Art in the age of social media: i feel ya artists weigh in

December
9
2014

The convergence of our celebrity culture and the proliferation of platforms for visibility have succeeded in putting artists on a pedestal. In an environment where, as the saying goes, ‘content is king’, we’ve come to perceive those who create it as being the ultimate authorities. But is the artist really the authority? And does being called an artist make you one?

These are two of the topics that panelists tackled during a lively conversation surrounding the opening of i feel ya: SCAD + André 3000 Benjamin at Mana Miami. Because of the fields they represent (SCAD founder and president Paula Wallace, art and design education; Grammy-Award winning rapper André 3000 Benjamin, music; painter Jimmy O’Neal, fine art; director Greg Brunkalla, film), the panelists who collaborated on i feel ya serve as a weather balloon, delivering a read on the atmosphere of art and creativity in the age of social media.

Watch the full panel discussion below.

Related: Also catch President Wallace's one-on-on with André 3000 at Design Miami.

After seeing i feel ya and how seamlessly André’s 47 jumpsuits, Jimmy’s mirrored paintings and Greg’s film play together in the fertile soil tilled by Savannah College of Art and Design, one would expect the three to get along well. They did more than that during the panel at Mana Miami. Their dialogue was a living testimony to how art is a common language we can speak when our social, racial and economic backgrounds might threaten to create an impasse or breakdown in communication.

Here are three important areas in which they concur:

1.) Social media is a medium not mandatory
The ability of social media to broadcast an artist’s work doesn’t make it an inevitable part of an artist’s identity. It’s just one, tool, mused André who, along with Jimmy and Greg, refreshingly maintains no major, official social media presence. The artists don’t eschew social media, but feel they’re still able to effectively share their work without it. (For his part, André explained that he feels he already shares enough of himself with the public.) But their absence on the social media landscape doesn’t mean they’re tone deaf to it. As Greg reasoned to chuckles from the audience, “André, you are social and you are media. You’ve already mastered it.” One look at André’s character-conscience messages on his black suits and Jimmy’s selfie inducing reflective paint and you get it: artists can be inspired by social media without being slaves to it, and find ways to connect to their followers without it.

2.) Art's value is in the eye of the beholder
To explain what inspired some of the messages on his jumpsuit, André told several stories. One of the best was about the game he plays with his son, Seven, when they encounter a piece of art. The two take the work in and then ask one another: “Art or fart?” Is this a serious work or a just spectacle created for show? This exercise embodies what Jimmy, André and Greg agreed is the answer to moderator Andrew Bevan’s question: Who decides what art is or what is good art? They overwhelmingly concurred that the viewer is the authority.

3.) Not knowing is an advantage
In this information age it’s easy to assume that the more you know the better off you are. Not true, say André, Jimmy and Greg. A profound example of this mutual truth was when these artists - steeped in their respective disciplines - shared that they believe one doesn’t have to know art to make it or judge its value. To illustrate this, André pointed to his lack of formal training in music, which he says was a benefit not a curse. “Sometimes having a disadvantage causes your mind to focus elsewhere,” he said. Because he didn’t know the rules, André could create his own sound. Likewise, said Greg, if you’re not obsessed with knowing you can actually accomplish a good bit. For this, he held up his friend Jimmy as an example. When Greg discovered during their stay in Miami that Jimmy was oblivious to the public transportation craze Uber, he was simultaneously astounded and heartened. “I love when I find out that I don’t know things,” Greg said, “It just means that I was busy doing something else.”

Clearly their ability to be in touch with the zeitgeist without being overwhelmed by it, and to appropriate the culture for their art without permitting it to manipulate their art, has worked for these masters of their genres. It’s also the reason they were able to bring us i feel ya.

Do you agree with them?

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André 3000 and SCAD open i feel ya in Miami

December
4
2014

Savannah College of Art and Design and André 3000 Benjamin opened the co-produced exhibition i feel ya at Mana Miami this week, letting the public in on their longstanding relationship. The crowds that flocked to the VIP reception represented interests as diverse as the pieces in the installation, from SCAD alumni and students in fields like performance, sequential art and film, to die hard fans of hip-hop. After absorbing the interplay between the army of 47 suits André wore for Outkast’s reunion tour, Greg Brunkalla’s (B.F.A., film and television, 2001) film and Jimmy O’Neal's (B.F.A., illustration, 1989) reflective Rorschach-like paintings, guests left their reactions on an expression wall where André's drawing of his suit stood watch, ripped from the pages of his sketch book.

