University Museums and Galleries: A Window onto SCAD
Many visitors to Savannah first encounter SCAD through windows. There you are, strolling merrily down Bull or Broughton Street, and something catches your eye: a surprising pop of color, a flash of movement, what is it? A painting? A hundred paper airplanes? A polar bear? Wait, what?
At SCAD, the entire built environment, from classrooms to green rooms to study rooms, functions as a gallery, filled with beautiful works of art by alumni, students, and faculty members — more than 6,200 works in more than 100 buildings on three continents (Asia, Europe, and North America). The purpose of all this sumptuous art is to educate by immersion, surrounding students with exemplary work that touches all 47 major degree programs, from animation to fibers to photography.
SCAD also inspires students, community members, and visitors to campus by hosting and curating exhibitions by the world’s preeminent contemporary artists, filling our SCAD galleries and museums around the world, from the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah and SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film in Atlanta to our many public galleries in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France.
The SCAD Museum of Art, the university’s multiple award-winning museum, created inside a dramatically rehabilitated former railroad depot, is home to the Walter O. Evans Center for African American Studies, the André Leon Talley Gallery, the Pamela Elaine Poetter Gallery, the Alex Townsend Memorial Courtyard, the experimental gallery, and the emerging artist gallery — the latter designated exclusively for the work of SCAD alumni. Most arresting about the museum, for passersby, are the four jewel boxes across the Turner Boulevard façade (one is visible on the far left of the above image). These jewel boxes are currently home to playfully adorned (faux) polar bears in Paola Pivi’s “I did it again.” If you’re in Savannah before August 2018, you must come see these ursine installations.
SCAD designs our museums as capacious classrooms and public spaces for community enrichment. SCAD Atlanta’s SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film — which opened in 2015 in the flourishing Midtown Arts District — is the nation’s only museum dedicated to fashion and film.
“Guo Pei: Couture Beyond,” opening at SCAD FASH in Fall 2017, was the premiere U.S. solo exhibition of legendary Chinese couturière Guo Pei. Students across disciplines, from architecture to graphic design, were enthralled by the designer’s supreme gift for detailing and fantasy, demonstrating the appeal of SCAD exhibitions for students of all SCAD degree programs.
The university’s first gallery, Exhibit A, opened in 1979, several months before SCAD enrolled its first students. The sunlit space, formerly a greasy spoon (now shopSCAD) on the ground floor of the old Savannah Volunteer Guards Armory (now Poetter Hall), was the face of our new “art college on the corner,” as it came to be known. Locals and pedestrians wandered in every day to see what all the stir was about. Our first exhibition featured the work of Georgia artists, and I set up an office in the gallery, serving as docent while I simultaneously interviewed new faculty and drafted our first SCAD course catalog. You can bet that purple Karastan carpet, which I special ordered from Savannah’s own Culver Rug Co., got the attention of passersby.
Nearly 40 years later, Exhibit A has evolved into shopSCAD, a retail boutique and gallery brimming with surprises: art, jewelry, footwear, apparel, and other memorable gifts. At shopSCAD, we see the professional mission of SCAD in full effect, where students and alumni engage the public with exquisite craftsmanship and the work of their imaginations (shopSCAD sells work created exclusively by SCAD students, faculty, and alumni). Do drop in, IRL or virtually.
SCAD never misses out on an educational opportunity! SCAD students who were evacuated from SCAD Savannah to SCAD Atlanta during Hurricane Irma (who dubbed themselves “evacuBees”) were treated to several days of academic engagement and learning activities during their “campSCAD” evacuation. One of the students’ favorite activities was the guided tour and sketching session at SCAD FASH, where Guo Pei: Couture Beyond had just opened. Even the mannequin forms provided a teaching moment, as they were designed by SCAD FASH curators especially for Guo Pei’s gowns.
SCAD galleries are conceived and designed to celebrate the university’s more than 100 degree programs. Accessory design, art history, fashion, and industrial design students were especially keen on “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” — a SCAD exhibition that explored the cultural significance, technological evolution, and transformative power of shoes throughout history.
During SCAD deFINE ART, the university’s annual program of fine art focused lectures, exhibitions, and public events, the community comes together in a four-day celebration that highlights thought-provoking art in all forms and mediums. Opening night is always a beautiful blitz, as students and community members storm the galleries to see what SCAD has prepared for them this time.
