How do you save a historically important place without turning it into a museum? For Paula Wallace, the President and Founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), the answer is simple: with celebration. To that end, SCAD breathed new life into a flawlessly restored medieval French village with art and music in a grand puppet parade designed by artist and SCAD alumnus Sam Lasseter. Made from recycled cardboard, the giant papier-mâché puppets and the celebrations are an inspiring example of how historic preservation need not be a dull experience.
Founded in 2002, SCAD Lacoste is a study abroad campus set in a medieval village with stone structures that date as far back as the 12th century. Many of the buildings have been carefully restored and converted into student dorms, offices, classrooms, and studios with modern amenities without compromising the village’s historic integrity. Student-created art punctuates the village and buildings for a delightful contrast between old and new, however, the real beauty of SCAD Lacoste lies with the school’s enthusiasm for engaging the local French community and hosting events that bring new life and purpose to the village, rather than forcing the site to stay stuck in time.
Sam Lasseter’s ‘Grande Parade’ is one such inspiring example. Created over six months, the project comprises large-scale puppets and costumes following the theme “Le rêve de nuit dété (Midsummer Night’s Dream): Flora and Fauna of a Lacoste Summer.” Sam built 35 puppets of varying sizes primarily from kraft paper and recycled cardboard reclaimed from village waste. The puppets were completed in collaboration with Martha Enzmann and Karen Butch. Envisioned as a tribute to Lacoste and the community, the giant papier-mâché puppets include characters specific to the region, from the infamous Marquis de Sade, who stayed in Lacoste in the 18th century, to the Quarry Worker that represents the workers that mined Lacoste’s famous stone quarries.
“All of them are based off Lacoste’s culture and stories,” Sam told Inhabitat. “I wanted to do something to give back to the village. It sounds like being a local there can be hard when a portion of the population—the SCAD study abroad students—changes every two months. This parade was made for them, to honor their stories, culture, and Lacoste’s history.” SCAD alumna Trish Andersen was also commissioned to create ornate garlands, flower crowns, and large-scale decorations to complement the parade. The local community, visitors, SCAD students, and staff were invited to join the procession as it marched down the Rue Basse, the village’s main cobblestone road, led by a French second line-style jazz band.
The Grande Parade took place at SCAD Lacoste on July 2, 2016. The puppets will travel to and be put on show at SCAD’s other three campuses, starting with Atlanta in September and ending with Hong Kong in Spring 2016.
Watermarked images © Lucy Wang, all others are courtesy of SCAD | Video by SCAD student William Burrell