San Francisco Art Institute

Founded in 1871 by artists, writers, and community leaders who possessed a cultural vision for the West, the San Francisco Art Association (SFAA) became a locus for artists and thinkers. The California School of Design (renamed California School of Fine Arts in 1916 and San Francisco Art Institute in 1961) was launched by SFAA two years later, and has been central to the development of many of this country’s most notable art movements. During its first sixty years, influential artists associated with the school included Eadweard Muybridge, photographer and pioneer of motion graphics; Maynard Dixon, painter of San Francisco’s labor movement and of the landscape of the West; Henry Kiyama, whose Four Immigrants Manga was the first graphic novel published in the US; Sargent Claude Johnson, one of the first African-American artists from California to achieve a national reputation; Louise Dahl-Wolf, an innovative photographer whose work for Harper’s Bazaar defined a new American style of “environmental” fashion photography in the 1930s; John Gutzon Borglum, the creator of the large-scale public sculpture known as Mt. Rushmore; a... [ Read All ]

San Francisco

United States

800 Chestnut Street
Phone: 415 749 4500 / 800 345 7324
Fax: 415 749 4592

College Photos (15)

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Our Aims

SFAI consists of two schools: the School of Studio Practice and the School of Interdisciplinary Studies. Students at SFAI receive a broad education that informs and enhances their primary area of study, choosing electives and fulfilling curriculum requirements from both schools. The high percentage of electives in the curriculum allows for an individualized education that is as well-rounded as it is focused. SFAI prepares students to be creative leaders in whatever professions they pursue.

Students at SFAI build on a rich legacy of the kind of questioning that encourages the experimentation necessary for independent and collaborative invention. Students work closely with peers and faculty from a wide variety of backgrounds and fields—studio courses and seminars have a maximum of fifteen students. Students also participate in projects that allow them to move beyond the classroom and into the world. These programs combine SFAI’s historical ways of teaching — through critique seminars, studio courses, and tutorials — with forms of research that emphasize the independent and collaborative nature of both teaching and l...  [ Read All ]

Sample Student Art Work (65)

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Location and Getting there

San Francisco Art Institute (Main Campus)
800 Chestnut Street, San Francisco 94133
(between Jones and Leavenworth)

San Francisco Art Institute (Graduate Center)
2565 Third Street, San Francisco 94107
(between 22nd and 23rd Streets)

San Francisco is served by two airports: San Francisco International Airport (SFO), located in South San Francisco and Oakland International Airport (OAK), located in Oakland. Both offer excellent ground transportation including BART trains to San Francisco. For detailed transportation information for the San Francisco Bay Area, call 415 817 1717 or 511 from within San Francisco. From the East Bay, call 510 817 1717 or 511. You can also check online at or


By car:

From the East Bay
Main access to San Francisco from the east is Hwy 80 and the Bay Bridge. After crossing the bridge take the Fremont Street exit (right side). Turn left on Folsom Street to the Embarcadero. Go left on Embarcadero to Bay Street. Go left on Bay Street to Columbus Street. Take a left on Columbus and move immediately into the righ...  [ Read All ]

Department and information about the department

The School of Studio Practice offers BFA and MFA degrees, and a Post-Baccalaureate certificate in Design+Technology, Film, New Genres, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture. The School of Interdisciplinary Studies offers degree programs in History and Theory of Contemporary Art (BA, MA), Urban Studies (BA, MA), and Exhibition and Museum Studies (MA). San Francisco Art Institute’s programs further the relationship between the practices and theories of contemporary art. Students at SFAI choose electives and fulfill curriculum requirements from both schools.

Bachelor of Fine Arts
Master of Fine Arts
Low-residency Summer Master of Fine Arts
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate

Design + Technology
The changes occurring in how we think about art and design are striking. Through courses like Graphic Agitation, Conceiving and Producing 3D Play, Exploring the Social Fabric of What We Wear, Artists Infiltrate Mass Production, and New Media/New Technologies/New Critique, students explore the intellectual divisions between art and design, their affiliations, and the many ways that artists and design...  [ Read All ]

Academic Staff and Description

With a faculty of more than 130, San Francisco Art Institute enjoys an extraordinary faculty/student ratio of 1 to 5. The result for you is an intimate learning experience and personalized education that few other schools can match.

For more information about SFAI faculty, please see the website at  

News and Events

Since its founding in 1871, SFAI has sought to educate artists within an environment in which the most advanced and experimental forms of contemporary art are amply represented. Students are given direct access to exhibitions, lectures, symposia, films, and other unique interdisciplinary events (click here for examples from Spring 2007). 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. SFAI hosts many visiting artists, curators, and scholars—for a few days or for several months—who lecture, present new projects, give one-on-one critiques, lead seminars, and more. Among the more than 30 visiting artists and scholars in Spring 2007 were Laurent Gutierrez and ValĂ©rie Portefaix (Map Office); Judith Barry; Carlos Basualdo; John C. Welchman; Jem Cohen; Retort; Anne M. Wagner; Trinh T. Minh-ha and Elvan Zabunyan; Andrea Bowers; Anthony McCall; Didier Faus...  [ Read All ]

Information For  Undergraduates

School of Studio Practice (BFA)
Design+Technology, Film, New Genres, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture

School of Interdisciplinary Studies (BA)
History and Theory of Contemporary Art and Urban Studies.

Summer Pre-College intensive program for students ages 16 to 18

San Francisco Art Institute invites applications from motivated students who are creative thinkers, activists, explorers, and visionaries. We are looking for students who are intellectually curious and interested in pursuing a challenging course of study in an interdisciplinary environment.

Our undergraduate admission process is highly personalized. We consider all of the information provided to us in each application. All applications are reviewed by the faculty and the Admission staff.

Selection for admission is based on the following:

• Your academic coursework and any studio courses you may
have taken, as well as standardized test scores
• Your achievements, personal qualities, and involvement and/or
leadership in community/school activities and programs
• Your writing skills and your ability to articulate you...  [ Read All ]

Information For  Postgraduates

Graduate Programs
School of Studio Practice (MFA and Low-residency Summer MFA) and Post-Baccalaureate
Design+Technology, Film, New Genres, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture.

School of Interdisciplinary Studies (MA)
History and Theory of Contemporary Art, Urban Studies, and Exhibition and Museum Studies

Each year, San Francisco Art Institute admits a limited number of students to its internationally renowned graduate programs. All applications are reviewed by the Graduate Faculty Review Committee in each area of study. The admission process is highly selective and involves a personal interview for those candidates who have been determined as finalists for admission consideration.

Decisions for admission to the School of Studio Practice’s MFA and Post-Baccalaureate programs are based on the following:

• A highly accomplished portfolio of artwork
• A clear and well-developed artist’s statement that addresses
the work submitted in the portfolio
• Evidence of success in academic and studio coursework at the
undergraduate level. Completion of an undergraduate degree is...  [ Read All ]

Information For  International Students

Foreign Students
San Francisco Art Institute strongly encourages applications from international students.
International students make up approximately 10% of SFAI's population, with over 22 countries
represented. SFAI values the contributions that students from around the world make to the
educational experience and to the campus environment. The US Department of Homeland
Security has approved SFAI for enrollment by non-immigrant students. For more information


SFAI encourages alumni to keep in touch after graduation. Please send news about your exhibitions and accomplishments to Subscribe to the weekly e-mail newsletter or view it on the website at  

How To Apply  

Visit us (open days)

Campus is open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Tours are given Monday-Friday at noon

Request a prospectus (Number, e-mail or follow link)§ionID=1

Telephone: 415 749 4500 / 800 345 7324