Visitor walking through the undergraduate exhibition at SAIC Galleries

Undergraduate Exhibition at SAIC Galleries. Photo: Tony Favarula

Explore Undergraduate Programs

Design Your Curriculum

SAIC offers a dynamic, interdisciplinary curriculum that gives you the freedom to explore. Learn more about each of our degrees and areas of study by clicking on the titles below.

  • A witch in a dark room with a book shelf, cauldron, and trees on the outside.
    Julie Baker, "Lonesome (set for puppet animation)," 2021, mixed media

    Animation

    Animation is the presentation of a sequence of still images that create the illusion of movement. Artists have explored animation for hundreds of years from early motion-based cave drawings to contemporary 3D films. 

    In the 19th century, artists like Edward Muybridge used the camera to create a stop-motion gallery of a horse’s locomotion. Today, both new and old technologies are employed at the school to enable students to study the craft of both 2D and 3D animation. 

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    An image of Amy Lawson Smeed against a blue background.
    Amy Lawson Smeed

    Amy Lawson Smeed (BFA 1997) was the first woman head of animation in Disney history when she led the team for Moana. Smeed has been working at Disney Studios for 20 years, animating movie favorites such as Frozen, Wreck-it-Ralph, and Tangled.

  • An architectural model using black and clear material.
    Ashley Boduch, Architectural Model, 2021 MDF

    Architecture

    In Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects, our studios have no boundaries: we are creative across disciplines and engaged with our community at SAIC, our context in Chicago, and the world. Our dedicated faculty teach from diverse experience in practices that impact public life and drive public culture. We value the craft that brings ideas into the world, the research that informs criticality, and the compelling stories we tell to share our work.

    Our students are exploring the future of how we live, work, and communicate; asking how design responds to shifting modes of belonging; and ensuring design will address the transcendent challenge of a changing climate.

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    An image of the Englewood Nature Trail.
    A visualization of the Englewood Nature Trail. Image courtesy of the Englewood Nature Trail
    Transforming a City's Vacant Spaces

    Every two years, the Chicago Architecture Biennial shows us how design can revitalize communities. For the 2021 edition, SAIC faculty members were essential contributors to two projects being spotlighted by the biennial: The Englewood Nature Trail and Borderless Studio.

  • An image of some students observing a large piece of art on the floor in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's gallery space.

    Arts Administration & Policy

    The Arts Administration and Policy department is structured around the values of collaboration, creativity, experimentation, inclusion, critical thinking, care, activism, advocacy, and reflection, all of which we believe are central to building the future of cultural leadership. We embrace the interdisciplinary, experimental core of SAIC through integrated curriculum design, merging theory and practice, constantly developing new partnerships and ways of working collaboratively across sectors, and combining inventiveness and aspirational values with solid grounding in practical skills.

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    Featured Alum

    An image of Laura-Caroline de Lara sitting outside wearing a blue shirt.
    Laura-Caroline de Lara

    As the director of the DePaul Art Museum in Chicago, Laura-Caroline de Lara (Dual MA 2012) brings the words and work of marginalized artists to the forefront.

  • An image of a large, group of students sitting in a classroom.

    Art Education

    Students come to the Art Education department to gain the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to manifest their deeply felt vocations as artists and educators, to enhance their own creative potentials, and to collaboratively build resilient, creative, democratic communities.

    The Art Education programs are uniquely situated within the vital and diverse cultural and artistic communities of Chicago, providing a wealth of experiences and opportunities for mentorship in museums, schools, and community settings.

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    Featured Alum

    An image of Calderon at work in her daughter’s nursery.
    Emily Calderon

    Emily Calderon teaches art at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy. When the pandemic hit, she had to reimagine every lesson plan. “If anything, I’ve learned what really matters," she said. "And some days, I spend 30 minutes just listening to the kids. Life is happening outside of the classroom."

  • Four people sit in a louge surrounded by books.

    Art History, Theory, & Criticism

    The Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism offers a wide range of courses on modern and contemporary art that span the Globe. It is committed to innovation in research and teaching a diverse curriculum.

    Classes address art of all media, design and architecture, visual and material cultures, and contemporary theories of art and culture. The international networks for contemporary art are an important part of the course offerings, and we offer a wide range of classes in Asian, African, Latin American, European, and North American Art.

