Ever since Steven High rather suddenly announced that he was resigning from his post as director of the Telfair Museums (the Telfair Academy, Jepson Center for the Arts, and Owens-Thomas House) to take over the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, I’ve been a bit concerned about what’s coming next for the institution. High’s departure, especially on top of the coming departure of excellent curator Holly McCullough, was a little worrisome.
Despite a weak economy, the Telfair has made great strides in recent years in many respects, especially with the curating of shows — Dutch Utopia in particular was a huge success — and events like the fun launch party for Psychedelic. I was an early supporter of the idea of a modern building (the Jepson) as the Telfair expanded, I have loaned works by Luther Vann on two occasions for exhibition, I have supported the museum to some extent financially, and I just generally value the role the Telfair has played and continues to play in the cultural life of Savannah. The Telfair is one of the reasons I love Savannah so much, so I was anxious to see what would happen next.
And the Telfair board today made a great move, I think. Cathy Solomons, current board chair, will take over as interim director on May 19th and serve while a national search is conducted. The Telfair press release details some of Solomons qualifications and history:
Solomons has a decades-long history of giving tirelessly of herself as a community volunteer, focusing her efforts on education and the arts. She currently sits on the board of many community organizations including the Savannah College of Art and Design Advisory Board. She is a past board member of Savannah Junior League, Congregation Mickve Israel, and Savannah Arts Commission. Solomons has been active in the Telfair for many years and has served two terms on the board of Trustees as well as serving as chair of the museumâ€™s major fundraising event, the Telfair Ball in 2000. She was the Director of Cultural Affairs Department Leisure Services Bureau for the City of Savannah from 1978-1982. Solomons majored in art education at the University of Georgia, and is a graduate of Savannah Country Day School.
I’ve known Solomons for well over a decade — I used to teach her daughters at SCDS back in the mid- to late-90s. I see her and her husband Philip at endless events, including on a couple of occasions during the just-completed Savannah Music Festival. She is an upbeat, positive person who knows the importance of the arts in education and realizes that Savannah’s various cultural institutions should cooperate as much as possible.
It seemed pretty obvious that an old institution like the Telfair would find a way to respond to the challenges posed by High’s departure, but it’s still nice to see that the initial response seems such a fitting one.