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Construction & Building

April 3 - Felder & Associates Adapts Historic Home for Savannah African Art Museum

Category: Construction & Building

Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

April 3, 2018 - The Savannah African Art Museum is moving to a larger and more accessible space later this year. Currently housed at 111 E. 34th St., the museum’s collection of more than 1,000 pieces of mostly central and western African artwork will relocate to a 6,000-square-foot historic home at 201 E. 37th St. in late summer.

Savannah architecture and design firm Felder & Associates is adapting the building, which was built in 1922 as a luxury home for a local family, for its new role. The structure was most recently used for an antiques mall.

“Our mission is to adapt a historic house from a retail environment into something of a neutral background for a vast collection of mostly three-dimensional sculptures, some of which have never been shown because of lack of space,” said Brian Felder, founder and principal of Felder & Associates. “Because of its size, this building is perfect for the African Art Museum as the large rooms are ideal for displaying his collection.”

The African art, representative of about 22 countries and 130 cultures and ethnic groups in central and west Africa, is collected by Don Kole, a local businessman and philanthropist, who has amassed the collection in extensive travels over the past 30 years. The artwork showcases a range of ceremonial and spiritual objects from the 19th and 20th centuries made from ceramics, metal, and wood.

“I’ve always been a collector and used to collect art of central and south America,” Kole said. “One day I went into a shop and saw this African art that was magnificent and sophisticated. I have been collecting it ever since.”.

For years, Kole stored the artwork at his property management office. Then, in 2014, he exhibited a portion of his metal works collection at Armstrong State University and saw a need to extend the educational opportunity to groups from Savannah’s public and private schools, especially to students who may know little of their ancestral homeland.

When a former photography studio across the street from his office became available a couple of years ago, he opened the non-profit Savannah African Art Museum but soon realized he needed more space for the artwork, much of which was still in storage, as well as off-street parking.

At the same time, Felder’s team was working with the seller of the former antiques mall to find an opportunity to repurpose the space when Kole called to ask about the property.

“Brian Felder and his company have been wonderful,” Kole said. “Right from the start they understood what I wanted. The plans are phenomenal, and they’re a pleasure to work with.”

Felder & Associates has teamed with Bloomquist Construction and Chatham Engineering on the project, which is underway.

When the museum opens in its new, larger space in late summer, admission will continue to be free. The Savannah African Art Museum is a 501©3 non-profit organization with the mission of providing an engaging experience and to start conversations about the power, diversity and spirituality of African art. It’s open at 111 E. 34th St. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. For more information or to book a school tour, call (912) 421-8168 or visit online at https://www.facebook.com/SavannahAfricanArtMuseum/

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