At times, it seemed as though it might not make it, but this month, the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) is celebrating its 150th anniversary. The milestone not only makes the SFAI one of the oldest art schools in the US, but shows its perseverance, despite difficult terrain. So, to commemorate its extra meaningful birthday, the SFAI has announced the inauguration of the Access50 Scholarship Fund to make the terrain less difficult for deserving students.
The Access50 Scholarship Fund is specifically aimed at creating a more diverse body of students attending the school before entering the art world. 50 students from underserved backgrounds will be selected for the Access50 Scholarship and will receive support for the cost of tuition, which adds up to more than $45,000 per year.
Students enrolling in the autumn, for the 2021-2022 academic year, will be the first eligible for the Access50 Scholarship. The scholarship has the ability to benefit a wide cross section of SFAI students as new incoming students, transfer students, veterans, formerly incarcerated, and MA/MFA, among others, are eligible to apply. The scholarship can also be used for any degree programme offered at the school.
In support of the new scholarship fund, the SFAI received an initial donation from founder and CEO of The RealReal, Julie Wainwright. To kickstart the fund, the institution plans to raise $8 million to $10 million. Overtime, the SFAI plans to grow that fund to at least $50 million to maintain and grow the scholarship in the future.
“As a former SFAI student myself,” Lonnie Graham, who recently became the SFAI Board Chair, said in a press release, “I know how important it is for a young person who has something to say as an artist to have access to an environment like SFAI – a place where you can share ideas with an incredible faculty and student body who understand you. A place to learn how to cultivate new ideas and innovate. A place to actually understand all of the choices available to you. But what happens to all of that potential if you can’t get in the door?” Graham went on to thank Wainwright for her lead gift, echoing a statement from former SFAI Board Chair Pam Rorke Levy.
“The San Francisco Art Institute uniquely provides an environment where soulful creativity thrives,” Wainwright said. “One internet search of notable SFAI graduates confirms this. I helped fund these scholarships there because I firmly believe in art and artists as positive change agents. The launch of Access50 provides new opportunities for a more diverse student body to create and thrive.”
The lack of diversity within the arts has been a major flashpoint in recent years, but it is an issue that is not easy to remedy. It takes earnest change in all levels of the art world to bring about better representation. So, hopefully, SFAI’s Access50 Scholarship Fund will be part of the lasting change needed to create a better art world.