An attempt to merge leads to the end of operations for one institution

The San Francisco Art Institute is shutting down for good after a failed partnership with the University of San Francisco.

After announcing plans to partner with the University of San Francisco in February, the 151-year-old San Francisco Art Institute closed its doors permanently last Friday.

The two universities worked together for five months and both agreed to dive into options that included an asset purchase and an integration of SFAI’s art education programs with USF’s College of Arts and Sciences.

“I am pleased to report that the University of San Francisco and the San Francisco Art Institute have signed a letter of intent to explore operations and academic programs in the arts to elevate the next generation of artists,” wrote University of San Francisco President Paul Fitzgerald in the initial announcement.

However, that plan has been officially terminated, largely due to financial concerns.

Fitzgerald released a statement last week to the university updating its members on their progress with the partnership. Fitzgerald wrote that “several issues emerged concerning SFAI’s financial status, student enrollment projections, and ADA compliance and deferred maintenance matters…”

He concluded by announcing the official end to their partnership.

“In subsequent communications, USF informed SFAI leadership that we would not enter into a definitive agreement with SFAI due to business risks that could negatively impact USF students, faculty and staff,” wrote Fitzgerald. “Therefore, we are no longer pursuing an agreement with SFAI.”

SFAI was already facing financial troubles before the partnership. The institution was considering selling its Diego Rivera mural (completed in 1931 and worth over $50 million), but disruption by local artists impelled city officials to designate the mural a historic landmark, thus putting an end to its potential sale.

Going forward, the art institute will no longer be accepting new students. It will still continue to operate as a nonprofit organization in a much smaller capacity, with the goal of protecting the school’s name and historic legacy.

SFAI addressed its closing in a statement posted on the university’s home page. “While SFAI will not continue in its current form, its spirit, embodied in its global alumni community and the new Foundation for its archives, is unbroken and immortal.”

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Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a University Business staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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