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

Looking Back Before Looking Ahead

Dear SAIC community,

Yesterday, many students, faculty, staff, families, and guests participated in what is probably the most important ceremony of the academic year: Commencement 2018. Aside from orientation, this is the only time we gather an entire cohort of students and their families together, and this year we were able to hold Commencement in a new venue, large enough to accommodate all the families, friends, and supporters of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s class of 2018. As it was yesterday, and as it is each year, one of the utmost privileges of my job is to annually address an entire arena full of graduating artists, designers, and scholars and shake the hand of each of these citizen artists as they receive their diplomas.

During my remarks, I shared some thoughts about the world our students were graduating into. I spoke about how their ability to do good through their work did not rely on never taking a misstep or the world being free of difficulty. Rather, their success would come through the free exploration, embrace of failure, growth from critique, and iterative resilience that they learned in school. I also spoke about how, although the graduation ceremony celebrates all their achievements during their study, they are called “commencement exercises” because what comes next is most important.

I would like to do something similar in this end-of-year email. Below, please find a recap of just some of the amazing work we did this year at SAIC. Some—like our unparalleled visiting lecturers and public events or the achievements of our full- and part-time faculty, students, and alumni—are things we do year after year. And others—like our nearly completed fundraising campaign and new strategic plan—are multi-year projects reaching important milestones. This partial list of 2017–18 activities should make us feel gratified for the work we have done and also be seen as a prelude to the new and continuing projects we will undertake, make mistakes during, improve upon, and grow through in the 2018–19 academic year and beyond.

To everyone at SAIC, please have a restorative and productive break before we welcome a new class of Low-Residency MFA students this summer and the class of 2022 in the fall.

And, to the class of 2018, congratulations! As you commence your lives as citizen artists, I want you to remain confident in the knowledge that SAIC is here to support you throughout your career and lives. Keep us close. We will miss you.


Elissa Tenny