Poised at the forefront of socially conscious art movements, SFAI’s Urban Studies program is designed specifically to address the contributions of art, artists, and researchers to the urban domain.
The changing dynamics of cities—most notably the problem of rapid worldwide urbanization—have demanded new ways of thinking about geography, citizenship, and community. We proceed from the conviction that artists impact how cities are made, experienced, and represented; similarly, the multiple experiences and inequalities that exist in built environments influence artists and art making. Through the two-year MA program, students strive to positively engage, critique, and transform contemporary urban life in multiple ways.
The Urban Studies program integrates courses and resources from both the School of Studio Practice and the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, allowing students to chart an individualized path of study. Faculty contribute expertise in such diverse—yet inextricably linked—fields as curatorial studies, visual studies, art history, anthropology, sociology, geography, comparative literature, philosophy, media/technology studies, ethnic studies, and American studies. In addition, the Seed Fund Teaching Fellowship in Urban Studies brings distinguished artists, designers, architects, and planners to campus for discussions of urban practices.
The MA curriculum culminates with a unique dual thesis requirement: one part individual written thesis (Thesis I), and one part collaborative project (Thesis II) in which students produce a website, publication, symposium, exhibition, or event. Past written theses have focused on topics such as arts and culture in relation to urban redevelopment in Oakland; global food justice; the role of East African textiles in constructing community; and transformations in urban arts education for children. Example of collaborative projects include “A Fresh Look: Observations on Artistic and Social Practices in Urban Farming;” Transit/Stasis: Negotiating Movement in the City; and a new website and youth journalism course for SFAI’s City Studio.