A graduate student’s paint palette, seen at the annual Open Studios event at the Graduate Center. 


Charles Desmarais

Charles Desmarais was appointed President of the San Francisco Art Institute in May 2011. Mr. Desmarais served as the Deputy Director for Art at the Brooklyn Museum from 2005–2011, overseeing all curatorial departments, conservation, collections, exhibition management, and the education division. Under his leadership, the museum emphasized the dual goals of scholarship and public engagement, becoming a recognized leader in using new technologies and innovative strategies to increase audience participation. From 1995 to 2004, he served as the Director of the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, revitalizing the institution and spearheading the planning and fundraising for a major new building. From 1988 to 1994, Desmarais was the Director of the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, California, and in the 1980s, he directed the California Museum of Photography at the University of California, Riverside. An accomplished critic and curator, Mr. Desmarais has written scores of articles and essays, and organized more than 50 exhibitions. As a client and supporter of significant architecture, he hired Stanley Saitowitz to design the award-winning California Museum of Photography in 1989, and in 1991 he organized the first major museum exhibition of the work of Morphosis, the partnership of Michael Rotondi and Pritzker Prize laureate Thom Mayne. In 2003 he commissioned Zaha Hadid to build a new Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, which, upon its opening in 2003, the New York Times called “the most important American building to be completed since the end of the cold war,” and which led to her Pritzker Prize award. Desmarais earned a Bachelor’s degree and an MFA degree in Critical Studies from the State University of New York, Buffalo. He has been a fellow at the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and is an alumnus the Museum Management Institute program at the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Follow President Desmarais on Twitter at @sfaiprez.

President's Cabinet

Rachel Schreiber
Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Rachel Schreiber joins SFAI from California College of the Arts (CCA), Oakland and San Francisco, where she served as Director of Humanities & Sciences. She has been teaching in the fields of studio arts, critical theory, and the humanities for more than 17 years, serving at institutions including the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Herron School of Art. As an administrator, Dr. Schreiber was a graduate department chair at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore for eight years and, since 2008, divisional director at CCA. A practicing visual artist and publishing historian, Dr. Schreiber holds a BFA degree from the Rhode Island School of Design, an MFA degree in Art and Writing from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, and MA and PhD degrees in American history from Johns Hopkins University. Her extensive publication and exhibition records include two books, multiple articles, gallery and museum exhibitions, screenings, and invited lectures. Her recent book, titled Modern Print Activism in the United States (Ashgate Publishing, April 2013), is an edited volume that looks at how print culture has been used as a form of social and political activism in twentieth-century U.S. history. Her most recent visual project, Site Reading, was commissioned by the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and was displayed as part of their exhibition California Dreaming on the history of Jewish life in the Bay Area.

Hesse McGraw
Vice President for Exhibitions and Public Programs

Hesse McGraw directs the Walter and McBean Galleries and oversees SFAI’s public programs, visiting artists series, and community education programs for youths and adults. From 2008 to 2013 McGraw served as chief curator at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska, where he developed an exhibition program focused on site-specific, immersive, cross-disciplinary, and socially engaged projects, including major projects with artists Theaster Gates and Michael Jones McKean. McGraw was formerly associate director of Max Protetch gallery in New York, and was the founding director and curator of Paragraph, which operated under the non-profit Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri. He lectures widely and his writing has been published in Afterall, Art Papers, Outpost, and diverse exhibition catalogues. Recent grants include an Andy Warhol Foundation Curatorial Research Fellowship, an ArtPlace America grant, a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Artistic Innovation and Collaboration Grant, and an NEA Our Town grant. McGraw holds a BFA from the University of Kansas and completed graduate research at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

Janette Andrawes
Director of Marketing and Institutional Messaging

Janette Andrawes joined SFAI in February 2012, equipped with ten years’ experience in the nonprofit world, preceded by ten years’ experience in the hospitality field, which allowed her to develop a marketing and public relations approach focused on the complete audience experience. Most recently, at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater, she served as Director of Marketing and Public Relations. In that capacity she developed ACT’s strategic business plan and design framework, oversaw an award-winning website, and increased annual online sales by 12% and online membership by 95%. She produced ACT’s brand and visual identity suite, including print collateral, photo shoots, television ads, radio, online, and social networking components, resulting in national awards including a Northern California Emmy Award. Previously, she was Director of Marketing and Public Relations at The Paramount Theaters in Austin, TX.

