SCAD Founder Paula Wallace dared to dream of a world-class art university in her hometown. Forty years later, that dream has transformed the city of Savannah.

Founded on a dream and funded by the resale price of a used Volkswagen Beetle, SCAD has grown from humble beginnings into a global powerhouse of the art world.

For anyone who has ever doubted the power of a dream — even a dream so outlandish that most folks would just laugh it off — Paula Wallace would like a word.

Wallace’s impossible dream turned 40 last year, and as the celebration of its first four decades winds down, Savannah College of Art and Design — better known simply as SCAD — is reflecting on its past while trying to stay one step ahead of tomorrow.

Since Wallace, then an elementary school art teacher, went all-in on her dream to create an art school in then-struggling downtown Savannah — and convinced her parents, Paul and May Poetter, to do the same — SCAD has grown into a global powerhouse in the creative world.

“SCAD invented higher education for the creative professions by boldly declaring, ‘No starving artists!’”


From SCAD’s unlikely origins to its position as a leader in producing top-flight talent across multiple creative fields, it’s all detailed in the recently opened SCADstory — an immersive 4D experience created by a group of SCAD alumni, including former Disney Imagineers.

Located in Poetter Hall — in the former Savannah Volunteer Guard Armory where the university got its start 40 years ago — SCADstory features an animated version of Wallace giving the abbreviated version of the school’s origin story and meteoric rise. The presentation is moving, equal parts inspirational and whimsical, and serves as an excellent primer on the university that reshaped Savannah’s historic district for visiting tourists, prospective students, or anyone in between.

As the animated Wallace tells visitors to SCADstory, downtown Savannah was mostly forgotten and dotted with dilapidated buildings in the late 1970s, but she was determined in her vision to transform the historic district into SCAD’s living, breathing campus. Beginning with the initial purchase of the Savannah Volunteer Guard Armory, the university has rehabilitated more than 50 historic structures in Savannah and is credited with playing a major role in the city’s rebirth.

SCAD and the modern version of Savannah have grown up together, both mimicking the real-life metaphors Wallace often invokes when sharing her story and in her memoir, “The Bee and the Acorn.” The bee, which is SCAD’s mascot, defies logic by flying and works with its peers to create something greater than it could alone. The acorn seems insignificant until it blossoms into a mighty oak.

It’s easy to see why Wallace favors those metaphors when describing SCAD’s growth from offering one program to 71 students in 1979 to enrolling nearly 15,000 students in more than 100 degree programs in 2019.

“SCAD invented higher education for the creative professions by boldly declaring, ‘No starving artists!’” Wallace says. “Forty years later, SCAD is the preeminent source of knowledge in every discipline we teach.”

These SCAD students won Walt Disney Imagineering’s 28th Imaginations Design Competition. They are, from left, Ezekiel Waters, Carolyn Teves, Nicholas Hammond and Remi Jeffrey-Coker. [photo by Gary Krueger]


One of the most climactic moments during the SCADstory experience (spoiler alert!) comes when the room darkens and a storm blows in. As thunder rumbles through the room and lightning flashes all around, the animated Wallace recounts the arrival of Hurricane David, just weeks before SCAD was set to open, and wonders aloud whether anyone will show up.

They did. And they haven’t stopped coming.

Since that first enrollment class of 71 students, SCAD has produced more than 35,000 alumni at four campuses worldwide — in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France — as well as through e-learning.

Students come from all over the globe — but the draw can be just as powerful for creative types growing up in SCAD’s sizable footprint. Senior Zeke Waters, who will graduate as the valedictorian of SCAD Savannah’s 2019 class, is from the textile hotbed of Calhoun, Georgia, and grew up hearing about SCAD and seeing the large sign marking the university’s Atlanta campus.

From a young age, Waters declared his intention to attend SCAD, but when it came time to actually research potential colleges, he was taken by the idea all over again.

“When I started doing more research to apply for schools, I started seeing the alumni and the type of work that was being done out of SCAD,” Waters said. “I kind of instantly knew that these people were creating industry-leading work, and that was exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to create work that was thought-provoking, as well as just really cool, for lack of a better term.”

Oh, SCAD does cool.

Subscribe now to the print edition for the full article.

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Greatest Kids 2019

Nominate your kid this year and tell us why he or she has to be the winner of our South's Greatest Kids contest. Don't be shy — this could be your year!

