San Francisco Art Institute: Who’s Critical? Art School Confidential

San Francisco Art Institute: Who’s Critical? Art School Confidential

San Francisco Art Institute

May 29, 2006
San Francisco Art Institute: Who’s Critical? Art School Confidential

San Francisco Art Institute faculty member Caitlin Mitchell-Dayton is the artist behind the artist in Terry Zwigoff’s new film Art School Confidential. The film, based loosely on Daniel Clowe’s 1991 comic of the same name, takes a critical look at the world of art education.

Quoting Saul Steinberg, Mitchell-Dayton explains, “‘You can’t parody anything you can’t love.’ The art world in general, and the denizens of art schools in particular, famously tend to take themselves dead seriously; and to a certain extent I see that as necessary in the face of the almost overwhelming number of pragmatic reasons not to make art at all. But in an environment in which critique is the primary teaching tool, and subversion of the status quo is a core goal, there’s room in the dialogue for examination of the clichés we’re living out ourselves.”

Teaching Intermediate/Advanced Drawing: Serial Autobiography this summer at SFAI, Mitchell-Dayton is one of the many artists and scholars who contribute to an ongoing critical dialogue at SFAI about how an innovative education can enable artists, writers, filmmakers, curators, and others to contribute to society in new ways.

Echoing Mathew Arnold’s definition of art as a discipline offering a critical view of life, SFAI President Chris Bratton says, “At SFAI, art is more than objects and processes; it is also a way of thinking, an approach to both knowledge and the world itself.”

SFAI’s degree programs further the relationship between the practices, histories, and theories of contemporary art and culture. The School of Studio Practice consists of the institute’s historical departments of Design Technology, Film, New Genres, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture. Offering BFA and MFA degrees and a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate, The School of Studio Practice is centered on the development of the artist’s vision through studio-based experiments and the understanding that the work of the artist is an essential part of society.

The School of Interdisciplinary Studies offers programs in History and Theory of Contemporary Art (BA, MA), Urban Studies (BA, MA), and Exhibition and Museum Studies (MA). Supporting the role of research and other forms of education, The School of Interdisciplinary Studies is based on the premise that critical reading, thinking, and writing—informed by an in-depth understanding of theory and practice—are essential for engaging and understanding contemporary art and global society. Also under this school’s aegis are SFAI’s four centers for interdisciplinary study: Art Science; Public Practice; Word, Text, and Image; and Media Culture. Each center sponsors symposia, seminars, exhibitions, research fellowships, and residencies at SFAI during the academic year.

Together the two schools provide a more inclusive model to address issues relating to the evolution of contemporary art. SFAI’s Dean of Academic Affairs is curator, critic, and writer Okwui Enwezor. Dean of Graduate Studies is artist, filmmaker, and writer Renée Green. The Director of SFAI’s Exhibitions and Public Programs is critic and curator Hou Hanru.

SFAI’s Summer Institute is an extensive schedule of interdisciplinary art education programs occurring from June through August. Courses for credit include Collaborative Work taught by NPR’s All Things Considered commentator Andrei Codrescu, an Art Writing Conference led by critic Mark Van Proyen with keynote speaker Constance Penley, as well as 50 courses in studio practice, art history, critical theory, and other subjects.

SFAI has a rolling admissions policy and is accepting applications for Summer and Fall 2006 and Spring 2007. For more information visit or call 1.800.345.7324 (outside US, call 415.771.7020).

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May 29, 2006

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