Distinguished Scholars Circle

SAIC, most recently ranked as the #2 art and design school by U.S. News and World Report, is renowned for its engaging faculty, the most stimulating thinkers and advanced scholars in their fields.

We invite you to expand your knowledge, explore a passion or investigate something entirely new by joining a select group of our esteemed faculty online this spring and delve into the content they have created for their graduate and undergraduate classes. All proceeds from this program will go directly to undergraduate scholarships.

Program Highlights

  • Zoom discussions exclusively for program participants moderated by faculty members
  • Weekly readings and specialized on-demand video content 
  • Small class sizes – no more than 10 students per course to foster lively discussion
  • Access to acclaimed art historian, James Elkins’ new “live glossary of key concepts and theories of art,” 56 10-minute videos

Please Note: College credit is NOT awarded for these courses.

Program Cost: $1,000.00 per course

All tuition funds raised from this project will be designated to the Walter and Shirley Massey Chicago Scholars, our exceptionally promising students selected from Chicago’s public school system. All but $200 per Distinguished Scholars Circle course is tax deductible. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is part of the Art Institute of Chicago, which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Course Selections and Faculty

Which Artists of the Past Speak to the Present?

James Eakins

Faculty: James Elkins

Mondays, 5:30 p.m., starts February 1, biweekly discussion sections

Every art school and university teaches a survey of world art to its art students. It's a relatively recent custom that began in the early twentieth century. But do artists need to know Leonardo or Picasso, the way scientists need to know Newton or Einstein? Which artists of the past speak to the present? Especially after the socio-political events of 2020, institutions are working to increase the diversity of artists they teach. But how do we decide which artists and cultures of the past to drop, in order to make room for the new work? Join renowned scholar James Elkins as he shares 12 unsolved problems about art history and contemporary art.

Minimalism and Related Movements

David Raskin Headshot

Faculty: David Raskin

Thursdays, 5:30 p.m., starts February 11, biweekly discussion sections

This course considers the primary meanings and major figures associated with the movement of Minimalism that emerged in the 1960s. Using a multidisciplinary approach, this class will analyze the theories as well as production, distribution, and critical reception of this powerful avant-garde phenomenon that continues to inform contemporary art as well as amaze and delight audiences around the world. Ideas of abstraction, objectivity, literalness, seriality, theatricality, and scale are discussed in reference to film, video, painting, and sculpture.  Join renowned scholar David Raskin, who has dedicated his scholarly work to unpacking this important movement in art history. 

Cultural Appropriation

Lisa Wainwright

Faculty: Lisa Wainwright

Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m., starts February 10, biweekly discussion sections

The thorny issue of cultural appropriation in Western art has been a subject of recent discourse, although its practice is quite old. This course will examine the many forms of cultural appropriation in the 20th and 21st centuries beginning with the influence of African art on the fauvists and cubists up until more contemporary examples. Surveying the history of such a strategy from the point of view of both artists and audience, we will look at all sides of the matter and debate the merits and pitfalls of “artistic freedom”. From early modern examples such as Hannah Hoch's, From an Ethnographic Museum, where she collaged images of African masks onto western women's bodies or Jackson Pollock's many references to sacred Native American imagery to more recent instances such as Dana Schutz's polemical use of an Emmit Till photograph as source material for her Open Casket painting at the 2017 Whitney Biennale or Sam Durant's infamous 2012 Scaffold sculpture displayed at the Walker Museum in Minneapolis whose reference recalled government hangings of the Dakota people, this seminar will carefully analyze a number of case studies. Get ready for lively debate on one of the most controversial subjects in art history.

"This course is full. Please select an alternate course or email saic-dsc@saic.edu to be added to the waitlist."

The Making and Unmaking of Monuments

Mechtild Widrich Headshot

Faculty: Mechtild Widrich

Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., starts February 9, biweekly discussion sections

Amidst public debate around Confederate monuments, this course concerns the geographically broad and historically deep understanding of monuments and memorials. Professor Widrich will discuss their historical development since the French Revolution, the various endeavors by artists and activists to democratize public art, the rise of counter-monuments, living memorials, and performance as a site of memory and resistance. Join the incredible scholar Mechtild Widrich on this tour of one the most timely subjects in contemporary art. 

Questions about the Distinguished Scholars Circle?
Contact Lisa Wainwright: lwainwright@saic.edu, or call 312-499-4095.