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View from SFAI campus


GRADUATE DEGREES AND CERTIFICATES School of Studio Practice Master of Fine Arts (MFA), Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts, Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Design and Technology Film New Genres Painting Photography Printmaking Sculpture School of Interdisciplinary Studies Master of Arts (MA) Exhibition and Museum Studies History and Theory of Contemporary Art (also offered as Low-Residency MA) Urban Studies Dual Degree MA/MFA MA in History and Theory of Contemporary Art and MFA in any area of studio practice


Welcome to the San Francisco Art Institute.

When Roberta Smith, art critic for The New York Times, addressed SFAI’s graduating class at the 2012 Commencement ceremony, she reminded students: “You have this immense gift, which is just three words: You Love Art. You Love Art. You love this thing that is so big, and so powerful. You love this thing that has so many permutations that you cannot know them; no one person can know all of it in a single, even long, lifetime. You have this thing that can never stop growing in you. Never stop giving you something, never stop challenging you. It is an immense and fantastic gift.”

SFAI’s graduate programs ask students to embrace the immensity and responsibility of pursuing a life in art. Varied in focus, they all value and provoke intellectual freedom, artistic activism, curiosity, and the thrilling moment when diverse ideas collide and ignite. A word of caution: The graduate student experience is rigorous and demands an intense commitment to the work of art. Here, art work is not only an object; it is also the sustained practice and process of thinking and making, and the dialogue that art manifests and generates. It is a long-term dedication to imaginative and meaningful ways of seeing, learning in, and contributing to the world. Let’s get started.


SFAI is an educational experience for artists and scholars ready to become leaders in contemporary art and to engage and transform society through artistic practice. The people who can take on that challenge—the people who we look for, and who find us—are non-conformists and risk-takers; poetic and creative thinkers who accept the energizing premise that, through art, we might really inhabit a realm of limitless possibility.


SFAI has been a magnet and incubator for adventurous artists for more than 140 years, and the institution seeks students of the highest caliber to carry this past forward.

A photography class circa 1970 Photograph from the San Francisco Art Institute archives

A small school with global impact, SFAI has been home to internationally renowned artists: painters Mark Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn, and Kehinde Wiley; photographers Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, and Catherine Opie; filmmakers Sharon Lockhart, Kathryn Bigelow, and George Kuchar; conceptual artists Bruce Nauman, Paul McCarthy, and Nao Bustamante, and many others. These visionaries have spearheaded the most important art movements of the last century, including fine art photography, the Beat movement, Abstract Expressionism, Bay Area Figuration, Funk art, avant-garde film, Conceptualism, and video and performance art. SFAI is proud of this remarkable history, and it informs what we do and infuses our culture. But what our community is most excited about is the present and the future that we are building, together. Every year, every day, minute-by-minute in real time, students and faculty are experimenting and changing the landscape of art and culture. What will your contribution be?

RECENT FACULTY AND ALUMNI EXHIBITION VENUES Art Chicago Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Havana Biennial MoMA PS1 National Gallery of Art Phillips Collection


San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Stedelijk Museum Sundance Film Festival Venice Film Festival Whitney Biennial Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Zero One New Media Biennial

"Although we’re not all descendants of the gold rushers, we’ve inherited their rebellious, can-do spirit. If it doesn’t exist, we’ll create it. If we don’t like it, we’ll hack it. If it’s in our way, we’ll go around it. And so on any given day, you’ll find us creating something new.”


–The Bold Italic magazine on San Franciscans

To start exploring the art scene, check out the publications Art Practical, San Francisco Arts Quarterly, and Stretcher (all founded by, and often featuring the work of, SFAI artists).


As a cultural center, the Bay Area is world-class, yet it also has an intimate feel and a DIY ethos. The region is full of places to experience and exhibit art, from major institutions (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Asian Art Museum, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives, de Young Museum, Legion of Honor) to established galleries, to alternative and collaborative spaces in back rooms, basements, bookstores, parks, and streets. And everywhere you look, you’ll see how SFAI students, faculty, and alumni—a pack of instigators and influencers—have shaped the art community, and the city.

Brighter Faster mural by British street artist Ben Eine, 2011 Photographed by Ohad Ben-Yoseph

Built out of a pioneering history, San Francisco continues to thrive on the cutting edge, attracting and fostering entrepreneurs, activists, and innovators. Culturally and socially progressive, with a diverse population and ties to Asia and Latin America, it is the perfect setting in which to connect an individual artistic practice to the world at large.


