School of the Art Institute of Chicago

School of the Art Institute of Chicago
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
37 South Wabash Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60603
Type private, non-profit corporation
Established 1866
School district Chicago, IL
President Walter E. Massey, Ph.D.,
Faculty 141 Full-time Faculty, 427 Part-time Faculty (2009-10 SAIC degree program faculty)
Enrollment 3,098 (Figures from Fall 2009)
Nickname SAIC
Information (312) 629-6100
The school's Grant Park, Columbus Avenue, building, attached to the museum, houses a premier gallery showcase.

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is one of America's largest accredited independent schools of art and design, located in the Loop in Chicago, Illinois. It is associated with the museum of the same name, and "The Art Institute of Chicago" or "Chicago Art Institute" often refers to either entity. Providing degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels, SAIC has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top graduate art programs in the nation, as well as by Columbia University's National Arts Journalism survey as the most influential art school in the United States.

SAIC offers classes in art and technology; arts administration; art history, theory, and criticism; art education and art therapy; ceramics; fashion design; filmmaking; historic preservation; architecture; interior architecture; designed objects; painting and drawing; performance; photography; printmaking; sculpture; sound; time arts (time-based media); video; visual communication; and writing. SAIC also serves as a resource for issues related to the position and importance of the arts in society.

SAIC has been accredited since 1936 by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design since 1944 (charter member), and by the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) since its founding in 1991. Additionally it is accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board.

Its downtown Chicago campus consists of seven buildings located in the immediate vicinity of the AIC building. SAIC is in an equal partnership with the AIC and share many administrative resources such as design, construction, and human resources.



The institute has its roots in the 1866 founding of the Chicago Academy of Design, which local artists established in rented rooms on Clark Street. It was financed by member dues and patron donations. Four years later, the school moved into its own Adams Street building, which was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Because of the school's financial and managerial problems after this loss, business leaders in 1878 formed a board of trustees and founded the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. They expanded its mission beyond education and exhibitions to include collecting. In 1882, the academy was renamed the Art Institute of Chicago. The banker Charles L. Hutchinson served as its elected president until his death in 1924.[1]


SAIC offers a broad range of fine arts degrees and is interdisciplinary; a selected course of concentration is not necessary unless enrolled in the AIADO department.[citation needed]

"Painting critique": students' critiquing Ben Cowan's work
The Etching Room, with etching presses and workstations

SAIC does not use a standard grading system. Teachers grade on a credit/no credit system, meaning C or above is pass, and below a C is fail.[2]

Campus Life

The main campus is set in downtown Chicago, also known as the Loop. SAIC uses chiefly three buildings: the Michigan (112 S. Michigan Ave.), the Sharp (37 S. Wabash Ave.), and the Columbus (280 S. Columbus Dr.). SAIC also owns additional buildings throughout Chicago that are used student galleries or investments.

Visiting Artists Program

Founded in 1868, the Visiting Artists Program (VAP) is one of the oldest public programs of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Formalized in 1951 by Flora Mayer Witkowsky's endowment of a supporting fund, the Visiting Artists Program hosts public presentations by artists, designers, and scholars each year in lectures, symposia, performances, and screenings. It is an eclectic program that showcases artists' working in all media, including sound, video, performance, poetry, painting, and independent film; in addition to significant curators, critics, and art historians.

The primary mission of the program is to educate and foster a greater understanding and appreciation of contemporary art through discourse. VAP maintains a long-standing commitment to ethnic and gender diversity; it has been at the forefront of the movement toward a more socially engaged and theoretically informed aesthetic dialogue.

Recent visiting artists have included Richard Tuttle, Andrea Fraser, Omer Fast, Rirkrit Tiravanija, DJ Spooky, Kalup Linzy, Elizabeth Peyton, Mel Chin, Thomas Hirschhorn, Raymond Pettibon, Rodney Graham, Isaac Julien, Dave Hickey, Vito Acconci, and many others.

Additionally, the Distinguished Alumni Series brings alumni back to the community to present their work and reflect on how their experiences at SAIC have shaped them. Recent alumni speakers include Joe Zucker, Sanford Biggers, Suzie Silver, and Joshua Mosley, to name a few.


