A wide shot of a ceramics studio, featuring students working with pottery wheels and other tools.

A Door Opens onto a New Semester

Dear SAIC Community,

Each January before the semester begins, when few classes are running, and the elevators are oddly empty, I—and many other year-round staff members—eagerly anticipate the start of term. That’s when the School is most alive. It’s when we are pursuing the questions that will generate new, audacious art and ideas. Maintaining this educational ecosystem takes a climate of collegiality like the one we enjoy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

When we seek to learn new things, we hope for surprise. The excitement of a new idea—even one you initially rebuff—feels, at its best, like a series of doors have been unlocked in your mind, each leading to new ideas, more investigations, and expanded thinking. Sometimes, however, those doors don’t open onto robust questions worth pursuing. That's okay.

Not all inquiry leads to fruitful outcomes. Some of our explorations will prove to have been insufficient in conception, harebrained in design, or lousy in execution. Yet we know these missteps are essential to our iterative process. As artists, designers, and scholars, we are willing to fail, share our mistakes, and then try again. This is how we learn.

And the people we learn from are one another. Constructive feedback is a powerful tool to appraise—even potentially object to—someone’s work yet, through virtue of our attention, still embrace that person as a member of our community. This is why, at SAIC, we are always working toward an ever more mutually respectful and inclusive environment that supports individuals on their educational journey and challenges each of us to continually increase the scope of our compassion as well as our knowledge.

This robust exchange is a solid foundation from which we open many doors in pursuit of the novel, revelatory questions that will enlighten our art, our campus, and—in the years to come—our world. You can begin to hear our creative thrum revving up right now, at the outset of the semester. Classes are beginning, exhibitions are opening, and major initiatives are underway. (I’ve listed a few to be aware of below.) As all our classrooms come to life, and the elevators are chockablock with makers and their fabulous creations, I am reminded of why I am so grateful to be a part of SAIC. It is because of the audacity we undertake and the collegiality we share.

Welcome back,

Elissa Tenny