Over petite green tomatoes and a mix of young lettuces we spoke of change. “It’s the tradition of SCAD,” our tour guide had said earlier in the day. He was walking backward at the time, pointing to monuments, bronze statues, and landmarked homes. There we were, admiring the showplace of the American South, complete with Georgia marble, hulking red bricks, and towering oak trees with roots stretching back to 1733—things worthy of preservation, meant to resist change—and we were celebrating the enemy: change.
The irony sat with me as we threaded our way past the waxy leaves of magnolia trees, then pulled up a chair and accompanied me to dinner. It was there, at Cha Bella, seated at an enchanting table of SCAD faculty, film critics, and their guests, that “A tradition of change” truly came alive.
I spoke with Michael Fink, former VP and women’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, now dean of SCAD’s School of Fashion, asking him if he always knew he wanted to be involved in fashion. “No, actually.” What followed is what I love so much about life: the surprises we can find when we leave, when we quit, when we get the hell out of dodge. Michael was trained in music on the graduate level, played the piano and harp. “Haven’t touched a piano in fifteen years,” he added with a sly smile. He doesn’t miss it because it never really fit the way it should. I could see the draw to both, mathematical and precise in nature, both music and fashion require passion beyond measurements. He took time off from the conservancy, which lead to his fashion career taking off.
I love that. I love that SCAD’s tradition is change. I used to think of tradition in bricks and years of ivy climbing up walls of excellence. Now I think of the extraordinary people who take risks, the ones who’ve found the courage to follow a compass instead of a clock.