What is it about SFAI that nurtures and inspires?


Artist Hans Winkler’s Bier Sommer event at SFAI Photographed by Anne Shulock

Larger than many graduate art programs, SFAI provides a truly interdisciplinary, multicultural environment (25% of the graduate student population is international) energized by the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and aesthetics of students and faculty. At the same time, the graduate cohort forges a tight-knit, almost tribal bond: there’s an intuitive recognition of kindred artistic spirits. Within this dynamic, proudly unconventional, wildly creative community, vital interactions spill out of the classroom and into the local bar, museum, or party as students become confidants, collaborators, conspirators, and friends.

“Among all the art schools in the Bay Area, SFAI’s graduating class tends to be the largest, the most diverse and—often—the most unruly. … [I] have always felt the place was haunted by a dark, edgy and somewhat dangerous mystique.” –Mark Taylor, KQED Arts

The Third Street Graduate Center Photographed by Mark Johann

The historic 800 Chestnut Street Campus in Russian Hill serves both undergraduates and graduates. A striking combination of Mediterranean courtyard and Corbusian concrete, the building overlooks Coit Tower and the San Francisco Bay. The facilities—spacious studios and classrooms; the student-run Diego Rivera Gallery and Still Lights Gallery; the Walter and McBean Galleries featuring work from national and international contemporary artists; the Anne Bremer Memorial Library housing rare artists’ books and periodicals; a lecture hall and rooftop amphitheater; state-of-the-art digital labs; a courtyard café—carry inspiring echoes. Here is where Diego Rivera spent a month on a scaffold painting a mural; where Mark Rothko and Clay Spohn organized a “costume affair” called The Unknown; where nascent Punk bands the Mutants, the Avengers, and Romeo Void played early shows. And now it’s where current students create art, stage exhibitions, play music, throw parties, and otherwise intertwine their school and social lives.



Located in an industrial loft building in the Dogpatch (which Bon Appetit recently called San Francisco’s “up-and-comingest neighborhood”), and infused with the smell of chocolate from a confectionery that shares the building, the Third Street Graduate Center provides more than 60,000 square feet of space to support students’ academic and studio needs. Each MFA and Post-Baccalaureate student has 24/7 studio access in a facility with both shared and individual studio spaces. The center also houses classrooms, installation rooms, a computer lab, film and photography studios, and a lounge that encourages casual conversations with faculty and peers. The on-campus Swell Gallery, directed by students and featuring student work, is white-cube-as-blank canvas, providing hands-on experience in conceptualizing, curating, and executing exhibitions.


SFAI’s two-year MFA Program is rich with studio and academic offerings, faculty guidance, exhibition opportunities, and visits from accomplished artists and scholars, striking a balance between structure and openness that is remarkably generative.

Installation by Ana Belén Cantoni at Vernissage 2011 Photographed by Robert Valentine

Students apply to SFAI in a specific department, but the MFA curricular requirements are not discipline-specific. This allows students to build upon the armature of the curriculum to meet individual goals, whether that involves diving into an area of focus or experimenting across media and modes of production. “Transdisciplinary” is an idea that is valued here. It has become a buzzword in the art world, but it runs deep in both SFAI’s educational philosophy and the concrete way that a student’s time here unfolds. Students can take courses outside of their program, and choose critique seminars or individual tutorials with any faculty member whose work or discursive approach most complements or challenges them. This structure encourages interaction among students and faculty of varied practices and experiences, creating a forum that is wide-ranging and deeply engaged. SFAI is a place of divergent opinions and strong viewpoints—and students hear plenty of them during critiques, that gut-wrenching, exhilarating process through which students examine their work, take it apart, and prepare to build it back up, stronger. Artists here not only grow from the insight of faculty and peers, but also develop the confidence of their own convictions, and claim their identity as an artist.


“There is the possibility for a lot of individual attention, as well as some fairly bizarre group experiences.” –SFAI course catalogue, 1979

MFA GRADUATE EXHIBITION The culmination of the MFA degree is Vernissage, the MFA Graduate Exhibition. Held at an off-site venue—recent spaces include The Winery SF on Treasure Island and the retro-chic Phoenix Hotel—the exhibition is recognized for its intellectual rigor and diverse, cutting-edge creative output. Curators, collectors, art critics, family, friends, and the general public are invited to attend and toast the next crop of pioneering contemporary artists.

