Visitors enjoy the 2011 MFA Graduate Exhibition at the Winery SF on Treasure Island.

Public Special Events


2012 Commencement Ceremony
Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 10:00am
San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut Street
San Francisco,

Join us in celebrating the significant achievements of the graduating class of 2012 at the Institute’s 134th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 12, at 10 am. Famed art critic Roberta Smith and Bay Area poet, painter, activist and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti will be speaking at the event, sharing with students their reflection on their lives and work. 

Smith and Ferlinghetti, along with Trustee Emeritus Beverly James, are being recognized at Commencement by President Charles Desmarais for their outstanding achievements in shaping contemporary art, culture, and discourse—for driving public awareness of emerging issues and ideas in the visual arts. Smith is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, Ferlinghetti the Douglas MacAgy Distinguished Achievement Award, and James a special distinction for her many years as an SFAI Trustee, Trustee Emeritus, and Chair of the Board. More about this year's honorees and their outstanding achievements can be found in short bios below.

Tickets are required for general seating in the quad at the Commencement Ceremony. Tickets are not required for live simulcast seating in the lecture hall and standing-room viewing from the balcony overlooking the quad.

For more information about commencement, please visit:

Roberta Smith
As an art critic at The New York Times for more than two decades, Roberta Smith is among the most influential writers on contemporary art in the United States. Smith has written numerous catalogue essays, monographs on contemporary artists, and exhibition reviews. She became art critic for the Village Voice in 1981, and five years later moved to The Times, where she was named co-chief art critic in 2011. Honors include the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Criticism, presented by the College Art Association. Smith lives in New York with her husband, Jerry Saltz, who is senior art critic for New York Magazine.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is one of the defining voices of “wide-open” poetry, a movement often associated with the 1950s Beat generation. He is also well known for his contributions as a painter, liberal activist, and the co-founder of San Francisco’s City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, which has served for half a century as a meeting place for writers, artists, and intellectuals. His most famous work is AConey Island of the Mind (1958); his most recent book is  Americus Book I (2004). Ferlinghetti has received numerous awards, including the Robert Frost Memorial Medal and the Author's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. He has been a regular fixture at SFAI for several decades, having participatedregularly in Open Studios at the Institute’s famed Russian Hill campus.

Beverly James

Beverly James was first elected to the SFAI Board of Trustees in 1985 and has served as Chair, Vice Chair, Board Secretary, and the Chair of both the Development Committee and Committee on Trustees. She was elected as Emeritus Trustee in 2010. A native San Franciscan, James received an A.B. in Art from San Francisco State University, and has worked for decades as a designer. In addition to her service to SFAI, she has been a Trustee of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Commissioner of the San Francisco Film and Video Arts Commission, and Board Member of ArtTable.