A Celebration in 3D for Graduate Artists

We caught up with Kat Trataris, Director of Programs and Partnerships at SFAI, to capture the story of this year’s virtual commencement.

Congratulations to the San Francisco Art Institute Class of 2020!

Celebrating its 150th year, San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) is one of the oldest and most distinguished schools for contemporary art. This year’s commencement had to go virtual, but SFAI celebrated its graduating class by creating a Matterport 3D model of its 100,000 square-foot Chestnut Street campus to showcase end-of-year exhibitions.

Dedicated to the intrinsic value of art, SFAI Matterported a truly unique virtual experience to view the multi-disciplinary works of more than 100 students. The 3D model allows viewers to tour the Diego Rivera, Courtyard and the Walter & McBean galleries and view the works in high-fidelity 3D, as well as interact by finding out more information about the artists, as well as experience video and sound pieces.

We caught up with Kat Trataris, Director of Programs and Partnerships at SFAI to capture the story of this year’s virtual commencement. Congratulations, SFAI Class of 2020!

Discover other amazing places in 3D on Destination : Everywhere

Q: What inspired the 3D capture of the Institute and local galleries?

The San Francisco Art Institute exhibits works that span many mediums, from paintings and photographs to large scale sculptural installations and ephemeral performance works. In a desire to continue providing new spaces for artistic experimentation, SFAI is excited to bring our campus and our artists into the digital realm. 

We envision our virtual spaces existing as living records, melding the profound history of SFAI with the contemporary work exhibited in our galleries. Through the ability to insert writings, images, videos, and other content inside of these spaces, we are building a portal for online audiences to delve deeper into the experiential nature of the work produced within SFAI’s hallowed halls. 

From the tranquil courtyard to the top of our Tower where Postcommodity’s The Point of Final Collapse is installed, there is art to be found in every nook and cranny. To paraphrase from a talk with Art in America at SFAI, Cristóbal Martinez from native artist collective Postcommodity says, artists need to own the responsibility to learn how to use, control, and intervene in the virtual and digital realm to ensure that artists are part of building the narrative of our collective future. Through collaborations with radical thinkers across disciplines, SFAI will continue to place artists at the center of future making.

SFAI Turtle Cam

Q: What are the “must-sees” you want visitors to explore and why. 

Our MFA and BFA exhibitions online and in virtual sketchup galleries. You can see the range of artistic inquiry from our MFA graduates’ individual websites to our BFA graduates’ virtual group show within our Sketchup galleries. Our students showed an incredible resilience in their practices despite the challenges presented by the pandemic.

Views from SFAI’s Tower. The Tower houses all of SFAI’s archives and only few have made it to the top of the tower itself to see the sweeping views of San Francisco! In this model you can visit the top of the tower yourself. 

The Diego Rivera Mural and the recently uncovered Lost Frescos, both dating back to the 1930s. The The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City by legendary muralist Diego Rivera occupies a central wall in the Diego Rivera Gallery—a contemporary exhibition space for new projects by SFAI artists and was completed by Rivera in the course of one month, from May 1–May 31, 1931. The Lost Frescos were rediscovered in 2013 by SFAI’s VP of Operations & Facilities, Heather Hickman Holland, who noticed ghostly, web-like traces along the walls of a corner hallway. Through careful research of SFAI’s archives, Holland identified at least six of these “lost” frescoes throughout the building, with the positive identification of one of them—a delicate painting by Frederick Olmsted, titled Marble Workers (1935). 

SFAI’s turtle pond! We have installed a live feed of our pond where resident turtles Walcott and Karen can be seen sunning themselves at the pond, an activity commonly enjoyed by everyone at SFAI.

Q: What’s the one thing you want visitors to take away after exploring the institute and its end-of-year exhibitions?

There is no other place in the world like the San Francisco Art Institute. 

SFAI is an extraordinary place in both its unparalleled architectural spaces and in the community of artists it has woven across generations. The artwork by our graduating MFA and BFA cohorts that visitors will experience is imbued with a personal sensibility that is enlightening in its deep personal vulnerability, keen historical investigations, and innovative social interventions.

Q: SFAI is currently closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. How are you coping with the uncertainty? How can readers support the arts and organizations like SFAI during these unprecedented times?

Despite the uncertainty at this historical moment, SFAI has found itself in a position to evolve. Like many arts and education-based organizations, we are working to envision the future of arts engagement in a way that better utilizes technology and increases access to a wider audience base worldwide. As the effects of COVID-19 will continue to limit gatherings and travel, SFAI’s partnership with Matterport has been an incredible opportunity for developing interactive 3D scans of our campus and exhibitions. We have also built 3D versions of all of our gallery spaces in Sketchup for use by artists, and continue to host online workshops and programming available to the public. 

Audiences for the arts will only increase in moments of isolation and uncertainty and the San Francisco Art Institute continues to find new and innovative ways to bring art in all its beautiful and strange iterations to the forefront of culture in the Bay Area and far beyond. 

SFAI needs your support now more than ever! These efforts are only made possible by the generous support of funders, partners, and community members so please donate to SFAI. We have a donation portal at the entrance of our digital campus for those that consider a financial gift. We would also love for readers to sign up for our mailing list and attend our future online and offline programs!

SFAI Donate Now Mattertag

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

SFAI is turning 150 years old in March 2021 so keep an eye out for our upcoming programs! 

For more information about SFAI, please visit: https://sfai.edu/, or contact Kat Trataris, Director of Programs and Partnerships by phone (415-351-3512) or email ([email protected]).


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