The SAIC at 900 gallery located on the sixth floor of the 900 North Michigan Shops
The SAIC at 900 gallery located on the sixth floor of the 900 North Michigan Shops

Partnership Brings Student Work to Corporate America and Beyond

by Troy Pieper (MA 2015)

Students' works of art have been traveling outside of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's (SAIC) walls for more than 10 years, thanks to Creativity in the Workplace. The program places student artwork in public buildings, commercial locations, and the Chicago offices of companies both small and multinational. "I'm showcasing amazing student work, which makes my job easy," says Jeanne Long, Director of Community Partnerships and head of the program. SAIC student work is in high demand from corporations in Chicago's downtown Loop business district to hang in their lobbies, boardrooms, and offices. "All I have to do is match them with the right art," Long says.

Students receive an honorarium from the company that exhibits their work, and each one hosts a reception for the student artist so that they can "meet the people who will be living with their work," says Long. In some cases, these companies begin to like living with the art so much that they purchase it from the students, and SAIC asks for no commission. There have even been companies so pleased with the partnership, gushes Long, that they have established a scholarship for SAIC fine arts students.

Though the program is clearly advantageous for both students and participating companies, Long has observed over the years that Creativity in the Workplace has significant corollary benefits. One of the goals of these partnerships, she says, is to build certain audiences for art that might not otherwise have exposure to student work, to the school, or even to contemporary art at all. "We're teaching corporate America that contemporary art is not scary," she says.

The program does not only benefit the students whose work is on exhibition. Long also hires students to assist her in the curatorial process. Those students gain experience doing studio visits, connecting with corporate clients, and hanging the work. "These are key educational moments, and I have fabulous student assistants," says Long.

Jeremiah Jones (MFA 2013), Looking Down Yosemite Valley After Bierstadt, 2013, video loop. Student work installed in SAIC at 900
Jeremiah Jones (MFA 2013), Looking Down Yosemite Valley After Bierstadt, 2013, video loop.

But the Chicago headquarters of international steel company Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corporation is not the only sort of digs where works of SAIC student art can be found. SAIC work is placed around the offices of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in City Hall, and more recently Long received a call from 900 North Michigan Shops, an upscale galleria on the Magnificent Mile.

The shopping center was interested in donating a retail space to show SAIC student work. Now located on the sixth floor across from Bloomingdale's, SAIC at 900 features a new exhibition of student art every month with an emphasis on video and sound installations. Long notes, "We wanted to give the visitor an experience, one that provides a wonderful artistic respite for weary shoppers." The gallery, with its accompanying window space, is a perfect opportunity to promote other SAIC exhibitions, she adds. But above all, SAIC at 900 is another way for student work to have a life outside of the school, for it to "engage a whole new audience."

A Sample of Companies Currently Showing Student Work

900 N. Michigan Ave., 6th floor
(Rotating exhibition open to the public)

Blick Art Materials
42 S. State St.

Cosi
116 S. Michigan Ave.

Eisenhower Public Library
4613 N. Oketo Ave., Harwood Heights, IL

Gene Siskel Film Center
164 N. State St.

Legacy at Millennium Park Condominiums
60 E. Monroe St.
(not open to the public)

Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corporation
900 N. Michigan Ave.
(By appointment)

Office of the Mayor: City of Chicago
121 N. LaSalle St.
(Not open to the public)

Palmer House Hotel Roof Top
17 E. Monroe St.
(not open to the public)

Plante Moran
10 S. Riverside Plaza 

Ritz-Carlton Residence
625 N. Michigan Ave

Sheridan Road Financial
707 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook, IL
(not open to the public)

TechNexus
20 N. Wacker Drive.
(By appointment)

Winzeler Gear
7355 W. Wilson Ave.
(By appointment)

Yoonjung Seo (BFA 2014), Haven on Linen #5, 2012. Student work in the offices of Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corporation
Yoonjung Seo (BFA 2014), Haven on Linen #5, 2012. Student work in the offices of Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corporation