USA Report - Midwest Edition

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SAIC's world-class education refines artistic sentiment

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 February, 2016, 4:29pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2016, 5:09pm

As one of the oldest bastions of art and design in the United States, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has been at the forefront of the country's societal and cultural evolution over the last 150 years.

Regionalism and Imagism, two historical American art movements, trace their roots to SAIC - while Georgia O'Keeffe, Jeff Koons and a number of the country's most notable names in the arts received their early training at the school.

Since its establishment in 1866, SAIC has become a true global leader in fine arts education. Located in the heart of Chicago, and sister school to the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago named the world's best museum by TripAdvisor, SAIC offers nationally accredited undergraduate, graduate and post-baccalaureate programmes to more than 3,500 students from 50 countries.

"We put a great deal of emphasis on diversity," says SAIC president Walter Massey. "Individuals from varied ethnic, racial and international backgrounds with different areas of expertise create a rich environment for cross-disciplinary learning."

Education at SAIC is built on an interdisciplinary approach to art and design. Students are given unparalleled opportunities to develop their creative and critical abilities by crossing over the fine arts spectrum - from painting, graphic design and computer animation to sculpture, architecture and fashion design - under the mentorship of renowned faculty who are leading practitioners in their fields.

"We believe that creativity is best enhanced by having people work across various disciplines," Massey says. "The emphasis here is on being creative. The ability to have students and faculty work across different areas and move beyond traditional boundaries is what sets us apart from other institutions."

This interdisciplinary approach is strongly seen in the school's pioneering initiatives and programmes that foster an environment of collaboration and understanding across the arts and sciences.

SAIC is the first in the US to have a department dedicated to exploring the fusion of technology into the making of art and encouraging artistic sentiment in future architects by having the architecture course embedded in the arts school. SAIC students are also collaborating with engineering students from Northwestern University to communicate complex data in visually interesting ways.

Apart from collaborations with American art institutions such as the Rhode Island School of Design and Parsons in New York, SAIC maintains partnerships with Asian universities such as the China Central Academy of Fine Arts and Seoul National University.

The school also collaborates with companies. SAIC-led design teams have worked on Samsung's Galaxy tablets and avant-garde products for Crate & Barrel's modern furniture and home décor line, CB2. SAIC's GFRY laboratory was named after a Motorola designer. The school welcomes public and private partnerships with Asian institutions keen on investing in art and its infrastructure.

"As China, South Korea and other Asian countries begin putting more emphasis on the arts and invest in museums and galleries, we want our graduates to contribute to that evolution," Massey says.

"The world has changed over the last 150 years, and so has art. What has kept us successful is our ability to innovate in order to be at the leading edge of that change."


School of the Art Institute of Chicago