The San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) announced Monday that the school would close permanently at the end of the spring semester unless it secured a strategic partnership with a larger institution. The email announcement, signed by the school’s president Gordon Knox and its board of trustees chair Pam Rorke Levy, points to the “hardships and uncertainty” of the COVID-19 pandemic as a confounding factor in the school’s decision to shutter, along with ongoing financial instability:
This development raised immediate concerns about our ability to reach a deal during the initial timeline that was contemplated. As a result, SFAI’s leadership has no clear path to admit a class of new students for the fall of 2020.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.
The letter goes on to encourage students who are in the middle of their programs to pursue continued studies at other schools—a “formidable timing challenge,” seeing as the admissions window for most schools has already passed. It also details the planned layoffs of all faculty and staff.
SFAI’s closure is indicative of the issues many art schools are facing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Art students from Yale University, New York University, Maryland Institute College of Art, and other institutions have petitioned for tuition reimbursement following the cancellation of studio hours and in-person critiques. The Savannah College of Art and Design’s Hong Kong campus will also close at the end of the semester, a decision that has prompted students and faculty to petition the school to stay open for those still in the middle of their programs.