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Known as the “Hostess City of the South,” Savannah is brimming with ornate antebellum architecture, manicured parks, horse-drawn carriages and plenty of culture. Established in 1733 as a British colony, Savannah has become one of the top cultural hubs in the Southeast featuring everything from American Impressionism exhibitions, unique museums, as well as plenty of live music and theater events. So without further ado, here is a list of the top destinations for discovering the arts in charming Savannah.
Hosting over 500 events a year, the Savannah Civic Center is a first-class facility located on West Oglethorpe Avenue. The Center’s Johnny Mercer Theatre has seating for more than 2,500, boasts one of the largest prosceniums in the Southeast and features everything from stand-up comedians to Russian ballet to classic rockers. The Savannah Civic Center is also home to the Martin Luther King Arena, a grand ballroom, East and West Promenades and various meeting rooms.
Established in 1818, the Savannah Theatre on Chippewa Square is one of the oldest continuously operating theaters in the United States. Designed by British architect William Jay, the original structure has undergone various face-lifts over the past two centuries due to fire and hurricane damage. Today, the Savannah Theatre hosts a variety of performances including musicals, holiday shows, haunted storytelling and even “An Afternoon with Savannah Dan,” which explores the city’s history and little known trivia.
A premier contemporary art museum, the SCAD Museum of Art, located on the Savannah College of Art and Design’s main campus, introduces new exhibitions every academic quarter. The museum is home to an impressive array of permanent collections including modern and contemporary art, 19th and 20th-century photography, British works and African-American art. The college also features a variety of galleries such as Alexander Hall Gallery, Gulfstream Gallery and May Poetter Gallery among others.
The oldest public art museum in the Southeast, Telfair Museum of Art first opened its doors in the 1880s. Since then, the museum has grown from a renovated family mansion into a distinguished cultural institution boasting 4,000 works of art from America and Europe dating primarily from the 18th – 21st centuries. Located in Savannah’s historic district, the museum consists of the Telfair Academy, the Owens-Thomas House and the contemporary Jepson Center and features major paintings by Childe Hassam, Frederick Frieseke, Gari Melchers, Robert Henri, George Bellows and George Luks.
Built in 1921 by Arthur Lucas and architect C.K. Howell, Lucas Theatre for the Arts was primarily built as a movie palace. It enjoyed success for nearly 40 years as a favorite local venue for talkies, musicals, traveling troupes, revues and theatricals. With the invention of television and population shift to the suburbs, the Lucas Theatre was closed 1976. Beginning in 1986, the theatre underwent a 14-year campaign and $14 million restoration to reopen in December of 2000. Today, with support from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Lucas Theatre hosts numerous events throughout the year including the Savannah Film Festival.