SCAD deFINE ART 2018 exhibitions will be open, in most cases, through summer. Last year, the captivating exhibition “Infinity Lines” by Chiharu Shiota provided an exceptional educational opportunity for SCAD students of DSGN 102 (3-D Form in Space), who were invited to work alongside Shiota during the installation of this work, featuring an astounding 56 miles of red thread. In this image, 3-D design students admire the results of their hard work.
At Pinnacle Gallery in Savannah, SCAD recently exhibited the work of alumnus and faculty member Kent Knowles. The exhibition (titled “Wayward”) combined environmental landscapes, mixed media, and fantastical imagery with a mythic and mesmerizing result.
SCAD Savannah’s Gutstein Gallery lives next door to the Jen Library of SCAD and just across the street from SCAD’s Trustees Theater, in the heart of the downtown shopping district. This retail gallery hosts frequent group exhibitions, inviting pedestrians and shoppers to take a break from their strolling and enjoy work by SCAD alumni and other visiting artists.
In a former life, Gutstein Gallery was home to the Azalea Room, a midcentury lunch counter attached to the Levy Brothers department store, where, in 1961, three intrepid activists staged the sit-in that launched the civil rights movement in Savannah. In 2016, the university honored their bravery with SCAD Honors Visionary Voices, a live production of commissioned performances.
SCAD alumna Summer Wheat returned to the Trois Gallery at SCAD Atlanta with her exhibition, “Noble Metal”. Here, SCAD illustration students tour the exhibition during one of the many extended learning opportunities (ELOs) offered by SCAD faculty members every quarter. These ELOs engage students outside the classroom, allowing them to apply lecture instruction in a multiplicity of contexts.
Daniel Lismore’s wildly imaginative exhibition “Be Yourself; Everyone Else Is Already Taken” was forever memorialized by SCAD through the publication of a book by the same name, widely available at bookstores and online. The volume features photography by SCAD alumnus Colin Douglas Gray and written contributions by the incomparable Boy George, fashion journalist Hilary Alexander, and SCAD curator Rafael Gomez. I was privileged to pen a foreword for the sumptuous book.
SCAD galleries come in all shapes and sizes. The Pamela Elaine Poetter Gallery is long and narrow, running 290 feet along the southern face of the SCAD Museum of Art. SCAD curators work with contemporary artists to create site-specific installations that demonstrate for students how to utilize unorthodox spaces. Here, Subodh Gupta’s “Guests, Strangers and Interlopers” compresses and extends the viewer’s vantage as you enter the space, allowing one to experience the entire installation at once. The Gupta show curated by SCAD was later exhibited at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Pavilion.
“Small Works” at Gutstein Gallery, an annual exhibition featuring SCAD faculty and student artists, is always a hit with the university community. Each work must measure 18 inches or fewer in all dimensions, and most of the work is for sale. Juried events like these (and SCAD’s popular Open Studio Nights in Savannah and Atlanta) align with the SCAD mission to prepare students for professional, creative careers, teaching students how to market, price, and present their work for clients. After all, the university’s unofficial motto is, “No starving artists!”
Only a short walk from the SCAD Museum of Art, the Pei Ling Chan Gallery serves as an extension of the museum for special shows. The gorgeous natural light of this former bank building, reminiscent of a solemn Greek temple, provides a breathtaking, luminous setting for any work of art.
SCAD galleries are designed to engage students of any age, which is why the university creates and publishes K-12 curriculum guides for students, parents, and educators who visit SCAD. These guides feature lesson plans and learning activities aligned to National Core Arts Standards and the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing, among others. In the last two years alone, SCAD has provided free curriculum guides to hundreds of school groups for 28 exhibitions — because children love art, and SCAD loves children.
Tours of SCAD Savannah happen Monday through Saturday, at 9:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M., for visitors to Savannah, prospective students and their families, and anyone with curiosity about our preeminent university for creative careers. Tours start at Poetter Hall, home of the SCAD Welcome Center, and can be tailored to guest interests. If you’re not near Savannah, don’t worry! SCAD hosts tours at all university locations, including Atlanta, Lacoste, and Hong Kong. Chances are, SCAD has a location on the continent where you’re currently reading this. Next time you’re in our neck of the woods, drop in for a visit!