Exhibitions & Public Events

SFAI 150 | A Spirit of Disruption
Friday, Mar 19, 2021 - Saturday, Jul 3, 2021
Walter and McBean Galleries, Diego Rivera Gallery

SFAI 150 | A Spirit of Disruption

On view: March 19, 2021—July 3, 2021
Walter and McBean Galleries and Diego Rivera Gallery at SFAI—Chestnut Campus
Curated by Margaret Tedesco and Leila Weefur

Opening Reception: Friday, March 19 | 5–8pm 

San Francisco Art Institute will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2021 with A Spirit of Disruption, an exhibition to reflect on its extraordinary legacy and profound and sustained influence on contemporary art. Generations of important artists, scholars, and thinkers from around the world have been educated and have taught here. Nowhere is more apparent than in the accomplishments of our alumni, faculty, students and staff.

Since 1871, SFAI has been a microcosm of the Bay Area art world, and for many a place where ideas can reach beyond formal boundaries. Through its large community of artists and thinkers, SFAI established itself as a place dedicated to the interdisciplinary and limitless articulations of our time. A persistent reinvention of what education might be with contemporary art at its center, rather than a series of proscribed practices, SFAI’s belief that imagination, criticality, and the capacity to address the current milieu, are all central to contemporary art.

A Spirit of Disruption is a selection of artworks and archival materials that celebrate the ethos and expansive ecosystem of the institution. With careful examination and a breadth of perspectives — past and present — this exhibition posits the distinctive voice of SFAI and its crucial network of people which includes alumni, faculty, staff, and the community that has contributed to its legendary history.

Curators Margaret Tedesco and Leila Weefur’s enduring vision takes a departure from and toward this wide-ranging history. Through these discoveries, they found an arch in the narrative to shape these distinct histories.

This 150th anniversary is an opportunity to mark the beginning of yet another era for the San Francisco Art Institute. It continues to be a unique educational community, one devoted to investigating new forms, new technologies, and most important, new ideas in both art and the world that it shapes.

A Spirit of Disruption embraces time; past, present, and future.

In conjunction with the exhibition, curators Tedesco and Weefur have produced an interactive multimedia web program titled, Are you listening? a 10-episode podcast series, short videos, and digital images from the SFAI Archives.


Artist and independent curator Margaret Tedesco works across performance, installation, photography, and video. She has presented and collaborated with visual and performance artists, writers, and filmmakers for more than twenty-five years. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally including SFMOMA, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The LAB, SF Cinematheque, SF Camerawork, New Langton Arts, and with Small Press Traffic. For seven years Tedesco was a curatorial member of the now historic New Langton Arts in San Francisco. In 2007, she established [ 2nd floor projects ] an artist run exhibition and publishing space in San Francisco which received the Southern Exposure Alternative Exposure Award. She worked at SFAI as a staff member and educator for over 20 years beginning in the early 90s. Tedesco brings to the project the perspective of an artist and curator who has both observed and participated in the changes that have occurred in the city over the past several decades. 

Leila Weefur (She/They/He) is a trans-gender-noncomforming artist, writer, and curator based in Oakland, CA. Through video and installation they examine the performativity intrinsic to systems of belonging present in our lived experiences. The work brings together concepts of the sensorial memory, abject Blackness, hyper surveillance, and the erotic. Weefur is a recipient of the Hung Liu award, the Murphy & Cadogan award, and the Walter & Elise Haas Creative Work Fund. Weefur has worked with local and national institutions including SFMOMA, The Wattis Institute, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, New York. Their writing has been published by Sming Sming Books and Objects, Baest Journal, Berkeley Poetry Review, and more. Weefur is a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, and California College of the Arts. They are a member of the curatorial film collective, The Black Aesthetic. Weefur’s first curatorial project for SFAI was bringing the work of contemporary artists of color into a 2019 exhibition of 50-year-old photographs of the Black Panthers.


Image Caption: SFAI News, Jay DeFeo and Hayward King, October 15, 1962. Courtesy of San Francisco Art Institute.