Sustaining Central Market Arts

This coming Monday, September 12, we will be hosting a retreat and working session devoted to Sustaining the Arts in the Central Market district of San Francisco.  With seed funding from UCIRA, ARC is working to build artistic partnerships between the UC system and arts organizations of Northern California.  One of our tasks is to think long-term about the role of the arts in Bay Area neighborhoods—as a means for building community, as a force in local economies, and as vehicles for provoking critical and imaginative reflection. As it turns out, sectors of higher education have a great deal in common with sectors of arts and culture.  Our hope is to craft reciprocal relationships across sectors—creating opportunities for artists and students, civic leaders and faculty—so that all boats rise.
To that end, it is a true thrill to be working with the Tenderloin Economic Development Project along with many helpful interlocutors in crafting this retreat.  If you have been following the press about SF’s recent attempts to bolster neighborhood life in Central Market, you know that “the arts” (along with Twitter) are a key part of the civic plan. SFAC is just closing a summer of Storefront Artand a 24-day festival of Central Market art will be launched at the end of the month. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development has posted its ownpresentation about challenges and potentials for all citizens to peruse. Even as the arts are positioned (a la Richard Florida) to enliven and strengthen the neighborhood, we felt it was important to think about how the arts themselves are being enlivened and strengthened by neighborhood planning and civic initiatives.  Our plan is to start off the day with remarks from Judy Nemzoff of the San Francisco Arts Commission, Amy Cohen of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Elvin Padilla of the Tenderloin Economic Development Project, and Josh Simon of the Northern California Community Loan Fund.  This group will survey that last 18 months of activity and think pragmatically and conceptually about the aesthetics, the organizational challenges, and the fiscal contingencies of sustaining arts organizations in Central Market.
As the director of an Arts Research Center, it has become important to me to make sure that varied styles, genres, and goals of “the arts” do not get homogenized under a single—albeit strategically instrumental—umbrella.  Hence, I’m thrilled that Deborah Cullinan of Intersection for the Arts, will be facilitating a bracing and multi-voiced conversation amongst many arts organizations about their artistic and social goals.  With representatives in the room from Cutting Ball Theater, luggage story gallery, The Garage, Counterpulse, SF Recovery Theatre, Gray Area Foundation, Burning Man, Hospitality House, the Tenderloin’s Boys and Girls Clubs, ACT, SF Camerawork, and more (google them all for more info), you can be sure that many different perspectives will be heard.
After lunch—yes, we felt that all of the artists charged with sustaining Central Market deserved a lunch—Deborah Freiden will be facilitating a roundtable of case studies describing the nuts and bolts of successful partnerships in the last year.  We will hear from coalition builders, artists-turned-organizers, and visionary property owners like Brad Erickson, Joanne Lee, Will Thacher, Darryl Smith, Ivan Vera and more.  The plan is then to conclude with a visual and interactive session on next steps for partnership, facilitated by Jessica Robinson Love.
As noted on the ARC website, we have offered invitations to those who inquired, but this event is officially not open to the public. We are hoping that a closed day-long session will create trust and the kind of restorative, imaginative environment we want this retreat to be.  Stay tuned for more anticipatory reflection, feedback, and summary from the interlocutors we’ve gathered.  I’m really excited to hear what they have to say……