Ether Brown tracks the value of an award open to current members of the San Francisco Art Institute community, including students, faculty, and staff. Distributed on an irregular basis at unfixed amounts, the award is available to support projects of any and every variety. The award’s seed fund is an investment by Will Brown in Ether, a digital cryptocurrency that acts as fuel for operating the application platform Ethereum. As assets from the closely monitored account are pulled above initial investment, registered users will receive notification that applications are open. We urge you to register and apply.


On many occasions, SFAI has supported its growth and development through divestitures of various institutional holdings, from works on canvas to real estate. These sales include, among many others: early photographs by Eadweard Muybridge; original sketches by Diego Rivera depicting his iconic mural, The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City; the Emmanuel Walter Collection of over 200 paintings from 19th century Europe; and a 20,880 square foot building at 701 Chestnut Street.

In the late 1970s, San Francisco Art Institute sold their collection of Eadweard Muybridge photographs to finance the creation of what is now the New Genres department. This speculative maneuver wagered the future of media against the history and foundations of the moving image. In a similar speculative action, Will Brown invests an alloted exhibition budget in Ether, a digital cryptocurrency.

Since 2009, over 4,000 types of cryptocurrency have been established worldwide. These digital currencies use complex encryption techniques to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank. The philosophy behind cryptocurrency is arguably both utopian and dystopian; it exists based on a distrust of centralized government and financial systems, predicting their eventual collapse, while simultaneously representing a collective effort to survive such a collapse by creating a financially sustainable economy in the hands of citizens. Will Brown has selected Ether based on the poetic character of its disembodied and atmospheric name.