When you’re in the business of publishing reports and opinions that are sometimes critical, you also have a responsibility to give credit where it’s due. A few weeks ago I wrote a column exhorting city leaders to take a more professional and engaged stance toward downtown Christmas decorations — as a matter of civic pride as well as of marketing.
I stand by everything I wrote, but wanted to point out that a wide-ranging effort sponsored by the City of Savannah, the Savannah Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Downtown Neighborhood Association, Oglethorpe Tours, Old Savannah Tours, and Old Town Trolley Tours has somewhat upgraded the overall aesthetic level downtown. Over the past week or so, volunteers from these groups have decorated 17 squares, Forsyth Park, and the Colonial Park Cemetery gate.
I applaud them for their efforts.
Clearly, however — and I think most would agree with me on this — not even this effort is enough to fully realize the visual glory that is possible here.
My intent is not to disparage individuals or individual organizations. My intent is to point out what I think is obvious to any remotely culturally literate observer:
Savannah’s downtown Christmas decorations should not simply be on a par with those of other cities — they should be clearly superior.
They should be magnificent.
Simply put, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more wonderful canvas on which to create civic art than what we have right here. Why not use it to create something truly amazing?
Let’s go down the list of the most beautiful Christian cities of the world, where you’d expect a truly spectacular civic effort for this particular holiday season.
Paris of course owns the number one spot — though ironically it’s perhaps the one city that doesn’t need to sell itself.
From there the list, in alphabetical order, looks something like this, give or take: Madrid, Montreal, Moscow, Munich, New York, Prague, Rome, Vienna.
Let’s add one of the old colonial towns of Mexico — San Miguel de Allende, maybe.
And then you have Savannah.
We’re on the short list of the most beautiful cities in the entire world, folks. It’s really not a stretch. But sometimes you wouldn’t know it from the general attitude here.
A lot is made of our civic rivalry with Charleston, and certainly we can learn a lot of lessons from our older sister two hours to the north.
But Savannah has two huge advantages over Charleston in that A), our downtown area is significantly larger and more spacious, and B) we have these matchless and unique squares.
It sometimes amazes me that for all the caterwauling over how much better Charleston does things, we don’t often use these two significant advantages to the fullest. (I can tell you, if the situation were reversed and Charleston had our size and our squares, well...)
On another note, I guess most of you have heard by now of the state’s approval of nearly $130 million in funding to finally complete the Truman Parkway, first begun in 1985.
County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis called the funding “a great Christmas present for Chatham County” in the press conference last week announcing the award.
I did want to clear up a widespread misunderstanding about the funding, however: It has nothing to do with the so-called federal “stimulus package,” aka the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Rather, most of the funds are from state gas tax revenue, passed through the Georgia Department of Transportation, and actually represent a significantly larger amount than the requested $90 million.
Either way, the completion of the Truman — expected to take about three years — is a long-anticipated and welcome development, and an exceedingly rare example of Savannah getting the most of its state tax dollars.
We are entering into one of the slowest phases of the year, news-and-event-wise. (The other is in early August.) But I wanted to remind you that there are a goodly number of fine art exhibits around town for those who are looking for cultural activity but can’t find much theatre or music going on right now.
In this week’s issue we have two highlighted articles, one by Augusta Statz on the Jepson’s “I Have Marks to Make” exhibit and the other by Patrick Rodgers on the P.H. Polk exhibit at the Beach Institute.