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Life After SAIC: Taykhoom Biviji

An SAIC graduate fights for community justice.


Tayhkoom Biviji, pictured second from the right, at the Oaks of North Lawndale community event. Image courtesy of the Foundation for Homan Square.

By the time he was graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Taykhoom Biviji (MA 2017) was not only looking for a job, but also worrying about his status as a resident of the United States. As an international student, Biviji is one of many SAIC alumni who had found themselves in the liminal position between job hunting in the U.S. or returning home. Luckily for Chicago, Biviji is sticking around and continuing his professional practice, which is informed by social justice and neighborhood rejuvenation. He took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss with F Newsmagazine all that inspires and motivates him.

F Newsmagazine: First and foremost, who are you and what do you do?

Taykhoom Biviji : I am Taykhoom Biviji, and I am currently the research associate for Oaks of North Lawndale at SAIC.

Why do you do this work?

TB: It aligns with my interest in social practice as well as the ethos of justice. 

What did you study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and what was your experience at the school like, overall?

TB: I attended the MA program in Arts Administration and Policy. My experience was that grad school gave me phenomenal growth and an ability to better understand my own capabilities.

How were your post-graduation experiences different as an international student?

TB: As an international student I am at the mercy of the U.S. Federal Government. Applying for jobs came with the caveat of it possibly being only a year-long engagement, since the Optional Practical Training (OPT) aspect of the visa allows only a year. That means a big part of the first year is spent with an insecurity, or rather a sort of uncertainty on possible future employment in the United States.

How did you get to where you are today?

TB: Meeting as many people as I could, hearing their stories and sharing mine; jumping on every possible opportunity.

Greatest accomplishment to date?

TB: If you mean post-graduation, then a community event in North Lawndale on September 23 2017, that saw about 500 attendees for the launch of Oaks of North Lawndale. Overseeing the completion of an art project that saw the recreation of Pedro Reyes’ “Palas Por Pistolas (Guns in to Shovels).”

Greatest embarrassment to date?

TB: I turned up to work one day, and realized I had forgotten my work laptop at home.

What informs your practice (whatever that may be)?

TB: Social justice.

What or who are your influences?

TB: Kate Dumbleton, who is a faculty member in the Arts Administration and Policy program.

How did SAIC affect you as a person, if it did at all? How did it affect your work?

TB: Man, graduate school whips you into a professional.

How have you, or the work you involve yourself with, changed over the years?

TB: In the past 11 months I feel I have become more aware of what I can and can’t do, and that has helped me make decisions about projects I handle.

How has your work, and how have you, changed since you left SAIC?

TB: It’s not been that long for me to have a real answer, but I will say I feel a lot more confident in my work. And I keep revisiting what I learnt in school and keep having ‘Aha’ moments.

Are you doing what you thought you would when you started at SAIC?

TB: To be honest, when I started I didn’t know what I was going to do after SAIC.

What would you say is the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn that SAIC didn’t teach you?

TB: I honestly can’t think of something that would fit the full measure of the question. This is possibly because it’s not been that long and I am still part of SAIC since I am working here now.

Words of wisdom?

TB: “Be Kind, Be Generous! Your ride is on its way.”

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