Greatest Chefs 2019

Behind every good meal is a great chef; they are the invisible artists, working behind the scenes. Nominate your favorite chef for South magazine’s Greatest Chefs contest!
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Events Calendar

  • SS Savannah (1819-2019)

    May 23, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Ships of the Sea Museum

    2019 marks the 200th anniversary of the SS Savannah's groundbreaking trans-Atlantic crossing.  In recognition of this monumental achievement,...

  • "Portrait of the Artist" Exhibition at Telfair Museums

    Aug 03, 2019
    12:00 PM - 12:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    This exhibition brings together several photographic portraits of recognizable creative individuals from Telfair’s permanent collection....

  • Georgia Bridal Show

    Aug 18, 2019
    12:30 PM - 5:00 PM @ Savannah Civic Center

    You’ve been online searching wedding ideas and trends. Now it’s time to see all of this come to life at the Georgia Bridal Show at...

  • Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince

    Aug 18, 2019
    2:00 PM - 3:30 PM @ Yamacraw Center for the Performing Arts

    The Little Prince: A Magical Opera is in two acts based on the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. After being forced to land his plane in the...


    Jun 27, 2019
    5:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Deep South Photopoint

    The Arts on the Coast (AOC) is proud to present its 2019 Annual Exhibit hosted by the Photopoint Gallery and Elmgren's Garden Center in...

  • French Moderns: Monet to Matisse, 1850-1950

    Jun 15, 2019
    All Day @ Consumer Museum of Art and Garden

    The biggest names in French art such as, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir will be showcased...

  • Oak Island Farmers and Artisans' Market

    Jul 15, 2019
    8:00 AM - 1:00 PM @ Middleton Park, Oak Island

    At the Oak Island Farmers and Artisans’ Market,  discover fresh local produce, homemade jams, cakes and diverse homemade goods ranging...

  • ENCORE: Santiago Ballerini in Concert

    Aug 20, 2019
    7:00 PM - 8:30 PM @ Charles H. Morris Center

    Beloved VOICE alum and celebrated international tenor, Santiago Ballerini, is returning to the Festival to sing a special benefit concert...

  • Yappy Hour Event

    Aug 22, 2019
    5:00 PM - 7:00 PM @ Peacock Subaru

    WHO: Peacock Subaru and Renegade Paws Rescue WHAT: Yappy Hour Event WHEN: Thursday, Aug. 22, from 5-7 p.m. WHERE: Peacock Subaru at...

  • Brews for a Cause

    Aug 22, 2019
    5:30 PM - 7:00 PM @ Husk Savannah

    Don't miss this month's Brews for a Cause at Husk, August 22nd! South magazine and Southern Eagle team up to raise money for the Royce...

  • Forgotten Victims Support Group

    Aug 22, 2019
    6:00 PM - 7:00 PM @ Demere Center for the Living

    A joint project of The ELLA Foundation and Hospice Savannah's Full Circle Grief and Loss Center, the Forgotten Victims Support Group is a new...

  • Girls' Night Out: "Poms"

    Aug 22, 2019
    7:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    Ok, ladies, this is the feel-good movie of the summer! You’ll walk out of the Theater exhilarated and ready to take on the world. And it is...

  • Savannah VOICE Festival's Come Together Master Class

    Aug 23, 2019
    12:00 PM - 1:30 PM @ Georgia Southern University, Armstrong Campus

    Great music is made when great musicians come together. This unique master class, featuring Georgia Southern Voice Students, explores the...

  • Chuck Courtenay at Coach's Corner

    Aug 23, 2019
    6:30 PM - 9:30 PM @ Coach's Corner

    A regional star with a top-notch Nashville backing band, singer and guitarist Chuck Courtenay finds inspriation in the work of iconic honky-tonk...

  • Friday Concert Series

    May 03, 2019
    7:00 PM - 12:00 AM @ Historic Courthouse, Downtown Blairsville on the S

    Come enjoy live music every Friday Night from the first Friday of May through the end of October. The Historic Union County Court House will host...

  • Forsyth Farmer's Market

    Jun 29, 2019
    9:00 AM - 1:00 PM @ South end of Forsyth Park

    The Forsyth Farmers’ Market vendors offer a variety of local goods including seasonal produce, eggs, honey, pastured meat, bread, cheese,...

  • Eastman Gun Show

    Aug 24, 2019
    9:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Savann Civic Center

    A large selection and competitive prices on all the firearms and accessories with the best dealers from all over Georgia gathered in one location...

