The Savannah College of Art and Design’s fifth edition of deFINE ART will take place February 18 – 21 at the university’s locations in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia and Hong Kong. The annual contemporary art showcase is rapidly on the rise, featuring exhibitions, talks, performances and events by participating artists and leading art world professionals.
This year, renowned artist Alfredo Jaar has been chosen as honoree and keynote speaker for the event. As part of the festivities, Jaar will debut a newly commissioned, large-scale installation at the up-and-coming SCAD Museum of Art. Other artists and exhibitions include Dustin Yellin, Orly Genger and Viviane Sassen, among others.
M Daily spoke with event organizer and SCAD’s Executive Director of Exhibitions Laurie Ann Farrell about her vision for SCAD Museum of Art and deFINE ART’s role in distinguishing the school as a leader in the contemporary art world.
Kristin Sancken: What is your vision for the SCAD Museum of Art?
Laurie Ann Farrell: We seek to provide dynamic art experiences for SCAD students and our local community and to engage visitors from around the world. We curate meaningful exhibitions and events that are responsive to SCAD’s academic programming and broader dialogues taking place in the art world. The museum highlights innovative artists at various stages in their careers who are at the forefront of new developments in art. We aim to be global in our reach and present artists who have not previously shown in the region.
KS: What role does deFINE ART play in executing this vision?
LF: DeFINE ART brings together renowned and emerging artists, curators and professionals who are making their marks on the art world. The program also celebrates the achievements and outstanding caliber of SCAD artists. As one of our most visible moments of the year, deFINE ART often features commissioned work and performances as a way of helping artists bring work and ideas to fruition while also activating galleries and spaces in new ways.
SCAD’s deFINE ART events, lectures and exhibitions are just a few of the innovative and creative ways we prepare student artists for successful creative careers. DeFINE ART offers a world-class contemporary art and performance program while also promoting new creative platforms for our students. Student involvement is at the heart of each program and is supported through one-on-one interaction with artists or actual engaged participation in the realization of a commissioned work.
KS: Why was Alfredo Jaar chosen as this year's deFINE honoree joining previous guests like Marina Abramović and Shirin Neshat?
LF: Each year during deFINE ART, SCAD honors an artist for his or her groundbreaking influence on the art world. The deFINE ART honoree is also an artist who is constantly redefining how we look at and engage with art. Alfredo Jaar has had a global presence for many years, has realized more than 60 public interventions and has participated in biennales around the world.
Over the past two years, we have worked closely with Jaar to realize a major new commission, Shadows, which will premiere at the SCAD Museum of Art, made possible in part through Ford Foundation support. I guess you could say the timing felt right and we wanted to honor and acknowledge an artist with whom we’ve had a long and meaningful relationship.
We first exhibited Jaar's work at SCAD Lacoste in 2007, featured his work as part of the inaugural deFINE ART program in 2009 and included his installation, May 1, 2011, as part of the opening of the new SCAD Museum of Art in 2011. Jaar also taught at SCAD as a distinguished visiting professor 2010–11. Honoring him spotlights his many achievements and provides inspiration to our students.
KS: SCAD Museum of Art has managed to secure some very substantial exhibitions since its inauguration in 2011. How have you managed to implement such impressive programming?
LF: We have been building on the legacy of SCAD’s exhibition programming as well as the direction I initiated upon my arrival as executive director of exhibitions in 2007. Our exhibitions had previously been held at SCAD’s satellite galleries in Savannah, Atlanta, Lacoste and Hong Kong, and we were presenting museum-quality shows with artists such as Nick Cave, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Marina Abramović, Carrie Mae Weems and Bill Viola, to cite a few of the standout shows. As our curatorial team simultaneously grew in size and talent, it became clear that SCAD exhibitions would thrive in a venue such as the SCAD Museum of Art. The spaces are large, malleable and inviting for a diverse range of work.
The museum received numerous awards and accolades including the 2014 American Institute of Architects National Honor Award for Architecture, a top award for new buildings given by the AIA annually.
KS: While the Southeast is very rich in cultural resources it is not typically recognized as having the accessibility to contemporary art that bigger cities like New York or Boston have. How has the SCAD Museum of Art and deFINE ART changed the South's overall outlook of current trends in art?
LF: Rather than saying that the Southeast has limited contemporary art programming, I would say that our programming is receiving more visibility and recognition than ever before. The SCAD Museum of Art and deFINE ART certainly provide platforms for this visibility that are in turn dispersed to a much larger audience through print and social media coverage, blogs and outreach.
The Southeast is a progressive cultural region, much more so recently than some larger markets. Our efforts at the museum make contributions to creative trends through the global scope of our programming and inclusion of under-represented national and regional artists. We’re constantly looking outward for new ideas while sharpening our ability to be responsive to SCAD’s goals and the needs of SCAD students. The museum has developed into a hub for education, creativity, experimentation and collaboration.
We look forward to making a meaningful imprint on the art world and serving as a model for teaching museums in the years to come.
Laurie Ann Farrell is executive director of exhibitions for the Savannah College of Art and Design. In this role she directs the exhibition program for all SCAD galleries in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia; Hong Kong; and at the SCAD Museum of Art. Recent exhibitions and special projects of note at SCAD include “Alfredo Jaar: Shadows” (2014); “Sam Nhlengethwa: Life, Jazz and Lots of Other Things” (2014); Marina Abramović (2011), Sigalit Landau (2012), “Wild is the Wind” (2010), Doug Aitken (2009), Nick Cave (2009), Cao Fei + Map Office “NO LAB on Tour” (2008-11), “Kader Attia: Signs of Reappropriation” (2008-09), Yinka Shonibare, MBE, “Odile and Odette” (2008), Carrie Mae Weems “Constructing History: A Requiem to Mark the Moment” (2008), Wangechi Mutu “The Cinderella Curse” (2007), and “Yeondoo Jung: I’ll Remember You” (2007).