Do you consider yourself the artsy type? Admittedly, though I love creative thinking, I never really thought of myself as artsy – until I explored my first gallery. Then I was hooked. I quickly realized, the gallery experience is as much about the pieces in it as the people who can help you appreciate it.
I have looked at plenty of paintings, but I never really “saw” them – understood the techniques used, the colors chosen, the sources of inspiration, the heart, soul and time it took to create authentic works of art. Whether you’re an art aficionado or just staring out, you should definitely plan a tour of art galleries as part of your stay in Savannah. And to kick things off, we’re going to go on a virtual tour of sorts to help you discover – or further inspire – your inner artiste!
As Savannah is most known for its historic roots, let’s start with one of its oldest galleries: Gallery 209 on East River Street. The building itself dates back to the 1820s and in its former life served as a cotton warehouse with a dirt floor and four upper levels. In the 1970s, as River Street was becoming a popular hub for shops and restaurants, the space evolved from an apartment to a small art gallery and then a three-person artists’ cooperative known as Gallery 209. That was 44 years ago and today 31 artists call Gallery 209 home.
“Amazingly enough, four of those 31 artists have been members since the 1970s and we have a waiting list of other local artists who are eager to join us,” explained Tibby Llewellyn of Gallery 209 (who also happens to be one of those original four!). “Every artist lives locally so we are truly a Savannah art gallery.”
Once inside, the artists’ displays are categorized by either two-dimensional art (paintings, photographs, etc.) or three-dimensional (jewelers, potters, weavers, etc.). And if you’re looking for an expert to help deepen your experience, Gallery 209 has a working artist on site every day to talk with you and answer detailed questions.
Next up on our tour is the Tiffani Taylor Gallery, named after the artist herself who has loved art since she was two years old. Recently voted Best Art Gallery by Savannah Magazine, Tiffani Taylor Gallery is housed on Whitaker Street – just off of Bay Street – in a corner of what was once the Savannah Morning News building. The gallery features Tiffani’s original mixed media paintings, watercolors, hand-painted ceramics, prints and a Lifestyle Collection of fashion and home wares. Tiffani also showcases the work of Melissa Schneider, a local talent with a focus on encaustic photography primarily of Savannah.
To walk into Tiffani’s gallery is to expose your senses to joy and light as vibrant poppies come to life in a variety of pieces, which Tiffani has carefully priced so there’s something for everyone. “Customer service is our number-one priority,” she said. “We love for patrons to experience our Art Sanctuary with art and exclusive products at every price point.”
Feeling a little folksy? Roots Up Gallery is locally owned and operated in the Downtown Design District on Whitaker Street in the heart of historic Savannah. “My late husband, Francis Allen, and I opened Roots Up Gallery five years ago,” said owner Leslie Lovell. “[Our] intention was to give a voice to artists who fall outside the traditional galleries of trained artists. We have always believed art should be available and approachable to all.”
The works of more than 30 local and regional artists and more than 50 Southern folk artists can be explored at Roots Up Gallery, all of whom are predominately self-taught with, as Leslie describes it, “innate talents borne from within.” The gallery has been named “Best of the South” by Garden & Gun Magazine and was also a Fodor’s Choice gold award recipient. From paintings to pottery to jewelry and more, the bright expanse of Roots Up is as fun as it is inspiring to explore.
Going from Southern folk to contemporary fine art may seem like a leap but much like the city itself, Savannah’s art galleries possess a range and depth of talent that is unlike any other. Susan Laney brings more than 20 years of experience in the fine art market to her gallery, Laney Contemporary Fine Art. Her location on Mills B. Lane in downtown Savannah is as beautiful and unexpected as the pieces she curates (take a peek at her Facebook page to get a glimpse). Laney specializes in photography and contemporary art from both emerging and established artists with a focus on the south. Featuring changing exhibits, and pieces for display and purchase, a visit to Laney Contemporary Fine Art is an eye-opening experience you won’t soon forget.
Savannah’s history is filled with diverse cultures and innovative, and the many galleries and talented artists who fill them carry on the city’s colorful history in the most beautiful and unexpected ways. Who knows – maybe you’ll see the world that way, too.
Book your stay in Savannah to see the city’s galleries!