San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) announces that the Mellon Foundation has awarded a $200,000 grant supporting the school’s monumental 1931 Diego Rivera fresco, The Making of a Fresco, Showing the Building of a City, one of San Francisco’s most enduring and beloved cultural assets.
San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) announces that the Mellon Foundation has awarded a $200,000 grant supporting the school’s monumental 1931 Diego Rivera fresco, The Making of a Fresco, Showing the Building of a City, one of San Francisco’s most enduring and beloved cultural assets. The grant award will support the first phase of a multi-faceted initiative centered on the fresco, encompassing public programs, conservation, scholarship, and preserving and digitizing SFAI’s related archival collections.
A detail of the Diego Rivera mural 'The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City,' painted in 1931 at SFAI's Chestnut Street campus. (Courtesy SFAI)
“The Diego Rivera mural occupies an essential and profoundly meaningful place in the culture and history of SFAI and San Francisco,” says SFAI Board Chair Lonnie Graham, a photographer, cultural activist, and graduate of SFAI (MFA 84'). “Now, with this generous gift from the Mellon Foundation, we will elevate how we share the mural with the public by expanding cultural discourse and creating a broadly inclusive platform for social and academic collaboration. ”
SFAI is well-positioned and resourced to begin this comprehensive Diego Rivera Fresco Project. Art historian and museum specialist Zoya Kocur, Ph.D., has joined SFAI as the Diego Rivera Fresco Program Manager. She brings initiative and a depth of experience in academia, museums, and arts organizations. In addition to collegiate teaching, Kocur developed and led education programs at the Whitney Museum and the New Museum, among others.
“I’m honored to serve SFAI and truly excited to be leading an effort that will provide critical resources for conservation and archiving of the fresco and related materials,” says Kocur. “This focused funding from Mellon is instrumental in helping us broadly expand public access and engagement with this crown jewel of SFAI’s campus.” The grant also supports the creation of the Diego Rivera Project Advisory Committee. Kocur explains, “In addition to prominent Latinx scholars, we plan to involve advisors from museums and community-based arts organizations, K-12 school partners, artists and art students, and government and international partners.”
The Diego Rivera Fresco Project will expand SFAI’s curriculum for collegiate students and provide additional access, resources, and support for artists, scholars, local schools, and diverse communities—as intended by the artist and the patrons who commissioned the work.
Created during the artist’s first visit to the United States, SFAI commissioned The Making of a Fresco after faculty members traveled to Mexico to study with Rivera in the late 1920s. SFAI’s then-president, William Gerstle, was instrumental in offering Rivera his first commission in the United States and securing visas for Rivera and his wife, Frida Kahlo. Due to Rivera’s status as an active, though a frequently expelled member of Mexico’s Communist Party, attaining their visas was noteworthy.
“The fresco I painted in the San Francisco School of Fine Arts [now SFAI] seems to me to express exactly the objective situation which produced it and to contain, technically, all the possibilities of mural painting; and, since it was executed in a technical school of the plastic arts, these, naturally, had to be its first functions.” —Diego Rivera, Portrait of America
The fresco occupies the north wall of the Diego Rivera Gallery on SFAI’s landmark campus at 800 Chestnut Street and is open to the public free of charge Mondays through Saturdays.
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