Investment, Equity, Accountability. The time is now.


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Dear community,

We need you to speak on behalf of Cultural Equity and the San Francisco Arts Commission this Friday May 20 at 9am at City Hall to speak to the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee during Public Comment.

This is an important time to have your voice heard. There are two issues facing San Francisco’s arts community. One is fair and equitable funding to all communities and the other is increased investment in the arts.

Increased Investment
The city’s budget has been growing and as the city is going through its budget process there has been significant increased investment to many departments; but that same level investment has not been seen at the San Francisco Arts Commission. Increasing the budget, not just through reallocation, sets precedent for the budget size for future years.  In this time of displacement, the needs for the historically under capitalized groups are becoming exponentially greater. We need more money for the arts and for that money to be equitably distributed.

San Francisco Grants for the Arts
Recently the San Francisco’s Budget Analyst’s Office conducted a study on San Francisco Grants for the Arts and their funding to diverse communities. Read it here

The report had very eye opening and disturbing findings when it came to the funding practices; including the fact that GFTA’s funding to cultural communities has dropped in the last 6 years while their budget has risen and that only 23% of funding has been distributed to cultural communities of color though people of color now make up for 58% of the population. These facts are coupled with the response from GFTA that they do not have a answer why it is so, or a directive to make change. This has been happening in San Francisco, which is supposed to celebrate diversity.

Cultural equity is a value that all City Departments should have ingrained in their cores. The sole responsibility should not stand the mere fact that there is a funding program that exists to address it.  And that program is woefully underfunded and not seen an increase in a decade.

There have been rumors that the Supervisor’s are going to take action to move monies from SFGFTA to SFAC’s Cultural Equity Grants Program. It is NOT a funding cut to the arts – as it as been erroneously been reported . It’s a reallocation based on accountability and justice. The total investment in the arts is not affected.

During last year’s budget committee meetings SFGFTA promised the Supervisors and the City of San Francisco to make changes with their increase in funding they were to receive.

See video here:

Those changes did not happen and when paired with the Budget Analyst report the Supervisors might take action. This issue is about cultural equity and accountability. If people are claiming Cultural Equity is important then shouldn’t it be important now and not later? When should it be addressed? At GFTA it’s been over 25 years. Exactly when is it most convenient for those who might feel the pinch to address cultural equity?

Please take some time to read the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy Report by Holly Sidford about fusing foundation priorities for funding arts, culture and social change

Are there answers?
The 2006 San Francisco Arts Task Force had a number of recommendations that would end this struggle including having 1 department of Cultural Affairs that would encompass both departments under one value structure.

Here is a link to the report:

How can you help:

  1. Write to the  San Francisco Board of Supervisors to increase the budget for SFAC’s Cultural Equity Grants program, not only with any monies that they might move over as a temporary measure, but NEW investment that sets precedent for years to come.
  2. Ask the Supervisors to hold those making false promises for cultural equity accountable.,,,,,,,,,,,
  3. Come out and make your voice heard on these matters at the community public comment process this Friday at City Hall starting at 9am.  There will be a rally outside city hall starting at 9am.
  4. Tell others about this message and sign up for the culturalequitymatters mailing list (located to the right)


Cultural equity and the San Francisco Arts Commission

reposted with permission from

By IAN DAVID MOSS | Published: DECEMBER 12TH, 2011

It’s not too often that we get genuinely tabloid-worthy headlines in arts policy, but if trainwrecks are your thing, you’ll be hard-pressed to do better (worse?) than the mess that is the San Francisco Arts Commission these days. Let’s start with the San Francisco Chronicle article:

Under its former director, the San Francisco Arts Commission failed to properly track spending and had a fearful workplace, according to a city controller’s audit released Tuesday.

The report lays bare financial and management problems that festered in the $10 million city agency under Luis Cancel, former director of cultural affairs. Appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, Cancel resigned this summer when he came under fire for clocking in from Brazil and mistreating staff.


Among other conclusions, auditors found that the Arts Commission was spending money that violated the city’s reimbursement policies – money held in accounts by Intersection for the Arts, the commission’s nonprofit fiscal sponsor.

