist, she would also have a museum,” Johnson-Simon said. “She promised her daughter both of these things, and she made good on her promise.”

Johnson-Simon said that in the case of the Kiah House, not only has the building been neglected, but also the legacy, the significance of the museum, and its founders.

Calvin Kiah came to Savannah State College and championed the Education Department, later integrating Georgia State University as the first person of color to hold the position of Vice President of Research and Academic Affairs. He is credited with being instrumental in increasing opportunities for minorities within the university.

Virginia Kiah was a civil-rights leader and artist who specialized in portraiture, as well as a local schoolteacher. Calvin Kiah passed away in 1994, and the building has been in probate ever since Virginia Kiah’s death in 2001.

The Kiah House Museum building has been placed on a list of blighted properties in Savannah, and is now being assessed on blight tax. Taxes have been paid, but nothing has been done to bring the building up to code, Johnson-Simon said, leaving the building threatened with demolition.

“This led the African Diaspora Museology Institute and the Friends of Kiah to become proactive in its advocacy for the Kiah, and raise the necessary funds to prevent the demolition of the building and secure historic-landmark status enabling a dedicated buyer to purchase and restore the site,” Johnson-Simon said.

click to enlarge Painted rocks placed on the lawn of the Kiah House express support for the building's restoration. - NOELLE WIEHE/CONNECT SAVANNAH
Noelle Wiehe/Connect Savannah
Painted rocks placed on the lawn of the Kiah House express support for the building's restoration.
The campaign money raised will be used to perform emergency property maintenance to avoid demolition, and to complete key research to obtain historical-landmark status.

“The other homes in this block are absolutely beautiful and well-loved, and we’d like to see this to be equally so,” Seifert said.

The GoFundMe has a goal of raising $80,000, and as of press time, over $5,000 had been donated through the campaign by about 60 donors.

The Kiah House Museum building is located at 505 W. 36th Street, between W. Broad and Burroughs. Visit gofundme.com/f/historic-kiah-house-restoration-campaign for information on the campaign or to donate.

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Friday, February 26, 2021

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is planning to increase inoculation eligibility statewide on March 8

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 at 4:11 PM

click to enlarge Dr. Lawton Davis, the Coastal Health District health director, presents a COVID-19 response update to the Chatham County Commission on Feb. 26. - NICK ROBERTSON/CONNECT SAVANNAH
Nick Robertson/Connect Savannah
Dr. Lawton Davis, the Coastal Health District health director, presents a COVID-19 response update to the Chatham County Commission on Feb. 26.
Following Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s Feb. 25 announcement that the COVID-19 vaccine will soon become available to teachers, school staff, adults with disabilities and their caregivers, and parents of children who have complex medical conditions, Chatham County officials are preparing to expand inoculation efforts to include area residents who fall under these new eligibility categories.

Kemp said that he expects this inoculation expansion to begin on March 8. According to Dr. Lawton Davis, the Coastal Health District health director, when the vaccine does become available to teachers and school staff in Chatham County, local officials plan to stagger the administration of shots to educators to help prevent disruptions to class schedules.

“Some [teachers] are going to have side effects and be out of school,” Davis said during his biweekly COVID-19 response update at the Feb. 26 Chatham County Commission meeting. “We may be interrupting school somewhat to vaccinate.”

Prior to March 8, Georgia remains in Phase 1A+ of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, meaning that it is only available for residents aged 65 and up, caregivers for the elderly, healthcare workers, and first responders. However, Davis noted that in Chatham County and across Georgia, demand for first-dose vaccinations has “seen some dropoff” since early February, likely leading to Kemp’s decision to expand inoculation eligibility.

Davis added that he expects vaccine supply to increase soon after the anticipated approval of Johnson & Johnson’s new single-dose COVID-19 vaccine. Nonetheless, Davis encouraged anyone who is eligible for inoculations to jump at the chance to receive vaccination shots.

“We’re not sure what our vaccine supply will be,” Davis said. “If you have the opportunity to get a vaccine, get it.”

Additionally, Davis lauded a new initiative spearheaded by St. Joseph’s/Candler to organize pop-up vaccination centers at Chatham County churches in an effort to increase inoculations among local minority communities. In February, these pop-up clinics were held at Savannah’s Saint Philip Monumental AME Church and Kingdom Life Christian Fellowship, according to a St. Joseph’s/Candler spokesperson, and the effort is planned to continue into springtime.

Meanwhile, the level of COVID-19 infection rates remains troubling in Chatham County, according to Davis, with the average daily number of new confirmed cases rising locally since mid-February.

