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Distinguished Teaching of Art Award

The Distinguished Teaching of Art Award, established in 1972, is presented to an individual who has been actively engaged in teaching art for most of his or her career. This award is presented to an artist of distinction who has developed a philosophy or technique of instruction based on his or her experience as an artist; has encouraged his or her students to develop their own individual abilities; and/or has made some contribution to the body of knowledge loosely called theory and understood as embracing technical, material, aesthetic, and perceptual issues.

2016 Winner

Sabina Ott

For over 25 years, Sabina Ott has contributed to academic excellence through innovative approaches to curriculum and the classroom. She has taught at the San Francisco Art Institute, Washington University in St. Louis, California State University.  She is currently a Professor at Columbia College Chicago. 

Her devotion to teaching and the arts community is matched by the success of her art career and a studio practice that has become more ambitious in scale and deeper in collaboration over recent years. As a result she was awarded a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship and has had major exhibitions at the LA County Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Corcoran Gallery of Art to name just a few.

Her dedication to the instruction of art combined with her accomplishments as a respected artist, curator, gallery founder, and advocate, make Sabina one of those rare instructors, who seamlessly  integrates her professional success into her teaching and the Chicago artistic community at large.

Sabina's office is known to be overflowing with dynamic activity. On any given day you will find students, visiting artists and instructors of every level and discipline in lively discussion. This collective sense of shared responsibility for creating a discourse and a community of artists/scholars sets Sabina apart from many professors in academia.  As such, Sabina is a constructor of communities. She makes her pupils stronger by uniting them in a competitive and introspective field while helping them mold lasting friendships. For example, her project Terrain-now global began in her front yard with invitations to exhibiting artists from around the globe. This real-world model for creating an art space and a space for art is an excellent example of Sabina's approach to teaching.

Brilliant, generous, and innovative, she has nurtured generations of students to live creative lives and develop successful careers as professional artists, curators, and cultural workers.  Sabina’s impact on her students’ careers is immeasurable. The amount of care and generosity she gives to her students, fellow artists and various creative communities is remarkable and outstanding.

Jury: Jacki Apple, Art Center College of Design, chair; Reni Gower, Virginia Commonwealth University; and Anita Jung, University of Iowa.

Past Winners

The first five winners of the Distinguished Teaching of Art Award—Josef Albers, Tony Smith, Philip Guston, Jack Tworkov, and Grace Hartigan—are all major figures from the American modernist canon. Demonstrating effectively that the teaching and practice of art is often inseparable, each professor has influenced thousands of art students over the years, in mediums ranging from sculpture (Lester Van Winkle), painting (Wayne Thiebaud, Mercedes Matter), and printmaking (Robert Blackburn) to photography (Jerry N. Uelsmann), new media (Margaret Lovejoy), and interdisciplinary practices (Hans Haacke, Vernon Fisher).

Read a list of all winners of the Distinguished Teaching of Art Award from 1973 to the present.

Award Nominations

CAA has begun accepting nominations for the 2017 awards. Please review the guidelines to familiarize yourself with the nomination process and to download, complete, and submit the requested materials. Deadline: July 31, 2016, for the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award, the Alfred H. Barr Jr. Awards, and the Frank Jewett Mather Award; August 31, 2016, for all others.

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