The students of Oscar de la Renta


Legacy can be tangible and intangible. In the case of Oscar de la Renta, it is both, and it is flourishing in a place where young designers begin their careers.

During his 2001 visit to Savannah College of Art and Design’s fashion show to accept the André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award, the designer shared this wisdom for breaking into the industry based on his own start with Cristóbal Balenciaga.

Everyone should seek the opportunity to go somewhere they can work and observe how it happens. - Oscar de la Renta

This is the story of how two industry hopefuls are living that advice and what they learned from hands on experience in Mr. de la Renta’s studio.

A prom dress and a purpose
Nikki Kaia Lee first encountered the tangible aspect of Mr. de la Renta’s legacy as a 14-year-old girl: a beautiful dress the designer chose just for her. This rare gift, which she later wore to prom, was a momento from a special day spent with him in New York. SCAD graduates, whom Nikki met through her mother, a SCAD architecture professor, conspired to bring her to New York as a distraction from cancer treatments. The dream trip grew, and soon insiders like WWD’s Bridget Foley were opening doors to opportunities such as lunch with Mr. de la Renta in his studio. 

I was just this girl from Georgia, but to him it didn’t matter where you come from. He treated everyone with such dignity and respect. - Nikki Kaia Lee

Nikki, now 20 and a junior at SCAD double majoring in fashion design and fibers, learned her first lessons from this dress, fitted for her right there in Mr. de la Renta’s atelier. Its lines, the slight variation in color, the way it made her feel. Her cancer long in remission, Nikki has spent the last four summers as a design intern for Oscar de la Renta in New York. Working in all areas of the studio – including stints with design assistants, in the atelier, and with the embellishment designer – has informed Nikki’s design approach and moved her to pursue a career in textiles. 

What I took from Oscar’s work was how he formed space around the garment. A lot of his garments, especially eveningwear, were like sculptures. -Nikki Kaia Lee

Needless to say, she eagerly awaits the opening of the exhibition, Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style at SCAD Museum of Art.

I think people have a preconceived notion about fashion. They think it’s frivolous. But I think that when people see his work in person they will truly understand why it can be an art form. - Nikki Kaia Lee

Thanks to the diligence of her fellow fashion student Sloane Mayberry, who is assisting SCAD Trustee André Leon Talley with the exhibition and corresponding catalogue, the public will have this opportunity.

Young hands help surface Oscar de la Renta classics

This summer, Nikki ran into Sloane in the elevators at Oscar de la Renta. Unbeknownst to her, Sloane was a merchandising and buying intern there. Organizing garments, assigning style numbers, and collecting sketches for the ODLR Spring 2015 fashion show put Sloane’s studies in perspective and conditioned her for the rigorous process of bringing the ODLR exhibit to SCAD MOA.

Learning of her internship at the designer's study and with his archive, Mr. Talley tapped Sloane to work on the exhibition. If her long days in New York didn't drive it home, then her apprenticeship on the exhibition did: fashion may be a glamorous, but it is also arduous. As Mr. Talley told her, “Put your gloves on and get to work.” And she did by taking possession of rarely seen couture gowns belonging to Mr. de la Renta’s wife, assisting with the exhibition’s layout and fitting mannequins to Mr. Talley’s specifications.

This project is like a class in itself. I am learning more than I ever thought I possibly could at such a young age, and in such a short amount of time. - Sloane Mayberry

Pouring over lookbooks and canvassing eBay and Google for custom gowns quickly paid off. Sloane’s trained eye prevented a photo of the wrong white jacket, worn by Laura Bush for the 2005 presidential inauguration, from making it into the exhibition. “It’s the pockets,” she observed. They were square.”

Messrs. de la Renta and Talley have taken Sloane a long way away from being that high school student who didn’t know anyone who attended art school. Now her education, reinforced by proximity to fashion legends, has raised her expectations for her career.

I think my exposure to such influential figures in fashion has changed my career path exponentially. This is the best education for what I want to do. - Sloane Mayberry

Along with the exhibition, these students, two paths indelibly changed, would certainly make Mr. de la Renta proud.