“We still have very high levels of transmission going on,” Davis said, adding that Chatham residents remain under threat of a mutated coronavirus variant, which has been reported in neighboring South Carolina. “I’m sure that it is here, but we haven’t had a report of a confirmed case.”

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Discover creative champagne concoctions behind the secret entrance

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 at 1:45 PM

click to enlarge The secret entrance to Mint To Be Bubbly Bar. - LINDY MOODY
Lindy Moody
The secret entrance to Mint To Be Bubbly Bar.
Savannah is anything but a dry town. History-laden and moss-covered squares are what put the Hostess City on the map, along with being known as one of few destinations in the United States allowing the open carrying of alcohol.

It is not hard to imagine that Savannah’s open-container policy is an incidental effect of our prohibition past. In case you didn’t know, Savannah is the location of America’s very first ban on alcohol − dating back to 1735. Downtown Savannah’s Prohibition Museum in City Market has a plaque commemorating the original decree banning booze here, issued by King George II.

Later the temperance movement brought gangsters, bootleggers, and speakeasies, and even after the nationwide Prohibition ended in 1933, many relics of the dry period stuck around. Modern times may have washed away the real feeling of a speakeasy, since there is a lack of illegality, but in homage to our history you can still find recreations of ‘blind pigs’ all across the world.

One of my favorite cities that imitates the secret-bar experience flawlessly is Miami. In a semi-recent trip down south, I spent many nights staggering through the town’s most noteworthy hidden drinking holes.

At Little Havana’s Los Altos, you walk through a candy shop and ask the clerk for a drink. The next thing you know, a back room opens up, and Spanish dancers appear to welcome you into a tequila-focused nightclub. While at Bodega Taqueria on South Beach, you can order tacos at the front or walk through the bathroom to find a bar tucked away in the back.

I was transported back to my Miami trip when I walked through the doors of Mint To Be Bubbly Bar. The brand-new speakeasy, located in the heart of Savannah’s historic district, sits in the back of Mint To Be Mojito Bar. You may feel as though you have gone too far if you hit the bathroom doors, but persistence and a little searching will find you transported to another time and place.

click to enlarge The Hibiscus Champagne Cocktail with Billy Goat Chips, served at Mint To Be Bubbly Bar. - LINDY MOODY
Lindy Moody
The Hibiscus Champagne Cocktail with Billy Goat Chips, served at Mint To Be Bubbly Bar.
The champagne-focused bar is the brainchild of owner Alton Brecker. He handpicked and designed every detail down to the imported Italian floor tile. The space was once the home of a Segway tour company, and is now an institution for freely flowing champagne. Transforming the shop was no small feat; the bookcase doorway had to be custom made, the bright blue bar hand-built, the leaves painted by an artist, and neon signs sourced from vintage purveyors.

It all began when Brecker teamed up with Mary Githens of Latin Chicks to open Mint To Be Mojito Bar. Once the backroom became available, he stepped in to create the bar of his dreams.

“I had to redo the whole thing. I just kind of imagined the stuff in my brain,” Brecker explained as he poured me a glass of bubbly. His brain included things like the hand-painted palm fronds, a nod to Brecker’s time living in Hawaii.

The atmosphere is that of an eclectic lounge with a friendly soul. According to Becker, “I said from the very beginning, I don’t want this to be a pretentious place at all. I am not a pretentious person.”

Even the drinks are relaxed. Although it is a champagne bar, anything available will suit any palate that walks through the Instagram-famous bookshelf.

For a straightforward glass to tickle the nose, patrons can pick from the Bubbly Bar’s versatile list of sparkling wines and champagnes. With the help of his distributor, Brecker put together an all-encompassing inventory of bubbly.

“I love the way that they split it up heading-wise. There is delicious and sweet, the fresh and fruity, the exotic,” he explained. Fresh Brioche, which is one of the headings, represents the wine’s sweet and buttery notes, similar to brioche bread. There are also note designations like Amazingly Yeasty and Deliciously Sweet.

Recently Brecker extended the champagne list to include more Proseccos and his handpicked Lambrusco. The sparkling red hits close to home with Brecker.

“When I was little, in Boston, you would go to the Italian restaurant, and they would have Lambrusco, which is kind of like the two-dollar deal,” Brecker recalls.

The menu includes champagne cocktails loosely based on classic champagne mixed drinks. Mimosas, Bellinis, and a French 75 are available, but there are a few additional creative cocktails as well.

The Sav Gal Special is modeled after a French 75, but with a touch of blueberry. It is named after a local blogger who came into the Bubbly Bar and ordered her go-to version of the classic drink. Similarly, Jen’s Jolly Rodger and Abigail’s Melon Fusion are named to honor girls that work at Mint To Be Mojito.

