Consistent with its name, Telfair Square  indeed hosts two of the three buildings operated by the Telfair Museums (912/790-8800, www.telfair.org ), an umbrella organization that relies on a combination of private and public funding and drives much of the arts agenda in Savannah .
The original part of the complex and the oldest art museum in the South, the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences (121 Barnard St.) was built in 1821 by the great William Jay for Alexander Telfair, scion of that famous Georgia family. The five statues in front are of Phidias, Raphael, Rubens, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt. Inside, the sculpture gallery and rotunda were added in 1885, the year before the building’s official opening as a museum.
As well as displaying Sylvia Judson Shaw’s now-famous “Bird Girl” sculpture originally in Bonaventure Cemetery  (actually the third of four casts by the sculptor), the Telfair Academy features an outstanding collection of primarily 18th- and 20th-century works, most notably the largest public collection of visual art by Kahlil Gibran. Major paintings include work by Childe Hassam, Frederick Frieseke, Gari Melchers, and the massive Black Prince of Crécy by Julian Story.
The latest and proudest addition to the Telfair brand is the striking, 64,000-square-foot Jepson Center for the Arts (207 W. York St.), whose ultramodern exterior sits catty-corner from the old Telfair. Promoting a massive, daringly designed new facility devoted to nothing but modern art was a hard sell in this traditional town, especially when renowned architect Moshe Safdie insisted on building a glassed-in flyover across a lane between two buildings.
But no one regrets it now, as Safdie’s vision has exceeded even his supporters’ high expectations. After a few delays in construction, Jepson opened its doors to the public in March 2006 and has since wowed locals and visitors alike with its cutting-edge assortment of late 20th- and 21st-century modern art, including digital installation pieces.
The Telfair Academy is open Monday noon–5 p.m., Tuesday–Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sunday 1–5 p.m. The Jepson Center is closed Tuesdays, and is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m.–8 p.m., and Sunday noon–5 p.m.
Admission to each one singly is $15 for adults and $5 for children, but I recommend the Telfair’s three-site combination ticket, which at the bargain price of $15 ($5 students) allows you to visit both art museums as well as the must-see Owens-Thomas House .