The Future of SFAI

SFAI is alive and kicking!

This past year has been challenging in so many ways.  SFAI was on a steep downward spiral, due to falling enrollment and rising costs compounded by the chaos and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Every day brought another heartbreaking headline or web posting.  

Out of that despair came something unexpected and wonderful.   

Artists and alumni, gallerists and museum directors, curators and critics – here and around the world -- began stepping forward.  At first, they were angry, indignant, incredulous.  How could an institution that had transformed the lives of so many artists be closing?  How could San Francisco give up an institution that made our city the birthplace of cool?  The place where Edward Muybridge did his first experiments in film? Where Mark Rothko and Dorothea Lang taught, and Diego Rivera painted a masterpiece? Where Kehinde Wiley found the path to his groundbreaking portrait of Barack Obama and Annie Liebowitz took her first photos for Rolling Stone Magazine? 

Realizing the stakes, our fans went to work, signing petitions, releasing restricted gifts, donating their services, and opening their wallets.  Their support enabled us to graduate 135 students on schedule and keep our tenured faculty. We were able to restructure our debt, consolidate our operations at the Chestnut Street campus and turn our assets – including the Fort Mason campus – into new sources of revenue. This fall 41 students enrolled in our degree programs and recruiting has already begun for next year.  

But we know that’s not enough. As our country emerges from the cultural dark ages of the past four years, it’s imperative that SFAI assume a leadership role – as we have so many times before -- by promoting the role of artists in our society, preparing artists for that role, and ensuring that artists of every color and persuasion are represented.  We’ve convened the Committee to Reimagine SFAI, a community-wide task force charged with reinventing SFAI from the ground up, starting with a sustainable business model that makes us more affordable for a broader range of students.  Our goal is to become a more diverse and inclusive institution, to embrace and advance the use of new tools, platforms, and modes of expression, and promote the work of citizen artists focused on racial, economic, and environmental justice. 

We need your help to keep us on an upwards trajectory to the fall of 2021, when we welcome our students to a new and better SFAI.  

Our fundraising goals this year continue to be daunting – more than $4 million to make up for lost tuition revenue – and we can’t make those goals without your help.   We have plans for the coming year, that we will share with you over the next few months.  

SFAI will be here for the next 150 years, continuing its legacy as an esteemed institution, offering a democratic, progressive and compassionate education in the arts. 

We hope you will continue to support SFAI and we thank you for sharing our commitment to SFAI, an institution that represents the best of who we are as a nation.