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

From the President

President Elissa Tenny

You belong. And everyone else does too. We belong to one another in a grand fellowship called humanity. So in a world that too often feels factionalized, divided, and unequal, I am glad that artists and designers persist in creating a space where we share ourselves, challenge our prejudices, and foster a sense of belonging that welcomes everyone.

This issue of our magazine showcases how members of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) community have increased the scope of belonging on campus and throughout the world. Our cover story is an in-depth appreciation of AFRICOBRA, an artists’ collective formed in Chicago in 1968 to locate a Black aesthetic that could contribute to the civil rights movement and promote a positive self-image for the global Black community. Several of AFRICOBRA’s founding members are SAIC alums, including cover subject Jae Jarrell (SAIC 1959–61), and their collective action created an enduring sense of belonging that is being celebrated in the retrospective exhibition AFRICOBRA: Nation Time on view at the 2019 Venice Biennale. Also featured are current faculty members’ historic work in collectives such as Gregg Bordowitz, whose artistic practice was formed alongside his activist practice as a member of AIDS advocacy group ACT UP. Collective practices can even prolong belonging across time, as in the case of the recent commissioning of new performances inspired by the influential, though no longer extant, collective Goat Island (whose core membership included faculty Lin Hixson, Matthew Goulish, and Mark Jeffery) that provided a platform for Interim Dean of Faculty Jefferson Pinder.

Belonging is also a goal that extends beyond how art is made. Many museums, galleries, and other sites where we engage with art, for example, strive to reveal the value of art to everyone. One of our features profiles alums who work to increase access to art as museum professionals. Wellness is also an essential part of belonging, as a disconnection from community has been proven to have a detrimental effect on overall well-being. SAIC’s efforts to promote wellness through increasing belonging, including the faculty-, student-, and alum-led projects supported by our new Compassion and Belonging Grants, are also profiled in this issue.

Projects like these truly show how art and design have the power to unite rather than to divide. I hope reading these stories makes you—whether a student, faculty or staff member, alum, or friend of SAIC—feel like you belong, because you do.