RE-TOOL 21: Art Preparation Skills Development Program

In accordance with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), SAIC has suspended all on-campus programming. RE-TOOL 21 has been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date.

Craft Your Creative Future

Are you an emerging professional looking to develop the skills, knowledge, experience, and confidence to enter the cultural sector? With generous support from the Joyce Foundation, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is pleased to announce RE-TOOL 21, reimagining access and representation in the 21st-century arts and cultural world and workforce. RE-TOOL 21 seeks to provide training in art preparation and handling to groups historically underrepresented in the art preparation field—in particular with regard to experience, age, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, immigration/refugee status, and ethnicity—and those who support the goal of promoting an inclusive, pluralistic arts and culture sector.

RE-TOOL 21 is a unique series of hands-on skill-building workshops, behind the scenes tours, and opportunities to network with art handling professionals in museums, galleries, exhibition administration and production, and related fields. Art-service professionals, called art handlers or preparators, provide the important groundwork for the safe and secure installation, de-installation, packaging, and storing of art pieces, objects, and artifacts. Applicants who have an interest in the arts and exhibit ongoing enthusiasm to work in the cultural sector will receive the foundational training necessary to seek further employment in the field. This is a part-time, paid opportunity; participants will receive a $1,500 stipend.

Upon completion, individuals will receive support from RE-TOOL 21 staff to identify ongoing work experience opportunities at a variety of cultural sites across the city including but not limited to: small nonprofit galleries, large museums and institutions, private partners, art shipping companies, and fabrication facilities. Participants will also receive a certificate of recognition. Please note, participants who accept an offer must commit to successfully completing all program requirements to receive practicum placement support, certificate of recognition, and stipend. 

We invite all interested individuals to apply! See more program and application details below.

Program Objectives

  • Contribute to the racial, economic, and cultural diversity of arts and cultural workers.
  • Provide training for individuals that will allow them to acquire the basic knowledge and skills required to apply for a job in art preparation.
  • Provide a network of ongoing mentorship and support to graduating RE-TOOL 21 cohort participants to ensure a successful transition into the arts and cultural sector.

Program Structure

May 15, 2020-August 2, 2020

Following an orientation on May 15, training takes place across seven, two-day weekend intensives supplemented by one to three hours of online preparation for each session. Participants meet Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. Weekend intensive dates for 2020 are as follows:

  • May 16-17
  • May 30-31
  • June 13-14
  • June 27-28
  • July 11-12
  • July 25-26
  • August 1-2

The 2020 cohort will conclude with a practicum experience completed within six months of the final weekend intensive.

Workshop Topics May Include

  • A behind the scenes view of the art and museum worlds
  • Object handling
  • Art/object installation issues
  • Matting and framing of artwork
  • Basic understanding of the movement of large objects (e.g., rigging issues)
  • Packing and crating of art objects
  • Introduction to basic registration issues (e.g., tracking, condition reports, etc.)
  • Documentation of artwork
  • Exhibition experience

Eligibility Requirements

  • Resident of Chicago
  • 18 years of age or older
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Interest in pursuing employment in the cultural workforce
  • Demonstrated commitment to actively engage in all program activities

Basic Skill Requirements

  • Good hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, and spatial reasoning
  • Self-motivated, reliable, and focused
  • Ability to follow instructions and plan ahead
  • Basic math skills
  • Works well with supervisors and coworkers
  • Ability to perform physical tasks, including bending, kneeling, pulling, pushing, walking, standing for long periods of time, and lifting 50 pounds
  • Comfortable working with basic hand tools
  • Attention to detail
  • Refined interpersonal communication skills


Deadline: Monday, March 2, 2020
Applications are due by Monday, March 2, 2020.

To apply:

  • Select the APPLY TO THE PROGRAM link to access the online application form
  • Provide basic information about yourself
  • Answer four short essay questions and evaluate your experience working with hand tools
  • Supply the name and contact information for up to three references
  • Upload your résumé

For questions or more information about RE-TOOL 21, please contact Ife Williams, Program Coordinator, at, or 708.680.6238.

Subscribe to our mailing list by completing our Interest Form.

Strategic Solutions for Cultural Leadership

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has received a multi-year planning and implementation grant from the Joyce Foundation to support the Strategic Solutions for Cultural Leadership (SSCL) program. This initiative will provide professional development opportunities for historically underrepresented arts professionals in two categories:

  1. Executive/organizational: senior leaders and their staff currently working in small, neighborhood-based and/or culturally specific arts and culture institutions.
  2. Emerging: early-stage workers seeking entry-level professional development opportunities in the cultural sector.                                                                 


  • Strengthen the cultural sector by building the capacity of small, neighborhood-based and/or culturally specific arts organizations through leadership and organizational development.
  • Actively support the development of a more equitable and diverse cultural ecosystem by creating a talent development pathway to diversify leadership within formal and informal arts institutions.