Savannah College of Art and Design President and Founder Paula Wallace has created a myriad of one-of-a-kind programs to support alumni artists and designers long after graduation. Here, we asked her to share a sketch of how the university champions its alumni and spotlight some SCAD stars to watch.
Savannah College of Art and Design President Paula Wallace
How does SCAD continue to support studio artists and designers after graduation?
The special relationship SCAD alumni enjoy with their alma mater is unlike any in higher ed, where SCAD continues to invest resources into the professional success of our graduates long after they walk the commencement stage. For example, I created the SCAD Alumni Atelier for our Bees in every discipline, from studio artists and screenwriters to sneaker design and fashion entrepreneurs.
The Alumni Atelier typically lasts 10 weeks and provides housing, studio space, meals, a stipend and other resources to give our Bees the time and freedom to create a new film, fashion line, jewelry collection, novel, screenplay, you name it. SCAD provides this unbelievable resource at no cost to alumni. In the past year, we’ve welcomed back 34 superstar grads for residencies at SCAD Lacoste (our permanent study-abroad campus in the south of France), SCAD Savannah and SCAD Atlanta, including portrait and landscape painters, a documentary filmmaker, an actor writing his first TV pilot and an illustrator writing her first children’s book. No other university comes close to a residency program of this scope and breadth.
SCAD also purchases alumni work for the SCAD Private View Collection, on display in more than 100 university buildings on two continents—art that brings exuberance and wonder to the SCAD-built environment in university classrooms, conference rooms, guesthouses, hallways, stairwells, alcoves, even restrooms. Alumni art lives everywhere at SCAD! The Private View Collection includes nearly 17,000 art objects, most created by and purchased from our incredibly gifted SCAD grads. These works of art pull triple duty, elevating the environment with surprise and delight, displaying for guests the myriad visual talents of our grads, and providing current SCAD students inspiration and models for professional studio practice.
At the SCAD Museum of Art, you can also find the SCAD MOA Alumni Gallery, a space reserved exclusively for new shows by SCAD alumni artists, open year-round in the finest teaching museum at any university on the planet. Can you imagine the adrenalized boon for a career to have one of your first solo exhibitions in this gorgeous contemporary art museum, alongside SCAD-curated shows by Kehinde Wiley, Carrie Mae Weems, Marilyn Minter, Bill Viola, Liza Lou?
Then, of course, there’s SCAD Art Sales, the only university service of its kind in international higher ed, offering to the public professional commercial gallery curation representing exclusively the work of SCAD artists. Our clients include collectors and companies from Facebook to Netflix. Work purchased from and installed by SCAD Art Sales is found everywhere, from boutique hotels and corporate headquarters in the U.S. and Europe to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where SCAD worked with alumni and others to curate, fabricate and install one of the most expansive collections of public art in the world, commissioned to fill 3 million square feet of stadium.
What else does SCAD provide its graduates?
The resources SCAD provides go on and on and on! Consider SCAD Career and Alumni Success, where every SCAD Bee has a career coach for life: a dedicated pro they can call when it’s time for moves big and small. SCAD CAS advisers walk with our alumni through professional transitions and make key introductions, leveraging our network of nearly 60,000 alumni and the thousands of elite brand recruiters who hire at SCAD every year.
Our alumni, already deep into their entrepreneurial journeys, can come back to the university for SCADpro Fund, where SCAD invests in and builds up alumni companies. Since I created the SCADpro Fund, we’ve invested millions into 12 alumni brands, products and services, including video games, apps, sneakers, clothing and more.
SCAD invites our more ‘intrapreneurial’ alumni—i.e., Bees applying their leadership and creative talents at an established brand—to bring their teams to SCADpro, our in-house business innovation lab that creates real products and services for Fortune 100 clients. Some of our biggest SCADpro assignments are the result of alumni who pitch the idea to their employers and who then help lead the assignment. One is Amanda Johns, hired as a UX designer by Gulfstream after a SCADpro assignment. Amanda’s now back at SCADpro as a client, earning serious cred with her Gulfstream team while further advancing the brand.
