Tony Bravo March 25, 2021 Updated: March 26, 2021 (datebook.sfchronicle.com)
More than 100 San Francisco artists will be guaranteed $1,000 a month for six months under a pilot program set to launch in May, following similar efforts by Stockton, Oakland and Marin County to support struggling residents during the pandemic.
The guaranteed income program, announced Thursday, March 25, by Mayor London Breed, is accepting applications now through April 15 via the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ website.
“This program is one of several guaranteed income pilots that we’re developing in San Francisco,” Breed told The Chronicle, noting in an earlier statement that “the arts are critical to our local economy and are an essential part of our long-term recovery.”
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.
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.
Artists are defined as “someone who actively engages with the community through music, dance, creative writing, visual art, performance art, installation, photography, theater or film,” according to the program’s website.
Teaching artists and arts educators, as well as “culturally based craft workers and makers,” may also apply.
Applicants must fall below certain income levels to qualify: For a single-person household, the income limit is $60,900; for a two-person household, the limit is a combined $69,600. Those income limits were determined by researching other guaranteed income programs’ best practices across the country, including in Stockton, where 125 residents were given $500 a month and showed an improved quality of life, according to a study commissioned by the city.
“At the end of the day, we want everyone in San Francisco to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives, without worrying about how they’ll pay rent or get food on the table,” Breed said. “I’m committed to making San Francisco a more equitable, just and thriving city, and we’re exploring this guaranteed income model to see if it can help us advance those goals.”
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 San Francisco 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% of the existing 8% base hotel tax to arts and cultural services, money that is jointly administered by the Arts Commission and Grants for the Arts.
To develop the 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.”
The initiative is in line with policy recommendations by San Francisco’s Economic Recovery Task Force, which the city issued in October 2020. The task force advised identifying new funding and revenue streams for the arts “to catalyze neighborhood recovery through the Arts,” as well as investing further in communities of color.
According to the San Francisco Arts Commission, the city’s creative sector generates $1.45 billion in annual economic activity as well as supporting almost 40,000 full-time jobs.
“COVID-19 has severely threatened this important sector,” Ralph Remington, the commission’s director of Cultural Affairs, said in a statement, “and the Guaranteed Income Pilot, with other programs like it, allows artists to focus on their creative work and supports the recovery of the sector overall.”
Cullinan said the YBCA staff is prepared for a swift rollout despite an anticipated large influx of applications.
“We will be ready for direct deposits, getting checks out to people and working with people who don’t have bank accounts immediately,” she said.
Following the launch of the pilot, YBCA plans to study the process and its impact on artists to determine how the program can better adapt in the future.
“There are people living in challenging circumstances right now,” Cullinan said. “We want to move as quickly as we can to get them the resources they need.”
Apply: Visit www.ybca.org/guaranteed-income-pilot. Application deadline is April 15.
- Tony BravoTony Bravo is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @TonyBravoSF