Correction: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the school’s current plans. An earlier version stated the school would cease operations after May’s graduation and planned to lay off all faculty and staff.
In an email dated Monday, March 23, San Francisco Art Institute president Gordon Knox and board of trustees chair Pam Rorke Levy announced the nearly 150-year-old art school would not enroll a new class for fall 2020, casting doubt on the future of SFAI without a strategic partnership from a larger institution.
Citing financial unsustainability and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the email, titled simply “Update,” details plans to prepare the school’s faculty and staff for layoffs at the end of the spring semester. It also mentions steps SFAI will take to help current students continue their educations “as seamlessly as possible” at other institutions.
SFAI had been “aggressively pursuing” alternatives to closure, including formal negotiations to merge with larger Bay Area schools. Arts community members aware of these negotiations speculated that one of those schools was the University of San Francisco, the private Jesuit university just a few miles away. The letter explains that merger talks stalled in the past week due to the coronavirus pandemic, as the potential partner institutions turned their attention to their own communities’ immediate needs.
“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. “Given our current financial situation, and what we expect to be a precipitous decline in enrollment due to the pandemic, we are now considering the suspension of our regular courses and degree programs starting immediately after graduation in May of this year.”