The Savannah African Art Museum (SAAM) officially opened the door to its spacious, new location at 201 E. 37th Street, on February 1, 2019 with the mission of providing guests with engaging experiences that educate and start conversations about the power, diversity, and spirituality of African art. It has just reopened for in-person tours for the first time since March. The museum houses Savannah’s only collection of over 1,000 objects of traditional art from the continent of Africa, including a wide range of ceremonial and spiritual pieces from the 19th and 20th centuries. Last fall, it opened Upbeat Village Terra-cotta Gallery— which, downstairs, features a terra-cotta collection of spiritual, ceremonial and everyday objects from West and Central Africa and, upstairs, provides a terrific space for hosting free bi-monthly family craft and workshop days.
Early in December, 2019, Lisa Jackson joined Founding Director/ Chief Curator, Billie Stultz, and the rest of SAAM’s excellent staff, as Education Coordinator–and immediately rolled up her sleeves to prepare for two, exciting December workshops centered around the celebration of Kwanzaa. It’s important to note that everything housed or held at SAAM must exhibit an authentic link with Africa. “It was great!” she enthused. “Because I’d previously worked on several New York Kwanzaa events and attended Dr. Karenga’s Annual Brooklyn Kwanzaa Celebrations and Annual Founder’s Message, I could share somewhat ‘from the horse’s mouth’ about how Kwanzaa was linked to the various celebrations of African harvests and share other truths about the celebration.”
Lisa was born, raised (predominately) and, until 2011, lived in Brooklyn,
New York. However, because her mother was Greenville, SC native and her father was raised in Davisboro, GA, before both migrated north, she insists she was raised with the best of both worlds. “At home, we ate Southern food and used all the Southern expressions,” she laughed. “Whatever’s in your household, that’s your world to you, so it wasn’t until I started school that I realized I was a little bit different than some of my northern-reared friends. I’m a Northerner, but I’ve definitely got Southern roots!”
Most of Lisa’s New York career was dedicated to the music industry, where she worked with various recording companies. It was there—often through necessary travels–she gleaned some of the deep connections to African art and culture that she would one day bring to her role at SAAM. “While I was Executive VP/General Manager for Spike Lee’s record label, 40 ACRES AND A MULE MUSICWORKS, I signed the world-renowned Senegalese recording artist and activist, Youssou N’Dour, to the label and–as executive producer for his Grammy nominated “Eyes Open” release— was able to spend time in Senegal, West Africa for its recording.”
Eventually Lisa left the music industry to become an event coordinator for several community organizations, where she garnered more experiences related to African art and culture, as well as working within educational systems. “I was Program Administrator at The Carter G. Woodson Cultural, Enrichment Program–an afterschool program for high school and elementary school students, where experts were brought in to help students understand and appreciate their history and culture,” she explained. “I was also the Program Administrator for an African dance troupe called Batotu Yetu, which performs all over the world, and whose choreographer is from Angola, Central Africa.”
Lisa remains an active part of one of the organizations she worked with in Brooklyn–the Cooperative Culture Collective. As part of the organization’s mission, they pull together independent performers, merchants and artists of oneof a- kind shops for a spectacular annual, Juneteenth Arts Festival celebration. “I’m always involved with putting together the program for this fantastic, community wide outdoor event—and return for it every year that I can!”
When the time came for Lisa to make a life-changing move, the question was to where. “Savannah just kept coming up on the short list!” she laughed. “I knew I didn’t want to be too far from my family in New York, and there was no reason to move anywhere there’d be snow. I wanted to be in a city with colleges and universities one that was evolving with new, creative energy something Savannah had because of schools like SCAD. Arts and culture are very important to me, so I wanted to be where there’d be plenty of lectures, exhibits and music. And, like New York, Savannah’s such a beautiful walking city, which I love.”
Lisa continued freelancing as an events and marketing consultant both here and in New York, until she joined the Savannah African Art Museum team last December. “One of the first people I met when considering my move here was Savannah’s ‘unofficial ambassador,’ the great Ben Tucker. He introduced me to some of Savannah’s creative community, one being William Kwamena-poh, a talented fine artist from Ghana, who I still consult. William introduced me to another talented fine artist, Suzanne Jackson, which led me to joining the weekly Jazz Panel Discussion radio show “Listen Here on SSU-WHCJ. Another Ben Tucker link was Barbara Essig, who later recommended me for the position at SAAM.” Lisa also serves as secretary on the Friends of Ben Tucker Board.
To Be Continued in next week’s edition………