“Bee” the Silver Lining

“Art the Bee defeats Hurricane Irma,” by SCAD sequential art professor Pat Quinn.

In 39 years, SCAD has weathered a few storms. Snowpocalypse in Atlanta. The occasional typhoon warning in Hong Kong. And then there are the hurricanes. SCAD Savannah and hurricanes go way back, to 1979, when Hurricane David hit Savannah a few weeks before the arrival of our very first class of 71 students. And yet, in nearly four decades of operation, among all SCAD locations around the world, the university has only evacuated students twice: during Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and Hurricane Irma earlier this month. A strong woman, Irma. (Oddly enough, two hurricane evacuations in 39 years is slightly less than average for this part of the U.S.)

By all measures, Hurricane Irma, here photographed as she roared across Puerto Rico, was not to be trifled with. SOURCE: NASA/Getty Images News/Getty Images.

Last year’s Hurricane Matthew evacuation of 1,300 students spawned several new terms in the SCAD lexicon, including evacuBee, a reference to our mascot, and campSCAD, a reference to the sudden proliferation of cots at 1600 Peachtree.

Our precious evacuBees had quite an adventure in 2016, sleeping in every available space at SCAD Atlanta, classrooms, computer labs, and in the library, pictured here.

This year’s evacuation was much smaller (531 students), largely a result of the storm making U.S. landfall before most students had arrived for fall orientation. Many of these early SCAD arrivals were international students and student-artist-athletes (cross country and bowling) here for the start of their team practices.

Students preparing for the bus ride to SCAD Atlanta as the sun shines over The Hive, the university’s new residential community in Savannah.

With a Category 5 storm making a “Bee”-line directly for Savannah, we made the call for evacuation on Thursday, September 7, 2017. This smiling, eager group of students represented a small fraction of the nearly 10,000 students who study at the Savannah location, among more than 13,000 worldwide.

Among the evacuBees were many resident assistants (RAs), such as R.J. Scalzo (far left), a junior studying architecture. R.J. is from Atlanta and planned to self-evacuate, when his car battery died. “Good thing SCAD has this all figured out!” he said. “I don’t know what I would’ve done.”
The Irma evacuation from Savannah to Atlanta took only four hours, and became a kind of extended orientation session, with first-year students asking older students about their SCAD experiences.

Every student I encountered during the evacuation was in the brightest spirits, grateful to be a part of the university family. Lucia Artigas, a film and television student from Guadalajara, Mexico, said the bus ride was actually fun. “I saw so many smiling faces. College is an adventure. You never know where you’ll go next!”

By the time students arrived at SCAD Atlanta, many had made lifelong friendships.

In many cases, first-year students ended up evacuating with their new suitemates, such as Anna Chippendale, a first-year fashion major from Manchester, England, and Paloma Llanes, a first-year fashion marketing and management major from Houston, Texas. “We don’t have hurricanes in the U.K.!” Anna said, laughing. “We have fog.”

SCAD Savannah evacuBees engaged in four days of educational activities, including a tour of SCADFASH and a first look at Guo Pei: Couture Beyond, the Chinese designer’s first solo exhibition in the U.S.
In “Great Inspirations: Reimagining Guo Pei,” evacuBees used their smartphones to capture and collage images of the inspirational Guo Pei ensembles on display at SCADFASH.

As soon as the evacuation was announced, I collaborated with SCAD Atlanta faculty and staff to create a schedule of educational activities for the evacuBees — keeping in mind that every moment of the experience should be engaging and devoted to the education of students. SCAD Atlanta professors offered workshops in illustration, printmaking, travel journaling, stop-motion animation, figure painting, and more, and the university provided materials and sketchbooks for all activities.

In “Ties that Bind: Building a Sketchbook,” illustration professor Rick Lovell shared techniques for constructing a personalized sketch book.
In “Cut. Collage. Cut. Repeat,” fashion professor Sarah Collins shared techniques for cut-out silhouette and fabrication to create contemporary fashion illustrations.
In his figure painting workshop, professor Kent Knowles demonstrated the need to master details that might seem invisible to the naked eye, such as the vascular system. “The viewer will notice these details, without even knowing it.”
In the “Storm Surge” workshop, students created travel journals documenting their experiences during the storm.

Many of the Irma evacuBees were no strangers to travel, coming from India, South Korea, Mexico, Egypt, and across the world, such as student Meng Ying Cao, an illustration major from Wuhan, China, who was also present for the Hurricane Matthew evacuation. “CampSCAD was very fun last year!” she said, although she prefers a bed to a cot. (Who doesn’t? Apparently, some! Several Matthew veterans said they actually enjoyed sleeping in the library last year, with all their new friends.)

