About San Francisco Art InstituteEdit

Founded in 1871, the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) is one of the U.S.’s oldest and most prestigious schools of higher education in contemporary art.


San Francisco Art Institute (Main Campus)
800 Chestnut Street, San Francisco 94133
(between Jones and Leavenworth)

San Francisco Art Institute (Graduate Center)
2565 Third Street, San Francisco 94107
(between 22nd and 23rd Streets)

To find out more about SFAI locations, click here.

Undergraduate Portfolio RequirementsEdit

At SFAI, we recognize that there is no single "right" approach to developing a portfolio. The Admissions committee reviews each portfolio individually and carefully, and we ask you to submit the strongest possible portfolio of your work for consideration for admission.

  • Your portfolio should consist of 15-20 examples of your best and most recent work.
  • The portfolio should be a focused representation of your concepts, visual sensibilities, and technical ability.
  • A portfolio may include examples of:
    Digital media
    Mixed media
    Film or video (no scripts)
    or documentations of performances or installations
  • This list is by no means exhaustive; we encourage you to suggest new and innovative formats for presenting your portfolio.

Portfolio SubmissionEdit

Please upload jpeg images via SlideRoom:

  • Do not send original work in the mail.
  • If you are having your portfolio reviewed in person, you are encouraged to bring original work to the interview.
  • Creative writing, journals, and proposals may also supplement the visual work during the personal interview.

Portfolio PresentationEdit

  • Pay close attention to the presentation of your portfolio.
  • Every element of the portfolio is a reflection of your attitude about your work.
  • If presenting your work in slide format, ensure that the work is photographed in the highest possible quality, and remember that your work will most likely be projected onto a screen for viewing.
  • In handling slides, use caution to avoid getting fingerprints, scratches, and dust on the slide film. Consider making a protective case for your portfolio that is unusual or an extension of the work contained within.
  • To ensure that your work is reviewed accurately, label every component of your portfolio.

Prepare Your Portfolio For SubmissionEdit

  • All material must be clearly labeled with your name.
  • To properly label slides, number each one in the order in which they should be viewed and indicate which side is the top.
  • Write your name directly on each slide; do not use commercial labels or stickers on the slides themselves as they can cause the slides to stick in the carousels.
  • Submit slides in a plastic slide sheet, and clearly label the sheet with your name and address.
  • Label the cassette, video box, and/or jewel case and their contents with your name and address. CDs and DVDs should indicate platform and software used to create the work. VHS and other film/video work should be cued and labeled to indicate the different pieces present on the tape and running times.
  • All portfolios should be accompanied by an inventory list and include slide number (if applicable), title, date, medium, and size (height x width x depth) for each work, and running time for film, video, and audio work.
  • Should you wish to insure your portfolio, you should make the necessary arrangements for such coverage through the shipping company of your choice. SFAI assumes no responsibility for any damage to portfolios either in transit or during the review process.

Return of PortfoliosEdit

Upon admission to SFAI, the portfolio of artwork will become a permanent part of your admission file and will not be returned to you. Please ensure that you have copies of all the material in your portfolio for your future use and reference. All other portfolios will be returned to applicants within six months of the original receipt date.

Graduate Portfolio RequirementsEdit

Your MFA/Post-Baccalaureate portfolio should include the followingEdit

  • A cohesive body of work that demonstrates your interests and ideas. Don’t try to document your development as an artist or impress the faculty with the diversity of your work. We expect you to show us your best and most recent work. It is generally to your advantage to show a smaller body of work that is outstanding rather than show a larger mixture of work of varying levels of accomplishment.
  • Work that demonstrates substantial conceptual risk taking and rigorous thought.

Present your portfolio in the most simple and professional manner possibleEdit

  • Please do not send binders, plastic page sleeves, or excessive packing materials.
  • Number and label each slide with your name using marker (no adhesive labels, please).
  • Include a slide list with corresponding numbers and the title, date, medium, and dimensions (H x W x D) for each work.
  • Please also include a portfolio inventory sheet listing all materials included and your name, address, telephone, and e-mail.

Each area of study has specific requirementsEdit


  • You may submit a portfolio of up to 20 images on slides and/or documentation of one or more significant projects such as web sites, sound works, video installations, interactive media projects, etc.
  • Work may also be submitted in any of the following formats: CD-ROM, DAT, VHS tapes (NTSC format only), or DVD.


  • You must submit two examples of work in which film is a major component.
  • Formats may be regular 8 mm, Super-8 or 16 mm.
  • Documentation of extended film pieces may be submitted in the form of slides, photos, drawings, videotapes (8 mm, Hi-8, VHS NTSC only), CD-ROM, or DVD.
  • Original film is strongly preferred to videotape copies of film.
  • Each sample must be marked with your name, date, title and projection speed.
  • No scripts will be accepted.
  • Your work should have been completed within the past two years.

New GenresEdit

  • You must submit examples or documentation of performance work and/or video in the form of slides, photos, drawings, videotapes (8 mm, Hi-8, VHS NTSC), CD-ROM, or DVD.
  • Removable or external drive formats are not acceptable.

Painting and SculptureEdit

  • You must submit a portfolio of 20 slides of work completed within the last two years.
  • Please be sure slides project accurately (e.g. correct side up, left/right orientation).
  • Image quality is of the highest importance.
  • Slides in carousels preferred.


  • You must submit a portfolio consisting of a minimum of 15-25 photographs.
  • Slide documentation is acceptable for installation and/or sculptural work only.
  • The committee prefers unmatted work; framed work is not acceptable.


  • You must submit a minimum of 20 examples of original prints and/or drawings completed within the past year.
  • Slides and framed work are not acceptable.

Return of PortfoliosEdit

  • All portfolios will be returned to applicants within six months of the original receipt date.
  • Applicants who wish to insure their portfolios should make the necessary arrangements for such coverage through their shipping company.
  • SFAI assumes no responsibility for any damage to portfolios either in transit or during review.

For further information, click here.