Open Enrollment

Reading the MFA Program

Back in June, I wrote about a new Internet meme that I started because I was so excited about the idea of circulation. Well, my professor Robin Balliger has done it again—she’s introduced another awesome idea to me called projection. Today, I want to share my projections of the MFA Program at the San Francisco Art Institute, as inspired by a text that Robin assigned titled Reading National Geographic, by Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins. Throughout the text, Lutz and Collins offer a variety of examples that suggest the highly popular magazine’s representations of cultures were anything but objective, non-positioned stories. The magazine’s “glossy, stylized presentation of a highly limited number of themes and types of images” produced a variety of strategies and specific examples of projection, like emphasizing certain colors during the onset of color photography, accentuating topless women in the Pacific, or deferring from covering controversial areas like the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1959. With awesome tools like digital cameras and Photoshop in 2010, capturing reality is like, OMG, the most coolest thing ever!!

Now in my third of four semesters and writing my seventh “Open Enrollment” post for this site , I’ve arrived at a moment where I am extremely critical of the MFA situation. Love it or hate it, I’m enjoying the opportunity to create my own experience rather than subscribe to someone else’s. So to help me, I asked a few of my classmates to participate in capturing their own images of the graduate experience.  Underneath every image, I provide my own caption. Unless otherwise noted, I snapped the picture myself. Like National Geographic itself, I hope to present you with an entertaining look into a culture you thought you knew, but really, you had No Idea!*

*This experience comes from the position of an artist who is also an MFA student who is also a co-chair of the Legion of Graduate Students who is also a Returning Graduate Scholarship recipient who is also a single, gay, American man from New Jersey who hopes to one day own a dog and represent the United States of America at the 2023 Venice Biennale.


Situated in the city of San Francisco, the Graduate Center of the San Francisco Art Institute offers its MFA and MA students, like the ones pictured here, a vibrant space of creativity. Second-year students Walt Ohnesorge-fick, Lyal Michel, and Joe Melamed enjoy a break between classes as Roby Saavedra heads to the undergraduate campus.


First and second-year students critically engage with the artwork of Elizabeth Cunningham, who is presenting photographic prints to a critique seminar class under the instruction of Will Rogan.


This aerial view shows the afternoon sun pouring into Bay C, one of several large rooms that house about a dozen single and double occupancy graduate studios.


In studio C9, second-year student Jeffrey Augustine Songco and his friend, Gus, discuss successful strategies for a potential studio visit from the curator of the 2012 Whitney Biennial.


Graduate lecture series announcements line the walls of the Graduate Center. Renée Green, who previously held the position of Dean of Graduate Studies, organized the lecture series of years past, titled “Spheres of Interest.”  This year, Tony Labat and Claire Daigle, professors and the directors of the MFA and MA Programs, respectively, have organized the lecture series that includes SFAI alum and reality-television star, Nao Bustamante.


Because of the blazing Internet speed throughout the building, students like Laura Hyunjhee Kim can enjoy glitch-free Skype video communication to friends and family across the globe.


As an immensely supportive environment for performance and site-specific installation artwork, the Graduate Center reserves a number of rooms for these specific purposes. Photo by Violet Mendonca.


MA students, like those studying Exhibition and Museum Studies or History and Theory of Contemporary Art, number in the minority at SFAI. While they may not have paintbrushes or digital SLR cameras, their workload is just as rigorous and, as pictured here, colorful. Photo by Meredith Carty.

The surrounding neighborhood offers an industrial landscape with a hum of electricity that inspires moments of meditation. Photo by Meredith Carty.


Cross-disciplinary and cross-degree collaboration flourishes in the graduate program at SFAI. Here, MFA student Mick Lorusso and MA student Frida Cano, Fundacion/Coleccion Jumex and FONCA Scholar, show a kind of collaboration that few students get to experience—Love! Photo by Mick Lorusso.


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