The School of Visual Arts was originally founded as the Cartoonist and Illustrators School and has played a major role in the rise of the graphic novel, so it’s no surprise that New York magazine’s March 9, 2009 issue declares SVA a notable location in its special “New York as Graphic Novel” section. New York consulted “top comic-book minds”–including BFA Illustration and Cartooning Department faculty members Jessica Abel and Keith Mayerson and alumnus Dash Shaw (BFA 2005 Illustration)–to compile a list of the ten best New York graphic novels. Topping that list was City of Glass (Picador/Henry Holt 2004), a Paul Auster novel adapted to the graphic novel format by SVA faculty member David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik. In addition, the issue’s cover art was created by KAWS, also known as SVA alumnus Brian Donnelly (BFA 1996 Illustration).
In an interview with the Briefs, Mayerson called SVA “the Harvard of cartooning colleges,” explaining that the SVA community has been crucial in the development of the graphic novel as well as in the evolution of the comics in general. Looking back historically, he points to classes taught by cartooning icon Will Eisner, who pioneered the graphic novel and inspired artists and readers to think about the comic as an intellectual and artful medium. “Before Will Eisner,” Mayerson says, “nobody had explained, in terms of strategy, how form creates content in comics.” Mayerson also pointed to former faculty member Art Spiegelman‘s RAW magazine, which included comics by SVA instructors and students, for inspiring the graphic-novel revolution and expanding the role of comics as a serious art form. Carrying on that tradition, the SVA artists featured in New York are key figures in the ongoing history of graphic novels.