3 Ways to Transform the Artistic Life
“In Eny Lee Parker’s hands, clay has unlimited potential,” proclaims a recent Surface magazine headline that celebrates the artist’s nuanced works. Indeed, Eny Lee embraces unbridled experimentation as an accomplished ceramic artist and sculptor — a jeweler, too. She’s a SCAD alumna with degrees in furniture and interior design and, as a SCAD Alumni Atelier Ambassador, she represents the exuberant elegance and professional possibilities of our global community of SCAD grads.
The SCAD Alumni Atelier, a quarter-long artist ambassadorship, is truly a watershed experience exclusive to our creative hive. During ambassadorships, SCAD grads reconnect with the SCAD family, realize works, and fulfill dreams. And this year, we celebrate a milestone: the fifth birthday of the Atelier, our prestigious residency endowed specifically for SCAD Bees. Now and forever, we champion success, respite, rejuvenation, and reimagination — the hallmarks of the Atelier, testaments of SCAD’s lifelong affinity for alumni.
During 2020, a year never to be forgotten, artists worldwide sought refuges as creative havens shuttered. Faced with impossible choices, museums and galleries closed, as did other residencies. Notable programs like the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Artist in Residence and the 2020 MacDowell residencies had to press pause. SCAD, too, faced difficult decisions — yet we continued to uplift esteemed SCAD alumni. Makers, doers, and dreamers always admire gifts of time, space, and encouragement — the realizations and enduring promises of the SCAD Alumni Atelier.
In Summer 2015, our first Atelier transported five ambassadors to SCAD Lacoste, where the resplendent light of France’s Luberon invites contemplation. Fast-forward to 2020: over five years, the Atelier has championed more than 65 ambassadors — including architects and writers, animators and performing artists — across SCAD locations and now the digital sphere.
Inspired by SCAD’s much-applauded virtual delivery of our celebrated curriculum in 2020, we took the Atelier online, expanding its networking and professional development opportunities. And this fall, ambassadors Kacie Willis and Eric Ross began trailblazing residencies. Eric, our first architect ambassador, innovates sustainable building practices. At William McDonough + Partners — where Eric’s a director — he’ll soon unveil a top-secret project commissioned by two tech giants. Kacie, a sound design alum turned cultural commentator, harnesses social media to examine identity, creativity, and community. Her original podcast, You Heard Me Write, was a Top 10 finalist in the 2019 Spotify Sound Up Bootcamp, and every day she garners more listeners and deepens relevant dialogues.
Kacie’s and Eric’s innovations are quintessential examples of the impact artists and artisans spur when bolstered with resources. Over the years, other ambassadors have helmed equally compelling productions. Take Madison Hamburg’s docuseries Murder on Middle Beach — a film he undertook during his ambassadorship and which just debuted on HBO. I remember well his 2016 Alumni Atelier Showcase, when he screened behind-the-scenes footage of what would become this revelatory series. “SCAD Alumni Atelier allows you to push yourself and to grow not just as an artist, but as a human being,” Madison said at the time. So true. And speaking of growth, consider Fern and Fiber and All Kinds Studio by Eliza Hunter and Jack Geshel; their handmade home goods exude practicality, personality, and professionalism. Indeed, our ambassadors embody the SCAD mission, just as they mentor the next generation — today’s brilliant students, tomorrow’s stars.
To paraphrase John Steinbeck, revered teachers are great artists, and both are rare and precious. Of teaching, Steinbeck said: “It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” At SCAD, Atelier ambassadors advance the unending quest for knowledge; they relish opportunities to teach what they’ve learned to other Bees. And as with everything at SCAD — accredited degree programs, signature events, and masterclasses — our ambassadors challenge students to grow personally and professionally.
Throughout Fall 2020, Kacie and Eric have guided, critiqued, and collaborated with students through SCAD Career and Alumni Success’s virtual salons and beyond. Eric has mentored architecture students as they develop biophilic concepts for a design competition — as a coach, he’s encouraged them to integrate performative and regenerative design strategies. Meanwhile, Kacie has shared her expertise on SCAD CAS’s “Business of Creatives” panel and connected virtually, on-location, with sound design students. She also starred on a SCAD Admissions Spotlight Day panel for the SCAD School of Entertainment Arts. When prospective students see visionaries like Kacie and Eric, they immediately understand SCAD’s profound mission and the vitality of creative professions.
Artistic communities have never felt more necessary, more enlivening — so we’ve transformed the SCAD Alumni Atelier into a virtual experience. Social distancing, work-from-home, and other pandemic realities have prompted artists worldwide to improvise. Recently, Amy Sherald, who painted Michelle Obama’s official portrait, shared her real-world-today strategy: “It came down to what I could make at my kitchen table.” As every SCAD Bee knows, the studio is wherever we conjure imagination. The Atelier catalyzes artistic renewal by embracing ambassadors’ fresh creations, their singular works, and unique businesses. Just ask Dejon Gee, whose ambassadorship empowered her to refine a homewares and fashion line. Today, Dejon, a production design alum, is a successful entrepreneur and founder of LowCo Wax & Gown — check out her hand-poured candles and snazzy robes! And ask Jordan Graves — renowned for her jewelry line, Repeat Offfender — who explored LED lighting and 3D printing during her Atelier residency.
Wherever our ambassadors venture, whatever they create, new challenges become novel opportunities. As Tiffani Taylor, a 2015 SCAD Alumni Atelier Ambassador, remarked, “When I think of the WPA and what President Franklin D. Roosevelt did for artists, I see what President Wallace has built with the ambassadorships — the Atelier is like a modern-day WPA for SCAD alumni.” Whether in-person or virtual, Atelier ambassadorships remain vivid and vital. As we celebrate SCAD Alumni Atelier’s fifth birthday, I encourage SCAD alums to apply for an ambassadorship. Connect. Create. Come home — for the adventure of a lifetime, a shared legacy with lasting value.
Learn more about this life-changing opportunity: https://bit.ly/3onbBIS