Innovative design educator and co-founder of the School of Visual Arts.
Silas H. Rhodes's name is synonymous with one of the most vital and prestigious arts colleges in the United States, the School of Visual Arts. In his roles as SVA's co-founder, president, and chairman of the board, this renowned educator has pioneered numerous approaches including the concept of team teaching, a system of academic advisors instead of deans, and instruction by professionals working in the arts. He has also art directed some of New York City's favorite posters. For his contribution to the enrichment of the urban landscape, Rhodes received commendations from the Governor of New York and from the Mayor of New York City.
Rhodes was born in New York in 1915. He received a BS from Long Island University and an MA and PhD from Columbia University. For his voluntary service in the 1st Air Commando Group DFC during WWII, Rhodes earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster.
In 1947 Rhodes co-founded The Cartoonists and Illustrators School (as SVA was then known). It had 30 students, a faculty of 3 and was essentially a trade school. From the start Rhodes believed that a thriving art school should have as its faculty working art professionals. Many of the classes were held at night, enabling students and faculty to work during the day. The 1955 name change and expanded curriculum (it now included humanities, advertising, fine arts and photography) reflected Rhodes's own growing realization of the breadth and depth of visual arts education.
During Rhodes's six-year presidency of the College, in the 1970s, SVA became the largest independent college of art in the U.S. Additionally, after fifteen years of negotiations, SVA was authorized by the New York State Board of Regents as the first and only proprietary school to confer the degree of BFA on graduates of four-year programs in Film, Fine Arts, Media Arts and Photography.
Having achieved this recognition, that offered several advantages to the school and its students, Rhodes stepped down as the school's president. His association with SVA was as active as ever, however. He was chairman of the board, president and creative director of the Visual Arts Press Ltd, and president of the Visual Arts Foundation Inc., a not-for-profit organization that advances the arts as both individual vocation and social force.
Another of Rhodes's accomplishments is to have served as creative director for many of the College's recruitment posters designed by SVA faculty and displayed in the New York City subways over the past 55 years.