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    Mechtild Wildrich poses with her new book in front of Henry Moore's Nuclear Energy (installed 1967) at the University of Chicago Campus.
    Photo by Andrei Pop
    Mechtild Wildrich

    If you were to stroll through the parks that flank the perimeter of the Art Institute of Chicago, you’d see dozens of public artworks and monuments. Professor Mechtild Widrich notices and cares about all of them—and she thinks you should, too. Her book, Monumental Cares: Sites of History and Contemporary Art, follows case studies of monuments all over the globe, and implores readers to see and understand their significance.

  • Art & Science

    The two disciplines of art and science are resoundingly different, especially from the perspective of curriculum design and degree requirements. Yet there are interesting overlaps between the two areas that artists and designers are actively exploring. 

    Many art and science courses have the aim of creating a culture of creative thinkers from the arts and from the sciences who join together to combine their knowledge and abilities to come up with innovations, collaborations, and most of all, new ways to address environmental concerns.

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    Featured Story

    Various colored bags of dried goods.
    PermaPak. Images courtesy of Selmić and Xi
    Students Create Plastic Packaging Alternative for a Sustainable Future

    In Chicago, less than 9 percent of the city’s waste is recycled. To combat the use of single-use plastic containers, SAIC students Sara Selmić (MDes 2022) and Kelly Xi (MFA 2022), the creators of PermaPak and participants in the Biodesign Challenge, set out to create a new, more sustainable way of packaging food.

  • A student using a large switch board.

    Art & Technology / Sound Practices

    Art & Technology / Sound Practices (AT/SP) is a place to explore artistic production with technology, sound, or their unlimited hybrid forms through focused study and interdisciplinary exploration. It integrates two visionary SAIC departments: the Department of Art & Technology Studies and the Sound Department, each with more than 50 years of radical artistic and pedagogic exploration.

    AT/SP offers a large, diverse, and ever-changing range of courses designed to provide students with an immersive, thorough, and critically engaged course of study from a global perspective. Its curriculum integrates skills-based learning with conceptual investigation and critical interrogation to prepare students to be creative and productive cultural citizens.

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    Various computer and sound technology on a table.
    The Paik Abe Analog Video Synthesizer in use. Image courtesy of Lee Blalock
    Retro Tech

    Inspired by the creative computing spirit of the ‘70s and ‘80s, Assistant Professor Lee Blalock created Retro Tech, a course that delves into the history of vintage technology and creative programming. “[The class] truly is about exploring, playing, and learning for the sake of learning,” Blalock shared.

  • Multiple colorful tiles from the "2021 MAATC Thesis Exhibition: Reconstructing Care."
    Susannah Ward, "25: An Abstracted Retrospection," 2020

    Art Therapy & Counseling

    The Master of Arts in Art Therapy and Counseling program explores the relationship between life experiences and artmaking and prepares graduates for a career helping people gain or recover intellectual and emotional clarity, equilibrium, and power through artistic expression.

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    An image of Noel King with her hands and fingers over her eyes with a rainbow.
    Noel King

    There was a time in Noel King’s (MA 2015) life when she thought she might be an art historian, photographer, or painter, disciplines she studied in high school. Then she pivoted in college and decided to major in psychology—which she loved—but something was still missing. Now, as a Deaf art therapist, King helps her patients explore their identity through creativity.

  • A large white canvas with red stripes.
    Yutian Liu 刘雨田, "Canvas with Red Stripes," 2022, screen print on canvas

    Art/Design & Politics

    At SAIC, art and design become tools for political exploration and activism in a number of studio, art history, and liberal arts courses. 

    Liberal arts courses in Global Comparative Studies give students a solid framework for comparing and analyzing cultural, historical, economic, political, ecological, and ethical modes around the world, while courses in Art Therapy and Counseling; Art Education; Arts Administration and Policy; Film, Video, New Media, and Animation; Sculpture; and Visual and Critical Studies bring students out of the classroom and into the city of Chicago to engage with political issues firsthand. 

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    An image of Asha Iman Vean.
    Asha Iman Veal

    Associate Professor, Adj. Asha Iman Veal is associate curator at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago and a Humanity in Action Landecker Democracy Senior Fellow.

  • Two shelves of hand-painted books.