Cynthia Perry Colebrook
Vice President for Institutional Advancement

Cynthia Perry Colebrook has been helping non-profits accomplish their missions for over twenty-five years. She has served major cultural and religious institutions, hospitals, schools, youth and environmental organizations, and social service agencies. She was the first Managing Director of the Cincinnati Parks Foundation, and successfully recruited an influential board, guided the fledgling organization through policy development and strategic planning, and established an award-winning newsletter, an annual special event, and on-going fundraising programs. During the past decade she has directed capital campaigns with goals of $10-35 million for Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, and the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Colebrook has participated in Leadership Cincinnati, a program of the Chamber of Commerce, and chaired a task force for the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. She has served the Association of Fundraising Professionals both locally as Chapter President, and nationally as a member of the Continuing Education Review Board, Conference Education Advisory Council, and the Parity Task Force.

Elizabeth O’Brien
Vice President for Enrollment

Elizabeth O’Brien, who joined SFAI in 2010 as the Director of Admissions, oversees Admissions, Student Affairs, and the Registrar's Office. She has over 16 years of experience in higher education, including faculty and administrative positions. She has worked at a variety of post-secondary institutions, most of which specialize in performing arts, design, and visual arts. In her time at SFAI, O’Brien has been pivotal in achieving significant increases in student enrollment and retention, enhancing both the student experience and the institution’s financial stability. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Literature from San Diego State University and a Master of Arts degree in English from San Francisco State University.

Espi Sanjana
Chief Operating Officer

Espi Sanjana joined SFAI in June 2008 as the Chief Operating Officer. Sanjana had been the Chief Financial Officer at two art colleges prior to joining SFAI -- Ex’pression College for Digital Arts (three years) and Academy of Art University (four years). Prior to that, he was CFO in various international manufacturing companies. Sanjana holds a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and an MBA, both from Columbia University in New York City.

Department Chairs

Paul Klein
Chair, Bachelor of Fine Arts Department

Paul Klein is an Associate Professor and has served in administrative roles at SFAI for 12 years. His teaching and collaborative studio practices foster understandings of how viewers, technology, and society ultimately create meaning in specific and cross-cultural contexts. His work was included in “In Transition Russia 2008: Cultural Identities in the Age of Transnational and Transcultural Flux,” at the National Centre for Contemporary Art (NCCA) in Russia. He was an artist-in-residence at the Djerassi Foundation in Woodside, CA, awarded an NEH Summer Institute residency in Italy, and received SFAI faculty developments grants in 2007, 2010, and 2013. His recent project materializes examples that question the “cultural capital” of Paris and Marseille, France. Klein was an organizer and presenter for the 2012 Computer Art Congress 3: Post Digital Art that occurred in Paris, France. 

Nicole Archer
Chair, Bachelor of Arts Department

Nicole Archer, PhD is an Assistant Professor in History and Theory of Contemporary Art, and has been teaching at SFAI since 2009. She researches contemporary art and material culture, with emphases in modern textile and garment histories, critical and psychoanalytic theory, corporeal feminism, and performance studies. She earned her PhD in History of Consciousness with a declared emphasis in Visual Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her dissertation, A Looming Possibility: Towards a Theory of the Textile, considers how critical understandings and uses of textiles can challenge and extend poststructuralist theories of the text. She also earned an MA in Cultural History from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Dr. Archer’s work has appeared in Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture and Working for Justice: The L.A. Model for Organizing and Advocacy

Tony Labat
Chair, Master of Fine Arts Department

Professor Tony Labat has been teaching at SFAI for nearly three decades, and also earned both his BFA and MFA from the SFAI's New Genres program. Since the early 1980s, Labat has developed a body of work in performance, video, sculpture, and installation that deals with the body, popular culture, identity, urban relations, politics, and the media. A pioneer of video installations, Labat has exhibited internationally over the last 30 years, received numerous awards and grants, and his work is in many private and public collections. Recent exhibitions include the 11th Havana Biennial; Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York; Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver; and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center.

Claire Daigle
Chair, Master of Arts Department

Claire Daigle, PhD is an Associate Professor in History and Theory of Contemporary Art, and has served in various administrative roles at SFAI since 2010. A writer, art historian, and critic, her work has appeared in New Art ExaminerX-traArt PapersSculptureBrooklyn Rail, and Tate, etc. She was a Fellow in Critical Studies at the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program and earned her PhD in art history from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her dissertation, Reading Barthes/Writing Twombly, was received with distinction. Her interests form a constellation around word and image relationships (between theory and practice, experience and verbal articulation—particularly as related to color; documentation; archival and everyday practices; contemporary literature and art; and among marks, script, and signs).