Our Powerhouse Year on Market, by Ivan Vera

On September 12, 2011, the ARC will be hosting a retreat and working session to discuss sustaining the arts in the Central Market district in San Francisco. Participants have been invited to submit guest posts to this blog to promote discussion.
Ivan Vera is the Community Arts Program Manager at Central City Hospitality House.
With the assistance from the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the Northern California Community Loan Fund and NEA/SFAC ARTery Project grant last year, we were able to temporarily relocate to Mid-Market while our Leavenworth building undergoes renovations. The Community Arts Program’s participation in last year’s art initiatives in Central Market has been an era of growth for the Arts Program and an incredible motivating factor for our artists; it has propelled them to excel not only in their creative output but also on their overall professional growth as artists.
The welcoming response we’ve had from neighborhood residents, landlords and businesses has been very encouraging. Our temporary presence in Central Market this past year has been very inspiring, the artists have had a much larger audience than at our original location, making our artists reception an immense success, not only with a considerable increase of sales, but with also with our general visibility; the number of volunteers that are involved with the Community Arts Program have increased as well.
This past fiscal year, our figures show that approximately 1,850 individual artists attended CAP, for a total of repeat visits of 6,380. Out of the individual artists, 78% of them were new to the Community Arts Program. 48% of those artists where living in unstable housing situations or homeless.
Not only did we continue to provide the services to the Tenderloin artists that used to frequent our studio on Leavenworth, but we now reach a much broader audience that not only reaches SoMa residents but the city at large. This is due largely to the huge street traffic our temporary location presents but also to Blick Art’s presence half a block away.
The majority of artists utilizing the free-of-charge fine arts studio and gallery would not be able to afford the resources we provide on their own. What is most inspiring, is that the majority of our artists face incredible amounts of frustrations on a daily basis trying to access human services and basic needs, and that they can put all that aside and produce some of the most remarkable works of art. It’s a testament of the indomitable human spirit at its best, and what makes my job most rewarding. 
Our agency’s mission is to provide opportunities for self-growth and self-determination to homeless people or others in need. The agency builds community strength by advocating policies and rendering services which foster self-sufficiency and cultural enrichment, encouraging self-help, mutual respect and increased self-esteem.