What The Closure Of The San Francisco Art Institute Means
Art is the universal language of life, so why do we treat it like trash? And why do cities like San Francisco, a place that has benefitted so immensely from creative expression, allow another piece of the City’s once seemingly indestructible art scene – a conduit for creativity like the San Francisco Art Institute, wither and fade away?
It doesn’t seem fair. How did this even happen? Well, how do you think it happened? It happened because the school couldn’t handle its overwhelming debt. In 2021, KQED reported SFAI was nearly $20 million in the red before the University of California purchased the school’s debt. Strategies to get SFAI back on track were in talks, but ultimately, never materialized.
USF pulled out of the merger and the school had nowhere to turn; this left faculty scrambling to find a job and students searching for a new place to practice their crafts.
Many feared that the school was on its way out, but then a beacon of hope appeared when it was announced USF (the University of San Francisco, not the University of Southern Florida) was finalizing plans to acquire the school and incorporate its programs into the broader USF system. The school wasn’t necessarily returning to its glory days, but it was going to survive. That’s what everyone believed would happen, but unfortunately, that’s not what transpired.
For reasons that are yet to be disclosed, USF pulled out of the merger and the school had nowhere to turn; this left faculty scrambling to find a job and students searching for a new place to practice their crafts. The only information provided as to why the deal was never finalized was that the partnership by USF and SFAI “is no longer financially viable,” according to reports from KRON4 news.
The situation does seem dire, but there are students rallying to save the school. There’s an entire student-led grassroots coalition called Students For Action attempting to raise $25 million to restructure and ultimately save the school from its prolonged insolvency. If you’d like to check out their website CLICK HERE.
I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking so what, lots of shit in San Francisco gets closed down, what’s the difference with this?
The difference is legacy.
SFAI has been around since 1871, making it one of the oldest art schools in the country. The school is historically important in ways that are hard to articulate. The font and typeface for the logo of the New Yorker was designed by an SFAI alumnus. Do you understand how fucking legendary that is? I’m an English nerd, if you’re not an English nerd, you may not realize how significant that is; which is okay, but I promise, the New Yorker is important and its logo is iconic.
Here are just a few of the groundbreaking artists who either attended or taught at SFAI:
Don Ed Hardy
So what do I propose we do to save SFAI? Why doesn’t San Francisco get involved? If any city in America could afford to save a school in financial distress, it’s San Francisco. If we let this school die, it means there’s nothing safe from closure in San Francisco, no matter how important it may be.
If we have $20k for trashcans, I’m sure we could figure something out.