San Francisco Art Institute

San Francisco Art Institute
San Francisco Art Institute
Sfai patio.jpg
Motto "Thinking. Making. Learning." or "Accept No Limitations"
Established 1871
Type Private
Chairman Diane Frankel
President Charles Demaris
Vice-president Jeannene Przyblyski
Location San Francisco, California,  United States
37°48′12″N 122°25′02″W / 37.803456°N 122.417144°W / 37.803456; -122.417144Coordinates: 37°48′12″N 122°25′02″W / 37.803456°N 122.417144°W / 37.803456; -122.417144
Campus Urban
4 acres (1.6 ha)
Colors Gray and Clear          

San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) is a school of higher education in contemporary art with the main campus in the Russian Hill district of San Francisco, California. Its graduate center is in the Dogpatch neighborhood. The private, non-profit institution is accredited by WASC and is a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design. SFAI was founded in 1871, and is one of the oldest art schools in the United States.


Academic programs

SFAI offers Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and Master of Fine Arts degrees and Post-Baccalaureate certificates. Like many institutions of higher-education, it also awards honorary PhDs. SFAI's current Dean of Academic Affairs is Jeannene Przyblyski. Hou Hanru is Director of Exhibitions and Public Program and Chair of Exhibition and Museum Studies.

School of Studio Practice

The School of Studio Practice consists of the traditional departments of Painting, Sculpture, Film, Photography, Design+Technology, Printmaking, and New Genres.

School of Interdisciplinary Studies

Founded in 2006, SFAI's School of Interdisciplinary Studies offers BA and MA degrees in History and Theory of Contemporary Art, Urban Studies, and Exhibition and Museum Studies (MA only). It also houses four research and teaching centers: Public Practice, Media Culture, Art+Science, and Word, Text, and Image.


The San Francisco Art Association (SFAA) was founded in 1871 and it opened the San Francisco School of Design in February 1874 under the direction of landscape painter Virgil Macey Williams. In 1893 the name was changed to California School of Design and the association affiliated with the University of California and inherited the mansion of Mark Hopkins on Nob Hill. Its museum functions continued under the title of the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art.

The fire following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed both the mansion and the school. A year later, the school was rebuilt on the site of the old mansion and renamed the San Francisco Institute of Art. In 1916 the SFAA merged with the San Francisco Society of Artists and assumed directorship of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, then located in the Palace of Fine Arts, a relic of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The school was also renamed the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA). In 1926 the school moved to its present location at 800 Chestnut Street in San Francisco. In 1961 the school took its modern name, the San Francisco Art Institute.

In 1969, a new addition to the building by Paffard Keatinge-Clay added 22,500 sq ft (2,090 m2) studio space, a large theater/lecture hall, outdoor amphitheater, galleries, and cafe.[1]

On or about February 4, 2009, a group of SFAI Trustees authorized a declaration of "financial exigency" for the school. Under SFAI's contract with faculty, financial exigency is "the critical and urgent need for the Institute to reorder its expenditures in such a way as to retain solvency." Pursuant to the claim of financial exigency, on or about February 17, 2009, President Bratton issued layoff notices to nearly 25% of SFAI's tenured faculty. The affected faculty had taught at SFAI from 11 to over 31 years. Many of the teachers were of varying artistic calibre, having been hired at a peak time of financial buoyancy. Students and alumni quickly organized to protest the layoffs, and questioned certain decisions and acts made in connection with the layoffs. Student and alumni activists launched an online wiki,[2] and in May 2009 launched a website to keep the SFAI community and other concerned members of the public updated on recent developments.[3] An accountant hired by the faculty union concluded that financial exigency did not exist,[4] and students, alumni and faculty continue to challenge the layoffs.


Founded by Ansel Adams in 1945, the Photography Department was the first program of its kind dedicated to exploring photography as a fine art medium. Adams attracted fine photographers for the original faculty, including Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham, and Minor White, and Morley Baer, who became Head of the Department after White's departure in 1953.


In 1966, the SFAI organized an exhibition of rock and roll posters. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, SFAI was one of the centers of the San Francisco punk rock and new wave music scene.[citation needed]

Among the many artist musicians who studied at SFAI are Jerry Garcia, guitarist in Grateful Dead; Mike Henderson painter and blues musician; Dave Getz, drummer for Big Brother and the Holding Company and Country Joe and the Fish; Prairie Prince and Michael Cotten of the Tubes; Debora Iyall and Frank Zinkavage of Romeo Void; Freddy (aka Fritz) of the Mutants; Penelope Houston of the Avengers, Courtney Love, actress and rock musician;[5] Nathan Burazer, and Jonathan Holland of Tussle; Cliff Hengst and Scott Hewicker of Troll; Devendra Banhart; Robert Earl Davis, band leader of The Earl Brothers.


SFAI maintained a small student housing program in the MacArthur neighborhood of the Presidio of San Francisco from 2002 to 2007. Students were housed primarily in semi-furnished townhouse apartments built in the 1960s with space for approximately 45 students. During the 2006/2007 academic year, some apartments in the Baker Beach neighborhood were used with space for an additional 20 students. In August 2007, SFAI transitioned to a more traditional student housing model and converted a 1907 hotel at 140 Mason Street in Union Square to an unnamed residence hall. The Union Square property housed up to 125 students. In Summer 2010, SFAI moved its housing program to two locations in Nob Hill: Sutter Hall at 717 Sutter Street, and Abby Hall at 630 Geary Street. Prior to 2002, students typically found housing on their own with some guidance from the institution, though at one time SFAI owned a small number of apartment units near its Russian Hill campus.

Exhibitions and Public Programs

Students are given direct access to exhibitions, lectures, symposia, films, and other unique interdisciplinary events. An integral part of campus life, such events connect students to the larger community of artists, art, and contemporary ideas. The Walter and McBean Galleries (on the 800 Chestnut Street campus) house exhibitions, workshops, and other alternative and experimental avenues for presenting work by international contemporary artists. Students also have the opportunity to show their own work in a number of spots on SFAI's two campuses, including the Diego Rivera Gallery.[6]

Adeline Kent Award

Former board member (1947–1957), Adeline Kent was a sculptor and alumni of the school. Upon her death in 1957, she bequeathed $10,000 for the establishment of an annual award for a promising California Artist.[7] Each year since 1957 the prize was awarded by the San Francisco Art Institute Artists' Committee. Winners included Ron Nagle (1978),[8] Wally Hendrick (1985),[9] Mildred Howard (1991), Clare Rojas (2004),[10] and Scott Williams (artist)[11] (2005).

While no announcement has been made about the status of the bequeathed gift, the prize has not been awarded since the San Francisco Art Institute Artists' Committee was disbanded in 2005.

Notable current faculty

Notable former faculty

Notable alumni and former students

Index of San Francisco Art Institute Alumni

Some alumni of the institute[15] include:


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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