(Wait, did I just read that right? The San Francisco Arts Commission, an agency of city government, was using one of its own grantees as a fiscal sponsor? Nothing against Intersection, which does great work, but…huh?!)

Anyway, things just get more bizarre from there. According to the audit in question:

Surveyed employees consistently reported that they did not feel that they could report misconduct or a human resources issue without retaliation. Over one-third (35 percent) of respondents indicated that they felt that staff could not report misconduct without fear of retribution. One response stated, “I certainly don’t feel safe or comfortable lodging a complaint,” while another stated, “historically, we’ve all been terrified of retribution (since 2008) because we all witnessed it in action.”


Employees reported little to no relationship between the duties they perform and those in their official job classification descriptions. A large majority (62 percent) of respondents indicated that job classification specifications often do not match the employee’s responsibilities and workload. For instance, one response identified a case in which a person hired as an intern continued to work for SFAC for over three years, taking on responsibilities that far exceeded those of an intern, with no change in classification or compensation to reflect the increased responsibilities.

Yikes! So when I tell you that there’s a huge uproar in the San Francisco artist community about the San Francisco Arts Commission, you gotta figure it’s about the gross financial and employee mismanagement of the previous administration, right? Think again.

Among the [audit’s] 12 recommendations, two, dealing with the Cultural Equity Grants (CEG) program, are the most controversial. They say that the program should:

  • Cease funding and administering four of its eight initiatives, on the grounds that the program’s enabling legislation authorizes only the “Cultural Equity Initiatives Program (CEI), a Program for Commissions to Individual Artists (IAC), the Project Grants to Small and Mid-size organizations (OPG), and the Facilities Fund (CRSP). The other four are recommended for elimination because they are not cited by name in the city Administrative Code: Native American Arts & Cultural Traditions (NAACT), Innovations in Strengthening the Arts (ISA), Arts & Communities: Innovative Partnerships (ACIP), Arts for Neighborhood Vitality grant categories (ANV)
  • Ensure that no recipient receives more than one grant at a time, on the grounds that 14 of the 172 grant recipients received multiple grants in FY 2010-11. The guidelines say no recipient may receive more than one grant for the same project, but the Controller finds “some risk that the same recipient may use multiple grants for one project” sufficient grounds to limit eligibility further. Over the last five years, the Galeria de la Raza, a long-lived and highly respected, Latino visual arts organization deeply rooted in San Francisco’s Mission District, received 12 grants totalling just under $237,000, an average of $47,000 a year.

That’s from an article last week by Arlene Goldbard, a Bay Area blogger and longtime champion of the community arts. Her lengthy and excellent post goes on to defend with great passion the CEG program, which despite its small size has been an important national model in reaching immigrant and other underserved communities through arts funding. To Arlene and others in the California arts community who have been contributing their opinions on the anonymous pop-up blog Cultural Equity Matters, the Controller’s audit, which was ostensibly intended as a means of helping SFAC clean up its act, is only making things worse. Artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña goes so far as to call the report a “racist” attack on community arts funding, and even Goldbard criticizes the report for seeming “to have been written by a computer—or human beings impersonating a computer’s pristine disinterest in human events” and “respond[ing] with bureaucratic solutions that would be identical for any city agency, whether it regulated a fleet of trucks or cleaned the streets.”

I’m not in the middle of this thing, and I can’t speak to the motivations of those who instigated the inquiry. From a disinterested vantage point, though, my sense is that some of the criticism being leveled against the Controller’s audit is unfair. Sure, it’s bureaucratic; but look, these people are accountantsThat’s like criticizing the San Francisco Mime Troupe for not properly considering the upsides of corporate personhood. On first glance it does seem strange that CEG is singled out, but given that it’s SFAC’s only major competitive grant program it’s perhaps not that surprising. I do think there’s a legitimate argument to be made about whether the audit should have sought to micromanage program operations at all, but once you get into considering specific financial transactions I can understand how it would be hard to know where to draw the line. In any case, the good news is that nowhere in the audit do the authors make a normative statement that CEG as a whole should get less funding, or that the specific organizations receiving multiple grants from CEG did anything wrong; it’s pretty focused on some narrow technical and legal concerns about how the program is operated and administered.