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Studio Logic: Monica Cook's airy space is a palette for the intricate


Multi-media artist Monica Cook (B.F.A., painting, 2006) is a self-described scavenger. The materials and objects she finds in places both obvious and unthinkable are the basis for her life-size sculptures, which bear the same overt realism as her paintings. She makes these creatures, a blend of human and animal, to be posable so she can bring them to life by shooting them frame by frame for animation. The thrill of the hunt, and her knack for it, helped Monica stumble upon her dream studio in Brooklyn, where she creates pieces that have been acquired by collectors like Louisville’s 21c Museum Hotel, which recently purchased Phosphene.

Monica’s upcoming shows include Beautiful Beast (Jan. 27 - March 8) at the Wilkinson Gallery in New York and Milk Fruit (Feb. 3 – March 19) at the Cress Gallery in Chattanooga. These images by Adam Kuehl (B.F.A., photography, 2005; M.F.A., photography, 2014) take us inside the laboratory that’s home to Monica’s prolific practice.

Thread: What is your ideal work environment. What can’t you work without?

Monica Cook: Natural light and good music.

T: It appears that you prefer a space that’s a clean, blank slate. Is this related to the nature of your work?

MC: I have to be very organized, otherwise I will spend all of my time searching for materials. I also prefer not to have old work around because I feel it holds me back. If my studio is orderly, like a blank slate, my mind feels freer and clear.


T: Has your studio changed as you’ve transitioned to 3D?

MC: Yes, drastically. I've had to collect so many more materials, tools and supplies. Also, I need a big, open space to create large-scale sculptures and animation sets.

T: Where do you get the pieces for your sculptures?

MC: I get the materials for my sculptures at junk stores, flea markets, eBay, or found on the streets and in the garbage. I have shelves of storage bins that are organized by object.

T: How did you find your studio?

MC: My studio is in Bushwick, Brooklyn. About two years ago, I needed to move to a larger space. I literally found my dream studio, but it was way out if my league financially, and I was scared to make such a leap. I called my mom and told her. She asked if other people in the building had such large spaces on their own. I said, "Yes." She said, “Well, what's the problem then? If they can do it, so can you.” So I did, and by the grace of God I have made it work. Having such a large, inspiring space has helped me and my work grow tremendously.

We'd love to be invited into your studio for this series. Please tells us about your workspace in the comments below or share your tips for keeping your studio organized and productive.

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Students, SCAD rack up pancontinental recognition


The year is not quite over, but SCAD has already put 2014 to good use. Both the university and its talented students have been the center of several prominent international spotlights. Here’s a roundup of recent recognition:

Two grads snag Will Eisner Comic Industry awards
Andrew Robinson (B.F.A., illustration, 1993) and Sean Murphy (B.F.A., sequential art, 2003) both received Eisner awards — the comic book industry’s Oscars — at the San Diego Comic-Con in July.

Robinson won the Best Reality-Based Work award as the lead artist on “The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story,” a Dark Horse graphic novel that details the life story of Brian Epstein who is credited with discovering the Beatles. The 2013 New York Times bestseller is set to be adapted to film under “Ant-Man” director Peyton Reed.

Murphy earned two awards for his work on “The Wake,” a horror series published through Vertigo, an imprint of DC. Murphy earned the Best Limited Series award and the Best Penciller/Inker award.

Animation grad earns college-level Emmy
Prasad Narse (M.F.A., animation, 2014) won third place in the Emmy College Television Awards competition for his animated film "I M Possible," which was made at SCAD. Prasad has also won acclaim with the Best of Festival award from the Speechless Film Festival and a Star of Festival award from the Grand Film Festival.

Colorful videogame “Prisma” wins big at E3
Nine months of hard work paid off for a SCAD team at the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). The team — composed of gaming and animation students and graduates — designed “Prisma,” which earned the top prize in the 2014 E3 College Game Competition. This is the second year in a row that SCAD has earned the award.

