The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) houses one of the only graduate-level contemporary Performance departments centered on performance practice and studies. The Performance department at SAIC is known nationally and internationally as a center for engagement, research, and experimentation of body-focused performance art practice in an art-and-design school context.
With a strong emphasis on professional development, we’ve built ties with local and international performance communities, including galleries, performance spaces, festivals, curators, writers, and scholars.

Recent visitors to the department have included:

Artists: Lida Abdul,Tania Brugera, Lucy Cash, Sharon Hayes, Angela Ellsworth, Lynn Lu, Tehching Hsieh, Dont Rhine, Allan de Souza, Martha Wilson, and Fiona Wright

Scholars: Chris Salter, Ghislaine Boddington, Sara Jane Bailes, Wendy Chun, and N. Katherine Hayles

Curators: Nikki Milican, Brian Rogers, Tricia Van Eck, Carol Stakenas, Franco Boni, Ben Prior, and Joseph Ravens

Possible Performance Paths

As contemporary practice moves fluidly across materials and methods, many courses at SAIC address the intersection between sculptural, performative, interactive, immersive, screen/camera/code and material disciplines and explore their shared methods, materials, and critical/theoretical discourse.

Graduate students are encouraged to consider their art-making process as a multidisciplinary practice that can range across various departments including, but not limited to, Fiber and Material Studies; Sculpture; Performance; Fashion Design; Art and Technology Studies; Film, Video, New Media, and Animation; and Ceramics. Students are encouraged to confer with faculty and graduate advisors to map a course of interdisciplinary study that reflects the latest developments in contemporary practices in these fields.

Below are some pathway suggestions to consider:

Graduate Projects

The cornerstone of SAIC’s graduate studio program is its focus on tutorially guided studio practice. Each semester in addition to selecting from graduate advisors in the department, you will select from more than 100 graduate faculty advisors  at SAIC, representing a myriad of disciplines, approaches, and intellectual positions. Ultimately, it is the student's work that drives the choice of advisor, and both disciplinary and interdisciplinary work is supported and advanced. Faculty from the academic programs in Art HistoryArts Administration and PolicyArt Education, and Visual and Critical Studies also serve as graduate advisors, providing yet more expertise in support of SAIC Graduate Projects.

This is the heart of your graduate study as it gives you time to pursue your independent projects while meeting regularly with a faculty advisor. You can take up to six credits every semester, three from each of two advisors. We advise signing up with two different advisors each semester. For the first and second semester we strongly advise signing up with at least one advisor from the Performance department. The Department Chair and Graduate Coordinator are happy to consult with you on choosing advisors.

Critique Week

Critique Week, one of the principle means of assessment each semester, is a week-long schedule of critiques during which classes are suspended and the entire faculty and invited visiting artists and designers assemble into panels that conduct intensive studio critiques with all studio and writing graduate students.

Fall semester critiques are organized by department, with panels representing the discipline. They provide you an opportunity to have your work evaluated by the department, look at your work from a disciplinary point of view, and reinforce the expectations for your graduate study.

Spring semester critiques are interdisciplinary, with panel members of faculty, visiting artists, and peers from across SAIC departments. Interdisciplinary critiques in the spring semesters allow for a broader range of responses to the work, and are intended to assess the success of your work for a more general, yet highly informed, audience.

Studio critiques are required of every full-time graduate student pursuing an MFA in Studio or Writing degree. Typically, SAIC graduate students have at least four critique panels throughout their studies at SAIC, augmenting biweekly tutorials with their graduate advisors.

Interested in learning more?

Click around this website for more information on the curriculum, faculty and resources offered through the department.

Interested in learning more about how you can apply?

Visit the graduate admissions website or contact the graduate admissions office at 800.232.7242 or