Savannah, Georgia, with its blocks of crepe myrtles dripping lazily with Spanish moss, is probably the last place you’d expect to find a bubbling hub of design innovation. But one visit to shopSCAD, the boutique that sells the work by students at the Savannah College of Art and Design will change all that. Step inside and you’ll quickly realize this is not some student shop–this is a world-class design store. The work is so smart, so sophisticated, so jaw-droppingly good, that it’s not surprising to hear that these same students also sell their work at Williams-Sonoma and Barnes & Noble. As the co-founder and current president of SCAD, it’s Paula Wallace who you can thank for making Savannah a design exporter, a craft Mecca, an artists’ haven, a true center of creativity that’s simply unheard of for a city its size.
It’s no surprise that President Wallace has built a world-class institution–SCAD is consistently rated as one of the nation’s top design schools–but you may be surprised to know that the SCAD empire doesn’t stop in Eastern Georgia. Under President Wallace’s watch, the school has expanded to SCAD-Atlanta, which now has over 1,600 students after opening just four years ago, SCAD-Lacoste, a campus in the South of France hosting students from every campus, and SCAD-eLearning, the school’s distance-learning program. And by 2010, Wallace will bring SCAD’s legacy to Hong Kong, where a campus will be opened in the historic North Kowloon Magistracy Building. This will make SCAD the first U.S. university to establish a degree-granting campus in Hong Kong.
President Wallace’s roots are firmly entrenched in Savannah’s culture, and in her role at SCAD she has led the preservation and renovation of some of the city’s finest architecture, from a Queen Anne Victorian to a 19th-century synagogue. She is also and author and interior designer: Her latest book A House in the South(Clarkson Potter Press) explores “old-fashioned graciousness for new-fashioned times,” and she’s currently working on another, Perfect Porches, focusing on the rocking-chair lifestyle of that Southern institution.
This week, just in time for the start of fall term, President Wallace is going to take us inside her own institution, interviewing three of her very talented faculty members from very different corners of the design world about the value of education in today’s economy. “Everywhere you look, the value of a university degree is being scrutinized.Political types and families are asking for accountability in highereducation,” she says. “What real difference does education make in the lives of ourclients?” We’ll find out the answer, but to get you into back-to-school mode, check out some of the beautiful buildings that make up SCAD’s growing campus:
Ivy Hall at SCAD-Atlanta, home to that campus’s BFA and MFA programs in writing.
A restored seminar room in Ivy Hall at SCAD-Atlanta.
For most of the twentieth century, the SCAD Student Center functioned as a synagogue and later as a church.
Rendering of the North Kowloon Magistracy at SCAD-Hong Kong, scheduled to open in 2010.
Read Paula Wallace’s blog Design (Education) is Changing