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City Notebook
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Jepson Center throws doors open for grand opening

One of Savannah’s most anticipated and controversial events is finally coming to pass this week, with the opening of the new Jepson Center for the Arts on Telfair Square.

Media got a sneak peek at the interior in the middle of the week, with the general public getting a chance for free admission all weekend.

For those accustomed to the more old-school confines of the Telfair Museum of Art, the new Jepson will be an eye-opening experience indeed.

“When you go to the Jepson you’ll find the space is quite expansive in comparison with the Telfair Academy,” says Holly McCullough, curator of fine arts and exhibitions. “It’s a glorious space, especially inside. It really puts you into the frame of mind for viewing art.”

McCullough says much larger-scale art can be fit inside the new building.

“For example, we can bring crates into the Jepson that we couldn’t begin to fit into the Telfair,” she says. “Certainly the scale of its large galleries are best suited to contemporary work.”

While understandably all eyes are focused on the state-of-the-art Jepson, designed by the world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, McCullough is quick to say that the new building isn’t intended to eclipse other aspects of the Telfair organization’s mission.

“To some extent we’ll be able to offer something for everyone now,” she says. “We’ve got the Owens Thomas House, which is a very fine period home with most of our fine decorative art. Then on display at the Telfair Academy we’ll continue to have changing exhibitions. Probably each will run a little longer than we’ve been doing, but we are committed to continuing to do changing exhibitions there.

“The Telfair Academy will remain vital space and the community will always have something new to see there,” she says.

Inaugural exhibits at the Jepson focus on the central figure of pop artist Robert Rauschenberg, his son Christopher and assistant Darryl Pottorf.

Other exhibits you can see this weekend and in the months to come are the Kurt Varnedoe collection, which McCullough describes as “a collection of works by 22 blue-chip artists, some of the most important artists of recent times.”

Though not necessarily what you might call modern art, the show “Savannah Revisited” examines Savannah scenes from early in the 20th century to more contemporary times.

The much-debated and drawn-out opening of the Jepson has brought an almost palpable sigh of relief to Telfair staffers.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity,” McCullough says. “We’ve more or less doubled our staff in order to maintain the two structures.” - - Jim Morekis

Feminism and leadership discussed at conference

Women from around the country converged at the Armstrong Atlantic State University’s annual Gender and Women Studies Conference, “Realizing Women’s Leadership: The Art of the Possible,” this past weekend.

Academic issues merged with political, as panels debated issues as diverse as “How to Do Feminism Activism in The Bible Belt”, “The Contested Position of Female Athletes as Role Models,” by SSU professor April Gentry and Union Mission staffer Teri Schell; and “Sojourner’s Truth’s Legacy: The Crafting of American Values for Women’s Leadership,” by Amy Pardo of the Mississippi University of Women.

Discussions blossomed, and the breezeway in front of the Desoto Hilton was often filled with women -- and a sprinkling of men -- in conversations full of information and ideas gleaned from the papers and panel discussions.

Teresa Winterhalter, one of the Armstrong organizers, said that she especially enjoyed the student’s panels.

“Their papers were so heartfelt and there conversations were really meaningful,” she said. “I feel like there’s a real sense of belonging here.”

Mayor Otis Johnson was on hand to honor three politically active local women for their contributions: Mayor Pro Tem Edna Jackson; Sarahlyn U. Argrow, founder of A Working Woman in Need, an organization which mentors working women; and Mary Willoughby, Director of Willoughby and Crane.

Grace Paley, the poet Laureate of Vermont and a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, was the keynote speaker.

-- Sabrina Manganella Simmons

Calling all gospel singers

Local singers have a unique opportunity to perform live with leading gospel artists. The Savannah Music Festival Gospel Workshop with James Bignon gives you the chance to join the SMF Mass Choir, sponsored by Citi Trends.

Applications are now being accepted for this workshop/performance experience taking place March 30-April 1. The SMF Mass Choir makes its debut Saturday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m., at the Johnny Mercer Theater during “The Gospel Truth,” which also features The Sweet Singing Harmony Harmoneers, Kenny Carr and the Tigers, and The Campbell Brothers Sacred Steel Band.

There is a $20 application fee. For more information, call Gene Pinion at 234-3378 or e-mail him at

-- Jim Morekis

Teaching ‘inside the box’

This Tuesday, 21 local public schoolteachers were the first educators in the country to participate in a workshop on “The Founding Era: People, Places, Politics,” the first volume in the “History in a Box” series, created by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Taking place at the historic Massie Heritage Center on Gordon Street, the teachers -- from 16 area schools -- learned how to use “History in a Box,” which comprises document-based resources that address critical themes and topics in American history.

“We’re thrilled to make Savannah teachers -- our Teaching American History Grant partners -- the first workshop participants as we share this education resource with history teachers across the United States,” said Susan Saidenberg, Director of Public Programs and Exhibitions for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, who led the workshop. -- Jim Morekis w