For me, the standout of all of the champagne concoctions is the Hibiscus Champagne Cocktail. It is created by first pouring a base of hibiscus syrup, including the flower, followed by the house champagne. I suggest you eat the flower at the end of the flute. It is like the Luxardo cherry at the finish of an excellent Old Fashioned − a candy-sweet sticky surprise.

In recent years the Aperol Spritz has once again gained acclaim. It is created by mixing Aperol, Prosecco, and sparkling soda water. Spritzers hailed from Italy and were aptly named because of the spritz of sparkle added at the end. Mint To Be Bubbly Bar has an entire menu section dedicated to the Italian libation.

Because of the thick local summertime heat, a spritzer is a go-to midday drink for bachelorettes, brunch, or sightseeing. My personal favorite on the Bubbly Bar list is the Limoncello Spritz. The fresh lemon and Italian Limoncello brighten up the base of sweet champagne.

Both the Double Espresso Spritz and Dutch Chocolate Spritz pair nicely with any of the house sweets for an after-dinner nightcap. Both drinks are well-balanced due to bitter notes from the chocolate or espresso. Brecker throws in a chocolate swizzle stick for a playful twist to both cocktails.

After too many bubbles, there are light snacks available to freshen up the palate. The Billy Goat Chips were sought out by Becker because the chip’s unique seasoning is hard to pinpoint. The potatoes are something between a kettle chip and a classic cut chip, and I detected flavors of garlic and smoky paprika.

click to enlarge The cannoli and chocolate-covered strawberry served at Mint To Be Bubbly Bar. - LINDY MOODY
Lindy Moody
The cannoli and chocolate-covered strawberry served at Mint To Be Bubbly Bar.
For the sweets, the cannolis and chocolate-covered strawberries are made by a local cook Sara Lopez Smith from the restaurant All Things Chocolate And More.

“She is called the queen of cannoli because she does this. It’s ricotta. It’s the real McCoy,” says Becker of Smith.

The genuineness of the cannoli can be equated to its preparation. Too often, a cannoli is a limp, soggy mess resulting from improperly frying the shell. All Things Chocolate’s version is light, crisp, and filled to the brim with whipped ricotta. Be forewarned: the chocolate-covered strawberries are the size of a baby elephant, and take a few good tries to eat the entire decadent treat.

Mint To Be Bubbly Bar: 12 W. State St., Savannah. See minttobemojitobar.com for more details, and visit epicuropedia.com to read more by Lindy Moody.

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Thursday, February 25, 2021

The 20th Annual New Beginnings Youth Art Exhibition goes online

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 3:58 PM

click to enlarge A view of the virtual gallery space showcasing the 20th Annual New Beginnings Youth Art Exhibition. - COURTESY OF THE SAVANNAH-CHATHAM COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM
Courtesy of the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System
A view of the virtual gallery space showcasing the 20th Annual New Beginnings Youth Art Exhibition.
A new online exhibition showcasing works by Chatham County schoolkids is now available for viewing.

The Links, Inc., Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools, and the City of Savannah is presenting the 20th Annual New Beginnings Youth Art Exhibition. The exhibition features Savannah Chatham County middle-and high-school students' artworks, created based on the theme “Visual Art in a Virtual World."

A virtual reception for the exhibit was held Feb. 23, and several speakers congratulated the team of teachers, sponsors, and artists who made the event possible.

Among the virtual attendees were Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, SCCPSS Superintendent Ann Levett, and members of The Links, along with sponsors and other supporters.

“It's a great honor to chair this competition in conjunction with Black History Month," said Carol Bell of The Links, Inc. “We are impressed with the talent of the students and thank them for sharing their work with us."

Rosemary Dodson, Program Coordinator for Visual Arts for Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools, managed the competition and created the virtual exhibit to showcase art from our middle and high school students.

"This was a unique year," said Dotson, "and we had to come up with a way to share all the work in a virtual environment. The exhibit is interactive and engaging." ​

Click here to visit the virtual exhibition space.

The competition awards first, second, and third place in both high-school and middle-school divisions, as well as a Best in Show. Over 125 entries are on display. The winners of the competition for 2020 are:

Best of Show Winner - Avery Sullivan, Savannah Arts Academy

High School Winners

1st place: Mojdah Asimi – Savannah Arts Academy

2nd Place: Amy Oh, Savannah Arts Academy

3rd Place: Giselle Berrien – Johnson High School

​Middle School Winners

1st place: Elizaveta Kalacheva – Garrison

2nd Place: Brock Betters – West Chatham Middle School

3rd place: Tijuana Heyward – West Chatham Middle School

"Congratulations to everyone who had a part in putting this together," Levett said.

