Pending Partnership With the San Francisco Art Institute

Dear USF Community Members,

I am pleased to report that the University of San Francisco and the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) have signed a letter of intent to explore integrating operations and academic programs in the arts to elevate the next generation of artists.

This pending integration is exciting news for our community and for our colleagues and friends at SFAI. Our shared goal is for undergraduate and graduate art programs at the two institutions to merge, and to create a world-class arts education program — unique in higher education — that will benefit our students through newly developed and collaborative opportunities.

I want to emphasize that today is only a first step, albeit an important one. The agreement calls for a period of due diligence before any academic integration is determined. We are just now beginning a rigorous review and assessment of finances, curriculum, the process of academic accreditation for the newly created program, physical assets on SFAI’s Chestnut Street campus, and other matters. Many of the questions that you will certainly have will be addressed during the review process.

If our review has a positive outcome, the integrated program would become part of the USF College of Arts and Sciences and would be known as the San Francisco Art Institute at the University of San Francisco, or SFAI@USF. USF would acquire and assume responsibility for SFAI’s property and assets on its Chestnut Street campus. Those assets include the Anne Bremer Memorial Library; art and film collections; the Diego Rivera Gallery and the artist’s monumental mural; professional exhibition space; extensive digital, photo, and film labs and studio space; and a beautiful rooftop amphitheater.

I expect that this review will be completed before summer to allow for a pathway toward expected integrated operations beginning in the fall.

Also during the period of due diligence, we will embark on a collaborative process of curricular redesign and development with USF and SFAI faculty to ensure the new integrated academic unit reflects the vision and mission of both institutions.  

I want to assure our community that I am committed to transparency and openness in our collaboration with faculty, staff, and students during the due diligence process, and I look forward to exploring the design of this new program with your input and support. 

As many of you are well aware, SFAI, founded in 1871, is among the nation’s oldest and most prestigious schools of contemporary fine art. The list of celebrated artists and thinkers who have studied or taught at SFAI over the decades is a long one and includes Ansel Adams, Kathryn Bigelow, Joan Brown, Enrique Chagoya, Bruce Conner, Angela Davis, Jay DeFeo, Richard Diebenkorn, Mike Henderson, Mildred Howard, Toba Khedoori, George Kuchar, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Annie Leibovitz, Cristóbal Martínez, Alicia McCarthy, Barry McGee, Catherine Opie, David Park, Mark Rothko, Carlos Villa, and Kehinde Wiley

You may also know that USF and SFAI have been in conversation about the possible integration of operations and academic programs in the arts at various times over the past decade, and our faculties have collaborated on exhibitions, programs, and initiatives in and beyond classrooms and studios.

I know you may have questions regarding our next steps in this exciting venture. Please stay tuned for more information on opportunities to engage with me and with Provost Chinyere Oparah, including a Feb. 8 town hall.

Your participation in the process will help us build a unique arts education program with countless benefits and opportunities for all our students. The integrated program would strengthen USF’s arts curriculum; enhance students’ preparation for arts careers; and tap into SFAI’s legacy and history of excellence in the arts.

Combining the efforts of faculty, staff, and administration from the two institutions during this period of due diligence provides us with greater capacity to build an extraordinary, transformative, social justice-oriented arts education within our liberal arts and Jesuit tradition that will benefit the Bay Area, the nation, and the world.

I look forward to keeping you informed about developments and engaging in conversation with you.


Father Fitzgerald signature
Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J.