The interim CEO of San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts resigned last week amid intense pushback surrounding the institution’s response to artists who led a pro-Palestine protests there.

In mid-February, eight artists showing in the center’s “Bay Area Now 9” exhibition modified their artworks to feature messages in support of Gaza and protesting the ongoing war there.

Since the October 7 attack by Hamas, which killed 1,200 Israelis and took over 200 hostages, more than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed amid airstrikes and a ground invasion by Israel.

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Video of protests at Yerba Buena were shared widely on social media, in particular footage of the artist Paz G spray-painting one of their sculptures with the phrase “Viva Palestina – Free Palestine.”

Following the action, the museum shuttered the show, and its board issued a statement in which it denounced leaflets accusing certain supporters of the institution of being “Zionist.” “Such language,” the board said, “is neither productive nor tolerable.” The board promised to “carefully remove and store the altered installations.” The exhibition remains closed.

The controversy, however, did not end there. Staff at the center issued an open letter that accused the museum of censorship; it was signed by hundreds of people.

On March 7, San Francisco-based public radio station KQED reported that interim CEO Sara Fenske Bahat had resigned from her post. It quoted a March 3 letter in which she tendered her resignation: “As a direct result of the events of February 15th and its unending repercussions, I am offering this official notice to immediately resign my position as CEO of YBCA.”

In a statement dated March 6, the center’s board spoke out once again, saying that it “reluctantly accepted” Fenske Bahat’s resignation and that the calls to have the institution take a stance on the conflict in Gaza were misguided.

Writing of the protests, the board said, “That is not art. That isn’t protest. That is simply wrong and unacceptable. As they were presented as a package, and subsequently reiterated on social media, we will not address a reasonable aspect of someone’s act while ignoring the hateful aspects. There is nothing that we love more than working with and supporting artists. Looking ahead, though, does not mean a blanket tolerance for a repeat of a similar act.”

The statement did not include mention of when or if “Bay Area Now 9” would reopen.