On July, 21, 2016, the Department of Education’s (ED) newest student art exhibit — featuring works crafted by both B.F.A. and M.F.A. students in painting, photography, printmaking and illustration from Georgia-based Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) — was unveiled as opening ceremonies took place at ED’s headquarters.
Throughout the proceedings, SCAD demonstrated the qualities that cement its position as a top-tier college of the arts, and the essence of its mission statement — that the Savannah College of Art and Design exists to prepare talented students for professional careers, emphasizing learning through individual attention in a positively oriented university environment — shone through to all the guests.
If one thing stood out above all else on opening day, though, it was the deep and undeniable impression that SCAD leaves upon its students. In addition to SCAD artists’ mastery of their mediums, unveiled at the opening, they benefit from the college’s full commitment to supporting their continuous growth and aiding them in developing their career paths beyond graduation.
Indeed, although SCAD’s home campus is located in Savannah, Georgia, and a satellite campus is nearby in Atlanta, its global presence is expansive. With flourishing programs in Hong Kong and Lacoste, France, as well as online, students can engage in artistic learning abroad to expand their horizons and find fresh inspiration.
Recent data affirms that SCAD has been successful in its mission to prepare its students for pursuing professional careers. Throughout the U.S. and the world, as pressure on many high school students to pursue careers in STEM-related fields continues to mount, the concepts of ‘art school’ and ‘post-graduate employability’ have begun to drift further apart. Yet, as Lynn Mahaffie, deputy assistant secretary in ED’s Office of Postsecondary Education, informed attendees at the opening, this narrative is far from accurate, “ … based on an IBM study of 1,500 corporate heads across 60 nations and 33 industries, creativity is now the most important leadership quality in business … In fact, 60 percent of the CEOs surveyed cited creativity as the most important quality.”
At SCAD, the goal is to provide an avenue for student artists to excel in a world in which creativity reigns supreme. According to SCAD’s Executive Director of Admissions Jennie Jaquillard, a survey of SCAD’s 2015 spring graduates indicated that “98 percent of our students are either employed, seeking further education, or both, within 10 months of graduation.”
The ceremony proceedings featured an intimate on-stage conversation between SCAD’s head curator of exhibitions Storm Janse van Rensburg and 2007 SCAD graduate and professional artist Lavar Munroe, whose artwork is featured internationally from California and Seattle, to London and Brussels, to Senegal, to Nassau, Bahamas.
When asked to touch upon his growth as an artist at SCAD, Munroe referenced his sketchbook, stating that “it was a real surprise to look at the book from 2007 and see this trajectory that happens, but also this very close correlation between what happened then and what happens now,” thus helping the audience understand what it means to artistically benefit from a SCAD experience.
George Lovett, American Idol finalist and SCAD graduate, wowed the audience with a rendition of Georgia’s state song, Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind,” and became the first ever performer at an ED art opening to be encored. In 2014, Lovett made the trek to the American Idol Season 13 auditions with a SCAD student entourage, and voilá, he had climbed all the way to the show’s top 20 finalists. In an interview, Lovett said “Getting to perform on American Idol was a dream come true.” Although SCAD doesn’t offer a vocal performance major, Lovett said, “ … singing is a part of who I am. It’s my thing.” The audience agreed, calling out “encore” until the star vocalist graced them with his version of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.”
With featured artists Munroe and Lovett proceeding to do the honors of the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony, the art exhibit officially opened to the public and will remain at ED through August.
Jackson Paul is a summer intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education and a current student at Middlebury College.
All Department of Education photos are by Paul Wood. More photos from the event may be viewed on the Department of Education’s Flickr.
The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann.