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Open arts in Bayview Hunters Point

June 30, 2014

by Tiffany Hickey, Outreach and Development Director, Bayview Hunters Point Community Legal

According to a recent report by the San Francisco Budget and Finance Committee, 76 percent of the funding from the City’s Grants for the Arts will go to arts organizations with primarily white audiences. Here in the Bayview, we have seen why this funding skew might be playing out.

This mural, a landmark on the Dollar Store on Palou at Third Street for decades, has recently been undergoing major renovations. There is no shortage of people who make and love the arts in Bayview Hunters Point.

This mural, a landmark on the Dollar Store on Palou at Third Street for decades, has recently been undergoing major renovations. There is no shortage of people who make and love the arts in Bayview Hunters Point.

In the fall of 2013 the Bayview Hunters Point Arts Council asked Bayview Hunters Point Community Legal to investigate grants made by the San Francisco Arts Commission that had been earmarked for local artists. Through the work of several volunteers, we investigated the grant process, reviewing hundreds of documents, and ultimately concluded that the San Francisco Arts Commission violated open government laws when awarding the grants.

When deciding what types of proposals would be funded, the San Francisco Arts Commission held a closed panel, inviting select organizations. The panel was not open to the public and was closed to everyone else interested in the grant funding. Later, the Arts Commission did hold “open” meetings as a part of the grant application process – but essentially just rubber stamped the decisions of the panel.

Why the Arts Commission decided to invite specific applicants to meet with the panel, while also closing the panel to the general public, remains a mystery. Whatever the reason, the results of the selection process are that many local arts organizations with primarily non-white audiences were excluded.

According to a recent report by the San Francisco Budget and Finance Committee, 76 percent of the funding from the City’s Grants for the Arts will go to arts organizations with primarily white audiences.

This is not to say that the organizations that received funds did not deserve the grants – we cannot make that claim. Many of the awardees have great programs and long histories of community service. Rather, we believe the blame lies with the San Francisco Arts Commission and a flawed selection process.

The results of the selection process are that many local arts organizations with primarily non-white audiences were excluded.

Bayview Hunters Point Community Legal is representing the Bayview Hunters Point Arts Council and is asking for declaratory relief to hold the City accountable. This will force them to comply with open government laws and make the grant process fair for all applicants, particularly those from Bayview Hunters Point, who the grant fund was created to support.

Due to our amazing volunteers, we can litigate this case on a very low budget but do need some help with costs such as filing fees, office supplies and labor. Please help support our campaign by donating at igg.me/at/bayviewarts.

Bayview Hunters Point Community Legal Outreach and Development Director Tiffany Hickey can be reached at tiffany@bhpcommunitylegal.org

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