June 28, 2013

The SAIC Underground

Back in the days when all SAIC classrooms were underground in the pits of the Art Institute building—when painting students fought over the one sink, and the only 16mm camera available to students had been donated to the school after seeing the battlefields of World War II—there was one single gathering space for students, faculty, and visitors of SAIC: the subterranean cafeteria.

In 1965, SAIC alumnus Rodney Quiriconi (BFA 1961, MFA 1966) used his personal 16mm camera (a luxury then) to make this short film documenting students intermingling at lunchtime. Tom Palazzolo (BFA 1965), Quiriconi's friend, reflects fondly on the cafeteria and the myriad characters who gathered there. "There was an acting program then, and the actors rehearsed their lines at the tables in one corner of the room," he says. "Back then, students were quieter and would bring their sketchbooks to the cafeteria...students and faculty did not mingle as they probably do now."

The cafeteria served many functions, including offering simple meals. As Palazzolo remembers, the "crème-de-la-crème" was a toasted cheese sandwich. However humble its menu, the cafeteria received some famous visitors, including Bruce Connor. "The school, at that time, did not have an auditorium," remarks Palozzolo. "So we used the cafeteria—moved chairs back—to see lectures and performances."