The winning team included Kyle J. Bolton (B.F.A., interactive design and game development, 2013), Alex Méndez (B.F.A. interactive design and game development), Khoa D. Nguyen (B.F.A., interactive design and game development, 2013), Kevin Ridgway (B.F.A. animation, 2012), Angelica M. Rodriguez-Vazquez (B.F.A., interactive design and game development, 2014) and Hank M. Silman III (B.F.A. interactive design and game development).

Student film becomes fan favorite in Sprite Films contest
Olivia Riley Day (B.F.A., film and television) had her short film “See Your Dreams” recognized by the 2014 Sprite Films student filmmaker competition when it was voted Fan Favorite. Day won a $5,000 donation from Sprite that went into the SCAD film and television department, as well as a trip to the American Film Institute’s AFI FEST 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

SCAD, students renowned with Red Dot awards
SCAD received major recognition after being named a top ten university in the Americas and Europe at the 2014 Red Dot Design Award, given to the university for its innovative design programs.

Additionally, three alumni and four students were recognized at the prestigious Red Dot Awards in Singapore in September.

Red Dot Awards — a coveted prize of approval from Germany-based design authority Design Zentrum — draws more than 11,000 submissions each year from roughly 60 countries across the globe, making it one of the most ambitious worldwide competitions in design.

A jury of international design experts selected astounding work from graduates Yue Jia (M.A., industrial design, 2014) and Sebastian Campos (B.F.A., industrial design, 2012) for Red Dot Awards. Graduate Qing Xu (M.A., industrial design, 2014) and current students Jian Shi (M.F.A., industrial design), Weijing Zhao (M.F.A., industrial design), Yunman Gu (M.F.A., industrial design), and Holly Chisholm (B.F.A., industrial design).

SCAD Museum, Sottile and Drummond get top honors at AIA
In January, the SCAD Museum was recognized with the 2014 American Institute of Architects National Honor Award for Architecture, a key award for newly established buildings given by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) each year. Already a cornerstone on campus, the museum continues to draw international buzz.

AIA later recognized Christian Sottile, dean of the school of building arts, as the recipient of the AIA Young Architects Award, while Adam Drummond (M.Arch) was named one of five recipients of the 2014 AIA Fellowship for Emerging Leaders. The event took place in Chicago in June.

In August, the Georgia chapter of AIA further recognized SCAD’s architectural footprint by recognizing the SCADpad® experiment with the 2014 AIA Georgia Design Award. The unique project, which turned parking spaces into micro-housing in a midtown Atlanta parking deck, was recognized for its sustainability- and community-focused initiative.

SCAD’s global mindedness recognized by Atlanta Business Chronicle
More major acclaim came SCAD’s way early this month when it was recognized as a pancontinental university at the 2014 Atlanta World Showcase and Governor's International Awards.

The event was hosted by the Atlanta Business Chronicle magazine and honored institutions and leaders with ties to Atlanta that represent the very best in international business. SCAD won in the International Education Program category for its diversified presence with locations in Atlanta, Savannah, France and Hong Kong.

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Fink’s five musts to finding a good fashion career


There’s good news for fashion students. The fashion industry, like many others sectors, is starting to dust off the recession.

In that time, though, we’ve advanced light years in technology and culture. Yet the fashion industry has been slow to change. That’s important to keep in mind when doing the resume rounds.

As much as you want to be the best fit for your potential employer, make sure the company is a good fit for you, too. If they are maintaining the status quo from 10 years ago, think hard about your place on their team when the offer comes. Business as usual doesn’t cut it anymore.

Here’s five signs to identifying a good fashion company in today’s world:

Their market is more than data.
The downfall of many businesses in today’s world is thinking that everything they read on paper is factual or offers the full picture about their market. Companies can spend hours crunching demographics, reading research articles or spending money hiring someone to make sense of the numbers.

Sometimes the best way to know your market is to get out off the office and go find them. Yes, it takes time, but there’s nothing deadlier to any business than going to a buyer who has no use for your product.

