From the President

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

At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, our hometown is more than just our namesake.

Chicago is a network of neighborhoods and an interdependency of communities that SAIC artists, designers, and scholars are a part of, thrive in, learn from, make for, and grow with. From the aspects of our School and city that make us most proud, to the problems we seek to change, each intersection of collegiate and civic life is an occasion for creativity. The School and the city are inextricably linked, and this issue of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago magazine displays the complex ways that Chicago makes us.

This testament begins, like a postcard, with a striking image that locates us. A souvenir of the city, the cover image by renowned cartoonist, alum, and honorary degree recipient Chris Ware (SAIC 1991–93, HON 2019) captures anew the city he’s called home for nearly three decades and where the School has been centered for more than five times as long. In the accompanying feature, we learn from Ware how Chicago shapes his work, and in another piece combining text, image, and video, we hear from several other alums and faculty members about how the city’s multifaceted history and diverse communities influence their practices. Through a spotlight on Walk-H, a walkability study being conducted through multiple courses and in partnership with the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council, we take a close look at one project that’s part of SAIC’s long-term commitment to working with North Lawndale residents and artists at Homan Square. The magazine also traces how members of the SAIC community have made their mark on the city’s iconic murals and influential art spaces and takes an in-depth look at how the School’s premier exhibition space, newly opened at street level in the Loop, spatially reinforces the inseparability between the School and the city.

In mapping the interrelationship between SAIC and Chicago, this issue underscores one of the foundational truisms of our curriculum: that art and design are not separate from our shared society. Rather, the work of those who make and study art and design is intimately influenced by the world, and that work helps shape what our world looks like, how we navigate it together, and where we’d like to see it change and improve. Like any good citizen, SAIC’s citizen artists share their time and talent to participate, connect, and contribute to the town we call home: Chicago.

Elissa Tenny