The painting of a mural on the side of a long, low building at 34th and Habersham streets was launched Feb. 12 by See Savannah Art Walls, or SeeSAW, and expanded in October.
SeeSAW was created in 2011 by Matt Hebermehl and James “DrZ” Zdaniewski. SeeSAW organizes, coordinates and funds Savannah-centric murals in the public domain.
Hebermehl and Zdaniewski commissioned artist and former Savannah College of Art and Design professor Katherine Sandoz to come up with an idea for the mural and execute it. She created an abstract painting of Turtle Island, which lies 14 miles off the coast of Georgia in a straight line from the wall’s location.
The next portion of the project was designed by artist Troy Wantzel. Adolfo H. Alvarado completed the last phase of the mural with a centerpiece.
“It synthesizes with the landscape,” Alvarado said. “The face personifies Savannah as a woman. Her headpiece is made of seashells and waves.”
David Ellis, an artist based in New York City, also contributed to the project, including paintings on a sailboat and a truck donated for a week by Guerry Lumber. On one side of the truck, artists painted a memorial to Matthew Mascotte, also known as “Zeke.”
Mascotte died in Savannah on Feb. 25, 2011, at the age of 42 after a lengthy battle with cancer. The Matthew Mascotte Theater in the SCAD Museum of Art is named in his honor.
“Zeke was the common bond between Troy, David and I,” Hebermehl said. “The whole idea of public art came out of working with David three years ago. We had David here and Troy, as well, and everything came together.”
At an Oct. 12 block party, SeeSAW celebrated a year of community art. The mural was the first project of its kind to receive approval from the Metropolitan Planning Commission and the city of Savannah, but it is hoped there will be more.
The group actively seeks other artists, neighborhoods and property owners willing to work together to create public art projects.
Local businesses have contributed to the project, including the Thunderbird Inn, which donated a room for a week so Ellis would have a place to stay.
“I think it’s reaffirming,” Hebermehl said.
“The businesses bent over backward to make it happen. It’s all about people hanging out and meeting different people. That’s one of the powers of art.”
Lindy Wheat of Guerry Lumber said the company participated as a way to help promote public art in Savannah.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “It was a surprise every time I came by.”
The paintings have stayed on the truck, which was used to haul wood shavings.
“We have a planing mill where we make custom molding and exterior paneling, and wood shavings are a byproduct,” Wheat said. “It’s very popular with restorationists in downtown Savannah.”
Businesses also donated use of the truck and boat that were painted.
“I made a couple of calls and got the truck trailer and boat,” Hebermehl said. “The boat is about Savannah being on the water.”
The truck trailer was covered with faces.
“They did the faces on canvas,” Ellis said. “Rather than paint them on the truck, they’re glued to the truck.
“I’m really excited about the way this came together as a band rather than a solo,” he said. “It makes for better music.”