In the information overload age, having a conversation with one customer can often do more for a company’s perspective than sifting through data on a screen. Make sure your potential employer can tell you more about their market than regurgitating demographic info.

2014 SCAD Fashion Show

They think globally, but find a place to land.
Not so long ago it was OK to compete with the store down the block. Now, every customer has a counterpart in Turkey, China and everywhere else in the world. That means companies have the opportunity to make a product achievable in many different cultures.

But sometimes fashion leaders get stuck in the clouds trying to be all things to everyone. Make sure your boss-to-be has a focus. For example, if they are made in America they should be proudly displaying that fact. There is a huge consumer base here at home that checks the tags for exactly that.

Ask them about their future. See if they’re making specific decisions on where to put their time and money. Not everyone associates Savannah, Georgia, with premier fashion, even though it exists here. But the Savannah College of Art and Design knows that you don’t try to be everywhere at once. You go to where your market exists and build from there. Make sure you’re joining a company that has both a grasp on the big picture and their place in it.

They know consumers demand and deserve better practices.
The fashion industry is notorious for bad practices from the past like offshore working conditions and misuse of resources. Consumers demand better. Sustainability isn’t optional anymore.

A good example is fast-fashion store H&M, based out of Sweden, which is very transparent about their manufacturing process with consumers. This is important, especially to younger consumers who care more about how their purchasing power is impacting the world.

By enforcing sustainability practices and being open about manufacturing, H&M creates trust between the buyer and the seller. You cannot undersell trust. Trust creates loyalty, which turns buyers into best type of marketing: advocates.

Widespread acceptance of green practices will likely take time. It’s difficult to overhaul an entire industry overnight. But the person behind the desk asking the questions should be able to give you their take on sustainability. That’s because getting ahead of the green curve could reap big benefits for those willing to take steps towards long-term sustainability.

Fashion Show 2014, garment critique

They know not to spin their social media wheels.
A shameful amount of major companies talk about social media like it’s all the same thing. A good business is more nuanced than that. It’s not enough to post something on Facebook, aiming for 300 or 400 likes. Today’s users are far savvier.

Fashion has been an especially late adopter to social media. Just as the industry begins to fully embrace Facebook, there’s a mass exodus from it. In a Teen Vouge poll, roughly half of teens are now saying life would be better without social media altogether.

There’s probably never going to be a social media blackout because those same users are still on the sites/apps they supposedly hate. But fashion businesses have to be on top of trends as their consumers migrate from platform to platform.

What works, what’s new, what’s fad — it will change in six months. Right now, it’s visually heavy media like Instagram and Pinterest. That could change. Bottom line: a company needs to be adaptable and more nuanced in their usage of each account. Ask how often they review their benchmarks and revamp their social media strategy.

They know a good story is as important as design.
Every business that succeeds has a singular vision by which everything is filtered. And that means having total brand definition. Design is sometimes only as impactful in its reach as the marketing around it.

Good marketing requires honest human emotion that comes through a narrative supported by a product. In a world where people are more conscious about what they consume, that requires storytelling.

Storytelling is one of those vague terms you’re going to hear in marketing seminars one day. It can be confusing and often left undefined. For me, it boils down to creating a dialogue with people, telling them what your product is and why it could be good for them.

If a company does this one thing well, the consumer will start telling the story for them. That’s something you’re going to want when you join a team because passion breeds success.

Michael Fink is dean of the school of fashion at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

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Thread: your connection to the SCAD community


thread: that which runs through the whole course of something, connecting successive parts.

Thanks to heavy doses of social media and constant connectivity, realities of the digital world in which we live, some say we’re more in touch than ever. But we launched Thread because we felt there was room for more connection, and for a destination that would reflect the dynamism of the Savannah College of Art and Design community and connect our far-flung members through time and space.

As you can see below, 35 years since the university’s founding in 1978 and SCAD alumni are everywhere, living, working and influencing art and design in cities worldwide. In addition to this macro view of where your peers work and reside, we wanted to get specific. So, in celebration of Thread’s launch, over the next few days we’ll kick off a new project: a human almanac of sorts; snapshots of what those 28,000 people who share the SCAD experience are up to and what their time at SCAD meant to them.