After initially saying that she supported the report’s recommendations (including eliminating those four “illegal” grant categories), interim director JD Beltran has sought to quiet the storm, publicly standing behind CEG and promising that no funds will be cut from the program (emphasis in the original):

The SFAC’s responses to the audit indicated that all programs will be made legally compliant.  It is most important to note, however, that our responses in no way indicated that any funding to the community through our grant programs would cease or decrease.…The report does not suggest or dictate agency policy, it simply recognizes shortcomings in certain agency fiscal, administrative, and staffing practices, and its findings also observed issues in the Cultural Equity Grants Program.

The SFAC remains steadfast in its mission, policies, and full support of its highly valued programs, and especially its groundbreaking Cultural Equity Grant Program.

So at this point, it looks like CEG is likely not in any real danger; that’s the good news. The bad news (although it may ultimately be for the best) is that this whole debacle has laid bare some things about cultural funding in San Francisco that are not, well, so equitable. The Cultural Equity Grants program gave out less than $2.4 million to 172 recipients in the most recent fiscal year, according to the report, or a bit under $14,000 per organization. By contrast, according to Goldbard, the San Francisco Symphony and Opera each received over $600,000 in government funds in the last fiscal year alone through San Francisco’s other city arts program, Grants for the Arts. On top of this, SFAC has an annual contract with the Symphony to “produce a concert series that is intended to appeal to youth, families, and the diverse demographics of the City.” It turns out that in FY11, the size of this contract ($2 million) makes up nearly a quarterof the Commission’s annual budget, and represents almost as much money as that spent on the entire Cultural Equity Grants program!

The dustup with the Arts Commission takes place at a time when cultural equity has been occupying, if you will, a large chunk of the national conversation about the arts, ever since the publication of Holly Sidford’s report Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change. Grantmakers in the Arts even has a whole blog salon going on about it right now. I’m not suggesting that the concerts that the City of San Francisco produces with the San Francisco Symphony are unworthy of public funding, or that $2 million is not a reasonable amount to pay for the Symphony’s services; I have no reason to make such presumptions. But it does seem to me a perfect example of how large-budget, historic cultural institutions have privileges of access at their disposal that few arts organizations founded within our lifetimes (including, therefore, hardly any organizations founded by or primarily serving racial and ethnic minorities) could ever dream of. Sure, Galeria de la Raza got 12 grants in 5 years from SFAC. But most of those grants had to be won with the approval of a panel of fellow citizens, with panel discussion taking place in public (CEG has one of the most radically transparent review processes in the country; see page 11 of the pdf). The San Francisco Symphony, to my knowledge, does not have its contract up for public review by a panel of citizen peers every year. It just gets the money.

There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg issue with such things. The SFS offers world-class artistic programming. Of course the city should be honored, grateful even, to be able to offer that programming for free to its citizens, especially people who are less likely to take in the orchestra’s regular subscription series. But here’s the thing: the Symphony is able to offer that world-class programming in large part because it offers its artists and administrators a lot of money to come from around the world to San Francisco. And it’s able to offer people that kind of money in large part because, like the marquee orchestra in every city, it has friends in high places.

I’ll end with this rant from Maria X. Martinez, posted on the aforementioned Cultural Equity Matters blog:

[T]his report points out 2 small grants (we are talking very small) that do not use peer review…really? In my 15 years of civil service, I have only seen one department employ an open peer review: the SF Arts Commission. Hundreds of millions of dollars in grants are awarded by CCSF without one peer at the table, and we put a light on the tiny-by-comparison small grants within the Cultural Equity Endowment Fund? How many peers were at the table when deciding to bail out and guarantee to keep the Asian [Art] Museum afloat with a $99 million loan this year? […]

Would not our brain trust…be better spent by auditing WHY La Galeria, for example, has to spend their extremely limited, precious time and energy to apply for 12 small grants over the course of 5 years (not to mention the overhead for SFAC to award and administer those same small [12] grants)? This study chooses, rather to focus on a very small percent of organizations for a very small amount of money who are awarded by their peers (!) because they are deserving.

