Studying as an undergraduate at SAIC is an experience unlike any other. It’s immersive. It’s challenging. It’s mind-opening. It can be messy. It’s also the best preparation you can have for life after graduation. That’s because SAIC has designed a unique education rooted in experimentation that develops creative people into resilient, adaptable problem solvers and critical thinkers who can ride the wave of the future.
What Can I Study at SAIC?
SAIC’s most popular undergraduate degree is the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio, which gives you the freedom to study across 13 art and design disciplines, or to emphasize art education or writing. We also offer academic degrees.
What Makes SAIC Different?
Undergraduate study at SAIC is a carefully designed system of interconnected parts that work together to build on your passion for art and design. Each component of your program helps you discover your voice and develop a practice that engages with the world beyond the studio.
The SAIC Building Blocks
Freedom to Explore
The work you make at SAIC starts with an idea. What do you want to say or delve into? The media you use will help you embody that idea. That’s why it’s important that you have the freedom to explore beyond a single medium. Combine painting with fashion design, or discover a new passion for sound art.
Photo by Grace DuVal
Structure and Support
You’ll have close mentorship and advising as you explore, so you can be deliberate in the path you design for yourself. And SAIC’s structured first-year programs give you a strong foundation for rigorous experimentation and a creative mindset that questions assumptions and connects strands.
Photo by Grace DuVal
We want you to take risks with your work. That's why we use a credit/no-credit grading system, which emphasizes constructive feedback through critique-based assessment. Through regular crits, you’ll also learn how to talk about your work and the work of your peers.
You can gain experience through our internship program, the largest arts-related program in the country. Professional-skills courses and SAIC’s CAPX career development experts give you a solid foundation. And a faculty of practicing artists and designers—once emerging artists like you—are ready with advice.
An image from the Chicago Scholars Meet & Greet. Photo by Dan Williamson.
Photo by Tony Favarula.
We want you to have a truly immersive experience of making. Each week, you’ll focus on your practice for extended periods in unique facilities like bio art labs, 3D visualization studios, and our vast museum collection.
Adjunct Associate Professor Marlena Novak's “Choral” combines visuals depicting reefs with a musical score designed to spark curiosity about the underwater coral ecosystem. Image courtesy Northwestern University via WTTW.
Expand Your Vision
One-third of your courses engage with ideas from science, social sciences, and humanities. This focus on critical thinking and research fuels your artistic growth. With options like The Lives of Birds that explores avian metaphors and Monsters & Colonization, which examines contemporary media, SAIC’s liberal arts offerings provide thought-provoking topics to deepen your perspective and sharpen your skills beyond the creative.
An image of the Ox-Box School of Art & Artists' Residency from the Ox-Box website.
Study Off Campus
Off-campus study is required at SAIC. Among your options: Explore art and design during short faculty-led study trips across the US and abroad, spend a semester abroad, or study at the Ox-Bow School of Art in rural Saugatuck, Michigan.
Show Your Work
SAIC Scholars is a special program that gives you a chance to fulfill studio and off-campus study requirements with a trip to Siena, Italy, as well as opportunities for extra studio electives and a hybrid studio/academic course in your sophomore year. There's no separate application process. Scholars are selected based on their SAIC admission application.
Photo courtesy of Erin Larocque.
SAIC's Visiting Artists Program brings leading contemporary artists and thinkers to campus for lectures, screenings, and readings. An added perk: Visiting artists sometimes stop by students' studios for discussions and critiques.
Alok Vaid-Menon Lecture, Art Institute of Chicago, Rubloff Auditorium, March 2018. Photo: Grace DuVal
Curatorial and Exhibition
SAIC has several exhibition spaces that present work by renowned and emerging artists—including students—and also function as teaching galleries. The galleries, in the heart of downtown Chicago, give you opportunities to develop curatorial skills and gain experience preparing your work and managing the installation process.
Henrik Vibskov Paper Folding and Installation 2019
The Level Up Grant
As an SAIC student, you may be eligible for a Level Up Grant—funds that support your course-based or independent project. All undergraduate and graduate students in any discipline can apply for up to $500 in funding for anything from special materials to travel assistance.
Photo by Grace DuVal
What’s the Most Important Thing You’ll Learn?
We asked graduating students what they learned that will stick with them for life. Here’s what they said.
Jasmine Veronica (BFA 2021)
“I learned to think about my practice as an ongoing body of work and not as individual projects that end when they are due for class.”
Falak Vasa (BFA 2018)
"I know now that I don’t need one single container for my entire range of practices; there is no hierarchy of containers (an Instagram post is just as valid as a video installation and is just as valid as crying), and my work is inseparable from my lived experiences and identities."
Eden “Eden’s Apple” Sanders (BFA 2022)
“Why I make art, the importance of an artist community, that being an artist is a viable career. And most importantly, I learned the struggle and joy of making work without external validation, believing your work is worth it. ”
Asiya Toorawa (BFA 2019)
“How to make political art.”
Juan Arango Palacios (BFA 2019)
“I know myself better: I know how to love and accept myself. I gained the confidence and assurance to carry myself as a queer person, artist, immigrant, and as everything I am.”
Anavi Bhushan Nugyal (BFA 2021)
“Nothing is ever finished to completion, nor to perfection. It always has the scope to grow and get better, especially when created to be in function for or in communication with another.”
Daphne Edgren (BFA 2018)
“SAIC taught me how to make valuable and lasting connections not only in the art world, but how to apply it to others, like the science world.”
Pascale Jarvis (BFA 2019)
"Now I know that a human body cannot carve wood for more than nine hours at a time without cramping up in all sorts of unexpected ways."