Monday, March 1, 2010

The School of the Art Institute College Visit

10 students, one volunteer (SAIC student Szu-Han Ho) and I visited The School of the Art Institute of Chicago today, one of the largest accredited independent schools of art and design in the country. (We also visited The Art Institute of Chicago.) From our first moments in the Columbus Building, we knew this wasn't your average college. Our first three stops were a room with giant kilns, a sculpture class, and a foundry equipped to pour bronze and aluminum. We then passed through the wood and metal shop to a performance area and painting and drawing classrooms. We also saw the photography, fiber and material studies, and film, video, and new media departments.

SAIC is an amazing school with incredible resources. Students have 24-hour access to studios and most of their materials can be purchased on-site at reduced cost. A lot of them don't receive grades; they have critiques - a group discussion in which you analyze, describe, and interpret art - and they simply pass or fail. Also, as part of a comprehensive liberal arts program, students take classes in humanities, mathematics, sciences, and other subjects, making them well-rounded 21st century artists.

After lunch, we spent an hour in The Art Institute, one of the world's greatest fine art museums. Its collection contains more than 250,000 works of art including paintings by Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, and Vincent Van Gogh. Most of the students had never been to an art museum, so it was my pleasure to walk them through the halls of this famous building. People travel from all over the world to see The Art Institute; all we had to do was take the CTA blue line.

I hope you see this unique experience as an example of the value of tutor/mentor programs like Cabrini Connections. Our learning and enrichment activities are designed to build social, team-building and leadership skills and encourage an interest in arts, technology and social service. This trip was relatively simple to plan and carry out and it cost less than $100 ($45 for CTA passes and $50 for lunch at Subway), but I guarantee their memories of it will last forever. It is important for young people to visualize themselves in college and today, if only for a few hours, that vision became a reality.

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