Art and tech at MB Labs
Art and tech at MB Labs 

Getting Technological

Recently I came across the guiding philosophy of Pixar, the renowned computer animation studio. John Lasseter, the company's Chief Creative Officer, puts it this way: "Art challenges technology; technology inspires art." In other words, art and technology are engaged in a constant dialogue. They sustain, test, and even improve each other, and in so doing they make our world a more interactive and better place.

The histories of art and technology confirm these insights. Even so, it is only recently that a consensus has built around them in the broader culture. This is due in no small part to the iconic vision of Steve Jobs and his success transforming Apple into the world's most valuable company—not to mention his leadership of Pixar, where he served as Chairman and was also one of its earliest investors.

Yet as a quick look at the history of our school will attest, artists and designers have also played a key role in the articulation and growth of these ideas. In 1982, for example, we became one of the first schools to offer an Art and Technology Studies program, which remains a leader in the field to this day. Before that, in 1970 faculty member Sonia Sheridan founded the "Generative Systems Program," which, among others, brought scientists and technologists to our campus in an effort to explore the various systems of thought that contribute to artistic production. The program grew out of Professor Sheridan's research using copier technology to alter images and preceded her appointment at technology giant 3M, where she became one of the first ever "Artists-in-Residence."

In these stories, profiles, and interviews, you will see how this tradition continues to thrive at SAIC. There are features on alumni-founded MB Labs, an interactive and collaborative design firm, and on the growth of 3D Printing in our studios. You will also read about faculty member Claudia Hart's tech-inspired video work and residency at Eyebeam Art & Technology Center in New York; alumni Trevor Paglen's interdisciplinary work combining art, science, and geography; and alumni and board member Donghoon Chang's experiences serving as Executive Vice President and Head of Design at Samsung. Finally, you will have a chance to learn about our first ever "Scientist-in-Residence," computer scientist and artificial intelligence expert David Gondek.

These articles demonstrate how integrated art and technology are—and how critical it is for our students to be able to work and converse fluidly between the two fields. This is in keeping with our interdisciplinary curriculum as well as with the realities of the 21st century economy.

I hope you enjoy reading about our growing community of artists, designers—and technologists.

Walter E. Massey
President, School of the Art Institute of Chicago