  • Southern Roots Fest

    Aug 24, 2019
    2:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Garden City Town Center

    A festival that celebrates Southern foods, music and traditions, located in the heart of beautiful Garden City, Georgia. The festival takes place...

  • "Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable"

    Aug 25, 2019
    7:00 PM - 9:00 AM @ Tybee Post Theater

    For Surf Movie Day, we bring you the untold story of the heart of a champion and her resilience against all odds to become one of the leading...

  • Encourage Health Series

    Aug 27, 2019
    11:30 AM - 1:30 PM @ Charles H. Morris Center

    Enmarket Encourage Health Lecture Focuses on Facts and Fictions of CBD Oil The facts and fictions of CBD oil will be the topic when Savannah...

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Scenes of the South

Savannah Downtown Business Association Luncheon

The Savannah Downtown Business Association held its monthly luncheon on Aug. 14

Brews for a Cause in July at Churchill's

This Thursday, Churchill's was packed as we celebrated another successful Brews for a Cause ! We joined Southern Eagle and The Ronald McDonald House of The Coastal Empire. Southern Eagle provided great craft beer and the silent auction was a huge success. All the proceeds from the silent auction benefited The Ronald McDonald House of The Coastal Empire.

Bohemian Hotel 10th Anniversary

The Bohemian Hotel celebrated their 10th year in business with an incredible night of cocktails and appetizers. Guests ventured up to the stunning rooftop deck overlooking the Savannah River to celebrate the hotel's decennial anniversary — reveling in the scenery with a glass of champagne.

Stonewall50 - A Legendary Block Party

The Stonewall 50 block party, held on June 28th outside the LGBTQ Center on Bull Street, commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Protest — one of the most important moments in LGBTQ history and the catalyst for the gay rights movement.

Pelindaba Lavender Savannah Grand Opening

Pelindaba Lavender Grand Opening was this past Thursday, June 28th! This fun night included ribbon cutting, product sampling, lavender refreshments and special prizes! During this festive evening 10% of sales benefitted the good work of Coastal Pet Rescue. Stop by the store at 112 E Broughton St, Savannah, Ga to see the many products they offer!

Sonja Griffin Evans Gullah Art Exhibit

The Sonja Griffin Evans Gullah Art Event in Hilton Head displayed several paintings featuring the culture and heritage of the African-American Lowcountry. Sonja Griffin Evans paints with bright vibrant colors — while also incorporating materials such as tin and wood — to emphasize the traditional Gullah style, evoking an emotional response by bringing to life historical and cultural events.

JCB MudRun 2019

Participants hit the ground running at this year's JCB Mud Fest, climbing through tough obstacles in either the 5k or the 5 mile run. At the end of the race was a long slide where, upon finishing, contestants found themselves in the Party Pit. Winners from various age groups were presented with trophies, and all the proceeds from the JCB Mud Fest benefited the Lady Bamford Center for Early Childhood Development.

Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum's 200th Anniversary!

This past Wednesday, May 22, we celebrated with Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum for for the 200th anniversary of the SS Savannah's historic trans-Atlantic crossing — the WORLD'S FIRST oceanic voyage under steam! On this year's Maritime Day, Ships of the Sea celebrated the Savannah's 200th anniversary with a commemorative ceremony provided by the PROPELLER CLUB, where Robert Morris unveiled two eight-foot paintings. The evening also included an amazing performance by the Parris Island MARINE BAND, complimentary hors d'oeuvres and celebratory beverages!

Brews For A Cause at Top Deck

This past Tuesday, May 21 we celebrated another successful Brews for a Cause at Top Deck Bar! We joined up with Southern Eagle and a great group of like minded people to benefit Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire in their efforts to provide financial assistance to the surviving families of local law enforcement officers and firefighters who lose their lives in the line of duty. It was another memorable night in the South filled with great people and even greater crafted beer! This month's Featured Craft Beer: Island Coastal Lager Sponsors: Island Coastal Lager, Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire, Southern Eagle, South Magazine

Brews for a Cause at Churchill's

This Thursday, Churchill's was pack as we celebrated another successful Brews for a Cause at Churchill's! We joined Southern Eagle and The Coastal Heritage Society. Southern Eagle provided great craft beer, Sista Rae Rae performed live, and the silent auction was a huge success. All the proceeds from the silent auction — including a diamond necklace from International Diamond — benefitted the Coastal Heritage Society.