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

Public Events

The Artist in Public Life: A Symposium on Public Practices
Thursday, July 11 - Friday, July 12, 2013
Lecture Hall
Free and Open to the Public
San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut Street
San Francisco,

The Artist in Public Life: A Symposium on Public Practices brings together experienced public practitioners, arts administrators, and emerging artists to explore the dimensions of commissioned and artist-initiated work in the public realm, and offer practical strategies for artists entering the field.

The symposium is free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested.
Register now.

Thursday, July 11, 7:30 pm
Keynote: Nicholas Baume, Director and Chief Curator of the Public Art Fund

Nicholas Baume is Director and Chief Curator of Public Art Fund, a nonprofit organization that brings dynamic contemporary art to a broad audience in New York City by mounting ambitious free exhibitions of international scope and impact that offer the public powerful experiences with art and the urban environment. Recent shows include solo projects by Ryan Gander, Paola Pivi, Rob Pruitt, Ugo Rondinone, and Thomas Schütte; the group exhibitions Statuesque and Common Ground; the major career survey Sol LeWitt: Structures 1965-2006; and the blockbuster project Tatzu Nishi: Discovering Columbus.

Prior to joining Public Art Fund in 2009, Baume served as Chief Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. He was responsible for shaping the artistic program from 2003-2009, including shows with Kai Althoff, Kader Attia, Carol Bove, Tara Donovan, Thomas Hirschhorn, and Anish Kapoor; the establishment of a permanent collection for the 2006 opening of the museum¹s award-winning new building by Diller Scofidio + Renfro; and the ongoing Momentum project series. A native of Australia, Baume was a Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney before moving to the U.S. in 1998 to become Contemporary Curator at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. Among his exhibitions there were About Face: Andy Warhol Portraits; Sol LeWitt: Incomplete Open Cubes; and Noncomposition: Fifteen Case Studies. He also organized the first American solo museum shows by Francis Alÿs, Sam Durant, Christian Jankowski, Catherine Sullivan, and Fiona Tan.

Friday, July 12, 7:30 pm
Panel and Roundtable Discussion

Amy Balkin
Nicholas Baume
Mark Brest van Kempen
Courtney Fink
Liz Glynn
Jill Manton

Moderated by Hesse McGraw, Vice President for Exhibitions and Public Programs

Projects for Publics
Amy Balkin

Amy Balkin will discuss three projects concerned with the spatial politics of public speech, networks of participation and exclusion, and the construction of audiences and publics: A People's Archive of Sinking and Melting (Amy Balkin et al.), clean-air park Public Smog, and I (Heart) Data Mining.

Amy Balkin's work involves land and the geopolitical relationships that frame it. Her projects address legal borders and systems, environmental justice, and the allocation of common-pool resources. These include Public Smog (2006+), which was included in dOCUMENTA(13), and A People's Archive of Sinking and Melting (2012+). She lives in San Francisco, California.

Mutating the City’s Genome: Interventions in Public Space
Mark Brest van Kempen

In this discussion, Mark Brest van Kempen will explore three projects that challenge the status quo and reveal hidden aspects of public spaces. The Free Speech Monument at UC Berkeley uses the political process itself to sculpt a space free of jurisdiction. Ravenna Creek Drop in Seattle sculpts the city infrastructure to reveal a creek flowing under City streets. And the Monument to German Reunification in Leipzig is created over time by German citizens themselves. Elements of Social Practice and Land Art are brought together in these projects that function outside the museum/gallery context and create extraordinary meaning from ordinary situations.

Drawing from both Land Art and performance art, Mark Brest van Kempen creates artworks using the landscape itself as sculptural material. Brest van Kempen has received commissions for permanent public art projects from the San Francisco Art Commission, the City of Palo Alto, the City of Seattle, and the Haas Foundation. He has taught at the San Francisco Art Institute and Stanford University. 

Artists Far into the Field
Courtney Fink

Artists and artist-centered spaces are a critical prerequisite for a thriving art scene. Courtney Fink will discuss recent artist-organized and artist-initiated projects in the public realm. She'll also present recent examples of public works commissioned by both Bay Area and national artist-centered organizations that embrace new formats and experimental forms. As one of the founders of Southern Exposure's Off-Site program, which has presented more than 25 public works since it was initiated in 2006, she’ll discuss several of their recent projects.

