Walking up the stairs to Moon River Brewing Company’s unfinished second floor space, used for art exhibitions, events, and as a spooky stop on local ghost tours, the mood felt undeniably heavy. This past Friday evening it had nothing to do with Savannah’s historic ghouls.
The mood on the second floor was emanating from the opening of Goodbye Boundary, an exhibition of sculptural works by current and graduating students, along with alumni and faculty. The exhibition, hosted by Sculpture Forum (a SCAD student club) showcased the diversity of work, both in medium and concept, that has come out of SCAD’s Boundary Hall – the home of the Savannah campus’ sculpture minor program. The somber atmosphere in the room stood as a reminder that this show, unlike most, was not entirely a celebration of the accomplishments of the many talented artists exhibited that evening, but also a vigil for a program and space.
This past week, SCAD announced that it was retiring the sculpture minor on the Savannah campus and that it would not be renewing its lease on Boundary Hall. SCAD did not provide a clear reason for the retiring of the minor, although SCAD’s Director of University Communications, Ally Hughes, offered this information: “SCAD regularly evaluates its many advanced learning resources that support excellence in art and design. As a result of the university’s continued assessment of current 3D design facilities, it has been determined that beginning in the 2014 Fall Quarter, the SCAD Savannah courses offered in Boundary Hall will be moved to other buildings.”
These changes to the SCAD Savannah campus have left the students who felt enriched by their sculpture minor and found themselves deeply connected to Boundary Hall upset. Co-President of Sculpture Forum, Kristen Crouch said, “After we found out they were getting rid on the minor, we heard that it had been in the works for a couple of years. Which is really sad to me because I have worked in Boundary and it has become my home. The people there are my best friends.”
Her fellow Co-President, Sami Lee Woolhiser, chimed in to add, “Boundary really has been a place where we’ve all been able to find a home and learn and take away so much from our time at SCAD. The sculpture department at the Savannah campus draws from many different majors like industrial design, furniture, photography, animation, and painting. It really brings a huge collective [of people] and a huge variety of backgrounds together and that’s really what’s so great about Boundary and the sculpture department.”
The works on display truly reflected the diversity of the department. The pieces ranged from figurative works to abstract and conceptual pieces, all in a variety of mediums, from found objects to more traditional media like wood and metal. In each piece was a glimpse of a different artistic background. Narrative works next to conceptual musings on space, adjacent to figurative pieces ranging from the dark to the comical; the works were clearly not part of a unified movement, but they were linked through a love of exploration. The showcase clearly revealed the appeal of the three dimensional medium to a mixed group of artists.
Crouch, who on the night of the opening seemed both emotional about the circumstances of the exhibition and resolutely clear-minded on her position, has organized an online petition against the elimination of the sculpture minor as well as the relinquishing of the minor’s primary facilities. Through the petition, Crouch hopes to spread the word of the university’s actions to current and future students, inspire students and alumni to make their voices heard, and encourage the administration to consult the student body in the future before making decisions that affect them.
“I’m graduating so I’m not doing this for me, because I’m done. I’m doing this for the future students who aren’t going to be able to find the kind of refuge that we have found,” Crouch said.
While Crouch and Woolhiser have realized that saving the sculpture facilities is not possible, they both were concerned more generally about what the loss of the sculpture minor means for SCAD and future students.
“I know the building is gone but that doesn’t justify the elimination of the sculpture minor,” Crouch said. “You cannot belittle the fine arts departments while continuing to call yourself an arts school,” she added.
Woolhiser pointed out that she saw irony in the fact that some of the fine arts alumni SCAD promotes the most are now working in sculpture or use sculpture heavily in their work. “I think they need to realize what is being successful in the fine arts world,” she said.
Ally Hughes said, “SCAD remains committed to sculpture as an academic discipline, with the sculpture major and minor continuing to be offered at SCAD Atlanta. SCAD Atlanta’s facilities, located adjacent to the High Museum of Art, position the sculpture program for increased opportunity, augmenting the university’s ability to offer students relevant and focused education and career preparation.”
SCAD Savannah will continue to offer 3D design classes at Anderson Hall, where, “SCAD will equip classroom space to support those courses.” Further, Hughes added, “The Gulfstream Center for Design is currently outfitted to support advanced courses that may need additional 3D resources.” She also stated that students currently enrolled in the sculpture minor program will be able to complete their minors and are working with the student success and student advising departments to schedule the rest of their necessary courses.
While Crouch and Woolhiser shared their worries about the direction the school is taking, they also expressed a practical and forward-thinking vision. “We hope that Sculpture Forum will continue to give Savannah campus a sculpture presence by collaborating with the industrial design club, the ceramics club, different volunteer clubs and painting club,” Woolhiser said.
The pair of Presidents are graduating this May from SCAD, but the incoming President of Sculpture Forum, Charlie Schaeffer, plans to keep the club going. He will work with the club’s co-founder and advisor of 6 years, Professor Matt Toole, to continue offering opportunities to students through quarterly shows, studio visits with local artists, and encouraging the creation of sculpture. With the loss of Boundary Hall, Schaeffer said, “creating an environment to make work will be a bigger part of what Sculpture Forum is in the future.”
Toole, a featured artist in the exhibition, as well as the club advisor and sculpture professor, was present during the opening, lending an optimistic and supportive energy to the room. “When something closes, something else opens up. Other different opportunities come open or you have to make those opportunities come open. So I think we will find a way to make some things happen,” he said.
Despite the end of the sculpture minor on SCAD’s Savannah campus, Sculpture Forum seems to be poised to continue bringing the medium into the lives and careers of the SCAD community. For its part, Boundary Hall, the former site of the minor, will also continue to be a place for art. The Creative Coast plans to open the Creators’ Foundry this coming fall. Executive Director Bea Wray said, “TCC would like to say one word, ‘WELCOME!’ We see the Creators’ Foundry as important glue to connect SCAD students to the creative careers for which they are trained.”
While Toole’s words of wisdom look to be true both for the future of Sculpture Forum and Boundary Hall, the reality of the situation was still sinking in for the affected students. Back at Moon River, surrounded by the fruits of their passion for sculpture and the energy of a place, the students welcomed in their peers, professors, and members of the public, sharing both the work they created and the story of their loss. They are both moving forward and fighting for what was.
To sign Kristen Crouch’s petition visit http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/sc-d
To learn more about The Creative Coasts’ Creators’ Foundry visit http://www.thecreativecoast.org/creators-foundry/