Artist alumni flock to Florence as Studio Arts College International Celebrates Its First 40 Years: 1975-2015
More than 10,000 aspiring artists have passed through the doors of Studio Arts College International (SACI) an American college level studio art program founded in Florence, Italy in 1975. Now legions of illustrious SACI alumni--including performance art power couple Jennifer Allora & Guilliermo Calzadilla, who met at SACI in 1995--flocked to this year’s April 24 commencement ceremonies, when the school also celebrates its 40th anniversary.
“I didn’t have a master plan when I came here”
says SACI founder Jules Maidoff
, who abandoned a career as a successful commercial artist to create an art school in the city where he’d once lived as a Fulbright scholar. “I just knew there was a need for this type of education—a challenging program in studio art offered in a place where the past comes alive.”
In its first four decades, SACI saw annual enrollment grow from fourteen students to more than 400. Classes once held in makeshift facilities now take place in two restored Florentine Renaissance palaces wholly owned by the school. SACI counts alumni all over the world, including celebrated artists, sculptors, fashion designers, Oscar-nominated filmmakers, art conservators, and college art instructors.
At SACI, students still study traditional techniques like marble carving, gilding, and fresco painting. But the school also offers courses in installation and performance art, and in cutting edge technologies like animation, web design and infographics. Scores of art world notables including David Hockney, Audrey Flack, and designer Elio Fiorucci have conducted classes and seminars there. “One of our tasks at SACI is to provide a haven where artists can actually be artists,” says Mary Beckinsale, a British art historian and SACI's President Emeritus. “We believe the artist should be an informed intellectual, and not merely a skilled craftsman.”
The April 24th commencement was held in the Sala Luca Giordano in Florence’s Palazzo Medici Riccardi, during which the school awarded its first eight two-year MFA Studio Art degrees. SACI is the only accredited U.S. institution in Europe that offers a two-year MFA degree in Studio Art. Artist Lawrence Carroll eloquently delivered the keynote address. Elizabeth Sackler, PhD, Chair of the Board of the Brooklyn Museum and SACI alumna, received an honorary degree. “This commencement is a celebration of an utterly unique school,” says David Davidson, Dean at SACI since 2001. “And I believe SACI will continue to grow in size and stature and be increasingly recognized as the preeminent US art school abroad."
40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION April 24-27, 2015
To celebrate SACI's 40 years, SACI Alumni from 4 decades gathered and attended 4 days of several organized events: SACI’s Graduating MFA Student Exhibition Finissage at Le Murate, MFA in Studio Art Commencement ceremony at Palazzo Medici Riccardi in the Sala Luca Giordano, tour of SACI’s two Renaissance palazzi, buffet lunch at the Pergola Theater with members of the SACI Board of Trustrees, visit to Power and Pathos. Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World, buffet dinner in the SACI Garden, visit to the Gucci Museum, alumni lunch at Trattoria Mario, and a concert by the ensemble Vocum Concentus at the Conservatorio di Santa Maria degli Angiolini. See images from some of the events here.
Photo above by Devon Schiller (Late Spring 2011): SACI Alumni lunch at Mario's.
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