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The founder of Resilient Magazine shares her inspirations and goals

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 11:59 AM

click to enlarge Savannah native Teia Acker is a modern-day speaker, radio and podcast host, and businesswoman. - COURTESY OF TEIA ACKER
Courtesy of Teia Acker
Savannah native Teia Acker is a modern-day speaker, radio and podcast host, and businesswoman.
The celebration of Black history is not just a February-long observance − it is the celebration of Black lives from the past, future, and present. Savannah native Teia Acker is a modern-day speaker, radio and podcast host, and businesswoman who owns Ebony & Ivory Professional Service, LLC, Resilient Magazine, and the Moore Books digital bookstore along with her husband, James Moore. Acker started Ebony and Ivory Professional Services in 2013 during a trying time in her life. In June of 2020, Acker published a spinoff medium of Ebony & Ivory, Resilient Magazine, to highlight the resilience of women, their work, their worth, and their ability to overcome the barriers life brings. Amidst 2020’s social and political disparities all during the COVID-19 global pandemic, the magazine climbed to over 8,000 digital subscribers and more than 200 print subscribers, including 62 businesses, within eight months.

CS: Can you give us an overview of who you are and what you do?

TA: I am a native of Savannah. I am married and I have a 12-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. I attended Robert W. Groves High School. I got a dual bachelor’s in kinesiology and health science/community health from Georgia Southern University, as well as my MBA from the University of Phoenix. I am a multi-business owner, and I am also an employee. I own Ebony & Ivory Professional Service, LLC. It has been around for seven years as of July 25, and the goal of that company is to be the launch pad for smaller businesses. We help them get noticed by doing things that will pivot businesses to stand out. I also do development training for people that do not want to be entrepreneurs, but instead want to climb some corporate ladder. I also own Resilient Magazine, which is a spin-off of Ebony & Ivory.

CS: Why did you launch Resilient Magazine?

TA: Anything that the average woman and the educated Black woman could experience, I have been through. I can relate to anything outside of a terminal disease. Though COVID-19 in 2020 had been the true test-dummy of resilience for all, I had my personal pandemic back in 2013. I experienced getting divorced, being a single mom, dating to find a good father for my son and daughter, being laid off, and going from security to poverty in less than 90 days. I have experienced losing a parent. When my father died my world turned upside down. I was a daddy’s girl.

I started Resilient Magazine because I know I’m not the only one, and I aim to be a real model, not just a role model. There is somebody who is looking for an outlet but they don’t have one, or there is a woman who makes everything possible happen for her family but no one knows because she’s not in the mainstream. I decided to start the magazine so that everyday women just like myself feel appreciated for what they do. I also wanted it to look like O Magazine, Essence, and Ebony, because it does not matter your occupation or background, excellence is just that.

"They just want to hear that someone else has been through what they’re going through to motivate them, so that motivates me to keep telling my truth, being transparent and owning every error and mistake. I’m fueled by the fact that it’s not about me."

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CS: You aim to inspire many. How do you stay inspired?

TA: It’s a lot of prayer, and I am very intentional. I get my inspiration from the Bible, T.D. Jakes, Sarah Jakes Roberts, Oprah, and knowing why I’m here. Knowing that next month’s issue is going to talk about another woman and it will have 80 pages of pure content about Black excellence − that motivates me. Or when I see that someone has signed up for a two-year subscription of my magazine. Or when I meet someone and they’re like, ‘I just don’t know what else to do with my kids, or my parent passed,’ and I say ‘Oh, I lost a parent too, or I’ve been divorced, also.’ They just want to hear that someone else has been through what they’re going through to motivate them, so that motivates me to keep telling my truth, being transparent and owning every error and mistake. I’m fueled by the fact that it’s not about me.

CS: How many people subscribe to Resilient Magazine?

TA: It’s a steady climb, but when February’s issue dropped, we had 8,002 digital subscribers and we have about 200+ subscribers for the hard copies. I never expected it to take off like this. I anticipated it, but I don’t set expectations because I don’t like my feelings being hurt, but it was unreal.

CS: So you’re climbing this mountain. What does the other side of it look like for you?

TA: On the other side of that mountain looks like a place of rest, and what I mean by that is, I’m building all of this for others. I build small businesses so that small businesses can build small businesses. I’m building Resilient Magazine so that the resilient women can build other resilient women. I’m not doing this for the 50-year plaque, or the street named after me, or any of those things. I want to see the longevity in everything that I do, but I do not intend to work so hard at it like this forever. I’m working now so I can rest later, and later is not necessarily old age. Later is when I get to that point where Oprah is holding my magazine. Yes, the magazine will continue on after, but that would have been the upper echelon of my career.