“One thing that makes this institution unique is the history that comes behind it. A lot of really amazing people have gone through here, and that helped me at least start considering myself an artist that is representative of a moment in art. Art is a community that you live in, it’s the books you read, it’s the professors you have, it’s the thinking behind the work you make. This is something that this school owes to the people who have come before us, and later graduates will look back to our work and also find their way, find themselves situated in larger art history.”


This program views technology as a platform for creating works of art and design, focusing on its potential for innovative application and to communicate meaning. Students who enter SFAI with disciplinary interests including graphic design, web design, interaction design, humanities, and science ultimately develop a conceptually driven art and design practice that is both experimental and experiential. Working at the intersection of studio and academic disciplines—and within the Bay Area, a hub of technological innovation—students make expansive use of the tools and techniques of art, design, and technology, moving beyond the screen into realms of installation, interactive sculpture, sound, electronics, mixed media, and systems and networks. The program is not directed toward narrow outcomes or defined roles in the design world; instead, students take critical and analytical approaches to form and function, using iterative prototyping to translate complex ideas into lucid images and objects. Design and Technology at SFAI centers on the intersection of the ideas we live by and the things we live with, taking as models historical and contemporary practices like Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), Xerox PARC, Stefan Sagmeister, Droog Design, and Andrea Zittel. SFAI’s program is a lab for exploring future possibilities for such imaginative and meaningful work.

Gabriela Peña Alvarez with her work at Vernissage 2011 Photographed by Pauline Quintana

Program: MFA Design and Technology, 2011 Current Job: Localization Project Manager, Community at Twitter






Eliane Lima, Embody, 2011 Digital film

A pioneering presence in experimental film, SFAI continues to value the medium’s possibilities for individual expression across genres and formats. Students develop understanding and ability within the existing film world, but also push the boundaries of the medium by integrating new technologies, exploring alternative contexts of production and distribution, and rethinking relationships between film and other media. Filmmakers are able to pursue various approaches—narrative, abstract, experimental, documentary, commercially based—as well as work with film in fine-art contexts such as site-specific installation. Each spring SFMOMA screens the culminating work of SFAI’s MFA Film students, introducing a new generation of SFAI filmmakers to Bay Area audiences. Additionally, the Bay Area is home to exceptional film venues and resources: the Pacific Film Archive, the San Francisco Cinematheque, Canyon Cinema, and the San Francisco Film Society; community organizations including Bay Area Video Coalition and Artists’ Television Access; companies such as Pixar and Industrial Light and Magic; and dozens of film festivals.

“Since the mid-1940s, when Surrealistinfluenced films were created in some of the country’s earliest filmmaking classes at the San Francisco Art Institute, the Bay Area has been a global center for an extraordinary constellation of artists who use film and video not for entertainment or documentation, but as an apparatus for the untethered pursuit of personal expression.”


–Radical Light: Alternative Film and Video in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945–2000 at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: ELIANE LIMA Program: MFA Film Exhibition Venues: SF Weekly Artopia, ArtPadSF, San Francisco Cinematheque “Cinema is so powerful. There are so many different approaches you can have and it is so full of layers. As a place for experimental cinema, I knew that SFAI was a great deal for me, and I was not wrong. I was lucky enough to make connections with faculty and artists around here. The best relationship that I had was with George Kuchar. When I met him, right away I fell in love with him because he was like ‘Let’s go watch some movies’ and I said, ‘OK… no syllabus.’ The beautiful thing was, he was obsessed with making movies and had a contagious energy that produced in us the same feeling.”



SFAI’s New Genres Department has its roots in the major conceptual and disciplinary shifts in art during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Expanding upon the art-historical lineage for the traditional use of a given media, New Genres references the rich and more recent history of investigational contemporary art that includes Fluxus, Chris Burden, and Marina Abramovic, as well as SFAI alumni Jason Rhoades, Karen Finley, Paul Kos, and Tony Labat, among many others.

Program: MFA New Genres Recent Project: Culinary- and music-based performances and events Collaborators: Queen’s Nails Projects, THE THING Quarterly “I have a very personal connection to this school, because both my parents went here. My mom was in the first video/performance class with Howard Fried. I’d met him before, and was like, ‘That guy is weird, but I like him.’ One of the reasons I wanted to come to SFAI was because it was so rogue, raw, kind of punk rock, and I was coming from a university, which was pretty rigid, with all these conventions that you have to abide by. Here, it was about creating a web or network of people that you trust and support, more so than it was about getting a good grade or writing a paper properly—which is not something that should be taken lightly, but there were other things that were more important for me.”



