Columbia College Chicago Gifted Sabina Ott Art Collection

Sabina Ott; Photo by Philip Dembinski, Columbia College ChicagoSabina Ott; Photo by Philip Dembinski, Columbia College Chicago
A collection of artworks by former Columbia faculty member to be archived, displayed at the College

Former faculty member and chair of the Art and Design Department at Columbia College Chicago, Sabina Ott was known for moving through various artistic modalities while keeping in tune with the times. Throughout her career as an artist and educator, she made an impression on students as well as on up-and-coming and established artists alike.

“I was lucky enough to serve under Sabina Ott when she was Chair of Art and Design 15 years ago at Columbia College Chicago and had the privilege of being one of her direct colleagues for 13 years,” says Duncan MacKenzie, Columbia College’s Chair of Art and Art History. “She had a profound and lasting impact on the way we educate young artists and the way painting both materially and conceptually is enmeshed in our curriculum.”

Ott served at Columbia for 13 years before losing her four-year battle with cancer in 2018. Ott’s husband, John Paulett, donated her work to Columbia College Chicago for preservation and use in the school’s curriculum. The collection, which consists of more than 100 pieces of art and unique prints, is currently being archived at Columbia’s library. Several pieces from the collection will be shown in the Terrain Exhibition space at 623 South Wabash in October and November as part of the 2021 Terrain Biennial. Terrain Exhibitions, shows bringing contemporary art where it is most needed and least expected—yards, front steps, windows, porches, and roofs in residential neighborhoods across the country and beyond, is an initiative founded by Ott in 2011.

“We currently are completing work to capture digital preservation images of each piece of art, designed to aid us in monitoring any changes with the art over time and to create a catalog of the artworks for ease in research and study,” said Heidi Davis Marshall, head of Columbia’s Archives and Special Collections. “Such work would not be possible without John as he granted us permission to carry out such copyrighted actions. This collection not only adds to the Special Collection holdings at the College, but also enhances the Archives collection because of Sabina's deep ties and import to Columbia College Chicago.”

Ott’s work is featured in collections across the country and the globe. In 2015, she was named Chicagoan of the Year in Art. She was also a Guggenheim Fellow.

“Professor Sabina Ott was a force of nature, as her accolades and honors attest,” said MacKenzie. “This study collection is unique in that it traces some of the most important works she produced as a contemporary painter on the west coast of the United States through her turn towards sculpture, convivial, and social practices. Her move towards an art of generosity and establishment of platforms like the Terrain Biennial were acts that will inspire generations of artist and transfixed scholars for years to come.”


Daisy Franco
Communications Manager