Arts & Culture

Got a yen for art and a close-up view of the ‘Bird Girl?’ Take this short trip into Savannah

. A young visitor marvels at an antique stereoscope at the Telfair Museum’s Jepson Center in Savannah, proving that in an age of electronic entertainment, simple things still maintain an appeal.
. A young visitor marvels at an antique stereoscope at the Telfair Museum’s Jepson Center in Savannah, proving that in an age of electronic entertainment, simple things still maintain an appeal. Special to The Island Packet/ The Beaufort Gazette

There is art all around us in the Lowcountry: the painted canvas of a May River sunset; the sculpted dunes of Burke’s Beach, the music of the wind or a songbird; the scent of spice in the leaves of the wax myrtles or the shadows in the pine woods.

One reason we call the Lowcountry home is the way in which it delights our senses and calls to every part of our being. Home, in the Lowcountry, is a living art gallery.

But that’s not to say that there are not other, more substantial venues for enjoying art locally.

The Jepson Center for the Arts in Savannah is one such place. Recently my family and I visited and discovered a whole world of artistic enjoyment.

The Jepson is one part of a network of historical and cultural institutions that make up the Telfair Museum system. The gallery of modern art it is also devoted to the art and architecture of Savannah and the coast and provides insights into the rich history of our area. A focus on education makes the Jepson an excellent avenue for visitors young and old to enjoy and appreciate the arts.

There is an auditorium, a community gallery and the interactive “ArtZeum” where hands-on learning — and fun — can take place. Traveling exhibitions of world-class scope and variety are regularly hosted at the Jepson Center, providing access to such wonders as arts of the Russian czars, the photography of William Wegman, the sculptures of Auguste Rodin, and local Savannah contemporary artist Kirk Varnedoe.

The great masters and local talent combine at the Jepson to provide a window into the world of art just down the road from home.

The building is in the historic Telfair Square in downtown Savannah. It is large and open, with glass and concrete combining to provide a sense of flight and comfortable ease at the same time.

Built when it became clear that the Telfair Museum system needed a new and workable home for art collections and programs, the building is a light-filled space, with many rooms and levels accessible to the public.

You will be greeted by friendly staff and will very quickly find yourself exploring the great halls. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the education and ArtZeum levels and rooms for traveling exhibits, there is also a café and a wonderful gift shop.

Among the exhibits we most enjoyed was The Open Road: Photography of the American Road Trip. Featuring the works of photographers such as Robert Frank, Joel Steinfield and Justine Kurland, it explored the mystique and attraction Americans have to the open road. My family and I particularly enjoyed the exhibit because we are soon to embark on our own road trip adventure along America’s famous Route 66.

We quickly found ourselves exploring modern art and sculpture, the architectural gifts found in Savannah and coming face-to-face with the famous “Bird Girl” statue. This iconic sculpture of a young girl once graced a simple grave in Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery but was made so popular by the novel and movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” that it was removed to the Jepson. Now protected for all to enjoy, it is certainly a highlight of the museum.

The Jepson is a place where art, architecture and the Lowcountry come together to soothe the mind and soul.

Getting There:

The Jepson Center for the Arts in Savannah is located in historic Telfair Square in downtown Savannah. Take U.S. 17 south across the Talmadge Bridge and come into the city along Oglethorpe Avenue. The Jepson Center is at 207 W. York Street in Savannah and, with its modern design, is very easy to find. Be prepared to find parking downtown.

The museum is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Hours are noon-5 p.m. Sunday and Monday. Admission is $20 for adults; $18 for seniors and military; and $15 for students 12-25. Children 12 and under are free. These prices also include two other locations in the Telfair Museum system. You can take advantage of free admission on regular “Free Family Days.”

For more information about the Jepson Center for the Arts in Savannah, call 912-790-8800 or visit Telfair.org.

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