San Francisco Art Institute The previous campus was close to losing its campus and art collection for a public sale, when the University of California Board of Regents stepped in to buy it $ 19.7 million debt In an attempt to save the 150-year-old institution from collapsing, from a private bank.
The settlement is a lifeline, but a beloved artwork of the future – a $ 50 million mural by Diego Rivera, which officials say could help balance the budget – is still up in the air, and faculty and Alumni are angry.
1931 work, titled “The” Creating a fresco showing the construction of a city,“Within a fresco is a fresco. Tableaux depict the construction of a city and a mural – with architects, engineers, artisans, sculptors and painters working hard at work. Rivera himself is seen from behind, his assistants.” Holding a palette and brush with. It is one of three frescoes in San Francisco by a Mexican muralist who was heavily influenced by other artists in the city.
Years of expensive expansion and declining enrollment at the institute have put it in crisis, a situation that has worsened during the epidemic.
The school has insisted that no final decision has been taken to sell the mural. But behind the scenes, administrators and institute leaders are strongly insisting on doing so, as it will pay off the debt and allow them to meet for an annual operating budget that typically runs about $ 19 million.
In a December 23 email received by The New York Times sent to staff members, Jennifer risler, Vice president and dean of academic affairs, admitted that many had expressed concern over the potential sale of the mural. He said that “the board voted, as its wayward duty to explore all options to save SFAI, continue to propose to explore and sell the way or to sell the murals.”
At the board meeting on 17 December, the SFAI president, Pam Rourke Levy, Said that filmmaker George Lucas expressed interest in purchasing the murals for the Luras Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles. Details of that discussion were provided by an attendee who asked for alimony as the participant was not authorized to discuss internal matters.
Speaking with faculty members on December 17, Ms. Levy detailed another plan, in which the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art would take ownership of the mural, but would leave it on campus as an empty space. Davy crumpler, An Associate Professor at the school.
A spokesperson of the institute, Sara FitzmauriceThe founder of the public-relations firm Fitz & Co. declined to discuss the ongoing negotiations regarding the potential sale. He said in a statement, “There are talks with several institutions to ensure the future of the school.
In one The interview Last March, Ms. Levy said she would be receptive to selling the painting. “When you have a property that is valuable, there is always a discussion,” she said. “As a small college in an expensive city, we are feeling pain.”
Faculty and staff members have repeatedly raised objections. The latest rebuttal came in a December 30 letter sent to a community from a school representing its assistant teachers, about 70 of whom were hired during the epidemic, but who previously held most of the faculty Were made
“Diego Rivera Mural is not a commodity whose identity and value remains exclusively in its market valuation,” the letter reads, stating that its sales will solve the immediate financial shortfall, “it will only provide a limited lifeline , And does not address the model. Misconduct and mismanagement by SFAI’s board and executive officers
In a statement, the institute described the allegations of poor leadership as “gross misconduct”, stating that almost all of its board members joined the school after being in debt.
The Riviera Murali is associated with the legacy of SFAI, which claims to be the oldest art school west of the Mississippi River and counts artists such as Annie Liebovitz, Catherine Opie, and Kihinde Willie among its alumni. Having become such an important part of the institution’s identity over the last 90 years, selling the mural reduces the risk of students, alumni and faculty appreciating it.
“It’s outrageous and heartbreaking,” said Kate lester, An institute Alumna, which produced student exhibitions in the form of murals in a gallery before graduating in 2019. “Selling the mural is an impractical option, considering the school’s duty to protect its historical heritage.”
Aaron Peskin, an elected official in the district where the institute resides, also opposed the sale. “Somebody’s perception, much less the University of California, it is selling off, is heresy,” he said Recently told Mission local news site, which Previously reported Deal with Regent on 30 December. “It would be a crime against art and the city’s heritage. Educational institutions should teach art, it should not be sold.”
The waste of money for the institute comes from a 2016 loan that funded the construction of its new Fort Mason campus. Collateral for the loan included the school’s old campus on Chestnut Street and 19 artifacts. Last year, the financial burden caused school leaders to consider a permanent closure; It remained open limited capacity, After receiving $ 4 million in donations.
But this was not enough. In July, Boston Private Bank & Trust Company informed the institution that it had violated the terms of the loan when it failed to pay the annual $ 3 million line of credit required to renew the loan. Bank issued Public Notice of Sale In October, listing collateral, which includes River Mural and Graffiti by Victor Aranautoff, Whose painting Destruction is threatened elsewhere in San Francisco.
That month the Board of Regents prevented the sale by purchasing the institution’s loan. Through this New agreement, The public university system acquired the work of the institute and became its landlord. SFAI administrators have six years to repurchase property; If they do not, the University of California will occupy the campus.
And if the institution loses its home, school administrators will have more drastic decisions about the future of the mural. “If it comes to leaving Chestnut Street Campus for SFAI, we will likely need to move the Diego Riviera mural,” Ms. Fitzmaurice said. “We have been informed that such possible steps can be a multifaceted process and so we have started to investigate what is possible if it comes up.”