Tony Labat, Director of MFA Programs, with work by Miles Ake Photographed by David Janesko

New Genres is a practice where the conceptual foundation of the work takes precedence over the medium used to articulate it. The work often takes the form of video, video installation, performance, and intervention, but New Genres as a philosophy and a program is not simply multidisciplinary: it is a way of thinking and creating that transcends media and makes the idea the material from which the art is made.



The Painting Department is dynamically situated between a legacy of important artists and movements that have been based at SFAI, and the wide range of possibilities available to contemporary painters. Students work to visually articulate their formal and ideological concerns, and are challenged to push the physical and conceptual limits of the painting medium.


Carolyn Jean Martin, Chronic voyeuristic relation, 2012 Gunpowder, gold leaf, synthetic polymer on panel

Michelle Ramin, Three Aliases, 2011 Colored pencil on paper

SFAI is not known for one distinctive style of painting, and students are encouraged to build upon the strengths of their existing approach. The diversity of faculty practices and experiences and the flexible structure of curricular offerings (from studio visits to small conversation sessions to the Clive Fellowship seminar class) foster honest and intensive interaction with accomplished artists and peers. The program also supports painters working across disciplines such as installation, sculpture, photography, printmaking, or design, combining their diverse interests into one cohesive practice.

The Clive Fellowship The Winifred Johnson Clive Foundation Distinguished Visiting Fellowship for Interdisciplinary Painting Practices offers SFAI students an unmatched level of engagement with internationally recognized contemporary painters. Each semester, three artists are invited to SFAI for a short-term residency, during which they participate in graduate seminars in the Painting Department, conduct one-on-one critiques with graduate students, and present public lectures.

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: CAROLYN JEAN MARTIN Program: Dual Degree MA/MFA, History and Theory of Contemporary Art / Painting Activities: SFAI Board of Trustees student representative, Diego Rivera Gallery co-director

Past Fellows Alexander Ross Amy Sillman Chris Ofili David Reed Elliott Hundley Fabian Marcaccio Fred Tomaselli Gottfried Helnwein Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe Jim Isermann

Jim Shaw Julie Heffernan Julie Mehretu Kerry James Marshall Kurt Kauper Lari Pittman Laura Owens Lisa Sanditz Lisa Yuskavage Loren Holland

Marilyn Minter Michelle Grabner Monique Prieto Nalini Malani Nicole Eisenman Peter Saul R.H. Quaytman Thomas Eggerer Wangechi Mutu Yun-Fei Ji

“One thing about this school is how intimate it is, and getting to know the professors and the other students is the most important thing that’s happened for me here. Teachers value you as an artist, and they value your work. A professor can be really harsh on your work, but you know that they’re being honest with you. And you have to be able to handle it. I feel like the first year you’re really broken down, to: What are you doing, artistically? What does this mean to you? Then by the second year, things start to gel and beautifully come together, and you’re like: ‘Yes! This is why I’m doing this.’ You have the chance to make the best art that you can absolutely make.”



There is no other program so invested in the history, meaning, and making of photography while also pushing the medium into reinvention. The artists involved in the creation of the SFAI Photography Department—Ansel Adams, Minor White, Dorothea Lange—are the most noted in photography’s history, and the program still carries their legacy of fine art practice engaged with environmental and societal conditions.


Along with guidance from SFAI’s distinguished faculty, students benefit from opportunities to interact with current visionaries of photography through lectures presented at SFAI by the nonprofit organization PhotoAlliance.

Joshua Band (Headlands Center for the Arts Graduate Fellow) White Room, 2009 Archival inkjet print

Understanding that the visual language of photography is central to the contemporary world, SFAI’s program addresses photographs both as formal objects and as modes of communication, documentation, expression, and critique. Students may work in analog or digital formats, considering what traditional methods offer unexplored potential, as well as how emerging technologies are shaping 21st century image-making. Questions of installation, scale, and performative and interactive possibilities are all new and important parts of the conversation around this evolving medium.


PRINTMAKING SFAI’s Printmaking Department—equipped for lithography, intaglio, screen printing, letterpress, and relief, as well as digital printing and the making of artists’ books—challenges students to use processes creatively to translate ideas into print. Artists may work with centuries-old techniques or new technologies, choosing between—or mixing—the traditional and experimental applications of these media.


