From Cora Mirikitani, President and CEO, Center for Cultural Innovation:

I am compelled to respond to the inaccuracies and innuendos contained in the Bay Citizen article, which alleges that $477,000 was “improperly given” to the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI) by the Cultural Equity Grants program of SFAC.

First, the facts concerning the grant monies. A check of the record will show that the $477,000 represents 1) $192,000 in inter-agency transfers from SFAC to GFTA to support the Creative Capacity Fund Quick Grants regranting program which has provided direct scholarship subsidies to 145 artists and arts administrators in San Francisco for professional development over the past 3 years ; 2) a $15,000 sponsorship by SFAC towards the 2008 Arts Town Hall held at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts attended by more than 600 Bay Area artists and arts administrators; and 3) $270,000 for 3 specific Cultural Equity research and evaluation studies designed to help the CEG program gather independent data on the accomplishments of Cultural Equity in San Francisco, and assess whether enough is being done to serve the new “majority minority” Latino and Asian American arts communities in San Francisco, in particular. These grant monies may seem like a large amount in total, but the fact is that they have directly benefitted hundreds of artists and smaller arts organizations in SF, and have also leveraged at least 8 other Bay Area funders to support SF arts because of the leadership of SFAC’s CEG program.

Second, I would like to address the allegation that these funds were awarded improperly. Nothing could be further from the truth. CCI has followed every guideline, application and reporting requirement set forth by the funding agency itself (SFAC), and to say that CCI has acted improperly is ludicrous as these were their rules, not ours. Furthermore, it is my understanding that the SF Arts Commission is required by law to review and approve by Resolution every grant made by SFAC, including those to CCI, which I’m sure is on the record if anyone bothered to look. It’s disturbing that some Commissioners would rather throw CCI, Intersection, Galeria de la Raza and other good arts organizations under the bus to deflect attention away from their own negligence rather than accept responsibility and accountability for the programs and policies they are sworn to oversee at SFAC.

Third, I want to state for the record that I believe the City’s funding policies can and should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to meet the changing demographics of its citizens, and changing needs of the artists and arts organizations doing important work in the community. But this should be accomplished through an open, transparent and factually-based review of CEG’s funding programs, policies and priorities, not through a so-called “house cleaning” that advances partial truths as though they were facts, and promotes finger-pointing and in-fighting within an already impoverished CEG arts constituency that contributes so much to SF’s diversity and vitality, but receives relative scraps.

My final note is a very personal one. Because I’m a third-generation Japanese American, I’m painfully aware that an entire generation just before me was sent to American internment camps by well-meaning government officials and honest citizens who got caught up in scare tactics and a public frenzy that defied the facts. I have worked in the arts for my entire 30-year career because I believe that artists and the arts have the power to rise above politics, can speak the truth to power, and will serve as the healing ground for the community’s most pressing issues. Given all that is unfolding, I hope this continues to be true in San Francisco.