Nothing is totally new, and all efforts are based on what came before - and so it is with SACI. There were other places to study art "overseas," and most were programs connected with US university study abroad structures. They were usually dependent on the dedication of art faculty from the "home" school or found transient locations inside existing European institutions or ventures.
In those early days, back in the seventies, Florence was a place where art students found temporary perches or invented ways to be here which involved modifying their own challenges to the moment, often leaving their "real" time to challenge and sort out what had been useful until after they had returned home.
I had been a 23 year old Fulbright painter in Florence two decades earlier, and things hadn't changed much. There were still problems related to having studio and lab access, as well as difficulty simply finding the means to meet and open up the potential of Italy. I remembered well the frustration of trying to put it together for myself and this memory helped me to create a series of goals in 1975 when SACI was founded and I took the position of on-site Director.
There wasn't much to go on except for the fact that I had been operating as a painter in Italy and the States for 20 years and had had the good fortune to study with great artist/teachers in fine schools.
I was and am still convinced that art is an intellectual activity, which implies that art education is much more than the imparting of technical expertise. Therefore, SACI has always been a place where artist/intellectuals, teachers and students gravitate and are welcomed.
The first years were not easy. At that time Italy was considered a politically insecure place, yet while many other programs declined or withdrew, our growth was steady. It was more than a growth in numbers - the SACI educational mission seemed to coincide with a need in art education. People who needed a way and a locus with persons dedicated to the certainty that art is necessary for humanity, found SACI.
Our permanent ownership of two centrally located historic palaces, developed by former SACI President Mary Beckinsale into the ideal settings for art study, amazes visiting alumni. These visitors from the early years are also delighted because what once seemed a rare opportunity has become a permanent resource for serious artists - one which will continue the tradition of creative challenge they recall as the SACI hallmark, a criteria which is an integral part of the school.
All of this could not have happened without the help of so many people who shared the early years and enabled the experiment to become an ongoing experience. Thank you to many, including some who are no longer with us - to Gillian Tilbury Maidoff, Jim Hogg, and Clayton Hubbs. Many others helped in those early years especially Bishop Edward and Kathryn Lee, Bill and Karla Fultz, Clare Brett Smith. It is my pleasure to recall all those students and faculty who were part of that crazy, creative early time on Via de' Ginori, and to the thousands who followed.
For a list of Jules Maidoff's publications, see the Publications page of this website.