Savannah city government to give $500,000 toward restoration of African American art museum


SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — The city of Savannah will contribute $500,000 to renovate a house that once hosted an African American art museum.

The Savannah City Council voted Thursday to give the money toward what's projected to be a $1.2 million restoration of the Kiah House, WTOC-TV reports.

The house, built in 1910, was purchased in 1959 by Calvin and Virginia Kiah. He was a professor in Savannah State University's education department, while she was a public school teacher, artist and curator.

The couple created the museum, eventually adding a two-story addition to the front of the house to make room for more art and historic objects. The museum closed when Virginia Kiah died in 2001, and the house fell into disrepair, leading the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation to name it as an endangered site.

The Historic Savannah Foundation bought the house in April 2022 and installed a new roof, but said it wanted someone else to take over the structure. The city and the Galvan Foundation announced in August they had bought the house for $100,000.

The foundation will fund the remainder of the project. City officials say the restored structure will highlight African American art, house part of the city's archives, and include living space for working artists.

“The day we went into the property and looked at the holes in the walls and the floor, but yet you could still feel the presence of Dr. Virginia Kiah and you could tell that there was still something very special here,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said.