Oh dear, we must get our priorities straight.



A Statement from the Staff of the SFAC

This week at City Hall, a Special Meeting of the Full Arts Commission was convened to provide further discussion of a recent report from the Office of the Controller. It was the second hearing the SFAC convened on the matter, and was as much an opportunity for concerned citizens and stakeholders to share their thoughts with commissioners as it was a chance to hear more about the report, what it is, and what it isn’t.

We at the Arts Commission were heartened to see so many members of the arts community at the meeting, most of whom came out to voice their support for the Cultural Equity Grants Program (CEG).

SFAC Commissioners joined that sentiment. As Commission President PJ Johnston said at the Dec. 12 meeting:

“We said it last week, we’ll say it again today, and we’ll keep on saying it: We believe in the Cultural Equity Grants program, we wholeheartedly support Cultural Equity grant recipients, and we intend to protect funding for Cultural Equity in the arts.”

The staff of the SFAC, like the commissioners who spoke this week and last, share the community’s passion for a vibrant and diverse cultural community, and we want to reassure you that the Arts Commission unequivocally supports the Cultural Equity Grants Program.

In order to foster continued support for this and other critical programs of the SFAC, and to further dispel any lingering misconceptions about the Controller’s report and the staff response, the following is a recap of some of the key points emphasized at the Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 meetings:

1. The Controller’s Report was an audit of ALL of the SFAC’s programs and their fiscal policies; staffing issues; and granting practices. It was not solely focused on CEG. And it was not in any way a critique of grant recipients.

2. The official staff responses to the Controller’s Report, which were required by city policy, were intended to assure the Controller that the SFAC will comply with city law. The responses were not meant to indicate that staff will unilaterally change agency policies or management of the Cultural Equity Endowment Fund. We are proud of the fact that CEG has become a national model for the rest of the country, and we have no intention of abandoning the mission of the CEG program, cutting funding to cultural equity recipients, or making significant policy changes without commissioner and community input.

However, in order to comply with city policies and regulations, staff will be recommending procedural changes to CEG grantmaking that will allow the Commission to bring all SFAC programs into legal compliance.

3. The Controller’s Report provides specific findings that will offer guidance to the new director, and to the Commission, on how all SFAC programs can be better and more efficiently managed. By addressing the agency’s inefficiencies – such as administrative overhead fees that have become inflated over the past several years – we anticipate that funding and grant resources to CEG grantees will actually increase.

4. While the report recommended that CEG cease funding and administering certain grant programs outside of its legal authority, it did not suggest the SFAC cease funding these specific grants altogether-and we have no intention of eliminating funding to these grant programs. What we will be doing is looking into ways in which we can make these grant categories legally compliant.

The Controller’s Office recommended working with the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor’s Office to seek appropriate legislative remedies, and we anticipate our new director and our commissioners will do just that. In the meantime, the Native American Grant deadlines for this fiscal year will move forward as planned, shepherded by the agency’s Director of Community Arts and Education (CAE), Judy Nemzoff and Jaime Cortez, who managed those grants under the CEG Program.

5. The Controller’s Report called out the SFAC’s lack of a clearly stated policy with regard to awarding simultaneous grants to the same organization within the same grant cycle, and recommended that our granting practices ensure that funds are awarded in such a way that they reach as many community programs and projects as possible. Unfortunately, this finding has created much confusion in the community.

Two things are important to recognize: First, this finding should not be interpreted as any kind of criticism of the grantee organizations identified in the report as having received multiple grants. Receiving multiple grants from CEG should not in any way reflect negatively upon grant recipients. Indeed, the SFAC recognizes and applauds the exemplary work of these incredible organizations who, because they represent the best in their field, have won multiple grants through a highly competitive process. As several commissioners and Interim Director JD Beltran pointed out, their success in winning grants is a testament to their exceptional work and to their value to the community. The Controller’s Office found shortcomings in the SFAC’s articulated policies with regard to grantmaking, not with grantee organizations.

