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What VCU artist in residence Noah Scalin made from donated clothes

RICHMOND, Va. – Sometimes all it takes in life is just one new vantage point for something familiar to reveal a new shape.

And if you aren’t sure just how easily life can present two different outcomes based merely on your point of view, then Noah Scalin, the first ever artist-in-residence at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business, has a demonstration.

On Monday, crowds moved through the Snead Hall atrium, a bright space within the 145,000 square-foot, four-story school of business, to glimpse Scalin’s display.

As they stood at one end, an  accumulation of mismatched, colorful clothes greeted the eye.  But as viewers walked around to the other side,  the pile became a portrait of Maggie Walker.

Maggie Walker portrait at VCU Snead Hall.

Maggie Walker portrait at VCU Snead Hall.

Students and professors were asked to donate clothes, and Scalin worked with what he was given.

There were a couple of parameters in place for the pop-up project; for example, he spent a couple of hours a day shaping it, for a total of 10 hours.

“The installation is an anamorphic portrait of Maggie Walker who was an important historical figure here in Richmond, and a wonderful representative of the diverse community that is part of the school of business,” Scalin said. “She was an African American business woman at the turn of the last century; she was the first woman to charter a bank in America.”

“So as a prominent person of color in Richmond, I thought she would be a great person to create a portrait of,” he added.

Earlier in the summer, Diversity Thrift donated a pile of clothing for work on a similar portrait installation that took shape at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art.

The image was of an anonymous person photographed by James Conway Farley, considered the first prominent African-American photographer.

Scalin said that one of his goals during the residency at VCU is to “help them understand the value of creativity and why an artist’s work would be important to business students.”

“It is a great project of discovery for people that are here,” Scalin said. “Business students watch me create it, help me create it and then they get to encounter, to discover it.”

“So it is a real change in perspective for them, and that is really what creativity can do for business people, is help them think differently – and that is what I am showing with my art,” Scalin added.

Students from Maggie Walker School were in attendance at the reveal Monday. The image is temporary and will only be available to see for a couple of days.

The pop-up portrait will be in place for a few days.

The pop-up portrait will be in place for a few days.

Scalin is also currently orchestrating a 30-day Creative Sprint challenge and will lead another one in the spring.

The daily exercises are intended to “connect VCU School of Business students, faculty and staff with elements of the strategic plan through experiential learning, creative problem-solving curricula, innovative research and creative culture.”

“Having an artist-in-residence is unique for a business school and will distinguish VCU as a leader in combining business and creativity,” said Ed Grier, dean of the VCU School of Business. “Creativity is one of the most sought-after skills for 21st-century business leaders and VCU is at the cutting edge in recognizing the value artists can bring to the table in this area.”