How could a simple black suit emblazoned with basic white words inspire a film and six paintings? Come visit and you may see.

 

 

 

 

 

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Congratulations, graduates! SCAD commencement in pictures.

November
24
2014

Here's to the 413 new alumni from Savannah College of Art and Design who graduated in the university's 35th commencement ceremonies. We agree with Academy Award-winning screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher's characterization of you as individuals and as a class: you are brilliant 'containers of gifts that you will share with the world.' Please keep us posted on all that you do.


 

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The creative pursuits of André 3000 Benjamin

November
21
2014

It was one of the most anticipated musical acts in years: the Outkast 20th anniversary reunion. And it’s not over…quite yet. The 47 jumpsuits, donned on stage during the tour by the Grammy Award-winning duo’s André 3000, are getting a second life when they go on display in the exhibition i feel ya: SCAD + André 3000 Benjamin (Dec. 3 – 14 at Mana Miami).

Just like the messages they bear, the suits have multiple meanings. They’re emblematic of André's identity as a hip-hop icon and well-rounded artist. Through them, the experimental film Trumpets, by Greg Brunkalla (B.F.A, video/film, 2001), and paintings by Jimmy O’Neal (B.F.A, illustration, 1989), Savannah College of Art and Design will dissect the power and rising prominence of artistic collaboration and creative careers.

His lyrics are packed with meaning. Here, in an interview with SCAD’s founder and president Paula Wallace, André previews the project with SCAD and let’s us in on the meaning behind his latest creative pursuit.

 

Follow the blog to hear the continuation of the conversation with André 3000 Benjamin, President Wallace, Greg Brunkalla, Jimmy O'Neal and Andrew Bevan from Miami. After it closes in Miami, the i feel ya exhibition will open at the SCAD Museum of Art in summer 2015. What's your favorite artistic collaboration?
 
 
 
 
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Lead animators behind Big Hero 6 on making Baymax and careers in animation

November
11
2014

Disney Animation’s Big Hero 6 raked in one of the biggest opening weekend box offices ever for a Disney film, $56.2 million. When audiences screened the blockbuster at Savannah Film Festival several weeks before the official release, they also heard from a couple of the heroes behind the film. Savannah College of Art and Design alumni Zach Parrish (B.F.A., animation, 2007), head of animation at Disney, and animation supervisor Nathan Engelhardt (B.F.A., animation, 2007) let festival-goers in on how they made the magic happen. Afterward they sat down with SCAD founder and president Paula Wallace to discuss their role in the movie and getting their start in the industry. Here’s an excerpt of her conversation with them, followed by a portion of the extended interview.

President Wallace: How did you know that animation would be your career?

Zach Parrish: I went and saw Monsters, Inc. with some friends. I think I was in high school and I realized that I felt something emotional for Mike Wazowski, who’s the little green one-eyed character. When I realized that I had an emotional response to something that I absolutely knew definitively was not real and that someone made me feel that way, that was kind of a magic where I was like, “I want to be the guy who makes that happen.” So that’s when I started looking at schools and eventually chose SCAD.

Nathan Engelhardt: I actually stumbled upon this game called “The Neverhood,” and it was a stop motion animated game. It was like a point and click action adventure and I remember wanting to play the game until I got to the cut scenes. So they would put in little cut scenes, like animated shorts almost, and every time I was like, “Oh yes, here comes the cut scene.” I started realizing that – I like this and maybe I can start making some of my own. I think I fell in love with animation on a very primitive basic level when I saw this character waving back at me. I think I felt the same thing you felt where it’s like I created this thing that’s waving to me and I was just in a trance and I never looked back.

PW: You met when you were here as students at SCAD.  Was there any certain professor or a class that made a particular impact on you?

ZP: We actually helped create a class, an independent studies class, just for Nathan’s project. I saw this poster for people who wanted to help out on a project called Cereal Killers and I was immediately in. I gave Nathan a call. We met up. 

NE: It was an incredible experience because Zach was so enthusiastic. I was just like, “Man, this guy. He knows what he’s doing.” He took some of the characters, very rough early character rigs that we had been building, and he just started creating the first tests. I was like, “Wow, they’re moving. This could actually work.”