We hope this project inspires you to share your story with us so Thread can continue to document your journey and “map” your progress. Send your updates to:

We celebrate what’s to come. Thanks for joining the ride.

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SCAD alumni fan the flames of Super Bowl ad fever


An Ostrich. Doritos. The chance to be seen by one of the largest television audiences in history. Not getting the connection? Keep reading.

"Breakroom Ostrich," by a team from Atlanta-based FUGO Studios, including cinematographer Richard Webb (B.F.A., Film and Television, 2005) and Brandon Morris (B.F.A., Motion Media, 2010) is one of five finalist commercials, out of thousands submitted, in the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl ad contest.

What made this spot by Savannah College Art and Design alumni break through for a real shot at the $1 million prize?

An ostrich named “Clyde” had a little something to do with it. Though Clyde wasn’t invited, Brandon and Richard will attend Super Bowl XLVIII with the other Doritos finalists and watch on the edge of their private suite seats to see whether "Breakroom Ostrich" will be one of two finalist ads to air during the big game. I caught up with them before they depart for New Jersey.

Thread: What led you to enter the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest?

Richard and Brandon: We've always been interested in advertising. The main reason for entering the contest, besides the awesome prizes, is to truly learn what makes a commercial successful. There is a true art to getting your message across in 30 seconds, and the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest allows us to sharpen our skills every year.

T: How did you come up with the concept “Breakroom Ostrich”?

R & B: The spot was written by director Eric Haviv and VFX supervisor Bryan Westberry. The concept was born out of Eric's longtime fascination with ostriches and a solid brainstorming session over a beer or two. Another factor that drove the idea was the success of previous Crash the Super Bowl entries. There is no formula to winning this contest, but it helps to pay attention to what works and what doesn't. There were a few different versions of the script floating around in pre-production. One idea was based on the hilarious way ostriches eat, but we figured we probably wouldn't get the shots we needed from the birds. We really went into production with the notion that the ostriches themselves would dictate where we could go with the final spot.

T: Where in the world did you find Clyde?

R & B: Clyde was found by a cold call to Bird Brain Ostrich Ranch in Sherills Ford, N.C. The owners were so accommodating, which was a huge help. Believe it or not, there aren't too many ostrich farms near Atlanta, so when we found one that was eager to help a few young filmmakers, it was very exciting.

T: What challenges did Clyde pose on set? Any problems that made you think you couldn't pull it off?

R & B: The main challenge in filming Clyde is that he is a big, mean, flightless bird. Ostriches are virtually un-trainable. In fact, as the shoot day wore on, it seemed like they just wanted to do the opposite of what you needed them to do. Our initial plan was to get the ostriches in front of a green screen, which would make visual effects much easier. As it turned out, Clyde was terrified of the green screen. These birds knew something was up immediately, and it made the shoot day a real gamble. Once we realized we were in a plan B situation, we knew that it would be up to the magic of visual effects to make this spot happen. We brought the footage back and did a couple of tests, which came out great. This was a wonderful boost for morale, and we decided to move forward with the office portion of the shoot.

T: When did you know that you had a winner, or at least a finalist, on your hands?

R & B: Honestly, we never had that feeling until we were notified. We are always our own worst critics and once you watch something 100 times during post-production, you start to wonder if it's funny or not. Luckily, we started to get a great response from the people we showed it to, and we knew that, win or lose, we had something we were proud of.

T: Did you get any advice or learn anything from other SCAD alumni who have entered the Doritos contest before?

R & B: We always enjoyed the entries from the Dandy Dwarves, who are SCAD alumni.

T: What would you do with the $1 million prize?

R & B: Besides buy an ostrich farm of our own? You know, the four of us have been working hard and honing our craft for years now, and we want to make a feature film soon. I think $1 million would make our dreams come true.

