"It was just meant to be," says Elyse Savitch, owner of District Fine Arts in Washington, D.C. "I was just walking by and happened to notice her sandals. I commented on them, and we started talking."
Almost one year after the horrific destruction by Hurricane Katrina, local Mississippi artists are mounting a tour to help bring hope to other artists devastated by the storm. And it all came to fruition because of one innocuous meeting.
"Katrina Remembered: Six Mississippi Artists" is a perfect example of how chance events can produce wonderful outcomes. This new art exhibit was created through an improbable encounter of Tommie Goodman, a Fondren business owner, and Savitch, an art gallery owner from Washington, D.C., while both were visiting California and staying at the same hotel. Tommie Goodman, owner of MAX Furnishings housed in Fondren Corner, was out west two months ago for a much-needed week of rest. During her stay, Savitch inquired where she lived after noticing Goodman was reading a book about Hurricane Katrina. Goodman then explained that she was from Jackson, and the two began an almost daily exchange.
Savitch, while looking at several pages from the Katrina book, said she thought pictures of Katrina's aftermath would make a stunning art show. As chance would have it, Savitch owned an art gallery. She and a few colleagues had discussed what they could do for hurricane relief, and she decided this was the perfect opportunity to contribute.
After speaking a few times during their week-long stay, Goodman finally walked up to Savitch and said, "If you have the gallery space, I have the artists for the show." This led the two women to join forces and create an art show for Mississippi artists to help fund relief for other artists affected by Hurricane Katrina. During the initial planning phases, Savitch decided to open the exhibit in other cities at galleries owned by several of her acquaintances. Through this initial chat, "Katrina Remembered," a collection of art by Mississippi artists about both the experience and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, came to be.
Goodman's serendipitous meeting with Savitch had an even bigger meaning for six local Mississippi artists. It meant they got a show. But not only did they get a show, they got a show in Washington, D.C., at an upscale gallery in the upper Georgetown area that features the work of emerging and established artists in the Mid-Atlantic region.
After the initial opening in Washington, the exhibit will travel to Brooklyn, N.Y., to be shown at a fall festival at the über-hip DUMBO arts center.
"We are also working on San Francisco," Savitch says, "but it's more difficult with contacts out there. I might have to fly out there in order to coordinate a show. But New York and D.C. are really important. The New York showing will be a wonderful opportunity for these artists. Thousands of people attend the DUMBO art festival."
"Katrina Remembered" will end this short tour with a showing back home in Jackson. Tommie Goodman is coordinating each of these events with the support of her new friend Savitch.
The show, open from July 13-30 in D.C., will feature sculpture from Richard McKey that he made out of fragments he discovered on the ground outside the home he lost on the Coast.
Josh Hailey, a photographic artist, will show his photos from immediately after the storm. His stunning pictorial essay in the exhibit depicts both the aftermath of the storm and the possible future of the ravaged areas.
Ginger Williams, a Fondren painter, exhibits works that deal with both the experience of the hurricane and the despair immediately following it.
William Goodman IV, also a Fondren painter and Tommie Goodman's son, uses contemporary style to create images from before and after the storm, using the dichotic themes of desolation and hope.
Jason "Twiggy" Lott, a Mississippi graphic-design artist, is showing a series of poignant abstract pieces inspired by the storm.
Jason Marlow, a Jackson filmmaker, is presenting a brief film with an extraordinary depiction of the storm and life following it. Marlow altered original footage through a variety of techniques to create his own artistic vision of the storm.
Moving Right Along
These artists readily admit that Tommie Goodman's chance meeting could be life-changing.
"Well, two months ago I was out west searching for galleries to show my work," Hailey says. "After spending some time speaking to a few places in Seattle, I was pretty discouraged. It's often hard to get gallery space as an emerging artist. Then Tommie called, and this whole thing came together."
The past few weeks have been filled with organizational efforts, including selecting which pieces to feature in the exhibit. Since Tommie Goodman's conversations in California in April, the group of artists has taken only a month and a half to prepare. This is a short span of time in which to organize a full art tour. Normally, preparing for full shows can take much longer.
"Galleries can be booked up for years in advance. This makes it very difficult to get a showing. This one has happened really quickly. Tommie has really been the driving force behind this event," Hailey says.
Pride for All
The six artists left Monday for a week in Washington, D.C.. The gala opening on July 13 will occur on their last evening in town. After the opening, they fly out Friday morning to return home to Mississippi. All the pieces for the exhibit, including around 40 of Hailey's original pieces, were shipped earlier to D.C. in preparation for the show.
Hailey admits that, frequently, emerging artists must pay a fee to rent a space in which to show their work. In most art shows, the gallery also takes a share of the sales. Savitch is allowing the space in her gallery to be used with none of these monetary requirements.
"I bought a gallery right before the storm, and for a long time had tried to think of something I could do to help. I'm not taking anything for the show. All the donations from the opening will go to the (Mississippi) Arts Commission, but I also wanted the artists to get something from the showing. They have taken a lot of time to come here and put this show together. Any of the sales from the show will go directly to them," Savitch says.
"Galleries can take a 40 or 50 percent fee of the sales from a showing," Hailey says. "To have a showing where there are no rental fees and the profit benefits both a good cause and the featured artist is really amazing."
One hundred percent of the donations during the opening gala are to be donated to Katrina Relief for artists displaced during the storm, as well as those whose homes and galleries were destroyed. The Mississippi Arts Commission will distribute the funds. The exhibit is attracting national recognition, and Hailey shared that the artists are to be interviewed for several national publications during their stay in Washington, D.C.
When asked how he feels about the entire sequence of chance events and next week's show, Hailey answers: "I don't think there's anything that could happen next week to take the smile off my face."
The artists created all of the work in the exhibit at a time when Mississippi was still in the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in American history. Not only did they create these pieces to help raise funds for other Mississippi artists directly affected by Hurricane Katrina, but also to reflect the impact this event has had on all of us, as Mississippians. This exhibit is a testament to the artists' resilience and ability to create something beautiful from a storm that has meant nothing but destruction to so many.
Sometimes certain "chance events" are hurricanes that knock us on our collective asses. But sometimes misfortune spurs creation—creation that breathes something lost back into us. Both this art and this cause are part of a tragic experience that has consumed a large part of all of our lives in the last year. These six artists have taken this experience of a broken Mississippi and created something beautiful. We should all be proud.
Katrina Remembered: Six Mississippi Artists will show at District Fine Arts gallery in Washington, D.C., from July 13-30 with the official opening on July 13 from 5-9 p.m. All proceeds from the show will directly benefit artists living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast whose homes and galleries were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
this is a great way to show artists pulling together and making a difference----as well as getting some exposure in the process. hope this is a productive journey from them and many people are helped along the way.
- c a webb
Super job conveying this superb news, Ali. I'm terrifically proud of these six creative and energetic young people and so happy that Elyse Savitch is providing this opportunity for them and for Mississippi's artists in need. Thank goodness for mothers like Tommie Goodman. Hey, y'all should come to Portland at some point, don't you think?
- Lynette Hanson
Great people, if i do say myself.... I Love my dear ol' cousin ginger.. shes the best ;) All of ya are cool though ;)
- T Y L E R