Since 1871, the San Francisco Art Institute has been known for its strong fine arts program and influential alumni, such as Jerry Garcia, photographer Annie Leibovitz, tattoo legend Don Ed Hardy, and photography department founder Ansel Adams.
But the college also has a strong literary tradition, which writer and SFAI faculty member Miah Jeffra hopes to showcase with the first Write of Way Literary Festival, to be held on campus this Saturday.
The one-day event was the "brainchild of the writing faculty at SFAI," Jeffra told us. It's free and open to the public, and will run from 2–10pm, with more than 100 different writers offering readings concurrently across three rooms. A fourth room, called the "Vault," will be a "concentrated creative space where you can pop into and engage creatively," Jeffra said.
There will also be a "bazaar" with numerous organizations on hand selling books and journals and recruiting volunteers for writing and reading-centric nonprofits, such as 826 Valencia.
Jeffra told us that while writing and storytelling has always been a core component of SFAI's curriculum, the college has no writing department or writing major. But that doesn't mean that students in the visual arts aren't interested in writing and spoken word—in fact, they often incorporate those disciplines into their work.
As a result, Jeffra said, several student-led literary organizations have formed on campus, such as "God Particle" and "Untitled," a student-run, student-curated publication. (Both will participate in the event.)
Baruch Porras-Hernandez reading for Foglifter Press.
When he moved to San Francisco from the Los Angeles area after completing graduate school at California Institute of the Arts in 2010, Jeffra noticed "a lot of the marginal art seemed to be missing in the city ... everything started to look the same." He hopes the festival will encourage students from marginalized backgrounds to feel empowered to share their stories, and connect with the more than 30 organizations participating.
Jeffra is also passionate about independent small-press publishers, and wanted to bring his students in contact with a "diverse compilation of the arts community" in San Francisco, he said. That includes working with independent organizations such as Queer Rebels and Foglifter Press, the only small press and literary journal that is completely run by folks in the LGBTQ community. (Jeffra is also the founder of Foglifter.)
"We wanted to create a legacy at SFAI," he said, "with both visual artists and writers coming together to create."
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