Graduate Overview



The Art of Arts Administration

The arts have always been at the vanguard of negotiating the most challenging cultural questions of the day. Exhibitions, performances, concerts, festivals, public art, social-practice projects, and countless other cultural experiences—both within and outside the walls of formal arts institutions—have informed and engaged populations; sparked transformational conversations; and catalyzed untold historic change. 

Not mere conduits through which art must pass between artist and audience, Arts Administrators are charged and entrusted with shaping, maintaining, re-envisioning, and even revolutionizing the very platforms and organizational mechanisms through which arts-inspired conversation and change can occur. As such, they must be responsive, dialogic problem-solvers and re-imaginers whose work with art and artists is, by nature, mutually creative.

The true art of Arts Administration is an intelligent elasticity: an ability to respond to art, artist, and intention; to adjust platforms for expression as needs outgrow and circumvent them; and to remain always nimble, ethical, conversational, and visionary enough to navigate the frontiers where status quo meets change. 



You + SAIC: The Future of Civic Imagination

Who you are:

  • You’re curious, open-minded, socially engaged, and action-oriented.
  • You’d like the world to be a better place, and you’re passionate about playing a part in getting it there.
  • You recognize that diversity is only one part of achieving cultural equity, and you’re committed to digging deeply into discourse and action towards achieving cultural justice. 
  • You enjoy the fluid, changeable nature of the terms “art,” “artist,” and “practice.” You know there is more than one answer to many of art’s questions. 
  • You’re interested in working with people from all over the world to collaboratively imagine and develop the future of arts administration.
  • You have exciting visions for all that you might do, and a mature understanding of the systems and strategies that may need to be navigated to achieve them.
  • You’ve already begun. You’ve tried things; experimented on your own; engaged with people, places, projects, and ideas. You’re ready for more.

Who we are:

  • We believe in our students. We are committed to developing and supporting their visionary leadership so they will be prepared to reimagine arts and cultural organizations and create the future of the field.
  • We explore, experiment, and connect—not in a static, theoretical learning space but in a real-time, real-world urban studio lab environment, using studio practice and methodology.
  • We work collaboratively—not only because it’s an essential practice, but because it’s also the best way to a better future.
  • We surround ourselves with artists and the arts. We learn from them, we learn for them, and we learn with them.
  • We engage daily with the vast and diverse resources of the Chicago cultural scene: our largest and most dynamic learning space.
  • We hold firm that Arts Administration is a creative practice of its own, and we equip and empower our students to shape and sustain their own artistic and professional practices.




What students say:

  • "I love the way that SAIC sees exploration as a priority (...). It’s only by exploring and seeking things out that you make meaningful connections to the world around you."
  • "It's not a program where you can sit in the classroom and they feed you everything.
  • "I feel more equipped to be a leader."
  • "Experimentation was really emphasized, and looking at Arts Administration as an artistic practice in itself."
  • "My interest in attending an art school rather than another sort of academic institution was my interest in working directly with the artists. I was less interested in 'academia' and more interested in real-life experiences."
  • "It’s not an MBA program that happens to be arts-related. It’s really taking a look at Arts Administration both alongside and integrated with contemporary art practice and theory."
  • "SAIC is known for recruiting and bringing in—and producing—some of the best artists in the country. So, being part of that dynamic incubator was to my advantage in entering the art world."
  • "Being in a studio and knowing what it was to be an artist was the best possible way to be able to represent artists when working inside of institutions, nonprofits, or museums."
  • "I’m interested in a type of scholarly investigation which I think is really rigorous, but it doesn’t fit the mold of a certain kind of traditional scholarly work. The School of the Art Institute was really the only program that fit the needs that I had—that I have—and is actually unlike any Arts Administration program in the country."
  • "There’s such a breadth of culture here in Chicago, and so many arts organizations..."
  • "The depth of conversations that you get to have across such a wide range of scenarios within the field is amazing, and not something you can find anywhere else."


