The San Francisco Art Institute looked done-for last year when it declared bankruptcy and was $10 million in debt, but it will now survive as an art institution, and its Diego Rivera mural is staying right where it is.

The long financially beleaguered San Francisco Art Institute was so desperate for money that in 2021 the school's board considered selling off their giant Diego Rivera mural The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City (to George Lucas, no less!). That idea was shot down, but the 153-year-old art school in Russian Hill was still forced to declare bankruptcy last April, with $10 million in debt, and only 41 students enrolled. It sure looked like the end of the line for the legendary art institute whose students and faculty over the years included Annie Leibovitz, Dorothea Lange, Wayne Thiebaud, Richard Diebenkorn, and Ansel Adams. And the school did in fact close.  

But word popped up in September that a group of investors and arts patrons was exploring the idea of buying and reopening the SF Art Institute, and that group included philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, who was married to the late Steve Jobs. And now the Chronicle reports that that group has indeed agreed to buy the Art Institute, and will reopen it as an arts academy.

The Chronicle reports that the purchase price was $30 million (some say the Diego Rivera mural alone is worth more than that). Powell Jobs’s endowment comes through her philanthropy and investment group Emerson Collective. Other members of the nonprofit LLC formed to buy the school include SF ODC founder and artistic director Brenda Way, SF Conservatory of Music president David Stull, and renowned event designer Stanlee Gatti.

“We’re energized by the tremendous community support we’ve seen for restoring the site, keeping the mural in place, and reopening as a nonprofit arts institution that will bring in a dynamic new generation of artists,” ODC’s Brenda Way said in a statement to the Chronicle. “We’re building on a brilliant cultural history and looking toward a boundless artistic future, one that will affect and be affected by the vibrant culture of San Francisco. Now the real work begins.”

And yes, the Diego Rivera mural will stay at the SF Art Institute — and that's good since relocating it alone would have cost someone untold millions, and San Francisco would have lost a treasured piece of its art history.

There are likely untold millions of dollars in repairs and maintenance to dilapidated infrastructure that the school will require, and the Chronicle notes it will take “about two to four years of construction” on these projects before the school can fully reopen.

Related: SF Art Institute Could Be Saved as an Art School; Group Including Laurene Powell Jobs Looking to Buy It [SFist]

Image: Slsmithasdfasdf via Wikimedia Commons