Failed merger attempt kills San Francisco Art Institute

The Art Institute of San Francisco will no longer offer courses or degrees after an attempted merger with the University of San Francisco failed.

The institute has been struggling financially since 2020, when it was involved in other merger talks with local institutions, including the University of San Francisco, which announced in February that it had “signed a letter of intent to explore consolidating business and academic programs at the Arts for to elevate the next generation of artists.”

The Rev. Paul Fitzgerald, the university’s president, wrote at the time: “Our shared goal is to merge the undergraduate and graduate art programs at the two institutions and create a world-class arts education program—unique in higher education—that will benefit our students through of new and collaborative opportunities”.

However, the university announced last week that “after five months of extensive exploration and discussion regarding a possible integration of undergraduate and graduate art education programs, the University of San Francisco has informed the San Francisco Art Institute that the full integration of the two universities is not feasible for financial and other reasons”.

Father Fitzgerald added: “We hoped and invested in a more far-reaching outcome at the end of due diligence and after many months of excellent collaboration between faculty and staff. Today, aligned with the university’s strategic initiatives and priorities, the university remains committed to the expansion and development of its arts program.”

The university announced it will hire art professors on its own to one-year appointments in a new fine arts program.

“Subject to the completion of new program development, accreditation and registration, these one-year appointments may be extended to multi-year positions and additional new positions may be offered beginning in the fall of 2023,” the university said. The university hopes to launch an MFA program in fall 2023 and a BFA in fall 2024.

The university’s decision was the last straw for the art institute.

“Since the layoffs, debarment proceedings and closure in March 2020, SFAI has trained and graduated 175 students while struggling for financial stability,” a statement from the institute said. “After many years of austerity measures, challenging fundraising campaigns and various on and off M&A negotiations by an engaged board and management, SFAI is no longer financially viable and has ceased its degree programs effective July 15, 2022. SFAI will remain a non-profit organization to protect its name, records and legacy.”

The statement added: “Beginning July 16, 2022, no students or staff will fill SFAI’s historic landmark campus, a beautiful and unique spot in San Francisco with its glorious Diego Rivera fresco, magnificent city views and Italian encounters Decades of the 60s – Architecture of brutalism. Instead, a few contractors will manage security, regulatory, legal and financial issues and ensure that students and alumni have access to their academic records.”

Regarding the Diego Rivera mural, the statement added, “SFAI owns the Diego Rivera mural on the Chestnut Street campus. The University of California owns the building. SFAI will lose possession of the mural if it defaults or loses its lease on the building. SFAI is actively working with local and international donor communities to protect the mural.”

Another failed merger

This latest failed merger follows the end of merger plans between Saint Leo University and Marymount University of California. In April, two days after the two institutions called off plans to merge, Marymount California announced it would close in August.

“Like other small tuition-dependent schools, MCU has struggled financially in recent years in the face of declining enrollment, rising costs and the pandemic, which university leaders have acknowledged have left them short on resources required to support the operation of the institution. expenses,” a press release from the university said.

The merger was canceled because the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Saint Leo’s accreditor, rejected the plan. Saint Leo is based in Florida.

Jeffrey D. Senese resigned as president of Saint Leo, without explanation, this month.

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