For example, I wrote a small article in January’s magazine about Vice President Kamala Harris being Vice President. I had no idea that someone would put me in a position where I could make sure that she got that copy when she came out to Savannah for the campaign rally. When I say that I am being intentional, it is so that I can always be in position, so when you’re talking about the mountain, I’m climbing it to be in position to pass my magazine on to the next person. I am a launch pad.

Visit teiaacker.com to find out more about Acker and Resilient Magazine.

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Tell Scarlet keeps family business in harmony for nearly a decade

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 7:46 AM

click to enlarge The (family) members of Tell Scarlet, from left: Jeff Davis, Will Davis, Mary Davis, Cory Shuman, and Julia Shuman. - COURTESY OF TELL SCARLET
Courtesy of Tell Scarlet
The (family) members of Tell Scarlet, from left: Jeff Davis, Will Davis, Mary Davis, Cory Shuman, and Julia Shuman.
The title track of Accelerate – the new EP of three original songs released by Savannah-based pop group Tell Scarlet in late November – seems born of these wearying times, yet captures the yearning that so many now feel to build momentum toward greater things to come.

Beginning with a spare piano solo and the lyrics, “Let it go, waking up from a dream state,” the song gathers speed with a rising tempo and modern reverb effects that reveal Tell Scarlet’s growing studio-production savvy. “Accelerate” goes on to encourage listeners to pursue their goals with a genre-bending rap segment stating “you were made for more, a higher dream, a higher name, a higher score.”

Similar upbeat messages of persevering through hard times to discover personal potential also permeate the other two tracks on Accelerate, “I Know She’s Out There (I.K.S.O.T.)” and “Something Good.” But according to the members of Tell Scarlet – who also happen to be family members – their new EP’s spirit of overcoming melancholy to seize the future was merely a continuation of providential events that has allowed the group to flourish for almost a decade now, after starting out with humble intentions as a cover band in 2012.

“The songwriting really kind of happened along the way,” says Tell Scarlet vocalist and guitarist Mary Davis, the wife of bassist Jeff Davis; their kids Julia and Will take turns on lead vocals, while Julia’s husband Cory Shuman plays drums and produces to round out an accomplished group of musicians whose talent truly runs in the family. “We really consider ourselves more of an artist now.”

Along with their growing creative sophistication, Tell Scarlet is enjoying increasingly prominent exposure with regular gigs at high-profile venues. This weekend they play two Savannah-area shows on two consecutive nights, headlining the Plant Riverside District’s Riverside Pavilion Tent on Friday, Feb. 26 , followed by a show at Pooler’s Wild Wing Cafe on Saturday, Feb. 27. Both concerts will feature performances of their Accelerate songs, as well as some tracks from their previous EP, Clean Slate, and a few of their favorite covers.

Accelerate definitely feels more introspective than the more rock-tinged Clean Slate, but its hopeful messages came through with a shared desire for “welcoming the future and being open to anything,” according to Julia Shuman.

Work on Accelerate started in earnest in 2018, and while it took some time to get the EP up to speed, it was an organic process of blending influences.

“Everyone in the band was so good at saying, ‘You know what, this is going to come out when it’s supposed to come out,” Julia said.

click to enlarge The (family) members of Tell Scarlet, from left: Will Davis, Jeff Davis, Mary Davis, Julia Shuman, and Cory Shuman. - COURTESY OF TELL SCARLET
Courtesy of Tell Scarlet
The (family) members of Tell Scarlet, from left: Will Davis, Jeff Davis, Mary Davis, Julia Shuman, and Cory Shuman.
During the songwriting process, “the world went nuts,” Mary said – yet this seemed to only intensify their willingness to share intimate thoughts of inspiration with their fans.

In “Something Good,” Mary performs lead vocals to share her past dreams of sailing the world, while addressing the fallout from her time as a “party girl,” something many moms wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with their kids at home, let alone singing about with them onstage.

However, this openness yields refreshingly honest music that resonates with listeners because of the relatable emotions expressed.

“We do work really well together, and we enjoy playing together,” Mary says. “We feel very grateful that we get to do what we do, and we don’t take it for granted.”

Of course, the tensions inherent to being bandmates and family members can sometimes spill over, but with a sense of unity, the members of Tell Scarlet always come around to support each other.

“It’s interesting having the dynamic of a family in the band,” Will says. “It is harder, sometimes, because we all want what’s best for Tell Scarlet.”

From Julia’s perspective, the music of Tell Scarlet and the family’s close relationships are inextricable.

“We’re family first, and the music, it comes naturally,” Julia said. “The pieces fell into place.”

