“Location, location, location,” is a saying often repeated by real estate agents, making the name of this community-centric art gallery — located inside the offices of Corcoran Austin Hill Realty in Savannah, Georgia — a fitting nod both to the business and its focus on local artists.
When Austin Hill first opened his brokerage in Savannah’s Design District, the broker-owner heard murmurs of disappointment from neighboring businesses that a real estate office would be opening instead of a more creative-focused enterprise.
That’s when Peter E. Roberts, an artist who had been doing some graphic design for the brokerage, floated the idea of starting a gallery in the space. Hill, having previously owned one in Atlanta, was initially hesitant to open another art gallery, though he came around, with one caveat: “The only way I would consider putting an art gallery in the office would be if Peter ran it, and we gave all the proceeds to local nonprofits,” Hill explained.
And so, starting in March 2016, Roberts took on the role of gallery director of the Location Gallery, which over the past six years has raised almost $178,000 for charities. Sale profits are split between the artists and the gallery, which donates their share. Beneficiaries of the proceeds have included the League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia; the Tiny House Project, which provides housing for homeless veterans; Hospice Savannah; and Ogeechee Riverkeeper, a grassroots group that advocates for the Ogeechee River Basin.
The real estate office eventually outgrew its original space, moving to new digs on Bull Street, in downtown Savannah’s Historic District. “When we moved, we designed everything with the gallery in mind, as we knew the gallery was coming with us,” says Hill. Using the same environment as Corcoran Austin Hill has allowed the Location Gallery to maximize its donations, as there’s no additional cost to use the space. At the same time, the agents and clients of Corcoran Austin Hill get the benefit of a backdrop of an ever-changing collection of great art.
“We’ve tried to keep the gallery identity separate from the real estate business, and I’m very proud that the gallery has gained legitimacy on its own. At the same time, having it has really changed our relationship with the artists’ community in Savannah.” – Austin Hill
Roberts curates a mix of group and solo shows for the gallery, often tying the theme of the show to the associated nonprofit. The gallery’s current show, Love Shax, which runs through December 2022, exemplifies this concept: Launched in October 2022 to coincide with LGBT History Month, Love Shax’s title nods to the B-52’s hit “Love Shack,” as the B-52’s are not only queer icons, but also one of the most famous bands to come out of the Athens, Georgia, music scene.
Roberts asked 26 LGBTQ+ artists from Savannah to create birdhouses that make up a visual Pride parade in the gallery, with proceeds from the show benefitting the First City Pride Center.
Over the past six years, the Location Gallery has become an established part of the Savannah art scene. “All of next year is completely booked up,” said Roberts, with fun pop-up art events planned to benefit the Savannah Tree Foundation and the Coastal Empire Habitat for Humanity, in addition to the regular art openings.
“Savannah is so art rich that it makes my job easy, as there’s so much great talent here,” Roberts adds.
The gallery features a mix of well-known and up-and-coming artists and everyone in between, ranging from a sold-out show from the estate of Myrtle Jones to an annual exhibition of a collective called “The Artist and the Truck,” representing a group of artists who met while working on a delivery truck at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
“We’ve tried to keep the gallery identity separate from the real estate business, and I’m very proud that the gallery has gained legitimacy on its own,” says Hill. “At the same time, having it has really changed our relationship with the artists’ community in Savannah. We’ve built so many relationships with different artists and with the nonprofits, especially as the gallery has become a destination with our monthly openings and events. We were always known as a philanthropic company and the Location Gallery has really helped us deepen our ties to so many different communities in Savannah.”