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Saturday, September 30, 2023

SF Art Institute announces closure after merger talks with USF

San Francisco Art Institute
a courtyard tower at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), Chestnut Street campus (Photo courtesy of SFAI).

By Bay City News

The San Francisco Art Institute - SFAI - announced Friday that it will cease its degree programs after merger talks between the school and the University of San Francisco - USF - failed to lead to an acquisition.

The school on Chestnut Street in Russian Hill was founded in 1871 and is among the oldest art schools in the country. SFAI held its last graduation ceremonies on Tuesday and, as of Saturday, said it will have only a few contractors managing safety, regulatory and financial matters, in addition to helping students and alumni access their academic records.

SFAI and USF announced in February that they had signed a letter of intent to explore the integration of operations and programs between the two schools, but Art Institute officials said Friday that they recently learned there would not be a takeover offer from USF and that the school is "not financially viable."

SFAI is creating a nonprofit foundation "to protect its name, its history" and the school's archives, the school said in the closure announcement, citing antecedents such as the creation of one of the world's first fine arts photography departments by faculty. member Ansel Adams after World War II.

"It is deeply regrettable that we are now faced with this current outcome," SFAI Board of Trustees Chairman Lonnie Graham said in the statement. "The board's goal was to preserve the legacy of one of the last remaining unique fine arts institutions."

USF issued a statement Friday about talks with SFAI, saying issues that stood in the way of a possible acquisition included "SFAI's financial status, student enrollment projections and costs required for ADA compliance and deferred maintenance at SFAI's Chestnut Street property."

Instead, USF plans to create a new fine arts program within its Department of Art + Architecture.

USF President Paul Fitzgerald noted in the release, "While we are disappointed by this outcome with SFAI, we remain committed to strengthening opportunities for our students and faculty to explore the fine arts."

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