Ben Venom, I Go Where Eagles Dare, Detail, 2012 Heavy metal t-shirts, batting, thread Image courtesy of San Francisco Art Enthusiast

The Bay Area is home to renowned presses such as Crown Point Press and Magnolia Editions, and some students go on to become master printers. Many, however, build off the rigor, art, and science of printmaking to utilize the medium in unexpected ways: as foundational material for large-scale sculptures and installations; as visualizations of sound; to explore concepts of multiplicity through iPhone apps; or to question the nature of reproduction and the consumption of art.

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: BEN VENOM Program: MFA Printmaking, 2007 Current Project: Heavy metal quilts Exhibition Venues: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Guerrero Gallery “Describe SFAI? That’s like asking what someone’s Top 10 list is—a simple and yet very complicated and hard question to answer. SFAI is a freethinking environment where new ideas are strongly encouraged, and I always go back to the idea of concept. SFAI has a strong history of being a conceptually grounded school. Ideas of traditional printmaking or traditional painting are shattered when you come to grad school at SFAI. Like, what can painting be? What can sculpture be? What can performance art be? That for me was the strong pull to come out here, that level of experimentation and interest in having a strong concept.”

“The program here is about so much more than just making beautiful objects. I was a psychology major in undergrad, and I was worried that I wasn’t going to fit in to this environment, but I think that at SFAI it works just right because this school is trying to attract people with analytical and critical minds. And that means that the school isn’t sending artists out into the world that fit into a school of thought; it’s trying to propagate diversity, and the environment encourages that. People disagree, people get into heated discussions, but that’s exciting. That’s why I came here—I wanted my mind to be turned inside out.”


Sculptors in the 21st century work in a very different way than their art-historical counterparts. While the functional value of ceramics and the tradition of creating a single sculptural object is still highly valued, installation, interactivity, and technology have all significantly changed the face of sculpture in contemporary art. SFAI’s Sculpture/Ceramics Department offers facilities for work in ceramics, wood, metal, plaster, fabric, and electronics, while also encouraging interdisciplinary experimentation and site-specific strategies. The program has a unique emphasis on systems and environments—sculpture as informed by urban studies, sustainability, ecology, architecture, public art, and activism—through which artistic practice becomes a model for social engagement. There are also exciting site-specific possibilities in the context of the historic 800 Chestnut Street campus and meadow as well as the Graduate Center.


Program: MFA Sculpture Activities: Swell Gallery co-director Recent Honors: Murphy and Cadogan Fellowship in the Fine Arts, Vermont Studio Center residency


Rachel Mica Weiss, Sagging Ellipse (After Richard Serra), 2011 Manila rope and sisal Photographed by Joshua Band



SFAI’s MA Program asks students to think critically and curiously about art’s place in the world. How do ingrained conditions and institutions explicitly and implicitly influence artistic production? What power does art hold as a tool for social and political change? What are the values of working to coincide artistic forms of knowledge with other modes of knowledge production? While the MA Program prepares students to work within established fields as scholars, critics, and curators, it also encourages students to be iconoclastic thinkers who imagine possibilities outside of these defined roles and systems, and have the confidence to instigate and face change.

Unique and essential to SFAI’s MA Program is its integration into a fine art school. MA students pursue their academic disciplines in a laboratory of contemporary art, taking classes alongside, and often working directly with, MFA students. Exhibitions, public programs, practicum opportunities, and SFAI’s unique dual thesis requirement—an individual written thesis as well as a multifaceted collaborative project (see page 19)—allow MA students to further intertwine academic research and real-world experiences.

Some of the Most Important Things We Try to Teach You and/or Learn from You During Your Time at SFAI -Claire Daigle, Director of MA Programs 1. Look closely, critically, and generously. 2. Have the courage to be as peculiar as you truly are. Don’t hide what’s likely your best stuff. 3. Take a page from our most beloved ghost, George Kuchar. Ride a bike. Be someone others consistently describe as “a character.” Get Mr. Dominic to paint you some demented eyebrows. 4. Try to be funny even if you can’t pull it off.

Anonymous, In Step with Time, 2011 Photographed by Ignat Ignev Copyright of Creative Commons Featured in the MA thesis Crude Politics: Post-Soviet Sites of Aesthetic Radicalism, by Nadia Khismatulina

5. Carry your weight and learn from co-collaborators. 6. Write the most purple, proliferative, and poignant prose possible, but edit and edit and edit and edit… 7. Theory is a toolbox. Use the right tools for the job —but only one at a time. 8. Escape the White Cube. 9. What matters lies between disciplines, cultures, and genres; in the footnotes; in between the lines; and on the street. 10. Be meta-, multi-, omni-, poly-, trans-. 11. Practice everyday life as performance art.


