WITH SUCH a thriving art scene in downtown Savannah, you’d be forgiven for getting a little tunnel vision. However, there’s a lot more art around us than meets the eye.
Arts on the Coast is a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote the arts in Bryan and surrounding counties.
“We like to think the name says it all,” explains AOC vice president Joy Dunigan. “We’re very welcoming beyond just here in Richmond Hill—we’ve had artists all the way from Hinesville and Midway, as far as Tybee Island. The organization itself has a nice reach.”
AOC hosts the reception for its third annual juried exhibition this Thursday at the Photopoint Gallery. The theme, Connected to the Sea, was a natural choice.
“Anything related to our environment is of high interest to our public and a great source of inspiration to our artists,” Dunigan explains. “They’re inspired y the flora, the fauna, ocean, seas, rivers, marsh—everything about it.”
The jurors for the show include Savannah Morning News’ Kristopher Monroe, Ford Plantation’s Yael Von Hulst, and local businessman Gary Stanberry.
“It’s a tradition for the chairman of the board of the Chamber to come in and judge,” says Dunigan. “That’s Dallas Daniels, but he’s on vacation, so it’s Gary Stanberry, the incoming chairman for next year. He and his wife are going to do it—we’d never thought about doing that!”
Dunigan, a SCAD graduate, goes through the judging process with the jurors.
“On the night of the reception, we have what we call a People’s Choice Award, something we’ve done from the very start,” notes Dunigan. “When people come in, they can take ownership of the experience as well. We could have [the winner be] someone who has already won an award, but two out of the three shows so far, we have not had any overlap. We have a wide range of who the awards went to—painting, photography, pastels, and mixed media. It doesn’t ever lean one way. I think when artists look at these shows, they think it’ll all end up with photographers, but it doesn’t! That lets us know our jury is doing their job.”
At final count, there were 31 entries, all from local artists. Dunigan’s proud of the participation but wishes for more.
“I’m a SCAD graduate, and even though I’m very loyal to my alma mater, I do sometimes wonder why there seems to be a disconnect between the local arts scene of SCAD [and us],” Dunigan muses. “It would be nice to see a little more extension and embracing from them. The SCAD students are always welcome to participate in this show. We know it’s a slow but sure process, and it’s nice to see a lot of reception to this.”
The Photopoint Gallery is located inside Elmgren’s Service and Nursery.
“My husband owns Elmgren’s Service and Nursery, and when we bought this piece of property, we thought it would be perfect for showcasing local artists, for people to go and see art or at least have a place where artists can display their work,” recalls Dunigan.
The inside of the Photopoint Gallery is cozy and welcoming, just like the organization itself.
“What we try to do is involve a lot of different aspects of the community, because there’s nothing really quite like this going on,” Dunigan explains. “The more we can involve and engage the community and different entities, the stronger the event will be and the better attended and received it will be. There’s a need for it.”
While there’s not an exhibition, Dunigan maintains a permanent collection of local artists’ work.
“Basically, it’s where we meet an artist or know an artist, we know they have a wide body of work, and we invite them in to have one of the art walls,” she says. “There’s no theme—it’s a blank canvas. They can change it out as often as they’d like. It’s an opportunity to have a place to put their artwork with almost zero restrictions and regulations. And it makes it easy on me!”