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HER MILIEU: PAULA WALLACE

The visionary founder and president of the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) speaks to MILIEU about her life on and off campus

 

A favorite work of art in a museum?

Any of the installations by Igshaan Adams, a South African artist exhibiting at SCAD Museum of Art this winter.

 

When you visit an encyclopedic museum, the first thing you seek out?

Ancient history—the "Mask of Agamemnon" in Athens (at the National Archaeological Museum), a Mycenaean funerary gold mask made of paper-thin gold leaf that has endured for 3,500 years.

 

Three famous artists, past or present, you’d like to have to dinner?

Eadweard Muybridge, Gordon Parks, and Linda McCartney—three wildly different photographers in the SCAD Museum of Art Permanent Collection.

 

Most surprising detail you revealed in your new memoir, The Bee & the Acorn?

That the "lone wolf" entrepreneur/inventor is a myth. Contrary to the popular idea of the solitary genius, most founders of any lasting enterprise have a host who supports them with love and encouragement.

 

A place in the world you’ve yet to go but wish to visit?

The Phnom Kulen, a sacred mountain in Cambodia—a lost world of Hindu deities and Khmer architectural styles more than 1,200 years old.

 

Most valuable or cherished object you own?

My father's letters to my mother while he served in World War II.

 

A person living now who you admire?

My husband Glenn, who's also my best friend.

 

A historical person you admire?

Mary Musgrove Matthews Bosomworth (ca. 1700-ca. 1765), entrepreneur, diplomatist, translator, and an unsung early American hero of multiethnic heritage.

 

The movie you never tire of re-watching?

I devote my time to staying current with the latest films our alumni are making. The Shape of Water, Black Panther, Get Out, Coco, Bohemian Rhapsody are just a few films our SCAD grads have helped create.

 

If you could have any historical figure teach a course at SCAD, who would you choose?

Karl Lagerfeld.

 

Who might you consider the best teacher of all time?

My childhood piano teacher, Peggy Mayfield. It was Peggy who first suggested I teach. That was how I found my calling as an educator. Without her, SCAD might not exist.

 

Three traits you look for in a student who applies to SCAD

Creative fearlessness, kindness, and an affinity for deadlines.

 

A motto you live by?

Not a motto, per se, but a question: What can we be doing better?

 

A flawlessly designed object in the world

The classically timeless Hermès scarf.

 

What does a successful leader need to possess?

Joy!

 

Five sites/places everyone who visits Savannah should experience?

The SCAD Museum of Art, Peridot Antiques, Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, the historic squares of Savannah (my favorite is Madison Square), and SCADstory, a 4-D interactive experience.

 

What does the word “milieu” mean to you?

Your people, your place — or as we say at SCAD, your hive.

 

 

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INTERVIEW BY DAVID MASELLO

 

This interview was featured in the Winter 2020 issue of MILIEU.