Every spring, Savannah College of Art and Design hosts deFINE ART, an impressive series of openings, events, lectures, and performances across its locations in Savannah and Atlanta. Over an inspiring few days, students and international art and fashion world guests get unparalleled access to the vision and ideas of contemporary artists and makers.
This year alone, deFINE ART included names like Marilyn Minter, Derrick Adams, Wong Ping, Antwaun Sargent, Raúl de Nieves, and Charlie Billingham. In past years, its seen Nicholas Hlobo, Theaster Gates, Robin Rhode, Lawrence Weiner, Carrie Mae Weems, and Carlos Cruz Diez.
At the center of it all are the hosting sites—SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah and SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion and Film in Atlanta. Both are teaching museums, connecting with SCAD students and alumni via programming, workshops, gallery talks, and more. “In both museums and also in other exhibitions spaces, we research, select, plan and present exhibitions which reflect a diverse group of voices from different geographies and points of view,” said Kari Herrin, Executive Director of SCAD museums and exhibitions, told us recently.
This season, that’s meant solo shows like “Getuie” from South African artist Igshaan Adams, featuring a large-scale piece of sculptural weavings and embellished wall hangings that incorporates material like weathered linoleum; alongside the site-specific environment “Chromo Zone” by Shoplifter, made from synthetic hair in vibrant hues. “It’s an exciting challenge for our curators to spark interest in students from all majors through our exhibitions,” said Herrin.
SCAD Museum of Art offers artists a unique space to present work, as well. True to the university’s legacy of restoring historic buildings throughout Savannah, the museum is housed in the oldest surviving antebellum railroad depot in the United States. Its landmark significance results in a particular gallery layout—like the 300 linear feet of the Pamela Elaine Poetter gallery. “We regularly bring artists in for site visits to engage directly with our building’s architecture and history. Some great examples that come to mind include Fred Wilson’s ‘Life’s Link: A Fred Wilson Installation’ a site specific exhibition which took the Savannah Grey Brick—part of the original building, and visible throughout the museum—as a structural element to display and re-present the Linda and Walter Evans collection of African American art,” explained Herrin.
In addition to presenting the work of established international artists, SCAD is committed to exposing students to, and offering an institutional platform for, emerging talents and SCAD alumni. “For our alumni, we have a specially dedicated Alumni Gallery in our SCAD Museum of Art, where work by SCAD alum are shown throughout the year. For many, this may be their first institutional show, and providing them with the resources of the museum including our curators is a great next step in their career,” said Herrin. Alumnus Xavier Robles de Medina, who holds a BFA in animation and painting, is currently showing “Wan Destination Wanhoop,” a series of three paintings that investigate forgotten histories and European imperialism.
“SCAD continues to exhibit its prescience as the SCAD Museum of Art becomes the first U.S. museum to present the electrifying work of Xavier Robles de Medina (SCAD B.F.A., animation, 2012; SCAD B.F.A., painting, 2012). Xavier grew up in Suriname and now lives in London. At SCAD, we amplify new and established artists — emerging voices alongside acclaimed, longstanding visionaries,” said SCAD president and founder Paula Wallace.
At SCAD FASH in Atlanta Azzedine Alaïa’s “Masters of Cut” marks the first posthumous US museum exhibition of the visionary designer, and the first in the country in 20 years. “I think the real power of the show is that it looks at Alaïa in terms of his work and celebrates him as a collector and student of fashion history,” said Rafael Gomes, Head of Fashion Exhibitions at SCAD.
“With ‘Masters of Cut’ for example, we already have had students and alumni visit the exhibition from top ranked programs including fashion design, film and television, luxury and fashion management, costume design, etc. tour the exhibition in great detail and learn about the designers’ obsession with their craft,” said Gomes. “Alaïa would spend months just getting a single jacket sleeve to set-in properly. We want students to understand that even these industry legends struggled to perfect their work.”
The Atlanta museum is also dedicated to engaging with the local community through pioneering programming and a network of creative leaders. Often, exhibitions have direct connections to the city, like in Derrick Adams’ current show of moodboard collages inspired by the Patrick Kelly Archives at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (NYPL).
“’Patrick Kelly, The Journey’ has strong local ties and led us to several Atlanta resident who knew and loved Kelly, like Carol Martin. Being able to share their stories and better understand the local fashion scene has been gratifying for our entire curatorial team,” said Gomes. Kelly lived in Atlanta, where he became friends with the former model Martin, prior his meteoric rise in the ‘80s. She lent garments, letters, invitations, photos, and press clippings to SCAD FASH for the exhibition. “These objects allowed us to educate the visitor about Kelly while at the same time providing similar visual material to what Adams would have encountered at the Schomburg Center,” said Gomes.
SCAD’s world-class exhibitions reach beyond Savannah and Atlanta, too—via institutional partnerships and activations in London, Miami, and Hong Kong, plus its Lacoste, France location. In Lacoste, said Gomes, “The classroom-turned-gallery space is set into the hillside and is open to our students studying in Lacoste as well as tourists exploring the French countryside and the local community.” There, each summer, exhibitions are staged featuring the work of graduating students in fashion.
“Our purpose is to create an environment where artists can thrive and therefore perform their best. In this way our students will witness unique worlds that will inspire them to push their own boundaries and project their own practice at that level,” said Herrin.
SCAD MOA and SCAD FASH’s diverse range of exhibitions—from fashion to fibers, and from painting to experiential installations—are on view through this summer.
Chapter 1 — Noteworthy
Every spring, Savannah College of Art and Design hosts deFINE ART, an impressive series of openings, events, lectures, and performances.
At the center of it all are the hosting sites—SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah and SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion and Film in Atlanta.
"Our students will witness unique worlds that will inspire them to push their own boundaries and project their own practice at that level."