The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) (my alma mater!!) was founded in 1978 and has been at the forefront of fine art and design education for almost 40 years, and the one that’s been the force behind it all is SCAD president Paula Wallace. Since co-founding the private, non-profit, accredited university, Wallace has cultivated over 100 academic degree programs and expanded to five locations in Atlanta, Hong Kong, Lacoste, and Savannah, and online through SCAD eLearning. The former public school educator has made a point of preserving old buildings around Savannah to become part of the ever-growing campus, leading to recognition by the American Institute of Architects, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and UNESCO, and just this year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation honored her with the Louise du Pont Crowninshield Award. Along with a series of much-earned awards, Wallace has authored several books, including her recent memoir, The Bee and the Acorn, become an honorary member of the AIA, and is currently serving on the National Advisory Board of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. For this week’s Friday Five, the multi-hyphenate, incredibly busy trailblazer shares a mix of five things she loves.
1. Luberon Valley, France
Cloaked in lavender fields and soft light, Lacoste rises from the Luberon Valley in an empyrean arc of golden limestone buildings. Canals, cypress windbreaks, and row upon row of olive and cherry trees limn the landscape made immortal by Paul Cézanne and Vincent Van Gogh. Students fall in love with this sanctuary, conquered heart and soul by its majestic overlooks and endlessly cozy nooks. Here, the stones whisper the histories of Paleolithic inhabitants, Romans, Renaissance Lacostois, and the de Sades. The valley embraces everyone who ventures here, prompting artistry steeped in timelessness. Go, and a part of you never leaves.
2. Sheet Music
I started learning piano at age six and began teaching it a few years later, taking on my teacher’s younger students, as her clientele grew. I loved everything about the piano, the polished and mirrored surfaces, the soft felt along the edge of the fall board, the smell of old music books tucked away in the bench, and especially the sheet music. I have always been deeply enchanted by sheets of music, notes dancing across the page. Just consider all the brilliance found on a simple music sheet, the gifts to human culture: “Ode to Joy,” “Clair de Lune,” the “Moonlight Sonata,” “Rhapsody in Blue.” The story of our shared histories is found on a staff. I keep hidden stores of it around my desk, especially older sheet music, using pages as stationery and wrapping paper for small gifts, even employing it, on occasion, as a distinct decorative element in SCAD interiors. Sheet music is visually striking, a transcription of the melodies of our hearts.
3. My Side Garden
Better known as a “pocket garden,” the side garden at my home on East Liberty Street in Savannah is made precious by its small size. From the street, it looks like nothing more than a narrow ribbon of green running alongside the house, and yet from our side porch, this little garden is our very own Arcadia. Good things grow in small places, like the creeping fig that adorns the meditative wall fountain and an old faux bois wall mirror from Provence that reflects light and models feng shui. I especially enjoy the garden at night, when somehow, the greens seem greener, the breeze gentler.
4. SCAD’s Miami Art Week Exhibition, “Theater of Self”
At SCAD, we delight in the wonder that our exhibitions create for students and visitors. Every artful presentation coheres into far more than the sum of its parts, where the exhibitions spaces and individual works of art invite the viewer into a dialogue about the human experience in all its multifariousness. We just wrapped up “Theater of Self” in Wynwood as part of Miami Art Week. A curatorial intersection unlike anything you’ve known, the exhibition paired the fashion ensembles of Daniel Lismore, London’s most outrageous dresser, with the culturally probing and cinematically styled photographs of Chinese photographer and SCAD M.F.A. photography student, Bin Feng. With the work of each artist carefully constructed around questions of identity, together they took viewers on an unforgettably personal journey. SCAD photography alumnus Colin Gray also joined us in Miami, his work appearing in forthcoming book of Lismore’s first U.S. exhibition at SCAD FASH, Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Rizzoli, February 2017). Everyone should be on the lookout for the book — and to see what these brilliant artists do next!
5. Hong Kong Lanterns
Colorful Tyvek lanterns, handpainted by SCAD alumnae Martha Enzmann and Karen McVay Butch, adorn the central light well at SCAD Hong Kong. One reason I love these lanterns is that they convey pure joy, day and night, year-round. Their provenance tells countless stories. Before gracing SCAD Hong Kong, these very same lanterns were part of a student-alumni performance, called Parade, which enjoyed a grand tour across France, from the Centre Pompidou in Paris, to the Festival d’Avignon along the Rhône, to the streets of SCAD Lacoste, and then across yet another ocean, to the SCAD Sidewalk Arts Festival in Savannah. These globe-trotting lanterns are made of the humblest materials and then transfigured into unforgettable works of art by the heads, hand, and hearts of SCAD artists, illuminating passersby the world over with their color and radiance.
Images courtesy of SCAD.