    Taylor Morgan, "Loan Delinquents (Books 1-5)," 2019, acrylic, flashe, ink and colored pencil on canvas bound masonite

    Books & Publishing

    The process of making a book and publishing can be the work of a lifetime or a semester. SAIC has a special resource area to augment the study of self-published texts and artists’ books.

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    An image of J. Howard Rosier sitting at a desk in a white sweater.
    Justin Howard Rosier (MFA 2018). Photo: Kevin Penczak
    J. Howard Rosier

    J. Howard Rosier (MFA 2018) made the most of his time in SAIC’s MFA Writing program by launching a magazine and expanding a short story into a novel that asks what it means to be Black in America. He edits the journal Critics’ Union, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in the New Criterion, Kenyon Review, Bookforum, and the Believer. Rosier received an Alan Cheuse Emerging Critics Fellowship from the National Book Critics Circle.

  • Various sized ceramic pieces stored in a wooden frame.

    Ceramics

    The Department of Ceramics is a model of interdisciplinary investigation where art, design, and craft are the fields of research and innovation.

    Drawing from a wealth of technical and cultural traditions as well as from high-tech industrial applications, you will engage in a study and practice of ceramics that is unique and urgently contemporary. The SAIC Ceramics department reflects and embraces these contradictions, offering courses exploring interdisciplinary topics in ceramics such as the intersections of and shared methods, materials, and critical discourse among Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects, Fiber and Material Studies, Sculpture and Performance.

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    J. Howard Rosier_MG-01082019_SpringMagazine2019_Spreads_Page_12_Image_0002.jpg
    Photo courtesy of Mie Kongo
    Mie Kongo

    Mie Kongo (BFA 2006) is an artist, a sculptor, and a professor, but above all, she is an observer. Fueled by a sense of curiosity and discovery, Kongo’s ceramics practice is rooted in exploring the nuance and subtleties of everyday life.

  • Multiple clear pannels with comic figures standing in a line.
    Brooke Lord, "SPACEBURGER COMIX: Club KidZ," 2019, risograph printed comic, screenprint on acrylic, mixed media

    Comics & Graphic Novels

    Comics and Graphic Novels courses at SAIC are designed for students who want to create narrative works with sequential art to convey a message to the reader.

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    Featured Alum

    An illustration of various Chicago buildings, food and landscapes.
    Drawing by Chris Ware
    Chris Ware

    Chris Ware (SAIC 1991–93) is an award-winning cartoonist and author whose work tries to tell unpretentious stories about what it feels like to be alive via the generally approachable yet surprisingly complicated medium of the American comic strip. He is the author of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, which was included on Amazon's "100 Books to Read in a Lifetime" list in 2014.

  • People working together to plant a tree.

    An image of the Community Tree Planting and Dedication Day.

    Community & Social Engagement

    SAIC students are not only engaged in their immediate community in Chicago’s Loop, but also interact with the city and the world at large.

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    Two people wearing black shirts with white text: "got consent?"
    Scheherazade and Salamishah Tillet. Photo by Anthony Alvarez
    Salamishah and Scheherazade Tillet

    Salamishah and Scheherazade Tillet (MA 2005) have always believed in the power of art. As sisters and founders of the nonprofit organization A Long Walk Home, they have centered their work on the experiences and leadership of Black women and girls. For the past 20 years, their programming has encouraged girls and young women to use art and activism to change the narrative on sexual violence, gender discrimination, and racial injustice.

  • Three mannequins wearing colorful, elaborate outfits.
    Zirou Zhang, "The Butterfly Collection," 2023, mixed materials

    Costume Design

    The Fashion department provides a unique, interdisciplinary experience that challenges students to bring an artistic and theoretical approach to the work and benefit from rigorous artistic and professionally oriented training.

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    An image of Grace Duval wearing a black dress that she made.
    Grace DuVal, "Refuse Refuge," 2017. Image courtesy of the artist
    Grace DuVal

    Grace DuVal (Post-Bac 2012, MDes 2015) doesn’t identify as a fashion designer. Her captivating work aims to transform unconventional materials into “something totally unexpected or unbelievable,” and this spirit of creativity and innovation led to her designs being featured on RuPaul's Drag Race.

  • A detailed shot of some wooden utensils.
    An image from Whatnot Studio in-progress in 2019.

