DANIEL SMITH pulls his phone from his pocket.
“If I type into Google, ‘New Orleans art galleries’ I get a list from the City of New Orleans. The list from the City of Savannah has three galleries on it,” he says.
Gale Steves chimes in, “We have seen maps in other cities, like Asheville.”
Smith, a professional painter, is president pro tem of arts non-profit Arts Resource Collective (ARC) Savannah and Steves sits as vice-president of the organization.
They view Savannah’s lack of a comprehensive map or directory detailing visual art attractions as deeply problematic.
“It’s important to sustain the health of the art community here. One of the purposes of a map is it lets people know where you are and what you’re doing,” says Smith.
“If we want to keep creative people in Savannah, able to live here and work here and express themselves here, then we’ve got to make it a financially viable option.”
ARC is taking on the challenge, as they believe a map listing all Savannah’s visual art galleries is essential in fostering a hospitable environment for artists’ success.
“No one has ever sat down and done a city-wide, well county-wide really, view of the scene and where is it located,” Smith says.
Steves, the project leader, is researching every nook and cranny of the greater Savannah area in search of art spaces.
“I’ve been combing the streets,” she laughs.
The number of listings she has uncovered is astounding—85.
Steves has scoured far beyond downtown and the Starland district, finding galleries in Sandfly, Richmond Hill, the Landings, and more.
“There’ll be at least one person who was left out—I just know it—but the fact that we’ve got 85 really tells the story that greater Savannah is an art destination and there are many creative people here,” Steves says.
The map will also convey the array of spaces in the area.
“We’re doing galleries, visual cultural centers and artist studios if they are open to the public,” Smith says.
ARC aims to be as comprehensive as possible and is making this opportunity available for free to the galleries and artists.
“The goal is to have it be inclusive. People are not excluded because they can’t afford it. They are not excluded because they are not associated with the right group.
It’s about focusing on Savannah as an arts center,” Smith says.
The call for listings is open until November 1 and any artists or galleries interested in being listed are encouraged to email email@example.com.
In addition to posting public calls, Steves has contacted numerous art organizations. Many were surprised such a promotional service would be completely free to them.
As Steves explains, “it’s working dovetail.” By being inclusive, the map will find its way across the county, informing people of what is happening in other pockets of the city, fostering unity and promoting the arts as a whole.
“We wanted to make sure that this got distributed to not only people in town but through VisitSavannah, to convention groups and to upscale hotels. Our goal is simply to have people recognize that this is an art destination,” Steves says.
With recognition comes the attraction of a different profile of visitor—the cultural tourist, interested in art of all kinds and willing to spend money purchasing art, theatre or concert tickets and fine meals.
The maps will be out by the end of the year and the listing of galleries will be on ARC’s website as a digital directory.
“I think it’s going be interesting for people to see how many and the diversity of riches we have,” Steves says.
Smith concurs, “I think people will be surprised that there are so many clumps of galleries. “
The first run will be 10,000 copies of the six-fold map.
ARC is currently searching for a sponsor to fund the inaugural run in exchange for discrete recognition—a small logo rather than naming credit or a large ad.
“We are looking for a big type of sponsor who would be happy to do it that way and just be well-known for doing this good deed for all of us,” Smith says.
ARC hopes to have a larger run in the future and believes having a physical product to show will open doors to new funding and partnerships that can grow the project. They plan to make updates with each print run and online quarterly.
The map is a first step in raising awareness of arts throughout Savannah. Visualizing the huge number of artists and providing access to them is just the beginning.
“In my wildest dreams the City realizes how important the arts are to the economy and works with anyone who interested—art groups or galleries owners—to create at least one arts district,” says Smith.
Steves has a similar vision, which includes business stepping in to help foster this type of district. She sees a strong art sector as advantageous to all.
“I’m looking in a very large picture and trying to find a way of balancing business and the arts, visual as well as others, so this place becomes an even better place to live—not just to visit, but to live; a better quality of life in Savannah.”