As President Johnston said at the Dec. 5 meeting, “We love our Cultural Equity grantees. The fact that a tremendous organization like Galleria de la Raza received more than one grant in a given year just shows how incredible the organization is, and how hard they’re working to stay competitive.”

Second, the SFAC, both staff and commissioners, recognize the value in awarding more than one grant to the same organization, based on a variety circumstances. In response to the Controller’s recommendation, the SFAC will work towards establishing and articulating a clear policy with regard to awarding multiple grants within a single grant cycle. To that end, we will be conducting an assessment of best granting practices and will refine the agency’s policy on this issue.

As Johnston said: “I don’t think anyone on this commission would support eliminating multiple grant opportunities.”

6. Any significant policy changes affecting any program at the SFAC will, as always, be made by the body that oversees this agency, the Arts Commission, and will be made in full consultation with the new Director of Cultural Affairs, Tom DeCaigny, and with the arts community itself.

While we recognize that the Controller’s Report generated significant, and legitimate, concerns among many members of the arts community, it is important to recognize that independent financial audits of city agencies and their programs are appropriate, common and necessary. The purpose of this report was to help the agency shed light on fiscal and management concerns that had been raised by many commissioners, as well as many community stakeholders, over the past few years. The public scrutiny of public programs and public funds is an opportunity for the SFAC to identify the areas that must be improved, so that the agency can better serve the arts community and the city as whole, by becoming a more transparent, efficient and fiscally responsible organization. The Controller’s Review provides us with a roadmap as we move forward with policies that will ensure our shared goal of continuing support for San Francisco’s rich and diverse arts and cultural organizations.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Kate Patterson at

We wish you a happy holiday season!

From Barry’s Blog

From Barry’s Blog:

The San Francisco Arts Commission mess.  I am following very closely the continuing saga of the SF Arts Commission Cultural Equity Grants Program – what was purportedly a scandal, but is becoming more of a mishandled bureaucratic SNAFU.  An important meeting for Monday, December 5th.  Whatever happens this one potentially has all the hallmarks of a real soap opera drama.  See Arlene Goldbard’s blog.

About Barry Hessenius:
Former Director of the California Arts Council; President of the California Assembly of Local Arts Agencies; Executive Director LINES Ballet. Author (Hardball Lobbying for Nonprofits – MacMillan & Co.; Youth Involvement in the Arts – 2 phase study for the Hewlett Foundation; Local Arts Agency Funding Study for the Aspen Institute; City Arts Toolkit), consultant, public speaker.

A National Audience to San Francisco’s Cultural Equity Situation

“Grantmakers In the Arts” (GIA) has re-posted/linked some of the articles from  This issue has gotten national attention of the philanthropic world.

About GIA:
“The mission of Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) is to provide leadership and service to advance the use of philanthropic resources on behalf of arts and culture. GIA is the only national association of private and public funders making grants to artists and arts organizations in America. GIA’s strength is in its diversity of members: private, family, community and corporate foundations, national, state and local governmental agencies, nonprofit national, regional and local service organizations. What they all have in common is a belief that America is a better place to live and our communities are stronger when the creativity of artists is prevalent in all aspects of society.”

We welcome in GIA to our conversation on Cultural Equity and how it is being handled by the San Francisco Arts Commission.

GIA is also hosting a Online Forum on Equity in Arts Funding!  It’s very exciting that that on a national level the philanthropic community is recognizing Equity in the Arts.


San Francisco City Hall; ROOM 416

Agenda can be found at:

Possible Agenda items to speak at:
5. Public Comment
The whole meeting will be devoted to the Controllers Report.