12. Carry no shame or regret.



The shifting role of art in a broader culture of spectacle poses increasingly pressing challenges for artists, theorists, curators, and institutions. Museums and exhibition sites are not only spaces for collecting and displaying objects—they now encompass alternative experiences and environments, and serve as laboratories for artistic experimentation and intervention in the public sphere.

Program: MA Exhibition and Museum Studies, 2008 Current Job: Getty Fellow in Visual Arts, Walker Art Center “Coming to SFAI, I had this strong interest in art-making, but I had never thought deeply about the context in which I was making art and in which other artists were working. What I really carried with me out of the program is the role of artists in impacting change in the world, so thinking about curating almost as activism was something that resonated with me. My advice is to really get involved within the community and apply the ideas that you’re working with—which can sometimes feel very abstract—to real life. The San Francisco Bay Area has such an incredibly rich art scene that there’s plenty of opportunity.”



Faculty teaching in the EMS program are all working practitioners in the field, bringing their collective experience to the learning environment while also facilitating connections for future opportunities. The on-campus Walter and McBean Galleries, which present several large-scale exhibitions each year, provide valuable opportunities for work-study and first-hand experience with innovative exhibition and curatorial practices. Graduates have gone on to earn major fellowships and work at top museums, biennials, foundations, and galleries—or to subvert these standard formats and develop alternative models for exhibition—becoming active participants in the global community of contemporary art.

Disponible–a kind of Mexican show at the Walter and McBean Galleries, 2010

More expansive than a curatorial program and international in scope, Exhibition and Museum Studies (EMS) at SFAI considers how social, economic, political, and cultural contexts affect contemporary art production and presentation. It is a platform for research into the conception and organization of exhibitions and how exhibitions hold the potential to redefine contemporary art.



Sandra Osborne, Archive (Detail), 2011 Unglazed porcelain, string, and found items

Emphasizing critical thinking and writing, the History and Theory of Contemporary Art (HTCA) program provides students with an in-depth understanding of the discourses surrounding global contemporary art and culture, and how these inform the production, exhibition, and interpretation of art today. Students are exposed to a variety of models for analysis, and the curriculum addresses complex issues such as the influence of media and notions of reproducibility; the role of the artist as social researcher, interventionist, or activist; the influence of globalization; questions of authorship and appropriation; the legacy and currency of feminism; and the lineage of modernism and postmodernism. Students in SFAI’s HTCA program are able to develop their theoretical, academic, and curatorial practices while immersed in an art-school environment of studio work, exhibitions, and visiting artists. The institution—which resides in the epicenter of West Coast contemporary art history and maintains strong connections to the international art-historical community—also provides many opportunities for primary art-historical research. Students may also pursue the MA degree in HTCA through the Dual Degree MA/MFA program or the Low-Residency MA program (see pages 20–21).

RECENT MA THESIS TOPICS Where? There. Ana Mendieta. Citing Performance/Performing Citation Across Three Generations of Contemporary Cuban Art Re-illumiNATIONS Political Imagination in Contemporary Visual Art at the 54th Venice Biennale Bridging the GAP Audience Interaction in the Digital Age and the Google Art Project Raiders, Erasures, and Crusaders The Collection, Re-Collection, and Constitution of Iraq’s Cultural Heritage Contested Terrain The Historical Impact of Urban Development on African Americans in South Prescott, West Oakland Docentry in the 21st Century The Professionalized Volunteer in Museum Education Planetary Visions An Ecofeminist Atlas of Contemporary Site-Specific Art Gamescapes Gaming Out Everyday Life in China


Uprooted Institutionalizing Grassroots and Ephemeral Art Practice in MOCA’s WACK! and Out of Actions



Poised at the forefront of socially conscious art movements, SFAI’s Urban Studies program addresses the contributions of art, artists, and researchers to the urban domain.

MA COLLABORATIVE PROJECT With the capstone MA Collaborative Project, students take their research out into the community in the form of multifaceted public works including publications, websites, panel discussions, commissioned site-specific art, and exhibitions. Recent projects: A Fresh Look: Observations on Artistic and Social Practices in Urban Farming critically examined the intersections between contemporary art and urban agriculture

Students chart an individual course through the program, working with faculty who contribute expertise in such diverse—yet inextricably linked—fields as visual studies, art history, anthropology, sociology, geography, literature, philosophy, media studies, ethnic studies, and American studies. In addition, the Seed Fund Teaching Fellowship brings distinguished artists, designers, architects, and planners to campus for sustained interactions with students.