We didn’t really know it at the time, but we were really learning how to collaborate as a team. We were kind of experimenting with the pipeline that we would become so familiar with down the road. We did everything from design and writing, pen and paper, all the way to the final renders, even the sounds. I mean we had a full spectrum.

ZP: We had no idea what we were doing when we started.

NE: But it really did help groom us, I feel, in a way to understand the pipeline and collaboration with other artists and being able to give direction and even…

ZP: Receive direction.

NE: And be able to just do that and learn and then regurgitate that later when we became supervisors. You know, that was a really cool experience.

PW: How do you feel that your education at SCAD helped prepare you to work at such an iconic and innovative studio as Disney?

ZP: Oh man. I think what’s amazing about the education at SCAD is the breadth. Just like that class where we got to touch the entire production pipeline and see where we wanted to fit in and to understand how to utilize it, that has been huge for us. I brought Nathan in for Wreck-it Ralph when I was an animation supervisor, and we could just kind of jump in and do a lot of pieces of the pipeline that some people who are trained just in animation can’t do.

Because of the breadth of our education, as far as history, design and the whole spectrum that goes into it, not just animation, I think we’re allowed to be a bigger part of the pipeline that helps the supervisors as well since a lot of our job is working interdepartmentally and giving notes on models and rigs and whatever the case may be. We have enough of the general understanding to be able to participate in that, as well as our specialized focus in animation.

NE: I feel SCAD really creates artists. There are a lot of trade schools out there that will create specialized tasks and abilities, whereas, to Zach’s point, you get this well-rounded artistic education. It all really helped create the kind of artist that we are today and it’s all thanks to that program.

PW: Do you know what makes me so happy is to see you guys supporting each other, all SCAD graduates out there helping each other and giving opportunities to each other and also, as you said, critiquing each other and just making each other better, but being a great support in the whole profession.

ZP: That was also one of the things we talked about when we came and talked to SCAD freshmen. A huge component to becoming a professional artist are those interpersonal skills, because you can be the most talented person in the world, but if you can’t support other people, if you can’t take feedback, if you can’t communicate, no one’s going to work with you, and so that’s definitely something that I’m still learning and that we all go through every day.

PW: That makes me very proud. What’s been the most challenging character or scene that you’ve created so far?

NE: Animating Baymax was quite a challenge, not just to be able to give feedback, but also for the animators because animators are so used – I mean you get some of the top level talent in that studio that’s so used to all the principles of animation and overlap and squash and stretch and then we’re like, “Take it all out.” 

ZP: Yeah, don’t do anything.

NE: Don’t do any of it, you know, and we coined the term “unimating” for Baymax or that’s really just stripping out all the things that animators are used to putting in, and that was really great because that allowed the audience to project their own emotions onto this blank canvas of sorts. We found that even just a little blink and head tilt was ten times cuter than any extraneous body movement, like unnecessary stuff that really just didn’t plus the scene in any way and really was an exercise in restraint the whole time.

ZP: We’re so used to going all out on the animation and to say like, “I haven’t actually moved him yet.”  We’re like, “You did it. You did it. You nailed it.” For me personally, I had a couple of scenes in Tangled that were a super challenge. I mean Glen Keane was on that show. He’s one of my idols in animation, and John Kahrs was my animation supervisor, and those guys are rock stars. So the bar was set so high on that film and I was new to the studio and I was terrified and I was fortunate enough to get a run of shots where Flynn has a frying pan and he’s knocking out the guards and he’s fighting a horse and…

PW: The horse, the horse was great.

ZP: The challenge was I’d never really animated a quadruped. Let alone a quadruped with a sword in his mouth fighting a guy with a frying pan who’s falling down…

PW: What? You haven’t done that?

ZP: Surprisingly enough, that was my first time, and so that was one where I was really scratching my head going, “I don’t know if I can pull this off.” I was so intimidated, but again that support structure. You know, Disney was super-helpful and I think the scenes turned out okay.

PW: So give us an insider’s perspective on working at the legendary Disney Studios.  What’s it like?

ZP: It’s great.

NE: I mean of course, coming up to the gates on your first day and it’s got the Mickey wrought iron gates and you see the big hat and it’s a very emotional kind of experience, but I feel like it didn’t really hit home until I went to Disneyland of all places…

ZP: Yes.

