150 Years of SAIC

In the early 1880s, historian A.T. Andreas observed how "the growth of an artistic sense in a community...generally finds its expression in the union of artists for mutual improvement and the imparting of instruction, together with the exhibition of their works." The "community" he was referring to was Chicago, and the "union of artists" was the Chicago Academy of Design, which had just renamed itself the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Writing only a decade or so after the city had risen from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire, Andreas noted the incredible speed with which Chicago rebuilt itself into a center of commerce and a capital of arts and culture. SAIC played a fundamental role in this latter development, and, after 150 Years of SAIC, Andreas's observation of our school remains as true today as it was then.

As one of this city's oldest cultural institutions, SAIC is now firmly embedded at the heart of the Chicago arts scene, and our community of artists, designers, and scholars—our students, alumni, faculty, and staff—shapes creative discussions and disciplines the world over. The longevity of our school and the impact it continues to have on the arts are, in part, the result of the generations of talented individuals who have walked its halls. But they are also the result of an institutional culture that is much larger than any single person, a culture we have distilled down to five basic Core Values: We are explorers; Meaning and making are inseparable; We are artists and scholars; Chicago; and We make history.

On our new 150 Years of SAIC website, you will see how each of these Core Values pervades the school's long and storied history. Demonstrating how SAIC means 150 Years of Chicago, for example, you can view our historical timeline, which highlights the role our school played in the genesis of some of the city's most important cultural institutions and spaces—from the Art Institute of Chicago, Goodman Theatre, and Gene Siskel Film Center to the DuSable Museum of African American History, South Side Community Art Center, the Wall of Respect, and a new community redevelopment project at Homan Square in Chicago's North Lawndale neighborhood. What emerges from this timeline is a portrait of our commitment to supporting the best in the arts and design and to nurturing the great diversity of our city. Other pieces include an overview of how SAIC has successfully integrated science, technology, and entrepreneurship into our curriculum, beginning with Artistic Anatomy courses in the late 1890s and continuing with our more recent Art and Technology Studies program (150 Years of Exploring); a fascinating list of course titles and descriptions from the past 150 years that showcases our ever-evolving curriculum (150 Years of Meaning and Making); a story about the history and emergence of design and architecture at our school (150 Years of Artists, Designers, and Scholars); and an interview about the influential group of SAIC alumni artists known as the Monster Roster (representing 150 Years of Making History).

One of the great pleasures of celebrating 150 Years of SAIC is the opportunity it provides to look back at what has made the School of the Art Institute of Chicago so successful over the years. At the same time, I hope we will use the next year to discuss how we can sustain that success into the next 150 years, and how we can remain true to our institutional heritage even as we continue to grow and innovate. I invite you to join me in thinking about these and other questions throughout the next year.

Walter E. Massey

President, School of the Art Institute of Chicago