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The San Francisco Art Institute.
The San Francisco Art Institute.

San Francisco Art Institute Board Chair Resigns

The San Francisco Art Institute on Friday announced that Pam Rorke Levy is stepping down as chairwoman of the board. She will be succeeded by photographer Lonnie Wilson, an SFAI alum. Levy’s departure from the post she has held since 2018 follows a turbulent year that saw the prestigious 150-year-old institution struggle with declining enrollment, expansion-incurred debt, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I feel I can step back,” said Levy in a statement first published in the New York Times. She expressed confidence in the institution, noting that new leadership and successful debt-restructuring efforts would mean that “SFAI has the runway to rebuild itself.”

Levy, whose term expired this past summer, had reportedly stayed on to assist the institution through the pandemic. Her resignation comes after former trustees contested a December board meeting in which current trustees voted to spend $1.5 million in restricted endowment funds to keep SFAI afloat, with the understanding that the money would be a bridge loan, to be repaid. It also comes on the heels of controversy-stirring reports that the school was considering selling a $50 million site-specific Diego Rivera mural, with Star Wars auteur George Lucas and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art named as among the potential buyers. Any plans for a sale are now likely scuttled, given that city officials in recent weeks voted unanimously to begin the process of designating the mural a historic landmark.

Graham told the Times that the board had voted to secure a new loan of more than $7 million to support SFAI through the fiscal year and restore endowment funds. “As we move forward, I would like to see the San Francisco Art Institute continue to cultivate and sustain experimentation and innovation in the fine arts as we imagine an inclusive and collaborative educational environment,” he said in a statement