Savannah Meetings & Eateries

I was in Savannah for an overnight to do some meetings and touch base with the CODA – Craft Organization Development Association – conference support team at the City of Savannah Department of Cultural Affairs. I had good meetings, and was able to enjoy a couple of new (to me) eateries.

I had a breakfast meeting at Gallery Espresso, 234 Bull St. It is a homey, welcoming coffee house serving excellent coffee and scones, muffins and coffee cakes. Art and eclectic collections make the walls and decor especially warm and fun to examine. Patrons chat, work on their computers, and people/dog watch out the big windows. The Gallery embraces the essence of Savannah – hospitable, calm and delicious.

Jamie Galloway, a graduate student in SCAD’s Fibers program, invited me to hear her quarterly project presentation titled “An Organic Cotton Initiative in Southeast Georgia”. She advocates Methods of Slow Design in which the program “sustains not only our environment and community, but the human connectedness as well”. Working with agriculture champions on Hampton and Cumberland Islands, she intends to grow, harvest, gin, spin and knit/weave/felt the cotton into objects for the home environment.

Jamie went on to say that “Through the use of local artisans to felt, spin and weave locally-grown cotton, it will be possible to create 100% sustainable products… My goal is to create an opportunity for growers, makers and consumers to reconnect through a product infused with life, reassuring a sense of community and independence.”

I’ll be following Jamie’s work, and reporting back often.

After the presentation, we went over to Soho South Cafe,Where Food is an Art, at 12 W Liberty St. The lunch crowd lingered, even on a rainy afternoon about 2:3opm. Jamie & I sat on a comfie sofa in a Victorian-esque gathering room with all the others waiting for a table.

Soho South Cafe interior

Finally, after the room was cleared, we realized we’d talked right through our summons. So we asked, and were seated right away. Choices here are difficult, because everything coming out of the kitchen looks noteworthy. A blackboard lists the specials of the day, to add to the confusion.

I selected the Cuban Panini with a cup of butternut squash soup ($1.5o extra, when substituting for a standard side). Jamie had a tuna pita. My soup was excellent, not too sweet; and the Cuban Panini, delicious with just the right amount of mustard and pickle.

Jamie’s tuna pita was stuffed. She mentioned that this is her favorite lunch item. She orders it all the time.

When you come to the Soho South Cafe, remember you are coming for the food. The service isn’t uber attentive, nor is the coffee hot. But the food is definitely worth the walk.

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Some Californians are Thinking like Lynette Jennings

I just read a blog post by Paul Hodgins about a “Vision Retreat” in Sacramento convened by California Arts Advocates, a group that represents the interests of the arts and lobbies state lawmakers on matters affecting culture. The purpose was to discussĀ  how to revitalize public interest and government support for the arts.

In 2008, at the CODA (Craft Organization Development Association – www.codacraft.org) conference in Little Rock, Lynette Jennings gave a presentation that resonated with me. In it, she said that society and art are separated by a wall; and that in order for art to be more widely enjoyed, ART would have to tear down that wall and become a part of society, not the other way around. I thought that was profound then. Now, three deep cuts into the Georgia Council for the Arts’ budget later, it was a wake-up call that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been much discussed in arts circles.

I don’ t have to go all the way to California to hear someone relate to me the non-value to his life some modern art exhibition of paint splattered drop cloth is. And how that taxpayer isn’t eager to fund the drop cloth exhibition with his tax dollars. We have, unfortunately, tuned out art’s ability to empower and enthrall. Hearing a church choir sing, watching a chef plate up a meal, stepping into an elegant home, are all directly enhanced by art.

In Hodgins’ blog post, he quotes Stephanie Geter, a cultural affairs commissioner for the City of Oakland CA… “In order for culture to be meaningful, it has to connect with the society that it lives in. If people don’t like the arts as they’re being delivered, then they deserve to go away.”

Hodgins continues, “The arts have somehow marooned themselves on an island surrounded by perceptions of elitism, classism and intellectual snobbery… The arts community has to find a way off of that island. And demonstrating to people that art and life constantly commingle is a good start.”