As SCAD grads rise into leadership roles, they find themselves speaking and presenting more often—one reason I created SCADamp, where communication coaches work with alumni to hone their pitches and build confidence for the next chapter in their careers. Nearly 75% of Gen Z admit they struggle with workplace communication, and every recruiter who comes to SCAD says communication is the most important interpersonal skill they seek in new hires. NBC News recently reported on SCADamp as an innovative resource that advances our students’ and graduates’ careers.
SCAD hires alumni to return to campus and give talks on their careers, lead demos, review portfolios and more. The university also hires alumni to lead research initiatives for SCAD SERVE, which addresses urgent community needs in our hometowns. This year alone, we’ve hired 13 SCAD alumni to research, design and create spectacular murals for public parks, playgrounds and schools through our SCAD Paint Our Parks initiative—or, as we call it, SCAD POP. Our most recent SCAD POP triumph is on display at the Sara J. González Memorial Park in Atlanta, where SCAD alumni artist José Ray worked directly with González’s granddaughter (SCAD graphic design alum Paulina de la Valette) to create a proud and vibrant visual tribute to the beauty and entrepreneurial spirit of González and the Hispanic and Latino communities of Atlanta.
SCAD remains forever dedicated to our Bees’ success, not just before graduation but throughout their creative careers. As we say, ‘Once a Bee, Always a Bee.’
SUMMER WHEAT (MFA, painting, 2005) “Beekeeper Pink (Left) 1” (2021, acrylic paint and gouache on aluminum mesh), 107 1/2 inches by 40 1/4 inches
“What I find most compelling in Summer Wheat’s oeuvre is her delicious tongue-in-cheek humor—the sense of whimsy, of exploration that creates an openness and approachability often overlooked in contemporary fine art. A master of form and function, Summer continually intrigues and engages with her expressive use of color and groundbreaking, innovative and utterly unique approach to methods and materials, as in this buzzy spectrum of a beekeeper.”
YUNAN MA (BFA, fashion marketing and management, 2013) “Zinnia Mania” (2021, fibers), 24 inches by 24 inches by 5 inches
“Mesmerizing in their intricacy, juxtaposing natural and geometric shapes with astonishing bursts of color, Yunan Ma fashions dramatic floral works that burst forth and demand the viewer’s attention— almost hypnotically so. Yunan deftly evokes brushstrokes with natural fibers, evincing a mastery over materials that radiates pure joy from every silk petal, woolen sunrise and cotton bloom of her chromatically magical fiber concoctions. She is the fiber whisperer.”
XINIA GUAN (MFA, jewelry, 2020) “Flowform” (2023, hand-cut silver sculpture)
“Xinia Guan’s hand-cut metallic jewelry meditates on the delicate relationship between construction and deconstruction. As a SCAD Alumni Atelier ambassador in spring 2023, Xinia reshaped metals into meticulous sculptural pieces inspired by the geometry of organic structures, diffusing effulgence through each intricate perforation. The SCAD Alumni Atelier encourages and nurtures creative business opportunities being developed by SCAD grads, providing time and space to create new lines and products to advance their careers.”
KIPPER MILLSAP (BFA, illustration, 2006) “Unfurling” (2023, paint on panel), 72 inches by 108 inches
“With his encyclopedic knowledge of retro themes and nostalgic ephemera and his embrace of bold colors, textures and clean lines, Kipper Millsap fashions unforgettable murals, sure to raise a smile and occasionally an eyebrow. His lush jungle scene of vivid moths and curling vines is the perfect addition of bold color and fun to our newest multipurpose wonder of a complex at SCAD Atlanta called FORTY-FIVE— practically a five-star resort for our Bees in Midtown Atlanta.”
ASHLEY CUNNINGHAM (BFA, photography, 2003), “untitled 1” (2023, digital print), 36 inches by 36 inches
“I love Ashley Cunningham’s sense of humor— playful, political and, in this instance, very, very pink. You see a brilliant mind at work, expressing subtle commentary on contemporary society, media and entertainment. Her images— part photography, part digital collage— present conventional motifs and figures in unconventional ways, employing saturated hues and the uncanny to great effect. Visitors to FORTY FIVE can view this particular work in the women’s room at the SCADshow theater. Art lives everywhere at SCAD!”
Photography by: PHOTO COURTESY OF SCAD; ART COURTESY OF ARTISTS