Here’s what you can do:

  1. Come to the meeting: It’s important for the Commissioners to see the program’s constituency.
  2. Testify at the Dec 12 meeting.
  3. Send emails to P.J. Johnston (President of the Arts Commission) and voice your support of Cultural Equity Grants and their staff.
  4. Spread this email around

During public testimony you might talk about any of the following:

  • EXPRESS your support of the Cultural Equity Grants program staff who have made an positive impact on the community.
  • DEMAND to hear the CEG staff analysis of the controllers report.
  • DEMAND to know about what the plan is for the 4 programs (ACIP, NAACT, AVN, and ISA), that will be ‘moved’ from CEG
  • DEMAND that responsibility to taken by all, Staff and Commissioners, for issues found by Controller Report.
  • TELL the story of how Cultural Equity Grants have impacted your work, your organization, your community and your constituents.
  • VOICE your opinion about how recent events have negatively impacted your organization.
  • DEMAND a written statement from SFAC and Commissioners in support of the work grantees and staff Cultural Equity Grants programs who have made a positive impact in the community.

New Director of Cultural Affairs

Statement from SF Arts Commission:

Introducing Our New Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny! 

On Monday, December 5, the Arts Commission voted unanimously to appoint Tom DeCaigny as the agency’s new Director of Cultural Affairs. To learn more about Tom and his accomplishments, check out this article on SFGATE.

After five months, Interim Director JD Beltran will step down to return to her life as a full-time artist and professor at the San Francisco Art Institute. During her tenure, JD poured her heart as well as countless hours into restoring this agency to good health. While we will miss her dearly, her presence will be felt as we usher in a new positive chapter in the Arts Commission’s history. Thank you, JD! Welcome, Tom!

Notes and Testimony from the SFAC Dec 5 Meeting

These are notes from what was said.  Some things were paraphrased and not all the testimony was included.  If you feel your comments were taken out of context please contact info at culturalequitymatters dot org.

The SF Arts Commission comes out with official minutes on their website.


The meeting started off with Commission President PJ Johnson and Interim Director JD Beltran announcing that Interim Director JD Beltran had withdrawn her consideration of being the next Director of Cultural Affairs of the SFAC.

JD Beltran said that she will miss the staff and felt that the staff had better morale now than it did before she came on board.

PJ Johnson said that it’s been a trying time for Arts Commission in terms of leadership and they had a leadership transition in duress.   JD Beltran stepped in and tried to bridge the gap and did an admirable job.

JD Beltran began introducing the Controller’s office team by first saying that there wasn’t enough time or opportunity to give a full narrative about the report and response to contextualize what it the report really meant.

Other points made:

  • Had they had a more time they could have avoided some of the misconceptions
  • One of the misconceptions of Report is that in concurring with the report CEG was going to get cut.
  • SFAC is NOT going to change any Agency policies regarding CEG or any other program.
  • Agency will change processes in a matter in which it makes the programs ‘legal’.
  • Agency values and supports the program as it is a model program for the rest of the nation.  JB Beltran said she won an individual grant in 2007 is part of that CEG constituency.
  • Because of fixes to administrative inefficiencies the money going out to the community should actually rise.  The CEG program is mandated to keep administrative costs under 12.5%.  CEG’s admin costs had more than doubled in the past 5 years while the overall program budget had remained the same or in some years shrunk.

JD Beltran then wanted to clarify 2 points:

  1. Controller recommended cease funding and administering the 4 programs that is not legislatively mandated to do.  SFAC is NOT going to stop funding or administering these programs.  They are just not going to be administered by CEG.  The want to administer them in a way they are ‘legal’.  They are already doing this by CAE Director Judy Nemzoff meeting with Jaime Cortez, who heads the Native program, and Judy is also meeting with San San on budget and how to transfer the program to CAE.
  2. Second point to clarify was simultaneous grants.  Receiving multiple grants should not reflect poorly on the awardees of those grants. It reflects upon the shortcomings and oversight by CEGs current granting process.  Grants to Galeria de la Raza and those to other organizations are won through a competitive process and were awarded to the best organizations.

Giving out multiple grants in the same cycle was a shortcoming of CEG and the SFAC will look at their own policy of simultaneous grants in accordance to the ‘best practices’ of grantmaking.

The Controller’s Office was then asked to speak.

Members of the Controller Office talked about the report, it’s finding, and methodology.

