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San Francisco Art Institute’s North Beach campus. Courtesy of SFAI.
San Francisco Art Institute’s North Beach campus. Courtesy of SFAI.

San Francisco Art Institute to Lay Off Staffers as It Struggles to Remain Open

The San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), a cultural force in the Bay Area for nearly the last 150 years, announced on Monday, March 23, that it may have to partner with a larger institution or cease operations, KQED reports. The school will lay off faculty and staff in the coming months and currently has no plans to reopen after commencement in May—both its undergraduate and graduate campuses, which serve around three hundred students, temporarily shuttered due to COVID-19 earlier this month.

In an email sent to trustees, faculty, staff, and students, the institute’s president Gordon Knox and board chair Pam Rorke Levy said that because of the institute’s current financial situation, the school has been “aggressively pursuing” the means to prevent closure, but because of the coronavirus outbreak enrollment has declined and negotiations with other institutions have stalled.

“As a result, SFAI’s leadership has no clear path to admit a class of new students for the fall of 2020,” the letter reads. “In our long history, SFAI has survived countless calamitous events. While we remain hopeful there is a strategic partnership that will allow this commitment to continue, we are realistic that this will not happen any time soon in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic.” Students who aren’t graduating this year are being encouraged to seek placement at other schools.

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Levy said that there is still hope that the school, which has counted Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and Richard Diebenkorn among its faculty, will remain open. “We might be smaller. We might be consolidated to one campus. We might be in partnership with another institution, but we will continue,” Levy said.