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Innovative design educator and co-founder of the School of
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
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
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.
The distinguished AIGA Medal is awarded to individuals in recognition of their exceptional achievements in the field of design.
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