Professor, Sculpture (1999). BFA, 1973, University of Florida; MA, 1976, University of Michigan. Concurrent Position: Executive Director of Exhibitions and Exhibition Studies at SAIC. Curatorial Projects: Studio Chicago, 2009–10; Learning Modern, 2009; Awake: Art, Buddhism, and The Dimensions of Consciousness, 2003; Evoking History, Charleston's Spoleto Festival USA, 2001–08. Books: The Studio Reader: On the Space of Artists (University of Chicago Press, 2010); Grain of Emptiness (Rubin Museum, NY, 2010); Learning Mind: Experience Into Art (University of California Press, 2009); Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art (University of California Press, 2004). Awards: Peter Norton Family Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Rockefeller Foundation, and Getty Fellowships.

Personal Statement

Mary Jane Jacob is a curator, writer, and educator whose practice is rooted in the nature of artmaking and art experience. Having served as the Chief Curator of the Museums of Contemporary Art in Chicago and Los Angeles, Jacob shifted her workplace from the museum to the street to critically engage the discourse around public space, organizing such site and community-based programs as Places with a Past and Places with a Future in Charleston, Culture in Action in Chicago, and Conversations at The Castle in Atlanta.

At the Sullivan Galleries, she led the citywide program Studio Chicago (2010–11), which included exhibitions and the publication of The Studio Reader: On the Space of Artists (University of Chicago Press, 2010), and a major research program on modernism with the Mies van der Rohe Society at IIT (2008–10), resulting in the book Chicago Makes Modern: How Creative Minds Changed Society (University of Chicago Press, 2012). Jacob has brought international artists to do special projects and new commissions for the Sullivan Galleries, such as Omer Fast, Kimsooja, Wolfgang Laib, and J. Morgan Puett (BFA 1981, MFA 1984), while invigorating the curatorial training offered to SAIC students. Seeing the pedagogical possibilities in these shows and special projects, she has helped to redefine the Sullivan Galleries as teaching galleries, renewing emphasis on creating opportunities for research and experience for students, staff, and faculty. Jacob's strategic integration of the SAIC community with the larger context of Chicago arts community has led to increased excellence in exhibition conceptualization, implementation, and presentation.

Jacob's current curatorial focus is on Chicago social practice. Looking at this city's long engagement in art and social practice for more than a century, this will lead in fall 2014 to a four-volume series Chicago Social Practice History, a major exhibition of current-day practice entitled A Proximity of Consciousness: Art and Social Action, and a major international conference, "A Lived Practice" (November 6–8, 2014). 


Recent Publications

  • "Chicago is Culture in Action," curatorial essay in Exhibition Histories: Culture in Action (London: St. Martin's Press, Afterall Books, Exhibition Histories series, 2014).
  • "Essential Empathy," in Kimsooja (Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz and Vancouver Art Gallery, 2013).
  • "A Shared Research," essay in Alternative Public Art Anthology (Hamilton, NJ: ISC Press, distributed by University of Washington Press, 2013).
  • "Experience as Thinking," essay in Art as a Thinking Process (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2013).
  • "Public Art: Consequences of a Gesture. A Journey into the Curatorial Landscape with Mary Jane Jacob," interview by Monika Molnár and Tanja Trampe in On Curating Journal (Issue 19, 2013).
  • "The Purpose of Cultural Agency," for "City (Re)Searches: Experiences of Publicness," (EU Culture Programme, Education and Culture DG, 2013).
  • "John Dewey's Art Lessons" for on-line research archive (EU consortium on useful art, 2013).


Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.