As for the future, while Will is considering branching out with some solo efforts someday, Tell Scarlet is happy to continue performing together as opportunities to play festivals and larger events are expected to materialize in the upcoming months. For Mary, the chance to be living out a modern-day version of The Partridge Family – a series she loved in her youth – is already a dream come true, minus one element that would really get their show on the road.

“I would love to have a psychedelic bus,” Mary says with a laugh. Tell Scarlet plays the Plant Riverside District (400 W. River St., Savannah) at 7 p.m. on Feb. 26 and Wild Wing Cafe (417 Pooler Pkwy., Pooler) at 9 p.m. on Feb. 27. Visit tellscarlet.com to hear tracks from Accelerate and for more information on the band.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A sweet and sour play examines a forced economy of words

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2021 at 5:07 PM

click to enlarge 'Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons' stars Hannah Chiclana as Bernadette and Sean Harber as Oliver. - COURTESY OF FRONT PORCH IMPROV THEATRE
Courtesy of Front Porch Improv Theatre
'Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons' stars Hannah Chiclana as Bernadette and Sean Harber as Oliver.
You speak an estimated 5,000 to 20,000 words per day. Imagine if you were restricted to a mere 140 words. For Bernadette and Oliver, the only two characters in Sam Steiner’s Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, governmental regulations limiting speech to 140 words each day might be too much for their love to survive.

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, a poignant dramedy about love, powerlessness, democracy, and free speech, opens on Thursday, Feb. 25 for a limited run at the Front Porch Improv Theatre, as the first play staged at their new location on Victory Drive.

The Front Porch Improv always planned to expand beyond improv to host black-box theater. The arrival of COVID-19 upended everything, and operating a performer-run theater during a pandemic is no easy task.

“It’s been the toughest year of my life. And this has been the worst time to do live theater in the last 100 years. It’s a balancing act for the actors to make this run, but we want to keep this alive. It is more important than ever,” said Front Porch Improv Co-Artistic Director John Brennan.

After its 2015 premiere at the Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry, England, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons went on to sell out at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It is a play about being forced to consider how, what, and when we chose to communicate with those we love the most – perhaps the most consequential interactions each of us has every day.

The entire cast and crew number just four: the play is directed by Brenden Davis with technical direction by Danger Mendrala, and stars Hannah Chiclana as Bernadette and Sean Harber as Oliver. The four created a quarantine bubble to allow for in-person rehearsals.

“It’s a romantic play, so Sean and I have to be really comfortable with each other to make the relationship translate on the stage,” Chiclana said.

click to enlarge 'Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons' stars Hannah Chiclana as Bernadette and Sean Harber as Oliver. - COURTESY OF FRONT PORCH IMPROV THEATRE
Courtesy of Front Porch Improv Theatre
'Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons' stars Hannah Chiclana as Bernadette and Sean Harber as Oliver.
This production marks the first play staged by Savannah’s young improv company. “Comedy is our thing, but we are a place for art and theater. We would like plays to be a regular offering,” Brennan said.

For Brenden, the show’s director, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons is his straight-show directorial debut.

“I’ve directed many comedy shows, but this is my first play and it’s my type of story. It’s intimate, compelling, and funny. I’m very thankful Hannah asked me to do it,” Brenden said.

It is also Harber’s theatrical acting debut. He and Chiclana met at the end of 2019 as company members appearing in The Happy Hendersons, a 1950s-inspired improv sketch that frequently opened shows for the Front Porch. When Chiclana pitched Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, she knew Harber was perfect for the role of Oliver; he accepted without even reading the script.

“I trusted Hannah,” Harber said. As rehearsals began, Harber told Chiclana and Brenden, “It’s my first play. Treat me like I know nothing.”

Transitioning from improv to acting has been challenging for Harber.

“It’s nerve-racking. Unlike improv, there are things you have to remember. There are expectations for what you say and how you move,” Harber said.

Watching Harber grow into the complexity of the role, Chiclana believes her instincts were spot-on.

“He brings out the best and worst of Oliver – and that’s the job of an actor,” Chiclana said.

When Chiclana read the script two years ago, Bernadette’s character resonated.

“Her faults and beautiful quirks really hit home,” Chiclana recalls, adding that learning about the character caused her to begin reflecting on her own contribution, just like Bernadette. “I found myself asking am I doing enough? Am I giving the things that matter to me enough time and focus? Am I contributing in a way that is meaningful?”

As we slowly emerge from the pandemic and contemplate how to reengage with what’s important to us, the Front Porch Improv is providing a meaningful way to do just that.

Front Porch Improv Theatre presents Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons by Sam Steiner. Thursday, Feb. 25, 8 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 28, 6 p.m.; Thursday, March 4, 8 p.m.; Sunday, March 7, 6 p.m. In-person and Zoom tickets must be purchased in advance. For in-person attendance, the theater is operating at 30% or capacity and following all CDC Covid guidelines: masks are required and guests are seated in socially distanced pods. Visit frontporchimprov.com for more details and tickets.