  • Betty Rymer Gallery - The Betty Rymer gallery is named in honor of Betty Rymer, the late wife of SAIC Board of Governors member Barry Rymer. Following her major donation in 1989, the gallery is dedicated to her memory and interests. It is located in the 280 South Columbus Drive building.
  • Sullivan Galleries (formerly Gallery 2) - Relocated to the 7th floor of the Sullivan Center in 2008, Gallery 2 was an off-site space formerly located in the 847 West Jackson Avenue building. The new location at 36 S. Wabash, in the midst of the SAIC "campus", features updated and more accessible facilities to enable more numerous visitors It is run by the school's non-teaching faculty and student workers. The gallery also annually hosts the Undergraduate and Graduate Thesis exhibitions (respectively, the BFA, MFA, and Graduate Design Exhibitions). During the rest of the year, it features highly advanced undergraduate and graduate student shows, as well as professionally-curated exhibitions.
  • Student Union Galleries (LG Space, Gallery X) - The Student Union Galleries (SUGs) is SAIC's fully student-run gallery system. Paid student directors maintain the galleries with assistance from a faculty adviser. A volunteer student committee assists in maintenance and the selection of exhibitions. They have two locations: LG Space of the 37 South Wabash Avenue building; and Gallery X of the 280 South Columbus Drive building. The two locations allow the galleries to cycle two shows simultaneously, each with three shows per semester. They also maintain their own website.[1]

Student Organizations


ExTV is a student-run time-arts platform that broadcasts online and on campus. Its broadcasts are available via monitors located throughout the 112 S. Michigan building, the 37 S Wabash building, and the 280 S. Columbus building. It is available on campus and off campus at and on cantv.

F Newsmagazine

F Newsmagazine is a student-run newspaper with both paid and volunteer positions. The magazine is a monthly publication with a run of 12,000 copies. Copies are distributed throughout the city, mainly at locations frequented by students such as popular diners and movie theaters, and is also online.

It was awarded Best in Overall Design by the Student Society of News Design in its 2008 design contest, as well as a number of other awards for its designers.

In recent years, F Newsmagazine has won the Pacemaker Award and Online Pacemaker Award from the Associated Collegiate Press and Newspaper Association of America, as well as Silver and Gold Crown awards from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association and Best Website from the Illinois College Press Association.

Free Radio SAIC

Free Radio SAIC is a student-run volunteer internet radio station.[2]

Student Government

The student government of SAIC is unique in that its constitution resembles a socialist republic, in which four officers hold equal power and responsibility. Elections are held every year. There are no campaign requirements. Any group of four students may run for office, but there must always be four students.

The student government is responsible for hosting a school-wide student meeting once a month. At these meetings students discuss school concerns of any nature. The predominant topic is funding for the various student organizations. Organizations which desire funding must present a proposal at the meeting by which the students vote whether they should receive monies or not. The student government cannot participate in the vote: only oversee it.

The student government is also responsible for the distribution of the Peanut Butter & Jelly Fund, Welcome Back to School Party, Monthly Morning Coffees, Open Forums, Barbecues in the Pit (the outdoor area at the entrance of the 280 S Columbus Building), Holiday Art Sale, and a Materials Event. In the past Student Government has accomplished such things as campus-wide recycling, and access to the Chicago Transit Authority's U-Pass.


In a survey conducted by the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, SAIC was named the “most influential art school” by art critics at general interest news publications from across the United States.[3]

In 2009, U.S. News & World Report ranked the SAIC the third best overall graduate program for fine arts in the U.S.[4]

Notable alumni

Notable faculty


"Mirth & Girth"

On May 11, 1988, a student painting depicting Harold Washington, the first black mayor of Chicago, was torn down by some of the city's African-American aldermen — over the protests of many who attempted to block them — based on its content. The painting, titled "Mirth & Girth" by David Nelson, was of Washington clad only in women's underwear holding a pencil.[14] Washington had died on November 25, 1987.

The painting was returned after a day, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department and the aldermen. The ACLU claimed the removal violated Nelson's First, Fourth, and Fourteenth amendment rights. Nelson ended up receiving a monetary settlement for damage to the painting which occurred during its confiscation.[15]

"What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag?"