Warmbaby, Wouldn’t It Be Nice…, 2012 Spyglass peephole installation commissioned for the Mid-Market Art Project Photographed by Kim Cook

The program emerged in response to pressing issues of contemporary life (increasing urban populations, inequality, migration, new cultural geographies, the politics of space and the built environment, questions of sustainability, and the effects of a global economy), all of which are radically transforming cities worldwide. Approaching these issues from a fine arts perspective, Urban Studies at SFAI encourages students to develop a synergy between academic and applied practice, creating work that directly engages the urban environment and creatively expands urban methodologies and epistemologies.

TRANSIT/STASIS: Negotiating Movement in the City considered art and urban movement in San Francisco

Mid-Market Art Project investigated the role of the arts within the sociopolitical process of urban renewal


City Studio Press: Artists as Journalists developed a new course offering for SFAI’s youth education program City Studio


DUAL DEGREE MA/MFA A three-year commitment, the Dual Degree MA/MFA consists of: 1. An MA in History and Theory of Contemporary Art 2. An MFA in any department within the School of Studio Practice This unique course of study allows students to synthesize the artistic and intellectual facets of their creative work, and cultivate a large portfolio of tools as cultural producers. The culmination of the program is participation in the MFA Graduate Exhibition after the second year, and the completion of a written thesis, as well as the MA Collaborative Project, by the end of the third year.


Seulhwa Lydia Eum, installation at Vernissage 2012 Photographed by Leon Borensztein

POST-BACCALAUREATE CERTIFICATE The Post-Baccalaureate Certificate program is a one-year, full-time course of study designed for students who want to develop a body of work in preparation for application to a graduate MFA program. Students may complete the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in any department within SFAI’s School of Studio Practice. With a combination of studio work at SFAI’s Graduate Center, critiques and independent tutorials with faculty, and upper-division coursework from the undergraduate program, the Post-Baccalaureate curriculum provides the ideal balance of conceptual and technical advancement. Artists in this program have gone on to study in the nation’s most competitive MFA programs, to receive fellowships and residencies from institutions around the world, and to produce some of the strongest work in the SFAI’s MFA program.

SFAI’s Low-Residency Graduate Programs offer the rigor and artistic community of the full-time programs, in a flexible format ideally suited for artists, teachers, and other art professionals who wish to develop and refine their work without sacrificing a professional career or commitment.




History and Theory of Contemporary Art only

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: LINDSAY McCRUM Program: Low-Residency MFA, Photography, 2004 Recent Project: The book Chicks With Guns “The San Francisco Art Institute has always been defiantly different, and it’s always encouraged an independent spirit. Extraordinary iconoclasts—Jerry Garcia, Kathryn Bigelow, Annie Leibovitz, Larry Sultan, Jim Goldberg— have come out of the school. It’s a terrific place if you’re very focused and a self-starter, but it’s not for everybody. [For me], going back to school as an older student, it was like being a kid in a candy shop. There was a real sense of exploration; there was a sense of getting back to the roots of how much fun it is to create. It was such an unexpected journey, and I don’t think that would have happened had I been anywhere else.”

The three-year Low-Residency MA program combines intensive eight-week summer sessions at SFAI with offsite guided studies during the fall and spring semesters. Students are immersed in the scholarly practice of art history, considering the discipline in relation to art theory, criticism, and practice. Students cap their studies with a final written thesis and symposium presentation, as well as a collaborative project that can take the form of a publication, exhibition, website, symposium, or event.


Completed over three or four years, the Low-Residency MFA program allows students to work with SFAI faculty during intensive eight-week summer sessions in San Francisco, and independently—with the guidance of an artist from their home community—during the fall and spring semesters. The summer sessions combine critiques, art history and critical studies seminars, visiting artist lectures, and individualized tutorials to create a comprehensive studio- and research-based curriculum. Students participate in Summer and Winter Reviews in San Francisco each year, and the program culminates with the MFA Graduate Exhibition.

