The School of the Art Institute’s Visting Artists Program

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is one of the oldest accredited art and design schools in the US, and The Visiting Artists Program (VAP), where I work as the Program Coordinator, is SAIC’s oldest public program. Founded in 1866, its roots can be traced all the way back to the early days of the School when artists would travel to Chicago to lecture, teach, and conduct studio visits with students. Nowadays, VAP still draws an enthusiastic crowd of SAIC students and faculty, but is also free and open to the general public, making it one of the city’s leading public forums for the presentation and contemplation of contemporary art.

VAP has stayed true to its original mission of initiating a dialogue via lectures, symposia, performances, and screenings with a host of world-renowned speakers. Just like the cross-disciplinary approach that students, staff, and faculty at SAIC take to the artwork they make, write about, organize, and collaborate on, VAP invites artists working across media to come speak. Alongside artists, VAP also brings in curators, critics, art historians, and scholars to give presentations that cross boundaries and grapple with significant ideas. VAP has also maintained a long-standing commitment to diversity amongst our speakers, pioneering an engaged, informed, and accessible first-hand account of the art of our time across perspective and place.

The long list of VAP’s guest speakers include noteworthy artists such as John Cage, Jeffery Deitch, Olafur Eliasson, Hal Foster, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Zaha Hadid, Dave Hickey, Robert Mapplethorp, Adrian Piper, Doris Salcedo, Peter Schjeldahl, Lorna Simpson and Rirkrit Tiravanija. Several more of VAP’s hundreds of guest speakers have also been the focus of Art21 documentaries, such as Laylah Ali, Mel Chin, Barry McGee, Julie Mehretu, and Richard Tuttle.

Over the next few days, I’ll be publishing several posts about the speakers who are part of our upcoming season, which include artists, a filmmaker, a curator, and a scholar. For a sneak peek, feel free to visit our website and checkout our calendar of events.