Our Students:

  • Have hailed (to date) from North America, South America, Central America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.
  • Arrive with backgrounds in visual arts; dance; music; theater; cultural studies; art history; social sciences; law; philosophy; political science; education; social services; hospitality; urban studies; youth activism; social justice; social entrepreneurship; and more.
  • Often work full-time jobs during their studies. They can be found at arts and cultural institutions throughout Chicago, and in leadership positions across the school, including the Office of Civic Engagement; the Sullivan Galleries; and Special Collections. To facilitate students' learning alongside work lives and cultural engagement, we schedule as many required classes and activities as possible in the evening.
  • Have created projects to explore everything from Working at the Line: Three Studies of Arts Administration at the U.S.-Mexico Border and A Love Letter to Community: A Manifesto in Five Suggestions to Racing Culture: Exploring Race, Inclusion and Equity in Arts Institutions, A Parallel World: Hip Hop Dance in China, and Rethinking Radio: Storytelling as Civic Activism, leaving a wealth of trailblazing theses behind them in the MAAAP Thesis Archive.
  • Have graduated to become Directors, Curators, Leaders, and Managers of Education, Programs, Planning, Events, Community Interaction, Public Engagement, Development and Major Gifts, Marketing and Communications, Preservation, Operations, Cultural and Social Entrepreneurship, Legislation, and more—in addition to curating, directing, and managing the collections of renowned galleries, art centers, and museums quite literally around the globe.
  • Can be found in professional positions everywhere from Country Music Television to the J Paul Getty Museum; from the Brain Research Foundation to the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy; not to mention Christie’s, Artforum Magazine, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival, Public Design Commission of the City of New York, Peabody Essex Museum, Northwestern University, Reykjavik Art Museum, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Greater Chicago Food Depository, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Shenzen Biennial, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Smithsonian Institution, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, The Field Museum, Young Chicago Authors, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, The Obama Foundation, Venice Architecture Biennale, and countless others.

We bring leaders in culture and civic engagement into our classrooms to share their experiences and insights.

Recent guest speakers include:

  • Roberto Bedoya (Cultural Affairs Manager, City of Oakland)
  • Madeleine Grynsztejn (Pritzker Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago)
  • Peter Hyer (Director of the Media & Technology Portfolio, IDEO San Francisco)
  • Carolina Jayaram (Former CEO, United States Artists; Current CEO, YoungArts)
  • Ra Joy (Former Executive Director Arts Alliance Illinois. Current Executive Director, CHANGE Illinois)
  • Jamie Kalven (Writer; Human Rights Activist; Director of the Invisible Institute)
  • Tony Karmen (President and Director, EXPO Chicago)
  • Faheem Majeed (Artist and Co-Director/Founder, Floating Museum)
  • Ian David Moss (Founder, CreatEquity; CEO, Knowledge Empower Consultants)
  • Caroline Older (Executive Director, Chicago Artists Coalition)
  • Andreas Östberg (Founder, School of Rock, Mexico)
  • Angelique Williams Power (Former Program Director, Culture, The Joyce Foundation; Current President, Field Foundation Illinois)
  • Mike Reed (Musician; Composer; Founding Director, Pitchfork Music Festival; Programming Chair, Chicago Jazz Festival; Owner and Director, Constellation)
  • Sarah Ross, Artist (Chicago Justice Torture Memorials; Prison and Neighborhood Arts Project)
  • Laura Samson (Enterprise Strategy Lead, Boeing Global Engagement)
  • Jacqueline Terrassa (Woman’s Board Endowed Chair of Museum Education, Art Institute of Chicago)
  • Yesomi Umolu (Exhibitions Curator, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts)
  • Roberta Uno (Director, Arts in a Changing America)


Thesis Abstracts

Each year, the School of the Art Institute of  Chicago celebrates the culmination and closure of students' studies at the masters level. In studio areas, the celebration takes place in the form of the thesis exhibitions. The academic areas complement this with the publication of students' theses.

The SAIC Thesis Repository contains theses for the MA in Arts Administration and Policy and the Dual Degree submitted since November 2013.

Theses submitted prior to November 2013 are listed in the Flaxman Library catalog.

MAAAP Thesis Archive: Special Collection

We have created the MAAAP Thesis Archive, a collection of theses organized by topic, to give you a better idea of the breadth of work accomplished in the MA in Arts Administration and Policy.

Interested in learning more about how you can apply?

Visit the graduate admissions website or contact the graduate admissions office at 312.629.6100, 800.232.7242 or