The first time I met Stuart Miller, the manager of the Cultural Resources Department for the City of Savannah, was shortly after he was hired in February. He was attending Arts on Waters, a city sponsored arts and music event at the corner of Waters Avenue and 37th Street, where I was showing a piece I had collaborated on with another local artist, Becca Cook.
We spoke for about ten minutes and I was impressed. He was enthusiastic and thoughtful, and seemed to share the same vision as many, many artists in the city. I was very excited to see what he would bring to Savannah, and he agreed to come to Art on the Air to share what he had in store for our community.
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A month later, the city closed its doors due to COVID-19.
âIt’s been an interesting year,â Miller said to begin our long-delayed conversation, which took place in a conference room at the still-new Cultural Arts Center, open less than a year before being forced to close. âWhen I got there we were going at full speed. It’s like catching a moving train; you go up and continue.
âAnd at the time, we didn’t know how long this COVID thing was going to last. So at first we think, okay, we’re just going to sit there for a month, and then we’ll get on with business. And it became two months, and three monthsâ¦ â
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More than a year later, the center began taking interim measures to allow the public to return to space. This summer they have organized children’s camps and they have started holding limited capacity family workshops every two weekends. Other components are expected to be phased in, with in-person classes starting August 16 and the art gallery opening a few weeks later.
The hope is that in a few months the building will be poised to offer the kind of programming Miller intended when he was hired.
âIn the fall, we are planning a full reopening with a full range of performing arts and visual arts classes,â he explained. âWe will have theater and dance lessons. We will be offering music lessons, which will also be new to us. And a full range of visual arts programs.
That’s not to say that he and his staff didn’t work hard during the year they were forced to keep the doors of the Cultural Arts Center closed.