Courtney Fink, Executive Director of Southern Exposure (SoEx) since 2003, is focused on working to develop the capacity of visual artists and the networks that support them. She has guided Southern Exposure's vision to support artists in an environment in which they are encouraged to experiment, collaborate, and present new work and ideas. With her team, she developed major program initiatives including SoEx Off-Site, a public art program, and Alternative Exposure, a grant program for artist-run organizations and collaborative projects in San Francisco that is the founding program of the Warhol Foundation’s Regional Regranting Program. 

Human Scale – Intimacy & Monumentality
Liz Glynn

How does one locate the human position in relation to monumental sculpture, and its vast supporting institutional infrastructure? How do we forge connections among participants, audiences, and artists? Is it possible for the strategies employed by artists working in close-knit community to function in a larger context? Liz Glynn’s presentation will explore issues of scale and intimacy in a variety of settings, from off-site performances to institutional engagements.

Liz Glynn creates sculpture, large-scale installations, and participatory performances using epic historical narratives to explore the potential for change in the present tense. Recent projects include [de-]lusions of grandeur: Monumentality and Other Myths at LACMA (2013); Black Box, produced by LAXART and the Getty Research Institute as part of the Pacific Standard Time Festival (2012); Utopia or Oblivion for Performa 11, New York; loving you is like fucking the dead at MOCA, Los Angeles (2011); and III, a multi-site installation and event series produced by Redling Fine Art (2010). 

The Conceptual in Public Art
Jill Manton

Government-funded public art programs, such as San Francisco’s, require that the art be a fixed asset of the property or a tangible object such as a sculpture or painting. Jill Manton will discuss two projects in San Francisco that stand out because of the conceptual basis of their genesis. First is Ned Kahn’s Greenhouse Project, which the artist developed when he was commissioned to create an artwork for the San Bruno County Jail. Second is Po Shu Wang’s Ghinlon/Transcope (2005), which were commissioned after the Central Freeway was removed. Its removal—a victory for neighborhood activists—created a new open space that transformed dark, unusable spaces underneath the freeway into a sun-filled green zone that Po Shu enlivened using a unique combination of lenses and mirrors.

Jill Manton has served in various capacities at the San Francisco Arts Commission over the past 20 years. Under Manton’s tenure as Public Art Director, hundreds of permanent public art projects have been implemented throughout the city, several of which won national awards. She has also distinguished San Francisco’s program by creating the Art on Market Program, which features temporary art installations in advertising shelters. Manton is currently the Director of the Public Art Trust and Special Initiatives and Director of the Civic Design Review Program. 

Saturday, July 13, 3-6
Public Practices Boot Camp

Studio 3LH, Third Street Graduate Center

This three-hour workshop led by artist Mark Brest Van Kempen will consist of an in-depth presentation of several award-winning projects, a detailed breakdown of the stages of both the commissioning and execution of a typical large scale public project, and a design charrette in which participants will come up with designs for an actual project. Students will consider the states of contemporary public practice, and what artists need to know to work in public. Participation is limited to SFAI students; email Sarah Ewick at to register or with questions.

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The Artist in Public Life: A Symposium on Public Practices is supported by the Ann Chamberlain Distinguished Visiting Artist Program in Interdisciplinary Studies, supported by a generous bequest by artist and SFAI faculty member Ann Chamberlain made through the Harker Fund at The San Francisco Foundation. Launched in 2010, the artist program was created as a lasting reminder of Chamberlain’s contributions to SFAI and to the art world at large. The program includes public lectures, colloquia, and symposia by distinguished visitors—past guests include Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Lucy Orta, Andrea Zittel, and Nina Katchadourian—and provides direct access to artists and thinkers whose contributions to contemporary interdisciplinary practices and methodologies represent the highest level of achievement.

Left: Ugo Rondinone, Human Nature, 2013. Courtesy of Public Art Fund NY.
Right: Tatzu Nishi, Discovering Columbus, 2012. Tom Powel Imaging, courtesy of Public Art Fund NY