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Of arts & artists
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I WANTED to open with the observation that if you missed The Wailin’ Jennies Saturday night at the Lucas, you missed a real treat.

The Prairie Home Companion veterans — Ruth Moody, Nicky Mehta and Heather Masse, not an actual Jenny among them — gave a warm, soulful performance that was as compelling for its tight musicianship and angelic vocals as it was for its sheer audience-pleasing spirit.

Playing a mix of originals with a few traditional tunes, the trio — supplemented by the intricate, almost offbeat stylings of Jeremy Penner on fiddle — charmed the nice-sized crowd, indulging in a lot of funny banter between songs that highlighted their good-natured Canadian humor.

I mention this show not only because it was so worthwhile from an artistic standpoint, but because it’s a useful goal for Savannah. Being able to get a respectable crowd to come on a Saturday night to see a niche group like the Jennies — who aren’t widely known to a general audience — is unfortunately not a given here.

The Lucas took the risk and pulled it off, much to its credit. While the show wasn’t a sellout, it wasn’t poorly attended either, and I hope this is a sign of good things to come.

It’s all well and good to get a good crowd for a concert at a festival. But the truth is that while the success of the Savannah Music Festival and the Savannah Film Festival are undeniably important, that success has just as much to do with the fact that Savannah loves a party as it does with the high quality of the offerings at those events.

The real test comes when Savannah is challenged to support stand-alone, free-standing arts events of great merit. Here’s hoping that the rest of the fall performing arts season mirrors Saturday night’s successful vision. Kudos to Ken Carter, Meaghan Walsh and the rest of the staff at the Lucas Theatre for a job well done, and thanks to The Wailin’ Jennies for a great show.

Speaking of festivals, this week marks the culmination of the annual Savannah Jazz Festival, which features an ambitiously eclectic lineup, from the smooth jazz of the Yellowjackets to the dirty blues of John Lee Hooker Jr. (the son of the legendary bluesman) to local favorites like Eric Culberson to bona fide legends like The Rashied Ali Quintet and Vincent Herring, both to be backed by The Savannah Jazz Orchestra.

But one of the coolest portions of the festival happens afterhours, with jam sessions at the local jazz club Kokopelli’s on Broughton Street, which quietly and consistently brings in great jazz year-round.

Savannah is full of excellent visual artists and art galleries, which we highlight to the best of our ability each week in our Art Patrol section and through Bertha Husband’s ongoing art criticism (Bertha reviews a show at Pei Ling Chan Gallery this week).

While all are worthy of attention, I wanted to spotlight a benefit show by local photographer Bryan Stovall at Kim Iocovozzi’s gallery on Jones Street.

Stovall’s show features a stunning mix of his photography of the Georgia coast, one of the most naturally beautiful areas in the world and for the moment at least, one of the least ravaged by development.

One important regional entity trying to keep it that way is the Ossabaw Island Foundation, which Stovall’s show benefits. For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of Georgia’s barrier islands, you start with Tybee Island, then Little Tybee (actually twice the size of Tybee) immediately to the south. Then there’s Wassaw Island, and just beneath it Ossabaw Island.

While it’s incorrect to call Ossabaw pristine — it’s been extensively logged and hosted several plantations during its history — it was permanently protected from modern development by the foresight of longtime resident Eleanor Torrey-West and family, who gave the island to the state of Georgia in 1978 specifically as a wildlife preserve. That preservation is made possible today by the oversight of the Ossabaw Island Foundation.

Stovall’s show is up at Iocovozzi Fine Art, 1 W. Jones St., through Oct. 6.

Jim Morekis is editor in chief of Connect Savannah. E-mail him at