On the Road to Recovery — Funding the Arts in San Francisco

“If we help the arts recover, the arts will help San Francisco recover.” — Mayor London N. Breed

But this community has been hit hard by the fallout from this pandemic. In this moment, we need to do everything we can to support the Arts and our artists, so they can continue helping us lead the City’s recovery.

Mayor London Breed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Mayor Breed with Jenny Leung, Executive Director of the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco

City Support for the Arts

Yesterday I announced that my proposed City Budget, which will be submitted June 1st, will include a significant investment of $16.2 million to fill the gap in arts budgets due to COVID-19. This money from the General Fund will ensure arts and cultural programs are able to operate, grow, and recover in San Francisco. This funding will fill the gap in arts funding that has resulted from lower than expected hotel tax revenues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and will support San Francisco’s Grants for the Arts, Cultural Districts, the Arts Impact Endowment, Cultural Centers, and the Cultural Equity Endowment.

Guaranteed Income for Artists

Most recently, we launched the Guaranteed Income for Artists pilot program, which provides 130 San Francisco artists with $1,000 per month for six months with City funds. The first round of payments were issued yesterday. The program is going to be extended for another 12 months and support even more San Francisco artists, thanks to a $3.46 million donation from #Start Small, Jack Dorsey’s philanthropic initiative to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which is administering the program.

COVID-19 Arts Support

In addition to continuing investments in existing programs like Grants for the Arts, the City has advanced several programs in direct response to the pandemic. In some cases, the City has adapted existing funding and programs to meet the needs of artists and arts and culture organizations. This includes things like helping the arts sector reopen and providing operating grants, rather than project-based grants.

Relief Fund for Artists

In March 2020, the City launched the Arts and Artists Relief Fund, which provided $2.75 million in grants and loans for artists and arts organizations. This Fund provided financial support for the local arts sector struggling from substantial income loss due to COVID‑19.

Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund

We created the $3 million Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund to provide financial support for San Francisco venues that have been closed due to COVID-19. These venues are such a big part of our nightlife and culture, and it was important that we do what we could locally to prevent their permanent closure.

Arts Hub

The City is supporting arts educators and teaching artists most impacted by COVID-19 and has funded a web-based Arts Hub, which offers a one-stop resource for organizations to find information about funding, grants, and other resources.

Artists in Residence Program

San Francisco also selected four regional artists of color to serve as the Artists in Residence at the COVID-19 Command Center. Each artist, two photographers and two comic artists, spent three months embedded at COVID Command and in the field with various outreach and support teams. During the residency period, the artists created photo and illustration portfolios that will become part of the San Francisco Public Library’s COVID Community Time Capsule.

Creative Corps Pilot Program and Paint the Void

In November 2020, the City launched the Creative Corps pilot program, which has employed local artists to create COVID-related public health PSAs. The City has also funded murals throughout San Francisco in partnership with Paint the Void, which has created jobs for artists and helped to build community with volunteer painting days.

Paint the Void mural
Mural in the Mission District’s Clarion Alley, which was conceived of and painted by a local emerging artist, Elizabeth Blancas

Commissioning Artists for Poster Series

In summer 2020, San Francisco commissioned 10 artists to create posters to celebrate healthcare workers. The poster series, HEROES: San Francisco Thanks Frontline Healthcare Workers, celebrated and thanked healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients.

Left: artwork by Nicole Dixon; Right: artwork by Juan R. Fuentes commissioned by the City for the poster series HEROS: San Francisco Thanks Frontline Healthcare Workers

Continuing programs that support artists

Grants for the Arts

In August 2020, we awarded $12.8 million in grants to 277 arts and cultural organizations, with a focus on ensuring we were allocating funding equitably. These investments help enhance the City’s public spaces, provide employment and enrichment to residents, and continue to expand San Francisco’s artistic and cultural diversity.

San Francisco Arts Commission

In June 2020, we announced grant awards totaling more than $4.6 million to 154 individual artists and arts organizations. $1.4 million will go to 71 individual artists and 83 organizations will receive $3.2 million.

Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative

In April 2021, we awarded funding through our Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative to several organizations in San Francisco, including a program that program music, dance and arts access at an affordable housing site in the Mission. The Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative helps stabilize nonprofits that provide services and support to residents as part of the response to COVID-19 and beyond. Grants are administered by Community Vision, which will announce the next request for acquisition proposals in June 2021 and will offer several workshops with more information.

Recovering Together

The arts are going to continue to be an essential part of our economic recovery and the future of San Francisco. I am looking forward to seeing more arts return to in-person events — from plays, musicals, parades, community cultural celebrations, gallery viewings, concerts, and more — all across San Francisco.

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