>  A new era for the SCAD Museum of Art
Nov. 9, 2011
SCAD Museum of Art, orientation touch pad
SCAD Museum of Art, orientation touch pad

On Oct. 29, SCAD unveiled the renovated and re-imagined SCAD Museum of Art to the public. The opening of the museum is a historic occasion for SCAD as it is the most extensive rehabilitation project the university has undertaken since its inception. With new galleries and classrooms, a 250-seat theater, a terrace and outdoor projection screen, a conservation studio, a museum café, as well as a 12-foot-long orientation touch pad, the new museum demonstrates the vision, innovation and attention to detail that SCAD is known for.

More than 1,280 people showed up that Saturday to take in the inaugural exhibitions by renowned artists Bill Viola, Liza Lou, Stephen Antonakos, Kendall Buster, Kehinde Wiley and Alfredo Jaar; peruse the Walter O. Evans Center for African American Studies and the Pamela Elaine Poetter and André Leon Talley galleries; view items from SCAD's personal collection throughout the museum; relax in the Alex Townsend Grand Courtyard; and enjoy treats at the museum's Tad Café such as zucchini bread as well as ham, Brie, apple and onion confit on a baguette.

Before the grand opening, the museum also gave exclusive tours of the museum to the press, students and professors, and hosted a dinner for artists and patrons.

"The openings were quite successful," said Laurie Ann Farrell, executive director of exhibitions. "There was a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm at each event. Visitors said they were thrilled to have this new creative and experiential space at their finger tips in Savannah."

"The standout moment," she added, "was the palpable energy and flow of students on Oct. 26."

"SCADMOA makes me so proud to be a SCAD student! Wow!," tweeted one. "The SCAD Museum opening blew my mind," said another. And from others -- "Simply astonishing. No words can describe how beautiful it was"; and "Dear Lord SCAD, you are the best school in the entire world."

The museum also garnered kudos from outside the university. With more than 400 placements and 150,000,000 media impressions, SCAD spread the word and was covered in venues such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wallpaper*, Garden and Gun, Art in America, Vogue Daily, Elle, and the Houston Chronicle, among many others.

Talley's inaugural exhibition was widely mentioned in the press. Titled "High Style," it features iconic works of André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award honorees such as Miuccia Prada, Oscar de la Renta and Diane von Furstenberg, and includes Manolo Blahnik's blue satin shoes that Carrie wore in "Sex and the City" when she was proposed to by Mr. Big. With music from "2001: A Space Odyssey" playing in the background, Talley also added a video component showcasing Blahnik in conversation with Martha Stewart on her television show.

Another focal point of the launch was the opening of Walter O. Evans Center for African American Studies, featuring a selection of close to 40 works from Evans' legacy collection of African American art - from 19th-century landscape paintings of the Hudson River School to works by masters of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as examples from the Federal Art Project of the 1930s and later 20th-century works by Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden, among others.

"To be honest I had no idea it would turn out like this, " Evans said in the Savannah Morning News. "This is absolutely grand."

As groundbreaking as the museum itself were the exhibitions of renowned contemporary artists that kicked off this event.

"The inaugural series of exhibitions at the SCAD Museum of Art offers a profound range of visual expression," said Farrell. "The decision to invite Bill Viola's 'The Crossing' back to SCAD, commission site-specific work from Kendall Buster, present indoor and outdoor large-scale sculptural works by Liza Lou, illuminate the façade with Stephen Antonakos' neon panels, present a compelling Alfredo Jaar installation, and feature a special solo project of paintings and works on paper by Kehinde Wiley, illustrates the university's long-standing commitment to showcasing contemporary art in supportive, educational environments."

In addition to exposing students to the work of lauded visiting artists, the museum also presents rotating exhibitions that encompass selections from the Earle W. Newton Collection of British and American Art, as well as from SCAD's permanent collection, which includes works by Salvador Dalí, Nicholas Hlobo, Richard Hunt, Willem de Kooning, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe, Wangechi Mutu, Elizabeth Catlett, Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Carrie Mae Weems.

The Expansion

SCAD continues its award-winning legacy of adaptive reuse in the museum's distinctive design and execution. The new museum joins past and present by uniting the ruins of the Central of Georgia Railroad 1853 depot, a National Historic Landmark and the only surviving antebellum railroad complex in the country, with 65,000 square feet of new space. At 82,000 square feet total, the revitalized and re-envisioned structure honors the historical elements of the older buildings, preserving parts of the ruins as they exist today, while also featuring modern applications and materials. An 86-foot-tall steel and glass lantern punctuates the museum design and will soon adorn the Savannah skyline with a beacon of light.

The design of the new museum was conceived by President Wallace and Senior Vice President for College Resources Glenn Wallace. SCAD alumnus and professor Christian Sottile (M.Arch., 1997) of Sottile & Sottile Architects, executed the design, and it was supervised by SCAD alumnus Martin Smith (M.A., interior design, 2005), SCAD executive director of design and new construction.

Melding contemporary facilities with carefully preserved historic remains, showcasing masters of the past alongside luminaries of today and tomorrow, the museum bridges a rich history with the dynamic future SCAD students so keenly represent.

"The museum is both a literal and figurative extension of the classroom," said Chief Curator Isolde Brielmaier. "It is designed to enhance our students' educational experience and encourage them to broaden the ways in which they see art, artists and art-making."

Classrooms at the SCAD Museum of Art have begun hosting 72 classes each week. Class disciplines include art history, museum studies, graphic design, fashion, production design and many more. Purpose-built to support the academic and creative programs at SCAD, the museum's theater hosts a monthly schedule of film screenings, academic lectures and master classes with visiting artists and creative professionals.

"SCAD has a tradition of fostering innovative and dynamic art experiences, and the SCAD Museum of Art advances this rich tradition," said President Wallace. "Rather than a place to view artworks in isolation, our museum is a kinetic think-tank, a collaborative wellspring of ideas and inspiration for SCAD students and professors as well as the broader local, national and international community."

"The museum is a dream come true for me," she said.