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Sunday, April 14, 2024

San Francisco Art Institute Main Campus Acquired by Laurene Powell Jobs-Led Consortium

The iconic main campus of the San Francisco Art Institute, home to the renowned Diego Rivera mural, has found a new lease on life amidst its bankruptcy woes, as it’s been sold to a newly formed nonprofit organization spearheaded by philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs.

Powell Jobs, widow of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, is among a group of local arts leaders and supporters who purchased the campus for approximately $30 million through a limited liability company. The sale, previously reported by The San Francisco Chronicle, includes Rivera’s 1931 masterpiece, “The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City,” valued at $50 million, which will continue to be housed in a dedicated viewing room.

The campus, burdened by a debt of around $20 million, faced bankruptcy proceedings last April, prompting the listing of its two-acre property in the Russian Hill neighborhood for sale last summer.

However, amidst concerns about the fate of the iconic Rivera mural, artists, and city leaders rallied to preserve it, leading San Francisco supervisors to designate it as a landmark to safeguard against its removal.

The future of the campus is now set to undergo a transformation, as it will be repurposed to accommodate an unaccredited institution focused on fostering artistic development. David Stull, president of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a member of the new nonprofit’s advisory committee, envisions the campus as a hub for artists to develop and showcase their work, with plans for a residency program and community engagement initiatives.

Stull emphasized the importance of preserving San Francisco’s legacy as a hub for artistic innovation, stating, “San Francisco has long been a center for developing the arts, and it continues to be an important center for developing ideas. An institution like the art institute needs to be part of that future.”

Joining Stull on the advisory committee are esteemed figures from the arts community, including Brenda Way, founder, and artistic director of the ODC dance company, Lynn Feintech, president of the Los Angeles-based Liberty Building and longtime ODC board member, Stanlee Gatti, event designer and former president of the San Francisco Arts Commission, and Stephen Beal, former president of the California College of the Arts.

The acquisition of the campus and plans for its revitalization are seen as a beacon of hope for San Francisco’s cultural landscape, particularly amid the backdrop of recent challenges, including the closure of Macy’s flagship store. Aaron Peskin, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, lauded the acquisition as a significant boost for the city’s morale and economic recovery.

Peskin, who played a role in facilitating zoning law amendments to accommodate the institute’s redevelopment, anticipates that work on the campus will span up to four years. He expressed optimism about the role of arts and culture in San Francisco’s resurgence, stating, “This is a sign that arts and culture could be part of San Francisco’s recovery.”

As the former San Francisco Art Institute campus embarks on a new chapter under the stewardship of Powell Jobs and the nonprofit organization, it stands poised to continue its legacy as a vital hub for artistic expression and community engagement in the heart of the city.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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