The San Francisco Art Institute is one of the country’s oldest schools of higher education in contemporary art.
The institute first existed in 1871 as the San Francisco Art Association, which established the California School of Design in 1873. In 1893 the association and school moved into the former Mark Hopkins mansion on Nob Hill, and the facility was renamed the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art. Although the Great Earthquake destroyed the mansion and the school in 1906, a new building was erected on the site a year later, and the school was renamed the San Francisco Institute of Art.
In 1916 the institute was renamed the California School of Fine Arts. In 1926 the school moved to its current location at 800 Chestnut Street, into a new building designed by Bakewell and Brown, architects of City Hall, Coit Tower, and other San Francisco landmarks.
In 1961, the school was renamed the San Francisco Art Institute. In 1969, a new building designed by Paffard Keatinge Clay added studio space, a large theater/lecture hall, outdoor amphitheater, and cafe to the Spanish-style villa and cloisters built in the 1920s.
In 2004, the curriculum was reorganized under five interdisciplinary centers to acknowledge the increasing role of multiple disciplines and technologies in artists' work: Contemporary Practice, Media Culture, Public Practice; Word, Text, and Image; and Art and Science. The school is expanding its humanities programs and is expecting to offer degrees beyond the bachelor and master of fine arts.
In 2004, Chris Bratton joined the Art Institute as its president. Bratton had been Dean of Undergraduate Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
At 130 years, the San Francisco Art Institute is one of the most prestigious colleges of art in the United States. Among its alumni and faculty are many of the country's leading artists. Committed to fine-arts education, the institute provides both undergraduate and graduate degree programs accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.
Complementing the institute's curriculum and exhibitions programs is a continuing series of lectures by visiting artists and critics, regular film screenings, poetry readings, concerts, performances, and other special events.
The San Francisco Art Institute is located on the bayward slope of San Francisco's Russian Hill, within easy walking distance of historic North Beach and Chinatown. Extensive public transportation links the institute to the rest of the city and nearby communities.
The San Francisco Bay region is the country's sixth-largest metropolitan area and is home to an exciting art scene.