Steven J. Brittan
SACI is uniquely positioned to provide our students with a rich historical, cultural and contemporary learning experience. Florence, being the birthplace of the Renaissance, provides more than just exposure to the arts but to all disciplines and their vital connections. At their roots, Florentines are artists and artisans with enormous pride in how they make art as an integral part of everyday life. Italy remains to this day the center for design and artistic innovation globally.
It is with tremendous enthusiasm that I have begun to serve my term as President of SACI in its 41st year. I am deeply indebted to our former President Dr. Mary Beckinsale, who exponentially grew SACI’s academic programs creating a unique constellation of study and research in art history and contemporary art in Italy. During her tenure she created the Art and Archaeological Conservation program where students have been given the unique opportunity to work with one of the world’s leading conservation experts, Dr. Roberta Lapucci, on original historical treasures of art. Dr. Beckinsale led the acquisition of Palazzo Maidoff (named after our founder, Jules Maidoff), a beautiful building in close proximity to SACI’s Palazzo Cartelloni. Under Dr. Beckinsale’s leadership, SACI is recognized today as one of the premier institutions of Art and Design in Italy.
Building on the strength of the undergraduate programs, SACI has gone on to develop outstanding MFA programs in Studio Art, Photography, and Communication Design, as well as an MA program in Art History.
I came to SACI as a student over thirty years ago and also taught at SACI. The multidisciplinary art courses offered at SACI combined with full immersion in the Florentine culture and way of life had a profound influence on my career as a designer. I had exponentially gained knowledge and insights at SACI that would serve as a resource and grounding for me throughout my career. I personally experienced the power of studying art in Italy and specifically at SACI. It is this experience that I carry forward with me in my new role as President. One of my main objectives is to provide a similar experience for our incoming students and to help propel them into their future careers as artists and designers.
What does it mean to be an artist or designer today? And, how does an institution of art provide a well-rounded and robust education that will help the student to thrive in a fiercely competitive environment?
The combination of the technology revolution with the Millennial generation impacts our educational system and demands that we radically change the way we teach and learn from the past. Courses and disciplines that were typically in silos are now merging in multiple ways. Information is shared and distributed ubiquitously with a heightened relevance to our sustainability and survival as a human species. Art and design plays a critical role in how we shape and sustain our planet both socially and environmentally.
In the last decade alone, it has become increasingly apparent that art and design permeate everything! Art is not a hobby or eccentric activity, it is a way of being, understanding and communicating. Our everyday objects and operations are imbued with aesthetic choices and decisions, and artists and designers play a pivotal role in how we respond to our environment from the smallest everyday objects, to the macroscale of cities. All disciplines and professions are impacted by these aesthetic decisions and now - more than before – public sector institutions, and industrial and commercial corporations rely intrinsically on aesthetic decisions to differentiate themselves, innovate and stay ahead of the competition.
Throughout my career as a practicing architect and artist, educator and entrepreneur, I have maintained a strong connection to the academic world having begun my career in the US teaching Architecture and Urban Design at Harvard, Columbia University, Rhode Island School of Design, and of course, SACI. I am looking forward to translating and sharing my experience and providing a foundation of innovation and learning for our students about art and design. This will involve capitalizing on different ways of thinking, communicating, problem-solving and collaborating. SACI provided a multidimensional experience for me over thirty years ago and gave me an advantage over my peers in college and later in my career. It is my goal to continue SACI’s legacy as a premier college of art and design, instilled by its founder and prominent artist, Jules Maidoff.
Building on Jules’ legacy, our rich and diverse course offerings and extraordinary faculty have for generations enhanced the students’ ability to make new discoveries and establish themselves in their future careers as artists and designers. This is achieved through a robust interactive and experiential learning process. The two extraordinary palaces that SACI owns in the historic center of Florence (no more than a 10-minute walk from the Florence Duomo), adds to the immediacy and connection to the Florentine way of life and integration with the culture and fabric of this beautiful city. SACI has a community of over 11,000 alumni who are part of an extended family supporting SACI and each other.
I pledge to work intensively to infuse a spirit of creativity, innovation, inquiry and entrepreneurial drive into the students’ learning experience, in order to strengthen and enhance their growth and development. Our inspiration is derived directly from being in Florence which instills within all of us indelible visual and sensorial experiences.