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Happy Holidays from Thread


Here it is, Thread's inaugural holiday card featuring festive scenes of the season at Savannah College of Art and Design's locations around the globe. We thank you for joining us on our new editorial adventure and can't wait to show you what we have in store for 2014. Warm wishes for an inspired holiday and a happy New Year!

A new fallen snow at SCAD Lacoste.

The annual delivery of 'Secret Santa' gifts from faculty, staff, and students to children at the Savannah Union Mission...

...and a visit from Santa Bee.

SCAD Atlanta's Ivy Hall decked out in the theme, "A Tony Duquette Chinoiserie Christmas."

Holiday bling lights up Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong.

Wherever your celebrations take you, may your travels be easy and safe.

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UNTITLED.: A gallerist and a curator dish on art and the fair itself


UNTITLED International Contemporary Art Fair Miami Beach

Wandering through UNTITLED’s airy pop-up tent on Miami Beach, I bumped into Savannah College of Art and Design curator Alex Sachs in the booth of Andrew Rafacz Gallery, which represents Wendy White (B.F.A., Fibers) in Chicago. Always curious about the works that catch a curator’s eye, I asked Alex to tell me what has her attention at the fair. In this case, it was the geometrical forms, beguilingly folded aluminum, by artist Robert Burnier that drew Alex in.

What followed, after Andrew approached us in the booth, was an enlightening and organic conversation about Robert and why UNTITLED is the best fair in Miami Beach.

Andrew Rafacz: Robert is Chicago-based and studied at the art institute but he is in his 40s and started as a software engineer years ago and decided to go back to school for art, because it was his first love. And that kind of informs his work because these start as designs in the computer and some of the lines are very precise and then he’s manipulating them by hand in his studio. So they have that hand-involved quality, but they straddle different lines. For me they’re about drawing. They look like folded paper, they’re sculptural and they have this mystery of materiality that I think is really epiphanic.

Alex Sachs: When you walk up to the booth you have no idea what they are. You really need to approach them to see what the materials are and to see the intricacy of the folding. The discovery is also why they’re really intriguing.

AR: This piece, you know, I stared at it in the studio and then we had it in the gallery, but having it in here, I was walking up to it and there are so many crazy folds inside this thing and it’s revealing itself even further.

Robert Burnier Thirty Six primer on aluminum

Tarana Mayes: Andrew, have you exhibited at UNTITLED before?

AR: This is my second time exhibiting here. These guys are doing something really special. It’s a curated fair. I feel like some art fairs have said they are curated, but nobody curates a fair like Omar Lopez-Chahoud, who curates this. Because he is hands-on from day one all the way through this fair. He has been on site every day.

AS: Did he make any changes to your presentation?

AR: He didn’t. I feel like – last year he loved it, too. I had Wendy’s work here last year. I’ve watched him make changes here and there, which is an amazing thing, actually, to have somebody that dedicated, because sometimes you do art fairs and the person across from you, maybe the booth’s over hung or things don’t visually line-up. I mean a fair is always about a multiplicity of artistic voices, so it’s never going to be seamless.

AS: Yeah, the diversity.

AR: But you also want it to be like, we’re here as exhibitors for seven days. You want it to be visually arresting and not oppressive. So the combination of a really well curated fair with a tent bathed in natural light during the day makes it a joy to be in.

AS: The other thing I’ll say about this fair is that there’s a lot of restraint. A lot of times at art fairs there are a lot of people taking photos. I think it’s so overwhelming.

AR: Yes, they’re over-stimulated.

AS: Often times at fairs people are just taking photos and they’re like, “I’ll think about it later, I’ll look at it later.” But here it’s open and bright, and there’s plenty of wall space so that you really see each work individually, the way that you’d want to see them in a gallery. So it’s proximate to an ideal situation for showing art. Lots of natural light, lots of white space between the walls, and plenty of room between the booths, so it’s really open.

Wendy White with Anna Kustera Gallery at Untitled Miami Beach

AR: And what’s amazing is that all of the things you said…having a fair take those things back, which we know worked in the first place, that is radical. It’s radical in what it’s not, actually.

TM: Having a fair remove the things that weren’t working?

