urban studies

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 in significant ways.

The Urban Studies program integrates courses and resources from both the School of Studio Practice and the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, creating a dynamic platform for learning. Students engage with social, political, and environmental questions from a distinctly artistic point of view, developing creative solutions to urban problems in forms including public art, social activism, ethnography, and community-based workshops. The program also emphasizes hands-on experience and outreach: students might partner with an art collective in Mexico to study waste and re-use; videoconference with students in Paris to discuss “urban icons”; or work with galleries, schools, and community organizations in the Bay Area through programs such as SFAI’s City Studio. In addition, the Seed Fund Teaching Fellowship in Urban Studies brings distinguished artists, designers, architects, and planners to campus for discussions of process, aesthetics, and exemplary urban practices.

Urban Studies faculty contribute expertise in areas including studio art, curatorial studies, visual studies, art history, anthropology, sociology, geography, comparative literature, philosophy, media and technology studies, ethnic studies, and American studies. This multidisciplinary approach encourages students to follow their interests, no matter where in the city—or world—they might lead.