New Director of Savannah’s Department of Cultural Resources discusses plans



The first time I met Stuart Miller, the manager of the Cultural Resources Department for the City of Savannah, was shortly after he was hired in February. He was attending Arts on Waters, a city sponsored arts and music event at the corner of Waters Avenue and 37th Street, where I was showing a piece I had collaborated on with another local artist, Becca Cook.

We spoke for about ten minutes and I was impressed. He was enthusiastic and thoughtful, and seemed to share the same vision as many, many artists in the city. I was very excited to see what he would bring to Savannah, and he agreed to come to Art on the Air to share what he had in store for our community.

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A month later, the city closed its doors due to COVID-19.

Art on the Lawn at the Savannah Cultural Arts Center.

“It’s been an interesting year,” Miller said to begin our long-delayed conversation, which took place in a conference room at the still-new Cultural Arts Center, open less than a year before being forced to close. “When I got there we were going at full speed. It’s like catching a moving train; you go up and continue.

“And at the time, we didn’t know how long this COVID thing was going to last. So at first we think, okay, we’re just going to sit there for a month, and then we’ll get on with business. And it became two months, and three months… ”

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More than a year later, the center began taking interim measures to allow the public to return to space. This summer they have organized children’s camps and they have started holding limited capacity family workshops every two weekends. Other components are expected to be phased in, with in-person classes starting August 16 and the art gallery opening a few weeks later.

The hope is that in a few months the building will be poised to offer the kind of programming Miller intended when he was hired.

Stuart miller

“In the fall, we are planning a full reopening with a full range of performing arts and visual arts classes,” he explained. “We will have theater and dance lessons. We will be offering music lessons, which will also be new to us. And a full range of visual arts programs.

That’s not to say that he and his staff didn’t work hard during the year they were forced to keep the doors of the Cultural Arts Center closed.

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“So we did two main things during the COVID hiatus,” Miller noted. “One was that we have improved our ability to produce performances by adding new lighting and sound in the theater and in the gallery, and it is now a better facility than before COVID for this type of activity. . What was once a state-of-the-art performance space is even better now. “

Second, like many institutions and organizations in the region, they have added a wide range of online courses and activities. Previously, the Department of Cultural Resources rarely used virtual learning as part of its programming, but now plans to continue using it to reach a wider audience.

A boy shows off a painted classroom bowl he made in a class at the Savannah Cultural Arts Center.

Plus, they’ve had the opportunity to lay the groundwork for what they want to accomplish now that they are heading towards a full reopening.

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“We’re going to be doing a lot of programming on our lawn,” Miller said. “We are planning to do concerts there, theater productions and performances, as well as film screenings. So we see many ways to get artists from the region to be part of our programs. “

They also have big plans for a big work of art in the entrance to the center.

“Next month we will be launching an appeal to artists for a new art device in our atrium,” he said. “There is a large circle in our atrium, which is empty, and we plan to fill it with a work of art. And it will be an annual event for us. We will make an annual change of that. It will be a great place for a work of art.

A student in a ceramics class at the Savannah Cultural Arts Center works on a wheel.

Beyond programming, Miller and his team have also worked closely with the Commission on Cultural Affairs on two public art initiatives, the details of which are still being worked out, but which offer promising possibilities for artists. local artists.

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More than anything, however, he seeks to partner with the creative community to forge a stronger bond between individual artists and the city. Each of their courses is taught by a local expert hired by the Department of Cultural Resources, and they are always looking to add new programs by taking proposals from the community.

“A great art center is built from great artists,” Miller noted. “And we are fortunate to be in a city full of great artistic talent.”

For more information on all that the Department of Cultural Resources has to offer, visit the city website. The Savannah Cultural Arts Center is located at 201 Montgomery Street.

Art off the Air is a complement to the radio show “Art on the Air” hosted by Rob Hessler and Gretchen Hilmers. The column can also be found at savannahnow.com/entertainment.

The show airs Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on WRUU 107.5 FM Savannah and WRUU.org.


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