NE: I was walking around and you see these characters and you see that these films lived on much longer past when they initially came out, and you see this like echo of artistry and talent that was done on this film like years back. Here’s the Beast walking around in the park and it’s like, “This is going to be forever.” I mean you have this in the back of your head where it’s just like, “Wow.” What we’re doing at the Walt Disney Animation Studios is very special and I think…

ZP: I had the exact same experience last winter. We didn’t unfortunately get to work on Frozen because we started on Big Hero 6 so early. But the whole animation department…

PW: A lot of SCAD graduates did.

ZP: There were a lot of SCAD graduates on Frozen for sure.

But the whole animation department, we went to Disneyland and there’s a little girl on a guy’s shoulders and when she was watching “Let It Go,” that’s the Elsa song, she was imitating every move that Elsa did, even her little walk and everything. She’s on her dad’s shoulders and it’s crazy because that was like a firsthand experience of what we do. You know, it’s fun for us, but when you start seeing kids have that emotional response, it’s like, “Oh crap, that was me. I did that.” You know, I had that emotional response and now we’re creating that emotional response and so…

NE: Even crazier when it was your shot. 

ZP: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

NE: Being the animator she’s imitating, too.

ZP: Yeah, exactly.

NE: It makes me feel like I’m back at that desk experimenting with stop motion animation for the first time. Do you know what I mean? I feel like we are always trying to get back to where it’s that initial excitement for what we do. And I feel like the great thing about Disney is that it’s constantly there and you’re constantly re-feeling that because of how – it’s all the inspirational artwork on the walls, you know, they’re constantly doing things to try to keep the energy, the creative energy high.

ZP: And that’s the other thing about just the actual workplace itself is the collaboration; inspiring one another, people are constantly giving talks on things that they’re just interested in. We do sort of like TED Talks. It could be a photography thing, a sculpture thing, anything that is just inspiring as far as an art form is concerned, and we talk about ourselves. Once a month, the animators get together and we talk about how we came to be at Disney and what inspired us as children. It’s a really fun, super-collaborative environment. So it’s the best I’ve ever had for sure.

PW: Yes, and like SCAD, you’re part of something bigger.

ZP: Exactly.

PW: I visited Hong Kong Disney and I saw all these children, just into characters and imitating…

NE: Yes, it goes around the world.

ZP: It’s just amazing.  It’s amazing. Yes, Big Hero 6 opened in Russia already and…

PW: Wow!

ZP: Yes, and it had one of its biggest weekends ever in Russia because it came out two weeks before it came out in the United States, and so it’s just crazy. I start hearing reviews from people who love it all over the world already. It’s a weird experience because it feels like a small community when we’re working on it. It feels like a small team, and then when the world starts seeing - there’s marketing that’s on buses and stuff, it feels like they took the movie and now it’s just running away, but it’s really cool.

NE: Zach and I, on multiple occasions were like, “Does this feel like when we’re working back on Cereal Killers?” Where it felt like we’re in SCAD and for a long time, we’re actually like really in the same office and, you know, we’re passing flash drives back and forth to each other, making sizzle pieces, you know, the proof of concept kind of stuff, very gorilla style animation, and it’s so many times we could look back fondly on those late nights in Montgomery Hall trying to learn animation.

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Watch: SCADpad micro-house unveiled

April
10
2014

In a conventional Atlanta parking deck, Savannah College of Art and Design has launched an unconventional solution to explosive urban population growth and the accompanying demand for flexible housing. If you missed the live unveiling of SCADpad here on Thread, watch it now and take a virtual tour below.

SCAD’s experimental and experiential contribution to the micro-house movement, SCADpad pushes the boundaries of urban living and the parking deck that hosts three models of the 135 square-foot semi-permanent dwelling, SCADpad Asia, SCADpad Europe and SCADpad North America.

The SCADpad project also pushed emerging artists and designers, representing 12 academic programs, to the limits of innovation in areas like adaptive reuse, sustainable living, furniture design, intelligent home systems and more.

So, is it liveable? We’ll answer that question when the first round of SCADpad’s student-residents moves in next week. Follow their experiences on Twitter using #SCADpad.

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SCAD welcomes its 35th class

September
15
2013

Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Savannah are abuzz with the fresh energy of the class of 2017, new transfer and graduate students. SCAD’s 35th anniversary, to be celebrated throughout the year, loomed large over all orientation activities. In some places quite literally.

