The Painting Department at SFAI thrives at the intersection between tradition and experimentation.
Throughout its history, it has been home to celebrated artists including Richard Diebenkorn, Jay DeFeo, Barry McGee, Toba Khedoori, and Kehinde Wiley, and central to movements such as Abstract Expressionism, Bay Area Figuration, California Funk, and the Mission School. Today, the core goal of the program remains unchanged: to challenge students to become risk-takers and innovators who continually push the boundaries of the medium.
Through rigorous studio work, small critique seminars, and individual tutorials with faculty, graduate painting students identify their most pressing conceptual and aesthetic concerns, and develop an extensive, cohesive body of work. Critical studies and art history courses frame cultural and theoretical discourses surrounding contemporary art, and allow students to locate their work in larger intellectual contexts.
While at SFAI, students have the opportunity to exhibit on-campus at the Swell Gallery and Diego Rivera Gallery, and many painters also show at galleries and alternative arts spaces in the Bay Area and beyond. Graduates from the program have been accepted into prestigious residencies including Skowhegan, the Headlands Center for the Arts, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program; become teachers at top art institutions; and pursued notable careers as exhibiting artists who present their work at museums, biennials, and art fairs around the globe.
Graduate painting students work in their semi-private studios at the Graduate Center, open with 24-hour access. At the Chestnut Street campus, there are four large painting studios, two drawing studios, a work area for building supports, a large rack room for storage, and a critique/slide viewing room.