President Tenny on Art's Possibilities

A white woman with shoulder-length blonde hair and straight-across bangs, wearing a chic olive green structured blazer, crosses her arms and smiles into the camera

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has been the home for ambitious, innovative art and design education for over a century and a half. You might even say that we at SAIC know what “art is.” But it isn’t a simple thing to know art. Whenever you give an artist—especially an SAIC artist—a boundary, you can count on that limit being exceeded. Idiosyncratic, rebellious, and enterprising, artists’ varied practices make art manifold. Rather than a finite thing, art is capacious.

This issue of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago magazine is all about exploring art’s boundlessness. For Angel Otero (BFA 2007, MFA 2009), any medium or object can become a part of his unclassifiable artworks. Others are playing around, be that in the toys Eileen H. Kim (BFA 2017) designs or the pedagogy Alberto Aguilar (BFA 1997, MFA 2001) teaches, expanding students’ sense of possibility. Meanwhile, Noel King (MA 2015) and Lid Madrid (BFA 2021) use art to expand spaces’ inclusivity, for deaf people within art therapy, and for minorities, LGBTQ+ people, and girls in skate parks, respectively. Art is so many things!

But considering art in all its multiplicity doesn't mean we can't make any claims about what art is. Art is an essential element of the human experience. No matter how you express “art,” we all have an “art” to make or to love, which connects us to one another. We share art, and it binds us to the fabric of humanity. That’s why art’s so diverse. As the articles in this magazine show, art has as many facets and as many stories as life itself.

Elissa Tenny