An Alumni Association consists of a group of graduated students with a wealth of experience and skills to match their studied craft. Creating engaged and supportive alumni are extremely important for any program and an opportunity for those alumni members to come together and connect as like-minded individuals. At RMCAD, the Illustration department has an Alumni Association that now goes by the Red Shoe Guild. We sat down with Illustration program department chair Scott Wakefield to get his take on the group, its goals, and the importance of being involved as alumni.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Red Shoe Guild? What is it and what are their goals?
Our Red Shoe Guild is a community of Illustrators who support each other within the world of Illustration. Members of the Red Shoe Guild share friendship, community, and mutual support; and we all wear red shoes! Our illustration collective includes alumni, faculty, and current students from the Illustration program at RMCAD. We are supported by and also represent the college.
Members wear red shoes on campus and to special events, especially graduation. In fact, it is such a strong and important tradition that there is a rumor about a certain faculty member, (Hugh Alexander!) who actually spray painted the shoes of a student who showed up to graduation without red shoes. I cannot verify the story, but I did find a can of red spray paint in the department office…
Where did the name Red Shoe Guild come from?
Legend has it that two faculty members showed up to campus on a cold winter day. It was a snow day and the campus was empty, but these two faculty members were unaware of the campus closure. They both showed up at the same time, only to look down and realize they were both wearing red shoes. They felt that it was the start of something great! In time, the illustrators on campus were all wearing red shoes!
We recently changed our name from the Red Shoe Tribe to the Red Shoe Guild. Last year, it was brought to our attention that we shared the name with an existing Native American Tribe based in Louisiana. The RMCAD community and members of other Native American groups had concerns about our use of the word “tribe” as a school mascot or group, so we made a change.
I especially like this name change because “guild” is more reflective of the purpose of our group. The definition of “guild” is “an association of craftsmen or merchants created for mutual aid or the pursuit of a common goal, often having considerable power,” (Oxford Dictionaries). That is the purpose of our group – to help all be successful illustrators, creative professionals, artists, etc.
When I was hired in the Fall of 2017 to be the Chair of Illustration, I was informed by Hugh Alexander that I needed to get some red shoes. I was excited to see how this simple idea of wearing red shoes gave our students a sense of community and belonging. I have been proudly wearing my red shoes ever since.
What does the RSG look for in its members?
More than anything, we look for connection and mutual support. It can be very difficult to promote yourself as an illustrator in a competitive marketplace. Our group connects current students with illustration alumni. Last year we made new t-shirts and I asked faculty to give them away to students who were doing excellent work or had a great attitude in class. Many students were recognized. We also gave pins out to our graduates, stickers to potential illustration students, and lanyards to current students. All of this was done to promote a sense of community and build relationships with students and alumni.
Who are some notable members of the Red Shoe Guild?
Every current student and illustration graduate is notable, they are illustrators! Illustration is a difficult and powerful storytelling practice that brings beauty and meaning to our stories and our lives.
In what ways do you hope the Red Shoe Guild will help bring value to the creative community?
Illustration helps tell a story, aides in literature, assists in making visual connections, educates people, and so much more. The world needs more incredible illustrations. That is what I hope the RSG will help to create.
What advice would you give to aspiring members/illustrators?
Reach out. Make connections with each other. Build powerful associations with other members. Lift everyone up!
How can the RMCAD community follow along with RSG and what its members are doing?
There is a private group on Facebook, Red Shoe Guild, available to join by request. There are currently 123 members and growing.
For more information on RMCAD’s illustration program, illustration alumni, student work, and the Red Shoe Guild, please visit: www.rmcad.edu/program/on-campus/illustration-school/