In Savannah, a huge 35 was projected on the wall of the Civic Center, symbolically replenishing itself with the faces of 2,400 new design denizens. Inside the arena new students, representing 49 states and more than 100 countries, listened as President Wallace recounted some of the iconic brands on which alumni have made their mark, such as Starbucks, Rolling Stone, Vera Wang, and Coke.

Michael Mack (B.F.A., Industrial Design) used his story of launching Michael Grey Footwear to encourage the crowd that their coursework and faculty can guide them to their dream careers: “Ask questions, work hard, keep an open mind and you’ll see your dreams come true.” 

The air-conditioned welcome was a much needed break from the late summer heat, which greeted students as they moved in and made merry in the shadow of a double decker bus and oversized photo of the 80 students who comprised SCAD’s very first class.

In Atlanta, alumna Feifei Sun (B.F.A., Advertising) told 500 incoming students that her best memories of SCAD are the “real-life experiences woven through every stage of my academic development.” Formerly of Time magazine, Feifei previewed her new website “Making It Atlanta,” where she’ll profile the city’s dynamic professionals. “I’ll be writing about some of you,” she predicted.

Among the ranks of SCAD Hong Kong’s 150 incoming students is interior design student Johnny Cheung Joy-lai, one of the newest members of Hong Kong’s Cycling Team. Orientation speaker senior Alfred Lee told Joy-lai and the others that he credits SCAD Hong Kong’s tight-knit community with the success he’s had, like winning the Disney Imaginations competition.

“The campus size and the student events will allow you to meet and learn from one another. I encourage each of you to be extremely motivated during your time here and take advantage of all the opportunities that SCAD provides,” Lee said.

SCAD Hong Kong’s newest students also participated in the 35th anniversary kick-off celebration, answering the question, “Where do you see yourself at 35?”

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Not your mother’s dorm room

September
20
2013

It may have been a while since you’ve crossed the threshold of a dorm. I lived on campus all four years at college and the self-serve waffle station was the only feature worth remembering. On the other hand, SCAD’s Montgomery House has way, wayyyy more than hot waffles going for it. (More on food later.)

Montgomery House is SCAD’s biggest construction project in Savannah to date -- serving upperclassmen who attend digital media classes at Montgomery Hall.

Glassed-in columns on the building’s exterior beckon. Inside, stacked on top of one another, nest-like rooms offer three unique experiences. Set up your laptop inside the computer nest on level one. Organize a Halo tournament in the game nest on level two. If you’re ready to get down to business, head up to the study nest on level three.

Vaulted ceilings and an open steel staircase greet students in the main lobby along with the yarn bomb installation from last spring’s Sidewalk Arts Festival. The opus by fibers students presides over the first of two television lounges, complete with soft seating and a Nemo Bar ready for homework sessions or socializing.

Upstairs, 125 student suites await. Each houses four students and includes two bedrooms, a living room, kitchenette and bathroom with separate shower, toilet room and vanity area. The furniture is custom-built by family-owned OFS furniture manufacturers in Indiana. SCAD is the first university in the country to nab its designs.

At the intersection of the south, east and west wings, natural light streams through three stories of glass encased study areas featuring walls covered in a tacky surface that’s perfect for collecting ideas during brainstorms. As a counterpoint to the nine study rooms, a game room on the second floor is equipped with Fatboy bean bags, and tables where players can keep score.

Three studio rooms with wash sinks and easels ensure that students don’t have to go to far to build their portfolios.

After working up an appetite, or while waiting on a mobile app to tell them their laundry is dry, students can travel a stone’s throw to the newly renovated Byte Café. 

New flooring, seating and artwork in Montgomery Hall’s lobby flow into the dining hall. Just beyond the entrance is booth seating with soft cushions and an outdoor patio. The televisions, stereo system and shiny appliances are visible to students, but what they won’t see are three new walk-in coolers brought in to store all of the fresh, local ingredients that Bon Appétit serves.

Stroll a few feet further to have a different dining experience entirely. Carnival takes its name from the lit letters President Wallace found during her travels in London. In the outdoor event space, shipping containers hold picnic style seating and commercial string lighting creates a jovial atmosphere. Inside chefs serve up hand-rolled sushi, ginger chicken and other Asian inspired fare.

Waffle who?

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