    Designed Objects

    The Master of Fine Arts in Studio, Designed Objects is a 60-credit hour program designed to offer maximum flexibility in addressing your individual needs as a student. Students design their two-year plan of study based on optimizing the offerings and opportunities available throughout SAIC.

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    An image of Norman Teague sitting in his studio surrounded by large wooden pieces.
    Alum Norman Teague in his Chicago studio. Credit: Vasia Rigou (MFA 2015). Photo courtesy of IIDA.
    Norman Teague

    Norman Teague (MDes 2016) is a Chicago-based designer and educator who focuses on projects and pedagogy that address the complexity of urbanism and the history of communities. Teague worked with Theaster Gates on 12 Ballads for Huguenot House dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany. He also served as lead craftsman and co-founder of the Design Apprenticeship Program at the University of Chicago's Arts Incubator.

  • A person sitting at a desk working on their computer.

    Digital Communication

    The Visual Communication Design department encourages students to actively engage their world and define their role as contributing designers by developing their critical and analytical skills, personal voice, and visual language. The department cultivates a sense of social responsibility and inquiry in student designers who will be working at the intersection of art, design, and mass culture.

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    A black and white image of McKenzie Thompson sitting on a bed.
    Photo courtesy of McKenzie Thompson
    McKenzie Thompson

    McKenzie Thompson (MFA 2014) is the founder of Outsider Supply, an e-commerce apparel brand informed by six years of living in Chicago. Combining streetwear with visual and textual references to art history once considered avant-garde, Thompson takes a minimalist approach to clothing that invites lookers and wearers alike to consider what these artists, movements, and ideas mean now.

  • Three digital images of spaces in a person's home.
    Nico Sun, "(I love my home)," 2019, digital print

    Digital Imaging

    Digital imaging is at the core of many artistic mediums. At SAIC, we offer digital imaging courses throughout our departments.

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    An image of Marlena Novak.
    Marlena Novak

    Marlena Novak served as associate director of Northwestern’s Animate Arts Program and has been a visiting artist at the University of Chicago, Cleveland Institute of Art, Amsterdams Instituut voor Schilderkunst, and Pädagogische Hochschule and a resident at the Creativity and Cognition Research Studios. She has received grants from the Arts Council of Great Britain, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts, and the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

  • Two students having a discussion while sitting in a classroom.

    Economic Inequality & Class

    SAIC offers a number of courses that give students the tools to develop as social activists in their community. SAIC students study issues of economic inequality with Chicago as their classroom.

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    An painting of Sandie Yi.
    A painted portrait of Assistant Professor Sandie Yi by artist Irina Zadov. Image courtesy of the Ford Foundation.
    Chun-Shan (Sandie) Yi

    Chun-Shan (Sandie) Yi contributes to disability culture as an artist and an academic. Yi’s practice revolves around disability art and culture and access pedagogy from the perspective of her identity as a disabled artist. She is the creator of Crip Couture, a wearable art project that focuses on representing disabled bodies and disability culture through fashion, and she is the arts and culture project coordinator at the Disability Culture Activism Lab, a platform for creative advocacy projects and disability allyship training.

  • An image of the SAIC Galleries.

    Exhibition & Curatorial Studies

    Exhibitions and public events provides students with a forum in which the development and exchange of ideas is possible. It is an interdisciplinary area of the SAIC curriculum.

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    An image of Allison Glenn standing outside wearing a black dress.
    Photo courtesy of Rana Young
    Allison Glenn

    For Allison Glenn (Dual MA 2012), the art of curation is about collaboration. So, when she was asked to helm an exhibition in Louisville, Kentucky, honoring the life of Breonna Taylor, Glenn knew what she needed to do: listen.

  • A model wearing a white and tan outfit with detailed black stitching.
    An image from the Fashion Sophomore Looks Spring 2019

    Fashion Design

    The Fashion Design department provides a unique, interdisciplinary experience that challenges students to bring an artistic and theoretical approach to the work. Students benefit from rigorous artistic and professionally oriented training.

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    An image of Nick Cave in his studio.
    Photo by Jim Prinz.
    Nick Cave

    Nick Cave is an artist, educator, and foremost a messenger, working between the visual and performing arts through a wide range of mediums including sculpture, installation, video, sound and performance. Many might be surprised that an artist of Cave’s stature—his work has been celebrated and exhibited all over the world—is still teaching, but community has always been essential to his practice.

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