Kicking it with SAICCER

Art is ... teamwork.

by Peyton Sauer (BFA 2022)

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is not known for its powerhouse athletic program.

The School’s official merchandise even includes a “jersey” [10] jokingly claiming to be “undefeated since 1866.” Those in on the joke know that no one can beat you if you don’t have a team. However, for a brief moment in the late 1970s and early 1980s, SAIC had its very own soccer squad. 

In between critiques and writing papers, students gathered a few times a week at Butler Field, across from SAIC’s 280 Building. Cleverly named “SAICCER,” the team brought together students from all disciplines and backgrounds: ceramicists, painters, filmmakers, and Printmedia students from Poland, Jamaica, and all across the United States. Most of the students didn’t know one another prior to joining the team, and their soccer skills ranged from years on the pitch to those who had never seen a real match.

The logo from a SAICCER jersey.

The logo from a SAICCER jersey.

SAICCER competed against the team at Cranbrook Academy of Art, a graduate school located in Detroit, Michigan. The squads traveled to each other’s campuses for games throughout the three years they were active, with the SAIC students making the journey in a van borrowed from a local band.

Professor Emeritus Doug Huston, a former Printmedia faculty member, designed and printed the jerseys for the team. In an attempt to confuse the opposing team, Huston once printed soccer balls on the front and back of the shirts. “It didn’t work,” he confessed. “I was trying to play visual artist and improve our chances of winning because I couldn’t improve it necessarily by just coaching the team. So, that was an interesting uniform, but it was a good looking one anyway.”

“It was fun either way, whether we were winning or losing. That wasn’t important.”

Throughout SAICCER’s brief history, Huston acted as coach—or “couch” as he called himself after a knee injury—of the team. He had little sports experience and zero soccer background, but he had the community-oriented attitude the team needed in a leader.

Throughout their time playing Cranbrook, the teams traded wins and losses, but for those involved, it wasn’t about being the champion. “It was fun either way, whether we were winning or losing. That wasn’t important,” Huston explained.

Artmaking is often a solitary activity. Students spend hours in front of canvasses and computers. So for its team members, SAICCER was a unique opportunity to interact with other artists in a setting outside of classrooms or studios: on the grass in the fresh city air.

Film strips of the SAICCER team competing.

Film strips of the SAICCER team competing.

“It was nice to be able to do something outside of school that was kind of still school-related,” Huston shared. “There are sometimes real separations [between disciplines and among students at the School]. We’re in different buildings. We don’t see each other every day. So, SAICCER was a different kind of coming together.”