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The Telfair Museum of Art offers compelling expressions of visual culture--embracing three unique buildings and three distinct collections that bridge three centuries of art and architecture. The museum develops awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the arts and serves as a dynamic cultural center connecting people of all ages and backgrounds.
To achieve this mission, we concentrate on four areas:
- Collections--Architectural landmarks and focused art collections that reflect a history of embracing contemporary visual culture;
- Education--Programs and activities for adults and children that serve as catalysts for creativity and learning;
- Exhibitions--Presentations of regional, national, and international significance that provide access to art of diverse eras and cultures; and
- Outreach--Partnerships and initiatives that strengthen ties to diverse audiences and encourage active engagement in community life.
The Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences is located at 121 Barnard Street, Savannah, GA. Established in 1875, the Telfair Academy includes the original Telfair Mansion designed by English architect William Jay. The mansion was built for Alexander Telfair, whose father, Edward Telfair, was governor of Georgia and a Revolutionary War patriot. Mary Telfair, a highly educated and culturally-minded woman, was to be the last of the Telfair line. In her will of 1875 Mary endowed numerous charities and founded the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences.The house was designed by the young English architect William Jay (1792-1837), one of the first professionally trained architects practicing in the United States. Jay's classical Regency design for the exterior is punctuated by a rectangular porch surmounted by a semicircular window. The four Corinthian columns have unusual coadestone capitals. The interior spaces are highlighted by the Octagon and Dining Room, representing period rooms of the early 19th century. These period rooms provide a splendid setting for the Museum's decorative arts collection, including American European objects from 1790-1840. The core of this collection is the Telfair family legacy, including a rare Philadelphia suite of maple furniture and an unusual dining table with two sets of semi-circular leaves commissioned by Thomas Cook of Philadelphia. The Jepson Center for the Arts is located at 207 W. York Street, Savannah, GA. The Telfair Museum of Art opened its new 64,000-sq. ft., state-of-the-art building to the public in March 2006. The Jepson Center for the Arts is the first expansion in the Telfair's 119-year history and adds 66% more exhibition and educational studio space than previously available in the Telfair Academy and the Owens-Thomas House. Designed by architect Moshe Safdie, the Jepson Center features two large galleries for major traveling exhibitions; galleries for African American art, Southern art, photography and works-on-paper; a community gallery; a 3,500-sq. ft. hands-on gallery for young people; two outdoor sculpture terraces, education studios, a 200-seat auditorium, café, and museum store. The Jepson Center for the Arts has a total of 14,000 square feet of additional exhibition and studio space that permit the Telfair to mount temporary exhibitions that are considerably larger than has been possible in the landmark Telfair Academy. Education is a vital element of the Jepson Center for the Arts. In addition to expanded studio space, a teacher and docent resource center, a community gallery, and the auditorium, the Jepson Center features a unique, two-level hands-on gallery especially for children and their families entitled ArtZeum. Designed to answer questions such as "What is art, anyway?" "Why do we make art?" "Why do we care so much about art?" And "What does art mean to me?" the gallery uses works from the Telfair's permanent collection and examples of Savannah architecture to challenge novice viewers to question their assumptions and explore "big ideas" about art. The Owens-Thomas House is located at 124 Abercorn Street, Savannah, GA. It is considered the finest example of English Regency architecture in America by architectural historians. Like the original Telfair residence, the house was designed by William Jay. The elegant residence was built for cotton merchant and banker Richard Richardson and his wife Francis Bolton. Mr. Richardson's brother-in-law was married to Ann Jay, the architect's sister. Three years after the house's completion, Richardson suffered financial losses and sold his house which later ended up with the Bank of the United States. For eight years, Mrs. Mary Maxwell ran an elegant lodging house in the structure. Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette was a guest of the city in 1825 and stayed at the home. On March 19, he is believed to have addressed a throng of enthusiastic Savannahians from the unusual cast-iron veranda on the south facade.
In 1830, planter, congressman, lawyer, and mayor of Savannah, George Welshman Owens, purchased the property for $10,000. It remained in the Owens family until 1951 when Miss Margaret Thomas, George Owens's granddaughter, bequeathed it to the Telfair Museum of Art. The historic house, now called the Owens-Thomas House, is a National Historic Landmark.
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