Black and white image of the AIC facade in the 1800's

We Make History

SAIC has been at the forefront of art education for more than a century and a half, fostering critical thinking, rigorous investigation, and playful creativity. The School was among the first to embrace self-directed study across disciplines. Our alumni have gone on to shape the world as artists, designers, and scholars. And our encyclopedic art museum and civic partnerships inspire millions both at home in Chicago and around the globe.

Sheryl Lee, Palette Painting

We See the World Differently

150 Years of SAIC

We are the makers and explorers. The risk takers and experimenters. We are the challengers to the status quo. We design the world as it could be.
Black and white image of a group of students in a gallery, painting still lifes
Our Museum

History and the Future

What started as a small study collection for a fledgling art school grew into one of the world's greatest collections. Today, SAIC students use the Art Institute museum as a resource for exploration and experimentation.

Exterior shot of a pink SAIC flag at the MacLean Center entrance.
Our Traditions

Honorary Degrees

SAIC has granted honorary degrees since at least 1938, and we are immensely proud of the remarkable group of individuals we have recognized with this distinction over the years. 

Most Influential Art School

A survey conducted by the National Arts Journalism program at Columbia University ranked SAIC “the most influential art school in the United States.” 

#1 Most Influential Art School

Ranked by Columbia University


A Constellation of Influence

This has always been a school that combines rigor with risk-taking, serious critique with play, and a commitment to personal creative vision with a belief that artists and designers can and should see their work as part of the broader effort to make change in society. Our alums reflect these priorities.

An abstracted view of a sky above small white clouds

"Sky Above Clouds IV" by Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe (SAIC 1905–06, HON 1967) was at the forefront of American Modernism. She pioneered a new approach to painting that focused on the essential and the abstract in nature. 

Two farmers, a husband and white, pose with a pitchfork in front of a farmhouse

"American Gothic" by Grant Wood

Grant Wood

Grant Wood (SAIC 1913-16) was a leading figure of the Regionalist movement. Wood’s work emerged from a deep connection to the Midwest, and his figurative paintings, such as the iconic American Gothic, were influential in their portrayal of American rural themes.

Two people unraveling a Confederate Battle Flag with their hands.

Sonya Clark, Unraveling, 2015–present, performance with Confederate Battle Flag

Sonya Clark

In her work, fiber artist Sonya Clark (BFA 1993, HON 2023) traces connections between hair and textiles, communities and commodities, and radicalized identities. 

Two farmers, a husband and white, pose with a pitchfork in front of a farmhouseAn abstract, gold-plated mirror

"Christ and the Lamb" by Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons (SAIC 1975–76, HON 2008) is renowned for challenging the boundaries of art and popular culture in his provocative sculptures.

Flat depiction of a museum with people observing various items inside

"Museum without Ceiling" by Roger Brown

Roger Brown

Roger Brown (SAIC BFA 1968, MFA 1970) was a leading figure of the Chicago Imagist school. His bold, personal paintings and sculptures center political subject matter; in the ‘80s, Brown’s most influential work addressed the AIDS crisis. 

A tunnel with a straw floor with a few humanoid figures standing in it

"Untitled (Havana 2000) by Tania Bruguera

Tania Bruguera

Tania Bruguera (MFA 2001, HON 2016) is an influential Cuban artist-activist whose performance and installation work explores the intersections of art and political life. Her courageous work openly challenges authoritarian regimes and champions human rights.

A comic featuring a robot with wheels instead of legs

Rocket Sam in "Tis the Season of Giving on Planet X-38" by Chris Ware

Chris Ware

Chris Ware (SAIC 1991–93) is a cartoonist known for his groundbreaking comics and graphic novels, which are marked by formal innovation and powerful themes. 

A drawing of a fist mixed with an afropick

"Afropick" by Sanford Biggers

Sanford Biggers

Sanford Biggers (SAIC MFA 1999) has received critical attention for his innovative, interdisciplinary approach, which crosses performance, sculpture, and installation. He mines African American histories and traditions to create powerful new bodies of work.

Humanoid sculpture constructed of pipes and auto parts

"Hero Construction" by Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt (BA 1957, HON 1979) is one of America’s most prolific public sculptors. His installations, which include monuments to African American heroes, are an integral part of the Chicago landscape and can be seen around the world. In 2022, Hunt received the first commission from the Obama Presidential Center.

The cover of Sarah Vowell's book, "Lafayette in the Somewhat United States."

Sarah Vowell, "Lafayette in the Somewhat United States," 2015

Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell (MA 1999) is a New York Times–bestselling author of several nonfiction books on American history and culture. She offers personal, often humorous accounts of everything from presidents and their assassins to colonial religious fanatics, as well as thoughts on Native Americans, utopian dreamers, pop music, and the odd cranky cartographer.