With Slimming Education Program, San Francisco Art Institute Will Stay Open After All

Last month, the San Francisco Art Institute announced that he would close his study programs and stop enrolling new students at the end of his current semester-a sign which, for many, marked the end of the 149-year-old school.

But now the future may not be so bleak. This week, the institute’s board voted to keep the school open, in a limited capacity. The school will indeed suspend its degree programs after this spring, but rather than close its doors for good, it will launch “a campaign to reset and reinvent the school’s business model,” according to an ad.

Instead of full-time programs, the school will offer studio art classes, public education programs, grant-funded exhibitions and curatorial projects while continuing to research new solutions to maintain the long-term open institution.

The San Francisco Art Institute. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Our doors are open and we will continue to fulfill SFAI’s mission while operating in a leaner and more focused manner,” Board Chair Pam Rorke Levy said in a statement. “We will use the coming year to pursue strategic partnerships with other schools and launch an accelerated campaign to raise philanthropic funds. Our aim is to put SFAI on a solid financial footing, capable of sustaining itself in the future. “

The council’s March letter sparked a “A wave of support and encouragement from potential partners and charities,” explained this week’s announcement, noting the many protests from students, teachers and alumni who were also incited. All the reactions “convinced the board of directors to take extreme measures to keep the SFAI open”.

For others, however, the outlook is not so rosy.

“Like many nonprofit and donor-led institutions, the directors of SFAI try to project an image of consistency, vision and deliberate intention so that perhaps the funding actually materializes,” said one. anonymous adjunct faculty member at school. “From the inside it’s starting to look like gas lighting because the reality of the situation is pretty dire and obviously the press release doesn’t mention how terribly this all works for the students.”

Indeed, faced with the context of the precarious financial situation of the establishment and the additional pressures of the pandemic, tension between the school leaders and its students and teachers has intensified.

“We want to make sure everyone is aware that even though the SFAI Board of Directors does not call this a closure, the effects on the community are the same as a closure, ”reads a letter written by students and teachers submitted to the school administration last week. “We are suddenly left without a school, a job and a clear path during a global pandemic. For students and teachers, the results are devastating.

Last week, two members of the SFAI Graduate Studios Committee also started a petition Calling on the school to compensate studio students and reimburse tuition fees for the loss of educational opportunities incurred by shelter-in-place policies. So far, 127 people have signed the document.

Levy and the school president, Gordon Knox, previously noted that they were considering merging with another educational institution that had the resources to keep the San Francisco Art Institute afloat, but discussions with potential partners fizzled out with the start of the current public health situation. This week, Levy said they would look to revive those talks in the fall.

In addition, the school lease its newly constructed graduate campus on the bay as a fundraising measure, and will partner with Sotheby’s for a pair of fundraising auctions in 2020 (one in June and another in November).

The elimination of degree programs will still result in the dismissal of permanent and auxiliary faculty members, as well as long-tenured staff, who were informed of the changes in March.

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