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 fall 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 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.

Spots are limited and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Register, HERE. 


Course Selections and Faculty

Twelve Theories and Problems in Visual Art

James Eakins

Faculty: James Elkins

Mondays, 5:30 p.m., starts September 14, weekly discussion sections

Is visual art different from language? Why is all art theory French? Are art and science related? What are affect and empathy in art? Renowned scholar, James Elkins will guide discussion about twelve unsolved problems in visual art.  Philosophers and educators work on these problems, and art historians study them… which means no one knows how to solve them. We won’t either! The conversations will be open and speculative; we’ll consider the best accounts, and maybe come up with some of our own.

This course has already started. Email saic-dsc@artic.edu for information on future courses. 

Philosophy of Art

Headshot of Raja Halwani

Faculty: Raja Halwani 

Thursdays, 5:30 p.m., starts September 3, weekly discussion sections

How do philosophers tackle a wide range of aesthetic questions such as: What is the definition of art? What connections are there between art, on the one hand, and beauty and aesthetics, on the other? Are aesthetic or artistic judgments objective or subjective, and how do they connect to issues of taste? What is the value of art? Join one of our most compelling faculty members as you read and discuss the perspectives of a wide range of thinkers including Plato, Aristotle, Kant, George Dickie, Jerrold Levinson, Monroe Beardsley, Kendall Walton, Noel Carroll, Berys Gaut, Marcia Muelder Eaton, Carolyn Korsmeyer, Paul C. Taylor, Richard Shusterman, Frank Sibley, and Malcolm Budd.

This course has already started. Email saic-dsc@artic.edu for information on future courses. 

Art and Technology: 1900 to Now

Headshot of Eduardo Kac

Faculty: Eduardo Kac

Thursdays, 5:30 p.m., starts September 10, biweekly discussion sections

Discover the impact of new technologies on the aesthetics of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with one of the field’s influential practitioners, faculty member Eduardo Kac. From Moholy-Nagy's work, early radio and the impact of auditory images, kinetic art, robotic art, telecommunication art, to computer art, digital photography, virtual reality, telepresence, holographic art, and bio art, this course will prepare you for the art of our technological present.

This course has already started. Email saic-dsc@artic.edu for information on future courses. 

Art, Politics, and Collective Action in Asia

Headshot of Jennifer Lee

Faculty: Jennifer Lee

Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m., starts September 9, biweekly discussion sections

Guided by esteemed scholar, Jenny Lee, examine the art and politics that have come to define East Asian modernity at key moments throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Get ready to interrogate the ways in which exhibitions of art, societies of painting and photography, poetic performance, documentary and film production arise from the spontaneity of collective action in the midst of civil unrest and cold war (Hong Kong), or in the aftermaths of revolution and global conflict (Korea, People's Republic of China).

This course has already started. Email saic-dsc@artic.edu for information on future courses. 

Pop Art and its Legacy

Lisa Wainwright

Faculty: Lisa Wainwright

Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m., starts September 9, biweekly discussion sections

Charting a course from the first iteration of Pop art in the 1960s to more current and global expressions, the breadth of Pop art’s legacy will surprise and delight you.  Join SAIC’s former Dean of Faculty and art historian, Lisa Wainwright in an exploration of the history of Pop art by comparing artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Cindy Sherman, Robert Rauschenberg and Troy Mitchie, Martial Raysse and Isa Genzken, and Yokoo Tadanori and Takashi Murakami. Questions about nationhood, gender, race, and capitalism will all be on offer through a stimulating blast of images, some well-known and some new to the story.

This course has already started. Email saic-dsc@artic.edu for information on future courses. 

American Design Culture in the 20th Century

Headshot of Bess Williams

Faculty: Bess Williamson

Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m., starts September 9, biweekly discussion sections

Emphasizing local collections of architecture, furniture, products, graphic design, and fashion, join renowned scholar Bess Williamson covering key developments of American design culture, Design movements and topics include: industrialization and the survival of craft (Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Chicago's Columbian Exposition); the home as a site for technology and style (Christine Frederick, Le Corbusier, Bauhaus Dessau/Bauhaus Chicago); gender and race as represented in design (Bronzeville, Case Study Houses); and activism within design and changing senses of design’s role in society (Buckminster Fuller, Victor Papanek, Robert Venturi/Denise Scott Brown).

This course has already started. Email saic-dsc@artic.edu for information on future courses. 

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