What does it take to be a street artist in Savannah? - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

What does it take to be a street artist in Savannah?

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

A walk through Downtown Savannah will almost always include the sights and sounds of the city's many local street artists. 

But being a street performer here isn't as easy as picking a spot and setting up shop. WTOC’s Steven Gallo discovered a vetting process most people never knew existed.

And that process is one every performer must go through in Savannah, from a sax player in Johnson Square to a palmetto palm artist along River Street.

Brandon Cupp can turn a palm into a rose in just two minutes. He even goes to Tybee Island and climbs to the tops of palm trees to cut the pieces down himself.

"My dad told me that money didn't grow on trees, so I told him I beg to differ,” said Cupp.

But before he can make money on his art, Cupp - and other street artists like him - have to go through the city's Citizen Office first.

"You fill out an application, you give them a fingerprint - it takes about two weeks - they do a background check. When that comes back, then you come back down and take a picture and they hand you the permit,” said Cupp.

It's free to apply and permits have to be renewed annually, but performers have to audition, too.

"If you play an instrument, if you're a performer, if you're a crafter, show us your craft, so we can know exactly that you're able to do that. If you're an artist, you have to draw us a print. So we have an idea that the person that's out there actually can do whatever they applied to do,” said Anthony Hood, City of Savannah Citizen’s Office.

These performers represent the city to the millions who visit Savannah each year, which is why the Citizen's Office takes this process so seriously.

For Cupp, the process has been life-changing since he first moved to Savannah seven years ago.

"At that time, I got into some bad stuff. I was a heavy drinker and I was a drug addict. I actually ended up living in a tent out under the Truman Parkway, and got to the point where they banned me from the historic district,” said Cupp.

Since then, he has gotten back on his feet. He has stable housing. He goes to meetings. He says his art and the trust the city has placed on him by giving him a second chance has made all the difference.

"Because they were so hard on me and I could be honest with myself is really what it took, and that's the reason why I was able to actually climb out of the hole that I dug,” said Cupp.

Now, he makes and sells roses on River Street.

By the way, artists are only allowed to set up shop along the river, in several of the squares and part of Forsyth Park.

As far as whose turf is whose, the performers say they each have their own spots and respect each other's space.

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