Savannah foundation saves home Black artist used as museum

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A nonprofit group plans to restore a Savannah home used by a Black artist to establish her own museum during segregation.

The Historic Savannah Foundation bought the former home of Virginia Jackson Kiah to save it from demolition. Neighbors in the surrounding Cuyler-Brownsville neighborhood applauded the move, saying it’s important to keep Kiah’s legacy alive.

“I’ve been saying someone needs to get that building and bring it back alive,” neighbor Ronald Bolden told WTOC-TV.

Kiah used the home to start her own museum in 1959 because, as a Black woman during segregation, she wasn’t allowed to enter other museums as a visitor, much less to exhibit her artwork. She became known as a civil rights activist in Savannah, where the Savannah College of Art and Design now has an art museum named for her.

The house deteriorated following Kiah’s death in 2001 and faced a risk of being torn down. The Historic Savannah Foundation was able to close on the property recently following a two-year legal battle in probate court.

“It’s a way to preserve Kiah’s legacy,” said Ryan Arvay, the foundation’s director of preservation and historic properties.

The foundation hopes to restore the building to its 1950s appearance, and plans to get feedback from the community before making any final decisions. Meanwhile, supporters of the project plan to install a historic marker at the home on May 9.

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