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Telfair Art Fair is this weekend
A select group of 83 artists will show and sell
Scenes from the 2008 Telfair Art Fair - photo by Telfair Museum

There are, of course, many reasons to visit Savannah, from the fair weather, to the living history, to the fact that Robert Redford is in town making a movie.

Artists like to come here for the Telfair Art Fair, an annual tented event that invites only the best of the best, and always delivers a solid crowd of not only fine art aficionados, but paying customers.

The 15th annual Telfair Art Fair takes place Saturday and Sunday on historic Telfair Square. A presentation of the Telfair Museum of Art – the oldest public art museum in the southern United States – the fair will feature 83 artists from around the country, showing and selling their wares in all media.

They were chosen out of more than 200 applications, submitted through the online art site ZAPPlication.
Mikaela Green, the museum’s volunteer and special events manager, explains that the applicants’ submissions were reviewed by a “blind jury” – that is, jurors who looked at the artwork but weren’t given any artist names or other information.

This way, Green says, “Everyone’s on the same level. It’s not necessarily someone who’s been in the Art Fair in years past. It’s basically scoring the artwork, and at the end of the jury process we know who’s accepted by the scoring process.”

Although a number of local artists made the cut, she adds, “We have people from Canada, New York and California really wanting to come to our show. Even after the acceptance letters were sent out, people were pleading with us that if there was an opening, or a waiting list, they’d really like to come to Savannah.

“That’s one thing I keep hearing, that Savannah is what’s drawing them to this show.”

Susan Krane–Oshman, Executive Director at California’s San Jose Museum of Art, is the 2009 judge. At a noon ceremony Saturday, she’ll give out $10,000 in prizes.

“This is a big event for the Telfair,” adds Green. “It’s one of our largest events, in the sense that we bring in so many artists from around the country.”

It’s also one of the Telfair’s largest yearly fundraisers.

This year’s children’s section, while it will include the usual stuff – face painting, a bounce house and the antics of a guy in a clown suit – has a recycling theme.

One activity involves planting grass seeds in egg cartons, then painting goofy faces on the outside of the egg compartments – bring ‘em home, and when the seeds grow, kids, you’ve got Crazy Hair Grass Heads!

“All of the materials that are being used for our children’s activities have been collected and donated,” Green explains. “We have recycled milk jugs and recycled baby food containers, all sorts of different recycled things.

“We’re kind of educating the kids as they get to do these fun, exciting projects. Different ways to use their creativity, in a new way.”

The adjacent Jepson Center’s Eckburg Atrium will be devoted to Open Art, a new category that highlights the work of emerging and student artists.

Most outdoor art shows – at least in the South – are held, literally, outdoors. For the Telfair Museum of Art, the whole tent deal gives the fair a feeling of exclusivity.

“To be honest with you,” Green says, “one of the reasons for the tent is to protect the artwork. We have artists with very expensive work coming in. Having that tent protects them from any inclement weather. The tent kind of creates a secure boundary. I think having it in the open might not provide as much security as they’d like.”

Exclusivity is a key factor in the success of the annual “Arty Party,” a Friday–night bash ($75 per person for Telfair members, $100 per person for everybody else) at which patrons can preview the artwork, and meet the artists themselves. The Telfair marketing office pitches this as a “chic cocktail reception.”

For Green, it all adds up to a one–of–a–kind event. “This is not just some craft show,” she says. “Being a museum, we’re backing it with our name. This is our event.” CS

Telfair Art Fair

Where: Telfair Square, at the intersection of Barnard Street and State Street

When: 10 am.–5 p.m. Sat., Nov. 14, and 12–5 p.m. Sun., Nov. 15
Admission: Free

“Arty Party” reception: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13

Phone: (912) 790–8800