Introduction to Arte Útil (Art as a Tool)

Tania Bruguera​The Museum of Arte Útil, Legislative Theatre workshop lead by Luk Opdebeeck (Formaat), Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, NL, 2014. Photo courtesy Asociación de Arte Útil

DATES/TIMES: June 20 – August 10; Tues.-Thurs., 4-8 p.m. (Fri., 2-6 p.m., critique/studio/drop-in time (optional)
INSTRUCTOR: Tania Bruguera
LOCATION: (Lectures & class) Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission Street, San Francisco, California 94103
ELIGIBILITY: Open to all graduate students (upper-level BFA students may enroll pending chair approval)


About Introduction to Arte Útil (Art as a Tool)

This course is offered jointly by the MFA in Fine Arts and MA in Social Practice and Public Forms programs as a summer elective.

Whether through self-organized groups, individual initiatives, or the rise of user-generated content, people are developing new methods and social formations to deal with issues that were once the domain of the state.

These initiatives are not isolated incidents, but part of an art history that has been neglected yet shapes our contemporary world.

We focus on the concept of Arte Útil, which roughly translates into English as “useful art,” while also suggesting that art can be a tool or device.

Studying the shifting role of contemporary art, during the course we consider factors of the practice of Arte Útil such as institutional self-criticism, active hyperrealism, a-legality, reforming capital, beneficial outcomes, sustainability, intersection with other disciplines, and modes of creative collaboration.

Escuela de Arte Útil, a commissioned art project for the exhibition Tania Bruguera: Talking to Power / Hablá​ndole al Poder, is organized by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in collaboration with California College of the Arts, San Francisco Art Institute, the University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco State University, the Asociación de Arte Útil, and the YBCA Fellows program. 

Guest Lectures

Featuring weekly guest lectures and case-study presentations as well as field trips and access to ongoing Arte Útil projects in the Bay Area.

A joint collaboration between CCA, SFAI, SFSU, UC Berkeley, and the Fellows Program at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) as well as part of Bruguera’s survey exhibition at YBCA.

Students are expected to participate in the class and generate a new project that will be shown at the end of the exhibition.


Enrollment in the class requires familiarization with the Arte Útil archive and lexicon as well as the submission of a written statement of 250-400 words explaining how you think aesthetics can disrupt institutional structures including which social issues interest you.

Send your written statement to

Note: This course is structured to interact with a series of public lectures by artists and theorists, which are held on Tuesday evenings.

Students are strongly encouraged to attend these lectures as well as preliminary meetings with the visiting artist.

Learning Outcomes

This course satisfies the following outcomes for the MA in Social Practice & Public Forms:

  • Ethics of Social Engagement and Public Practice: Students understand the field of ethical issues for social and public practices, the ethical dimensions of working with others, and sustainability in the context of site and community, and can identify and navigate ethical complexities specific to their practice.
  • Methods of Critical Analysis: Students demonstrate proficiency in engaged, rigorous, and careful evaluation and interpretation in critiques, discussion of contemporary practices and theoretical arguments, and in decoding personal and public space.
  • Expanding Art’s Parameters and Social Function: In response to self-defined fields of concern, students combine theory and practice in goal-directed research which strives to expand art's parameters and social function, which may lead to intersections with other areas of cultural production.
  • Professional Development: Students demonstrate skills required to propose, initiate, and carry out a fully realized socially engaged/public project.