Lindsay McCrum, Cynthia Stamford, CT; Beretta 20-guage over-and-under Chicks with Guns, Vendome Press © 2011

Any department within the School of Studio Practice


FACULTY SFAI’s faculty members play varied and integral roles— teacher, mentor, curator, colleague, collaborator—in the artistic, personal, and professional development of students. The faculty are all active artists and scholars who bring their real-world experiences into the classroom, where generative dialogue with students forms another facet of their practice. Current SFAI faculty have won Guggenheim Fellowships and been nominated for Academy Awards; they have exhibited at Venice Biennales, Documentas, and in lauded museums around the world including MoMA PS1, the Stedelijk Museum, and the New Museum. They run nonprofits, cultural agencies, and design studios, curate major exhibitions, and launch publications. But for all their own pursuits and successes, SFAI’s faculty are here because of your work.


Carlos Villa, Untitled, 1969 Ink drawing on itek print Photograph taken by John Bertucci

Learn about SFAI’s faculty at

VISITING ARTISTS The Visiting Artists and Scholars Lecture Series, Graduate Lecture Series, and multiple fellowship programs bring the world of art and culture to students’ doorstep, providing direct and extended access to influential practitioners. Engaging with these creative professionals through public lectures, group discussions, studio visits, and critiques—learning about their artistic and career paths; questioning and being questioned— allows students to participate in the global art community and discover models for their own work. Recent visitors include Aaron Young, Alan Sekula, Andrea Zittel, Franklin Sirmans, Geoff Manaugh, Gottfried Helnwein, Hans Winkler, Kota Ezawa, Lucy Orta, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Mika Rottenberg, Nina Katchadourian, R.H. Quaytman, Stephanie Syjuco, and Wangechi Mutu.

“As an artist/teacher I need to be constantly active in my studio and immersed in my work to be able to return to encourage and challenge artist/students at the institution as a teacher. I am inspired. For me, ‘Artist/teacher’ is one word.” –Carlos Villa, SFAI Painting faculty member and Guggenheim Fellow



For complete application instructions, specific MFA portfolio requirements for each department, and information about MA writing samples, visit

An education at SFAI is a significant investment in your future. SFAI is committed to helping talented and motivated students finance their education by offering over $6 million in financial resources each year to students in the form of fellowships and institutional aid. Partial-tuition MFA and MA Fellowships may be awarded to applicants with exceptional application materials.

Completed and signed application for admission (Please find a print copy enclosed; or visit

Non-refundable application fee ($75 for U.S. citizens or permanent residents; $95 for international applicants)

Official sealed transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate work, both completed and in-progress Two letters of recommendation MFA, Low-Residency MFA, and Post-Baccalaureate Applicants Artist statement A highly accomplished portfolio of artwork Portfolio inventory sheet MA Applicants Statement of Purpose Writing samples

In order to be considered for any institutional aid, all domestic students must file their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The FAFSA form can be filled out online at, and SFAI’s FAFSA code is 003948. A separate application is not required to be considered for applicable fellowships. For more information, visit Teaching Assistantships These opportunities are reserved for second, third, and fourth-semester graduate students and include both paid and unpaid positions. Students may apply for TA positions in any department. Paid TAs receive a stipend paid out over the course of the semester. Stipends for the 2011-2012 academic year were $1,250 per semester.

Photographed by Robert Valentine

General Requirements for All Applicants


(a body of critical writing, ideally 10 to 20 pages)

Dual Degree Applicants Applicants to the Dual Degree MA/MFA program must fulfill all application requirements for both the MA and the MFA programs.

Please visit for additional requirements for international students.


International Applicants


We invite you to discover SFAI in person—take a tour and meet with admissions counselors, faculty, and students. Please call the Admissions Office at 800.345.SFAI /415.749.4500 or email to schedule a tour or portfolio review with the Associate Director for Graduate Admissions.

San Francisco Art Institute (Main Campus) 800 Chestnut Street (between Jones and Leavenworth) San Francisco, CA 94133 San Francisco Art Institute (Graduate Center) 2565 Third Street (between 22nd and 23rd Streets) San Francisco, CA 94107

All images of student and alumni work are courtesy of the artists. On cover: JoĂŤl Frudden, Notes on a Rock Opera #1, 2011, Collage


Lindsay Bly, Between Us, 2012, Archival inkjet print

Are you social? @SFAIevents #SFAI San Francisco Art Institute

SFAI, a nonprofit institution, is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). SFAI is also a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD).

800 Chestnut Street San Francisco, CA 94133 415.749.4500 @SFAIevents San Francisco Art Institute

SFAI Graduate Admissions Viewbook  

San Francisco Art Institute's internationally regarded MFA and MA programs in the visual arts offer an interdisciplinary, experimental envir...

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