In February 1989, a student named "Dread" Scott Tyler draped the Flag of the United States across the floor for a piece titled "What Is The Proper Way To Display A U.S. Flag?" The piece consisted of a podium with a notebook for viewers to express how they felt about the exhibit. However, the podium was set upon a flag laid on the floor. In order for viewers to write in the notebook, they would have to walk on the flag. Viewers were occasionally arrested at the request of veterans.[15]

The school stood by the student's display in the face of protests and threats. That year, the school's federal funding was cut from $70,000 to $1 and many benefactors pulled donations.

The piece has been displayed throughout numerous galleries in the country after this incident including the show "Our Aim Is To Destroy Them!" by the Near NorthWest Arts Council Gallery in 19(??).[citation needed]

Dread Scott is often associated with David Nelson due to time between the works, but Scott distances himself from Nelson and has been quoted saying, "[Nelson] doesn't mind promoting racism, doesn't mind promoting homophobia, doesn't mind promoting, you know, the oppression of women. I want to liberate people from all of that."[16]


This is a list of property in order of acquisition:

  • 280 South Columbus (classrooms, departmental offices, studios, Betty Rymer Gallery)
  • 37 South Wabash (classrooms, main administrative offices, Flaxman Library)
  • 112 South Michigan (classrooms, departmental offices, studios, ballroom)
  • 7 West Madison (student residences)
  • 162 North State (student residences)
  • 164 North State Street (Gene Siskel Film Center)
  • 116 South Michigan, 2nd floor (classrooms)

SAIC also owns these properties outside of the immediate vicinity of the Chicago Loop:

  • 1926 North Halsted (gallery space) in Chicago. A property donated by artist Roger J. Brown.
  • Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists' Residency, Saugatuck, Michigan (affiliated with SAIC)

SAIC leases:

  • 36 South Wabash, leasing the 12th floor (administrative offices, Architecture and Interior Architecture Design Center)
  • 36 South Wabash, leasing the 7th floor (Fashion Design department, Gallery 2)
  • 36 South Wabash, leasing offices on the 14th floor (administrative offices)
  • 36 South Wabash, leasing offices on the 15th floor (administrative offices)


  1. ^ Dillon, Diane. "Art Institute of Chicago", Encyclopedia of Chicago
  2. ^ Degrees, Resources
  3. ^ "The Visual Art Critic". Columbia University National Arts Journalism Program. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  4. ^ "America's Best Graduate Programs 2008". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  5. ^ "The Organization Man - Page 3 - Chicago Tribune". Retrieved 23 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Louise Krasniewicz, Michael Blitz (2010). Walt Disney: A Biography. Greenwood. p. xxvi. ISBN 0313358303. 
  7. ^ A.B. Magil, "Ellis, Artist of the Proletariat." The Daily Worker, vol. 5, no. 321 (January 12, 1930), pg. 2.
  8. ^ Sisario, Ben (October 8, 2009). "Suzanne Fiol, Avant-Garde Impresario, Dies at 49". New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "How the life and death of the Chicago painter known as Hilgos helped bring art — and a better quality of life — to Alzheimer’s patients". Miller-Mccune magazine. December 21, 2010. 
  10. ^ von Buol, Peter (May 20, 2008). "Chicago Honors Hawaii Artist Herb Kane". Hawaii Magazine. Retrieved 4 August 2011. 
  11. ^ "Obituary". New York Times March 7, 1986. Retrieved July 05, 2011. 
  12. ^ Faye, Marcia, "Art Paul: The art of designing Playboy", iitmagazine (Spring 2009)
  13. ^ "Norton Museum of Art, Members magazine March/April 2009". Norton Museum of Art. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  14. ^ Sneed, Michael (1988-07-04). "Untitled". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  15. ^ a b Dubin, Steven (1992). Arresting Images, Impolitic Art and Uncivil Actions. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-90893-0. 
  16. ^ Dubin, Steven (1992). Arresting Images, Impolitic Art and Uncivil Actions. Routledge. pp. 104. ISBN 0-415-90893-0. 

External links

Coordinates: 41°52′46″N 87°37′26″W / 41.87944°N 87.62389°W / 41.87944; -87.62389

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