Suwanee Art Student Wins Virtual SCAD Sidewalk Arts Festival Contest

Since the early 1980s, SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) has hosted its Sidewalk Arts Festival, the city’s largest one-day outdoor festival typically drawing as many as 40,000 guests, families, artists, and others. This year, due to COVID-19, the university staged the festival virtually, with students, alumni, and others participating while sheltering in place around the world. 

This is a historic first at SCAD and Suwanee native Ivy Wu, currently studying at SCAD, was one of nine winners of the virtual festival. 

The art student, working toward her M.A. in painting at SCAD Savannah, won the SCAD Student Spirit Award for “Love in a Circle,” a piece depicting two paramours reaching toward one another while socially distancing—expressing home in the midst of the pandemic. The university, which emphasizes positivity and a positive learning environment, awards the SCAD Student Spirit Award for work that illustrates and exemplifies a spirit of optimism and hope. 

“I was thrilled, Wu said. “I can hardly believe it’s true!” She explained that she had no expectation of winning, knowing that her classmates across disciplines and departments are so talented—and knowing how high the judges’ expectations always are.

 Judges include Donata Giancola (fantasy and science fiction artist), Eliza Jordan (senior editor of Whitewall Magazine), and José Parlá (world-renowned alumnus of SCAD). New categories this year included a social media category with voting via Instastories and a virtual gallery—two features that will likely continue in future Sidewalk Arts Festivals at SCAD, given their popularity and accessibility. This year, due to social distancing guidelines and the elimination of the in-person festival, contestants were permitted to enter any form of 2D media: sidewalk art, of course, but also painting, illustration, and more.

One unique element of the traditional contest is that all entries must be created in mere hours, as the contest formally begins at 10am (always on the last Saturday in April) and ends in late afternoon. This year, however, students were permitted several weeks (while working from home) to create their work, resulting in some pretty fantastic designs.

“We are experiencing an extraordinary pandemic in which we are seeking for more love and support from family, friends and ourselves,” said Wu. She began a series in March, in the earliest days of the crisis, called “LOVE IN COVID-19.”

Her winning piece, “Love in a Circle,” is based on a story that happened to Wu’s friend in New York City, where he sought romance during the quarantine. As soon as she heard the story, she knew she would have to make something using the tale for inspiration. Many of the details in the award-winning painting come directly from her friend’s story, including the figures’ clothing choices and a floral bouquet.

The series includes other paintings on the pandemic-inspired theme, including “Self-portrait in Quarantine” (with themes of separation, change, fragility, self-love, and self-care) and “Ballerinas Spring 2020” (depicting a dancer performing on her balcony, rather than on stage). 

Art is a part of everyone’s life, Wu says, who feels fortunate to be an artist and finds complete happiness when she is lost in her work. “When I’m painting, there is a moment at which I am not thinking about anything. I’m completely focused on the work itself.”

The Virtual SCAD Sidewalk Arts Festival officially began on April 24, 2020, at St. Joseph’s Candler Hospital in Savannah, where alumni, professors, and students created chalk art honoring frontline healthcare workers. Two weeks later, on May 9, 2020, SCAD community artists created more works honoring healthcare workers at Hughes Spalding Hospital in Atlanta. Gloves, masks, and other protocols were in place to keep all artists and workers safe.

“This event is historic and beloved by all our community around the world. For many of our alumni, nothing represents SCAD like the Sidewalk Arts Festival! It represents hospitality, joy, beauty, everything we love about Georgia,” said SCAD founder and president Paula Wallace. “Our students learn how to invite the public to enjoy their work—even as it’s being created in real time! Families love this event, and I know we’ll all be thrilled to see the sidewalk squares of Savannah’s Forsyth Park vibrant with life and color once more in 2021.”

Find more of Wu’s work at

To view all the contest winners, check out


SCAD Sidewalk Art Festival Winners

SCAD Alumni Best in Show Award:

Trelan Jones

(B.F.A., painting, 2004, Cincinnati, Ohio)

SCAD Alumni Spirit Award:

Amelia Jamerson

(B.F.A., advertising, 2011, Savannah, Georgia)

 SCAD People’s Choice Alumni Award:

Kathleen Varadi

(B.F.A., painting, 2018, Savannah, Georgia)

 SCAD Student Best in Show Award:

Lily Morris

(M.F.A. painting, Hudson, New York)

SCAD Student Spirit Award:

Linlin Ivy Wu

(M.A. painting, Suwanee, Georgia)

SCAD People’s Choice Student Award:

Daniela Torres Wong

(B.F.A. advertising and branding, Panama, Panama) 

High School First Place:

Nina Vidal

(Flemington, New Jersey)

High School Second Place:

Callan Thornton

(Monroe, Louisiana)

High School Third Place:

Luke Farwell

(Oxford, Mississippi)

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