The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) alumni artists Tayler Ayers (M.A. creative business leadership; B.F.A., fibers, 2019) and Will Penny (M.F.A., painting, 2013; B.F.A., painting, 2008) have created public artworks in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement for SCAD locations in Savannah and Atlanta. The striking, vinylon glass murals are featured on the exterior of prominent buildings in both locations: Gutstein Gallery (Savannah) and FORTY (Atlanta). In black letters on a colorful background, the murals state unequivocally BLACK LIVES MATTER.
“A collaboration between two people with different approaches to creation is only limited by the restraints of the individuals,” said Ayers and Penny in a joint statement. “Our collaboration was a time of listening, editing, learning, and creating with each other. Our project speaks to the injustice that is present in the world, while also contemplating what it looks like when two people who are visually different come together to contribute to something larger than themselves. We are making art — but we strive to make a difference, if not for us then for those to come.” The murals are significant in size, with public-facing prominence. The dimensions are different in each location: 56’5” x 6’ (Gutstein) and 100’2” x 13’5” (FORTY). In Savannah, the mural is located on the street-facing window of Gutstein Gallery on Broughton Street. Gutstein Gallery is annexed to the historic Jen Library, where, in 2016, SCAD hosted a special event honoring civil rights activists arrested in Savannah in 1960. SCAD previously joined the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Hodge Foundation in dedicating a historical marker on site. The library was formerly a Levy’s department store, where African-American students Carolyn Quilloin Coleman, Joan Tyson Hall, and Ernest Robinson were arrested for sitting in the store’s whites-only restaurant on March 16, 1960. Their arrests sparked a series of boycotts and voter registration drives that eventually led to the desegregation of all facilities in Savannah in October 1963, eight months before the Civil Rights Act. In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. stated that Savannah was the most desegregated city south of the Mason-Dixon Line. In Atlanta, the mural is located on the exterior of FORTY, the new SCAD residence hall that opened in 2019. The 14- story building, a co- educational residence hall, plays an important role in the development of SCAD Atlanta. The 596- bed building features dormitory and apartmentstyle residence units and a 250-person capacity event space on its top floor.