Our walking tour of Midtown Atlanta provided great journaling content and sketching ideas for enthusiastic students, ready for their SCAD careers to begin.

During the walking tour, I met SCAD first-year student Devin Johnston, whose parents Dan and Dani Johnston, evacuated with her to SCAD Atlanta, after first flying with her to Savannah from their home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. After seeing the care and concern SCAD provided to Devin, her parents knew their daughter would be fine, and the Johnstons left Atlanta a day early. “She’s in good hands. The best!” her mother Dani said.

With locations on three continents, SCAD believes in the power of travel to broaden the mind and transform the heart.

Several new SCAD faculty members evacuated with the students, including visual effects legend Jeffrey Light, in the middle of the above photograph (on the back row, waving his right hand). Jeffrey, the new chair of SCAD visual effects, has worked on Jurassic Park, Hook, How to Train Your Dragon, and more, and the students were beside themselves to meet this brilliant man who’d helped create some of the iconic film moments of the last 30 years. “If this is what class is like,” Jeffrey said, “I’m going to love this job.”

On Saturday, foundations professor Ann Marie Manker led a drawing tour of Zoo Atlanta, providing first-year students a jumpstart on their Drawing I course.

During our trip to the zoo, I met Kat Pilkus, a first-year performing arts major from Virginia who had arrived a day early for orientation. “I wasn’t going back home!” she said. “I was ready for SCAD, even in a hurricane!” Juanita Londoño, a first-year M.F.A. student in graphic design from Bogota, Colombia, said she was surprised by SCAD’s diversity. “I knew the university was international, but wow, I did not know how international. I love it.”

After the zoo, students relaxed at The Hub in SCAD Atlanta, where they enjoyed workshops, private rooms, billiards, foosball, and three squares a day.
The SCAD Atlanta storm command center. Pictured, L to R: Vice President for PR and Marketing Allison Falkenberry, Senior Vice President for Admission and Student Success Dr. Phil Alletto, Senior Vice President for Operations and General Counsel Brian Rosenthal, Vice President for Human Resources Lesley Hanak, and Senior Vice President for Finance J.J. Waller.

While students relaxed and engaged in learning activities, SCAD leaders kept a close watch on the storm to ensure timely communication and policy decisions throughout the evacuation. Vice President for University Safety John Buckovich and a small team remained at SCAD Savannah to be our eyes and ears on the ground, while a large number of staff traveled to SCAD Atlanta to ensure the continuation of university operations.

On Sunday, September 10, evacuBees visited Six Flags Over Georgia, for many international students, their first opportunity to visit a classic American theme park.
SCAD M.F.A. animation student Charles Vilman, an aspiring director from Costa Rica, opted for quiet reading time on Sunday, in one of the SCAD Atlanta napping pods.
First-year students Melissa Yuan (Toronto, Canada), Autumn Hartshorn (Colorado), Maddie Masters (New Jersey), and Haili Brown (Indiana) found their first best SCAD friends during Irma. Two days into the evacuation, they were eating every meal together!

One of the greatest silver linings of the storm — among many — was how the evacuation made for fast friendships. Many first-year students began the evacuation knowing almost nobody on campus. Not so, after a few hours on the bus. “I have best friends, even before class starts,” Maddie Masters, a film and television major from Rockaway, New Jersey, said. “Everybody’s so nice! I mean, really. It’s so Southern, in the best way.”

Many evacuBees were no strangers to storms, like Alan Riviero, a UX designer from Mexico City, and Bailey Bertelsen, an industrial design student from Houston. “Most of my good friends are people I met here during Hurricane Matthew,” Alan said. “That’s why I’m here again. You meet people. You make best friends.”
A parting shot from our drawing excursion to Zoo Atlanta.

While Hurricane Irma weakened and made her way across the Southern U.S., SCAD students paid it no mind, safe and sound and focused on their educations — as they should be, turning storms into brainstorms.

SCAD Savannah evacuBees said “au revoir” and thank you to everyone at SCAD Atlanta who helped turn an Irmageddon into an education travel experience like no other.

Paula Wallace is the president and founder of SCAD, a private, nonprofit, accredited university offering 100+ degree programs across four locations on three continents. SCAD has garnered acclaim from respected organizations and publications, including 3D World, American Institute of Architects, Businessweek, DesignIntelligence, U.S. News & World Report, and the Los Angeles Times. Wallace is author of The Bee and the Acorn, a memoir, and SCAD: Architecture of a University, a photography book telling the story of SCAD’s award-winning built environment.



Designer. Author. President and Founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) || http://scad.edu || http://instagram.com/paulaswallace

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store