AR: Remove the things that work for the big fair, I guess, or work for selling a lot of product, but they don’t work for taking in art in any sort of substantial way. I’d even go a step further and say the art fairs are starting to eclipse what happens in the gallery. So many galleries are struggling to stay open because they only sell art at an art fair. Well, that is truly problematic in the long run, because if you don’t have a space for an artist like Robert Burnier or Wendy White to develop and articulate a solo idea or exhibition in a space like that, what do we have left? We don’t have artists who can evolve like they need to. My point is that [UNTITLED] is taking it back by not reinventing the wheel.

So many galleries are struggling to stay open because they only sell art at an art fair. Well, that is truly problematic in the long run, because if you don’t have a space for an artist like Robert Burnier or Wendy White to develop and articulate a solo idea or exhibition in a space like that, what do we have left?

AS: Again, I’ll just say restraint. It just feels elegant and shows great restraint, which enables the viewer to see the work in it’s best light.

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Art Basel Miami Beach: an artist's perspective


Art fairs are uncharted territory for me. So as I prepared for my first trip to Art Basel Miami Beach (Dec.5-8), I caught up with Marcus Kenney (M.F.A., Photography) to see what ABMB looks like through an artist’s eyes. I was relieved to learn that even for the most seasoned ABMB participant – Marcus has exhibited at various fairs there for most of the last ten years - this annual phenomenon can be overpowering. If you’re in Miami, look for Marcus and his work at North of Modern, presented by Florida Mining Gallery, Eileen Braziel at SCOPE, and at Savannah College of Art and Design’s Artistic Professional Practices panel on Dec. 6 at The M Building.

TM: Describe ABMB? What’s the atmosphere like for an artist?

MK: It’s kind of crazy. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed because there’s so much art. As an artist I am around art all the time, but when you see it in a setting like this where there’s a dozen art fairs and each fair has probably at least 50 galleries and then each of those galleries has at least three, four, five artists do the math on that.

It’s like going into a museum and never leaving for a week. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed. From an artist’s perspective, it’s kinda hard not to question where you fit in with all of this. You see things that you like and you see things that you don’t like. I think it’s kind of a requirement for any serious artist to know what’s being made.

You can see dead artists' work, you can see people from Jeff Koons, you know top-shelf artists, all the way down to students’ work and people just getting out of school. So it kind of runs the gamut of what’s available.

TM: Have you had a particular ah-ha moment at ABMB? Has it influenced your work when you go back home?

MK: I’m sure it does. I don’t know that there’s been anything specific where I’ve been like, “Wow, let me try something like that.” As a visual artist, you’re basically influenced by everything. Last year I went and there was a lot of taxidermy stuff, so it has kind of influenced me not to want to do it as much (laughs). Basically you have the world’s art market represented in one location for a week. You can see what’s being made in China, you can see what’s being made in South America, you can see what’s trending in design. You can see everything all in one location, so it’s pretty fascinating.

TM: That's why it's so iconic. What’s the perception of ABMB among artists?

MK: It’s love-hate. As artists you want your work to be down there because the whole world is there, all the major art dealers, all the major art collectors, all the major museums, all the major magazines, not even major, anybody who is connected to the art world is there that weekend. So I think it’s important from an artist’s perspective to have some sort of representation there because it’s all about getting your work seen. At the same time, it’s there to be sold. So that’s always difficult from an artist’s point of view because it’s kind of like a flea market style. There are booths after booths after booths, and they’re not selling used vinyl and old bottles, they’re selling art. People’s attention spans are very small and it’s different than having a show in a gallery that’s going to be up for a month or two and people are able to spend time with it. In Miami, they’re just looking and five seconds and they’re out because they know that there’s a million other things to see. So you really have to have something that really stands out to get people to look at it. If it’s a real serious work it’s hard to get the attention it deserves.

TM: On a lighter note, who throws the best parties at ABMB?

