By Jason Simpson
Harkening back to a time when salons were places where intelligent, creative individuals could discuss new ideas and engage in witty verbal banter, SCAD created the “Grad Salon” in October 2009.
The Grad Salons offer a chance for graduate students who are nearing the end of their graduate education to do trial runs of their thesis ideas and research while audience members offer feedback.
The salons take place in the SCAD Museum of Art and audience members sit with each of the student presenters in 30 to 40 minute blocks. After each presentation, attendees can engage the presenter and ask questions about his or her project. Anyone can attend the salons.
“As audience members, there really is not a lot to do to prepare,” said April Martin
Coordinator of Graduate Activities and Thesis Coordinator. “We release the names of the presenters and a bit of background information prior to the event…[so that] someone who is anticipating attending can familiarize himself with that information to be more engaged and contribute to the dialogue following the presentation.”
Martin has been involved with the salons since October 2010. She solicits presenters through a campus-wide call for participants usually via Facebook or an email newsletter.
She selects presenters based on a combination of those students whose majors compliment each other for a more cohesive salon.
Sometimes the response is so great that Martin has had to schedule two Graduate Salons per quarter to accommodate those interested students.
“All majors can participate in the salons, though sometimes the focus varies,” Martin said. “There is not set way to present and students are invited to include their studio work, their research or a combination.”
Meaghan Walsh Gerard now a SCAD alumna with an MA in Cinema Studies presented her thesis to the Grad Salon in January of this year.
“I was pleasantly surprised at the non-major’s interest in my topic,” said Gerard. “Many of them were not familiar with my films but were anxious to seek them out. That was quite gratifying.”
Gerard also said the best part of her Grad Salon experience was going from student to mentor to other students who weren’t as far along in the thesis process. She also said that this process helped her along with her own thesis as well.
Gerard advises, “Go visit the space you will be presenting in so it is not your first time there. Think about which way you will face and consider visual aids, etc.”
The first Grad Salon of the spring quarter will take place on Thursday, April 26 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the SCAD Museum of Art. The presenters are Elisa Jara an MFA Design Management candidate, Kirk Morris an MFA Industrial Design candidate and Tim Tocci an MFA Industrial Design candidate.
“I’m hoping to get feedback and practice for my committee thesis review for next week on May 4,” said Elisa Jara. “I’m super nervous when public speaking so this is a ‘safe’ environment to practice. Also, explaining my thesis and talking about it is great when defending my arguments.”
May 17 marks the first time SCAD Atlanta will hold a Grad Salon hosted by the Interior Design department. Martin also hopes to eventually take the salons to Hong Kong.