Press Releases


San Francisco Art Institute receives a $200K grant from the Mellon Foundation to support its monumental Diego Rivera fresco

San Francisco (April 26, 2022) — 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.

“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.



Founded in 1871, San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) is one of the country's oldest and most prestigious higher education institutions in the practice and study of contemporary art. As a diverse community of working artists and scholars, SFAI provides students with a rigorous education in the arts and preparation for a life in the arts through an immersive studio environment, integrated liberal arts and art history curriculum, and critical engagement with the world. As the birthplace of numerous influential art movements, SFAI nurtures emerging artists who will shape the future of art, culture, and society. Notable faculty and alumni—including Ansel Adams, Kathryn Bigelow, Iona Rozeal Brown, Joan Brown, Nao Bustamante, Enrique Chagoya, Dewey Crumpler, Imogen Cunningham, Angela Davis, Richard Diebenkorn, Kota Ezawa, Karen Finley, Paul Kos, George Kuchar, Annie Leibovitz, Manuel Neri, Catherine Opie, José Clemente Orozco, Man Ray, Rigo 23, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Carlos Villa and Kehinde Wiley.

Learn more at



The Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.

Learn more at


Nina Sazevich
Public Relations
[email protected]


Download Release >>