MK: Artists’ parties are the best ones, where the artists will get together, get DJ’s and stuff. Usually a lot of the party scene…there’s so many of them and it’s kind of like I was saying with the art fairs. You go to one and somebody will say, "There’s another one over here." So you don’t ever really get to settle in. It’s kind of like bar hopping, but you’re party hopping. Some of the best times are when you just get a group of people together and go to a restaurant and have a conversation.

TM: There's plenty of good places to eat in Miami for sure. Would you say ABMB is more business or pleasure?

MK: It’s both. That’s why they do it in Miami because Miami is such a great place to be, especially in a…what is it 30 degrees here today? We’re in Savannah, so imagine people coming from New York and London, you know, the cold parts of the world. Who wouldn’t want to go to Miami for a week? It’s a beautiful place to be. It’s both. As an artist, it’s both. It should always be both. Every day it’s pleasure because you get to do something that you love to do, but it’s also business. If you’re doing it right, I think.

TM: Is there an artist that you’ve either met or learned about at the fair that you follow now because you first encountered them at ABMB?

MK: Last year I met a photographer who I was familiar with - Lori Nix - and I was at Pulse sitting outside and met her and started talking about her work and my work. We were familiar with each other’s work, but had never actually met. Now she has a solo show in New York. It’s always nice to put a face with the work. You meet a lot of people. Tony Fitzpatrick out of Chicago, I’ve been in shows with him and seen his work before and he does these nice little collages. But I had never actually met him. So it’s nice to be able to put a face to the work.

TM: What do you have your eye on this year? What’s your agenda for this installment of ABMB?

MK: The more you go somewhere the more you feel comfortable with it and you know you’re not gonna see it all, so you’re able to slow down and enjoy it. Having gone so many times now I don’t feel like I have to see everything. This year I just want to enjoy it and really take my time, try not to get to every single thing because it’s impossible anyway. Just to enjoy looking at other artists’ work and see what’s going on in the art world right now.

TM: Tell me about the two exhibits you’ll have going on?

MK: Florida Mining is a gallery in Jacksonville that I just had a show with. They have a project – there are tons of these things, too. It’s not just the actual fairs, but there’s all these little independent projects that people do. It’s called North of Modern. Mine will be a mix of installation, sculpture and painting. I’ll have a good bit of work there, which is nice. At SCOPE, I’m showing with a lady out of Santa Fe that I’ve shown with in the past. She works with the Navajo Nation and we’re gearing up to do a project with them next summer. They’re doing a site-specific installation. There’s Navajo artists and they’re also inviting outside contemporary artists, so I’m really excited about this. Eileen Braziel is the gallery.

TM: I'll definitely stop by. What’s your advice for getting the most out of the fair?

MK: It would benefit you to do a little bit of research before and figure out what you want to see. There’s the big far, Art Basel, which is huge. You could spend many days there. When I was first going I would go there and try to do too many fairs. If you researched it and had an itinerary – though it’s hard to keep one while you’re down there – that would probably be helpful. And then just make sure you have some down time because it can really turn your brain into mush. Coming back is always difficult.

TM: How’s that?

MK: You’re exposed to so much. It’s so much to process.

Because I’m a visual artist, everything is so visual to me that when I come back I am just kinda overwhelmed, over-stimulated might be the correct word. It just takes a while to figure out what you’ve seen and how you’re going to put it to use going forward.

I really like that. It’s the end of the year. After Art Basel, then it’s the holidays and I tend to not do a whole lot of work during that time, so by the time January comes back around I am ready to get back at it. You’re gonna love it, it’s great.


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UNTITLED.: A gallerist and a curator dish on art and the fair itself
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Video: Lee Daniels' commencement address at Savannah College of Art and Design


Yesterday, Academy Award-winning director and producer Lee Daniels delivered the commencement address at SCAD's very first fall commencement ceremony in Savannah. Lee told graduates and their families, “I couldn’t afford to go to college and I was angry about that for a long time. This would have been the college that I went to because it’s pretty badass.” SCAD awarded Lee the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.



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Art Basel Miami Beach: an artist's perspective
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A career in … amusement: It's not just about the rides