San Francisco Mayor London Breed | Credit: Fox 2 News

If “The City and County of San Francisco Announces Aiding Artists” sounds familiar it’s because Mayor London Breed made such announcements repeatedly during the pandemic. The current version — which is not administered by a City agency — reads: “San Francisco rolls out a guaranteed income program giving artists $1,000 a month for six months.”

As she did before, Mayor Breed says “The arts are critical to our local economy ... and are an essential part of our long-term recovery.” Previous programs were limited to a handful of grants, the guaranteed-income pilot program will apply to 130 grants for eligible artists. The SF Arts Commission estimates that the many local artists and arts-related workers generate $1.45 billion in annual economic activity, which includes some 40,000 pre-COVID full-time jobs.

At a happier time: Mayor London Breed celebrating passage of Prop. E in 2018, restoring the hotel-tax allocation for the arts | Credit: SF Arts Commission

The guaranteed income program is accepting applications now through April 15 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts website.

YBCA will manage the program and use a partially computerized system to determine eligibility to select 130 local artists, with the process randomized in the later stages, said YBCA CEO Deborah Cullinan, who is also co-chair of the SF Arts Alliance.

YBCO Chief Marketing Officer Valerie Brown told SF Classical Voice about the difference between the new pilot program and other efforts to help artists:

This pilot serves as one of the first to be announced in the nation. Two additional programs have been announced but have not yet launched in the City of Long Beach and by Springboard for the Arts in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

This pilot will support artists living and working in the City of San Francisco who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Office of Racial Equity at the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, YBCA and the Arts Impact Endowment — cofunded by the SF Arts Commission (SFAC) and Grants for the Arts — are together launching the guaranteed-income pilot for the City and County of San Francisco.

The pilot program is a collaboration among the Office of Racial Equity at the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, YBCA, Grants for the Arts, and the SF Arts Commission. The program will be paid for from the Arts Impact Endowment, which was established by Proposition E, a 2018 measure that reallocated 1.5 percent of the existing 8 percent base hotel tax to arts and cultural services, money that is jointly administered by the Arts Commission and Grants for the Arts."

Deborah Cullinan
YBCA CEO Deborah Cullinan

Cullinan said qualifications for the program include being a resident of San Francisco and being an artist “whose artistic practice is rooted in a historically marginalized community,” which Cullinan noted, does not exclude anyone from any cultural or racial group but is meant to encourage artists from underrepresented communities to apply.

As the city keeps trying to assist artists, centrally located leadership seems missing, responsibilities change from agency to agency, and many organizations are involved. In an earlier pilot program to help 60 visual and performance artists, Director of Grants for the Arts Matthew Goudeau appeared to take lead.

Early in the pandemic, Breed launched the Arts and Artists Relief Fund through a partnership with the Center for Cultural Innovation, which has already provided 527 individual artists and 65 arts organizations a total of $1.5 million “for their most urgent financial needs.” There were 12 additional arts organizations’ applications, with a total request of more than $425,000. Then coordination was handled by City Administrator Naomi M. Kelly, administrator for Grants for the Arts.

Deadline for applications is April 15.

To develop the guaranteed-income program, YBCA worked with organizations including SOMA Pilipinas, the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, Dance Mission Theatre, Galería de la Raza, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company, the African American Art and Culture Complex, and members of the Racial Equity in the Arts Working Group. Bay Area poets Tongo Eisen-Martin and Kim Shuck also worked closely with the groups involved for the pilot.

“We talked about different ways we were gauging how we could reach BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), disabled, LGBT people, people displaced and below the poverty line,” said San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company co-founder Rodney Earl Jackson Jr. “A lot of artists fall in those categories.”

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