A self-described military brat, Elbi Elm lived in many places growing up, starting in Pontiac, Michigan. However, when her parents retired from the military and settled in the Savannah area, she knew she had found her way.

Elm, a ten-year United Air Force Staff Sergeant (retired) herself who specialized in intelligence, came to Savannah for the pure love of the area. An alumna of Howard University, Elm began her schooling at SCAD and got a real taste of the creative community during her time here.

“When my parents retired to Richmond Hill, I wanted to be here for them, of course. My family is so important, but I just love everything about Savannah. The trees… the food… the weather (well, not the recent cold), the beach, and so many people I can connect with. The opportunities and possibilities are endless here,” she said.

“In fact, my business is geared toward equipping creators with support, awareness, and confidence to improve their craft – whatever that may be,” she said.

Elm is the owner of The Culturist Union, originally a digital community, but it is expanding to a brick-and-mortar coffee house space soon. She began the company in 2019 doing pop-ups, retreats, yoga events… anything to get out and be seen and to support the artistic community.

“Opening up on Bull Street is a dream fulfilled,” Elm said. “To create a community gathering space with the focus on black artisans and giving them a space where they can share their work, grow, build the community… it’s all so exciting and adds so much to Savannah’s already rich culture.”

Elm said one of her favorite things about Savannah is “it’s a small town with big opportunities and possibilities.”

“People are attracted to Savannah because of… well, honestly, the vibe.”

“It’s a beautiful, diverse melting pot where you can get anything you’re looking for. It’s a buffet of eligible things to do:  our great art scene, the unique pace, the storied history, and just how culture collides with opportunity.”

Some of Elm’s go-to spots include Kiss Café on Mall Boulevard for a crepe and concentration. “I love to go there and eat and think. I crave little escape places where I can go and clear my head.”

The Savannah art community is something Elm is quite passionate about. She hopes residents and visitors alike will give local artisans and creators a closer look and support their efforts. 

“There are so many different artists and artisans who aren’t getting their full recognition. Your neighbors [in this city] are extremely talented and you can get anything you need from them here. There’s no need for the big online delivery stores when you can come to Savannah and shop the local stores for something one-of-a-kind.”

For visitors to Savannah, Elm recommends coming in the evening before your vacation starts to “get a lay of the land, plan ahead, and get ready for all Savannah has to offer.”

Elm stressed, “When you book your accommodations, spend the money and stay downtown at a nice hotel or bed and breakfast. Stay in the middle of where everything is going on. Then, you can wake up on your first full day, ready to experience all you can.”

Her suggestions were, “Breakfast at Nairobi’s and then walking it off by taking a turn through Forsyth Park—which is always magical. The Chatham Area Transit (CAT) buses are free, so take advantage of them to get around town. Grab a pastry from Back in the Day bakery or have coffee at Collins Quarters. The tempo of the city allows you to walk around at your own pace, chill whenever you like, but always ready to get out and do more.”

Elm knows how lucky we are to have Tybee Island so close at hand. “The beaches are amazing any time of year. And, they’re right here.”

“It’s such a walking city,” she said. “There’s just so much to see. Doing so on foot allows you to seek out off-the-path stores and restaurants to explore.”

Most of all, she emphasized the importance of supporting the local art galleries.

“You could spend your whole vacation doing nothing but looking at art in our local galleries. We’re blessed with so many creative people here in Savannah and you want the whole world to see all they can do,” Elm said.

Like many others have suggested, Elm said there’s no better way to end a day in The Hostess City than relaxing at one of the many rooftop bars and enjoying the view. “You can go to a different one every night. It’s so special and relaxing to be able to do that.”

Elm has come a long way from her days moving around and serving in our military. She said Savannah has helped make her the person she is today.

“Savannah has changed and inspired me,” Elm said. “I was a different person before I went to SCAD. Being in this city has introduced creative professionals to me and a whole collective group of those who have similar visions. Creativity is the most important thing, as well as fostering it in others. The Culturist Union wouldn’t be what it is if I hadn’t birthed it right here in Savannah.”

“Neither would I.”

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