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The Local Artist Showcase brought in the most first-night sales the gallery has seen

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2021 at 3:57 PM

click to enlarge Alan Kindler works on a painting in progress in his studio on the upper level of Cedar House Gallery. - NOELLE WIEHE/CONNECT SAVANNAH
Noelle Wiehe/Connect Savannah
Alan Kindler works on a painting in progress in his studio on the upper level of Cedar House Gallery.
The Cedar House Gallery’s most diverse annual show of artwork collections, the Local Artist Showcase, features ceramics, glass art, jewelry, paintings, and more by 13 Savannah-area artists.

As the event draws to a close, gallery director and curator Sam Williams said the February showcase has attracted a considerable number of art fans, especially considering that the Local Artist Showcase is usually held in January.

“It was a huge success with it being done in February,” Williams said. “The gallery showcases quite a few really outstanding artists.”

Interested viewers can visit the Local Artist Showcase through Feb. 26, when the show’s closing reception during 6-9 p.m. will include some previously unseen works.

“We had our opening reception, and in high demand, people were asking for a closing session – which we haven’t done in the past,” Williams said. “The people asked and we gave them it.”

Artist Sharonna “Ronnie” Ray sold her entire Local Artist Showcase collection, but created a continuation of her “Chocolate” series to replace the pieces already bought. Williams said that collection will be seen for the first time at the closing reception.

In addition to filling the main gallery exhibit spaces, the showcase includes the upstairs studio spaces of artists including photographers and furniture designers.

The artists in the showcase paid an entry fee to be featured, and were allowed to display up to 10 pieces. The showcase was juried by Cedar House Gallery members on the grounds. Williams said a couple of artists judged the work, while she curated it.

click to enlarge A painting by local artist Tom Curran, on view at Savannah's Cedar House Gallery. - NOELLE WIEHE/CONNECT SAVANNAH
Noelle Wiehe/Connect Savannah
A painting by local artist Tom Curran, on view at Savannah's Cedar House Gallery.
The showcase was held a month later than usual due to post-holiday-season COVID-19 concerns. However, Williams said that when it could finally open on Feb. 5, the showcase brought in the most first-night sales the gallery has seen.

Williams noted that this is the first show where the gallery has featured high-school students, with two entrants having just graduated before entering their work this year. The pieces in the showcase are all available for purchase, with prices ranging from $15 to $1,750, and a wide variety of works likely to remain on the market during the closing reception.

“This is the last night the show will be up, so if you’re still thinking about that piece you saw at the opening, come on by and grab it before it’s gone, or if you missed the opening show come swing by for the first time and show your support,” Williams said.

After the Local Artist Showcase closes, the Cedar House Gallery has scheduled a series of weekly exhibitions beginning March 5.

“After that, we are pretty much booked out with shows coming up weekly,” Williams said, noting she had some openings in April. “It’s fun to have these rotating shows.”

The Cedar House opened in May 2019 and provides private art studio spaces for artists, as well as public gallery spaces filled with a diverse variety of media. During gallery events, the studio spaces are for viewing.

The Cedar House Gallery (122 E. 36th St., Savannah) is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., with viewing appointments available between 9 a.m. and noon. Visit cedarhousegallerysav.com for more details.

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City Council approves repairing Police Memorial Trail after damage by Hurricane Matthew

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2021 at 10:28 AM

click to enlarge Savannah's dilapidated Police Memorial Trail has been officially closed to the public for years. - NICK ROBERTSON/CONNECT SAVANNAH
Nick Robertson/Connect Savannah
Savannah's dilapidated Police Memorial Trail has been officially closed to the public for years.
A recent vote by Savannah’s City Council to rebuild the Police Memorial Trail will provide another segment to Chatham County’s Tide to Town trail-network system, which aims to connect diverse communities with a series of safe pathways for walking, skating, or biking.

Located on the west side of the Truman Parkway from near the intersection of Bee Road and E. 52nd Street to Dixie Avenue near Victory Drive and Daffin Park, the forested Police Memorial Trail has been closed for years due to its state of disrepair. City Council unanimously voted to revive the trail at a cost of $599,285 during their Feb. 11 meeting.

Reconstruction of the Police Memorial Trail is slated to begin on March 15, and take six months to complete. When the pathway is reopened, this will become a new segment of the comprehensive Tide to Town trail network of paved trails and safe on-street paths dedicated to walkers, joggers, cyclists, skaters, and other non-vehicular traffic, according to Caila Brown, the Executive Director of Bike Walk Savannah and a Tide to Town board member.

