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

Q&A with Korean Alumni Association Leaders

edited by Eun Cho (BFA 2018)

Jiho Shin and Yohan Han
Jiho Shin (BFA 1996) and Yohan Han (BFA 2006) photo credit: Hoon Kim (BFA 2018)

Jiho Shin (BFA 1996) and Yohan Han (BFA 2006) inspired community and belonging when they founded Korean student groups as students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Their impact is still felt today with the Korean Student Association. Through these groups, Shin and Han worked to strengthen Korean students’ relationships with each other and the larger School community, work that they continue with the Korean Alumni Association.

Today, Shin and Han who work as professors, curators, and artists in Korea, continue to engage with SAIC alumni and current students through their service as president and vice president of the Korean Alumni Association. In the summer of 2017 they returned to SAIC for an alumni leadership event and sat down with students for a conversation. Here’s an excerpt from their talk.

What did you learn at SAIC that was helpful to you later on?

Jiho Shin: SAIC created an environment where students are not just students but artists and are encouraged to ask themselves, “What is art?” and contemplate this. SAIC did not teach us general definitions, but instead showed us a process of how to come up with our own definitions through critiques.

Yohan Han: Critiques. At SAIC, I learned how to explain and present my work. I learned how to clearly express myself. It is easy to think that only the making is creation, but critiques are also a part of creation. To artists, there is nothing greater than critique because it helps tremendously in developing ideas.

What did you enjoy most about SAIC?

Shin: The School has all the data and materials I needed for what I wanted to learn. If utilized well, it offers an absolutely exceptional environment for learning. There is no school like SAIC that offers such great resources and environment in art education.

Han: I was able to form my own way instead of following a set curriculum. Art is not just about making these days; it is a strategy. Being adaptable and strategic is extremely important. So if you take a variety of courses, you can understand any artist in any field. I also appreciated the School’s progressive education, such as having open conversations with professors.

What advice can you offer to current students?

Shin: I wish I had taken time to learn about and utilize the School’s resources more. I wish students did not think about employment so early. They might not have time to seek and experience what they truly enjoy. We all came to SAIC with our own dreams, but without persistence, you can let that dream go too easily. While you are at SAIC, I wish for you to deeply contemplate what you enjoy sincerely, dream, and then actualize.

Han: Do not graduate early. Do not just work hard, but also enjoy life. Also, I regret not reading more books. You need to study liberal arts and art history as much as you make artworks. I felt the importance of reading books as I kept developing my work. If not, you might not even understand your own work.

Read the full interview in the Korean Student Association’s magazine Dahm-So, Issue 10.