Closure of the San Francisco Art Institute: “The artists can hang themselves” | Pro Club Bd

The announcement in mid-July that the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) would be closing and no longer offering courses or degrees is a significant and eye-opening event.

Regardless of the specific circumstances, and of individuals or entities bearing some degree of responsibility, the closure of the once-renowned school is yet another sign – in the broadest sense – in the eyes of the American ruling elite, as we noted in April 2021 Regarding the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic “the artists can hang themselves”.

The situation is exceptional. Not only was SFAI one of the oldest art schools in the United States and the oldest in the western half, it was also located in one of the country’s most historically dynamic cultural centers, the Bay Area. In fact, the institute was a focal point of various artistic currents and movements in the 20th century. Now it has vanished without much outcry or protest, least of all from the city’s affluent upper class.

San Francisco Art Institute (Photo credit – Pax Ahimsa Gethen)

In their July 15 announcement, Art Institute officials stated that after “many years of austerity, challenging fundraising campaigns, and various merger and acquisition negotiations … SFAI is no longer financially viable and ceased its degree programs on July 15, 2022. SFAI will remain a non-profit organization to protect its name, archives and heritage.”

The school’s bitterly written press release noted that beginning July 16, “no students or staff will fill SFAI’s historic landmark campus, a beautiful and unique site in San Francisco with its glorious fresco by Diego Rivera…a few instead.” Contractor will manage security, regulatory, legal and financial matters and ensure students and alumni can access their academic records.”

According to SFAI’s own historical account, “Among the influential artists associated with the school in its early 60s were Eadweard Muybridge, photographer and graphic animation pioneer; Maynard Dixon, painter of the labor movement of San Francisco and the western countryside; Henry Kiyama, whose Four Immigrant Manga was the first graphic novel published in the United States; Sargent Claude Johnson, one of the first African American artists from California to achieve a national reputation; Louise Dahl-Wolfe, an innovative photographer whose work for Harper’s Bazaar defined a new American style of “environmental” fashion photography in the 1930s; John Gutzon Borglum, creator of the large-scale public sculpture known as Mt. Rushmore; and numerous others.”

After the Second World War “the school became a nucleus of Abstract Expressionism”. The first fine art photography department in the US was established at SFAI in 1946. “In the early 1950s, San Francisco’s North Beach was the center of the West Coast beat movement, and music, poetry, and discourse were an integral part of artists’ lives.”

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