The Police Memorial Trail is planned to be connected with the 3.1-mile Truman Linear Park Trail, which was completed by Chatham County officials in November as the first finished phase of the Tide to Town initiative.

“The combination of the Police Memorial Trail and the Truman Linear Park Trail is really what sparked the idea behind Tide to Town,” Brown said. “We had these two different pieces of trails that would eventually connect, and we looked at what other pieces would come to light in the next few years.”

When discussing the Police Memorial Trail reconstruction, Savannah Alderman Nick Palumbo said that Chatham County’s work on the trail network set the bar high for continuing the project.

“They set a very high standard for us to aspire to as our city trail,” Palumbo said. “We have the Police Memorial Trail that has been in disrepair since Hurricane Matthew. I am really proud to bring this forward, to bring these two trails together.”

Although the council unanimously voted to approve funding the Police Memorial Trail project, Alderwomen Bernetta Lanier and Estella Shabazz expressed concerns about what benefits the Tide to Town trail infrastructure will provide for their individual districts. Lanier said that she sees this project as a luxury.

“When I consider the issues in the 1st District, if we had to make a list of critical life-impacting projects that we needed to spend citizen dollars on, a trail wouldn’t make the list of 25, maybe not even the first 50,” Lanier said. “But, do we understand the merits of a trail regarding health, wealth, and connectivity? Yes, we do.”

Shabazz stated concerns about the equality of the trail project’s overall benefit in proportion to what she considers minimal connections within the 5th District.

“When you look at the layout for the Tide to Town trail, it only comes to a small edge of the 5th District, and the 5th District – especially the west side of the district – has been left out for years and years and years,” Shabazz said.

According to Mayor Van Johnson, several community groups support the Police Memorial Trail renovation project, including the Ardsley Park/Chatham Crescent Neighborhood Association representing the area.

Palumbo noted that the Tide to Town project is intended to boost equity by providing area residents who do not have a car with a safe pathway for traveling to work or school, while also providing healthy recreation areas.

“I look to one day having a comprehensive trail where people can get around and they do not have a car,” Palumbo said. “We take it one piece at a time, and I’m really glad to see the plan coming forward.”

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Located by North Beach, the structure was purpose-built as a marine-science education center

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2021 at 5:06 PM

click to enlarge The exterior of the new Tybee Island Marine Science Center by North Beach. - NICK ROBERTSON/CONNECT SAVANNAH
Nick Robertson/Connect Savannah
The exterior of the new Tybee Island Marine Science Center by North Beach.
With construction of the new Tybee Island Marine Science Center almost complete, the beachside institution began welcoming visitors at its freshly built location on Feb. 18 with the official opening of their gift shop, while its exhibition spaces are expected to debut later this spring.

According to Cathy Sakas, president of the Tybee Island Marine Science Center’s Board of Trustees, the organization has been working toward building this new facility for the past 15 years, after operating out of the beach town’s former police station near Tybee’s pier since 1988. The new building is located by Tybee Island’s North Beach, and was purpose-built as a marine-science education center at a cost of $3.5 million.

“This move has been a long time coming, but well worth the wait,” Sakas said, while expressing gratitude to Tybee’s government for the use of their former location, even if by the time they closed it, “you could see daylight through some of the walls.”

The new building is sited on two plots of beachfront property worth $2 million that were donated to the center by Dave and Martha Makel and the Fleetwood Family, according to Sakas. With its modern architecture, earth-toned exterior, and sweeping oceanfront views, the new facility was designed to blend in with its surroundings after consulting with area residents.

“Fortunately, what the community wanted to see was exactly what we wanted,” Sakas said, adding that the facility is elevated to withstand storm surges. The ground level will eventually become an open-air classroom for visiting school groups, and the building also houses a 4,600-gallon water tank for loggerhead sea turtles, which are occasionally kept by the center for up to two years before being released into the ocean.

The center’s new gift shop features numerous marine-related stuffed animals ranging from sharks to flamingos to octopuses, as well as ocean-focused coloring books, wildlife guides, puzzles, and other intriguing curiosities – including an initial display of three box turtles and a snake. Proceeds from gift-shop sales benefit the ongoing development of the remaining exhibit spaces, Sakas said.

The center’s West Gallery expected to open on March 25, followed by East Gallery’s planned opening on May 1. Meanwhile, visitors can already step up to the loft level sponsored by the Georgia Ports Authority to enjoy vistas over the nearby shoreline, with two telescopes available for public use.

“The view from up there is spectacular,” Sakas said.

The gift shop is currently open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Thursday through Sunday. Visit tybeemarinescience.org for more details about the Tybee Island Marine Science Center.

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