Commissioner Lorraine Garcia-Nakata spoke and apologized for not being about to be at the Dec 12 meeting:

  • Some of the issues in the report are basic and could be found of any department or organization.
  • The entire process of how this was handled and how it was played out in the media was unfortunate.  Especially to those organizations who were named.
  • She said that she agreed to those financial and fiscal policy recommendations of the Controller’s office because it was in their purview but PROGRAM policy is very distinct and should be left in the hands of the Commission and staff.
  • Having been in philanthropy one of the red flags she heard was ‘best practices’ is spreading the dollars out to as many people as possible.  That is NOT a ‘best practice’ in the philanthropy world and has not been for decades.  Some grantmakers can make a focused attempt at change and therefore would have a focused funding.
  • One of the key points is that the new leadership needs to understand is this discourse, understanding philanthropy, understand our cultural community, and because we’re tied to the nation it will require a person who has that complexity.
  • She feels positive that with the energy in the room we will heading to a better place.
  • She values the reciprocity of the information the commission and the community has.

PJ Johnson then went to say Controllers Reports are never an easy thing to deal with.  PJ had some hesitation about this meeting.  There had been a lot of emails over the weekend.  He’s been a volunteer on the commission for many years and has fought to increase funding for the community arts.  No one on the commission wants to cut CEG and everyone is for more resources towards it.  He was at a meeting the night before with some community members and one person said to him ‘hey the community needs to come out in support of CEG and City Hall needs to hear it’  it will be ‘cathartic’.  He thought about it last night and he came to the conclusion that it was going to be a great thing.  He’s glad to see everyone here.  CEG will not be cut.  He went great lengths to say that the SFAC values all the work of the grantees of CEG who won grants through rigorous panel review processes and that the Controllers Report and subsequent articles only reflect issues/problems WITHIN SFAC.  He knows that these arts organizations are applying for a small piece of the pie, that is administered through a peer review panel, and then a pall is cast over the process, it’s hurtful.  He said “we’re not even talking about the bigger piece of pie here.”  He welcomes the opportunity to set some things straight here.  Cultural Equity is important to everyone.

Community Speakers:
Carolina Ponce de Leon: Expressed her displeasure of how Galeria was portrayed.  Expressed her gratitude for the support from the Arts Commission.  Expressed that CEG’s creative granting programming has given the ability for cultural community to express themselves.

Lily Kharrazi: ACTA: ACTA deals with Cultural Equity on a statewide basis.  ACTA works in tandem with CEG to further the Cultural Equity.  CEG grants have led to a many projects that have helped benefited traditional artists.

London Breed: African American Art and Culture Complex: Did not agree with the moving other Native American grants from Cultural Centers to Cultural Equity.  Did not agree with how those decisions were made.  And those decisions contributed to the division between Cultural Centers and CEG.  She said she’s feels very fortunate that we have CEG but wants to see changes so it is even more Equitable.  In 2007 the Black Film Festival did not get funded and President PJ Johnson did a personal fundraiser to help raise money.  In that year only grant was awarded to an organization in District 5.  She’d like to see the program take a look at dispersing more monies though the cultural and geographical districts of San Francisco.

Vinay Patel: Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center: A lot of reason why the community is here is because of the lack of response to the report and articles.  CEG’s stakeholders are the community.  The community got together and created CEG and they are still invested.  CEG IS A ‘BEST PRACTICE’  in grantmaking.  Other funders look to CEG as a roadmap to how to deal with Cultural Equity issues and making changes to their own programming.  We need to hear from the CEG staff about what they think about the report and recommendations.

Elizabeth Pickens: Radar Productions: Expressed gratitude to Garcia Nakata, JD Beltran, and PJ Johnson to come to support San San Wong and her department which help creates a city unlike any other.  The possibility arts in the marginalized communities is made possible by CEG.  That’s why she moved to SF, why many did.  With more resources and monies San San Wong and her staff can extend that great work.  “We are the community and we are here to give you (the Arts Commissioners) the support you need to make the city flourish even more.”

Celine Schein: Chitresh Das Dance Company: With CEG CDDC has almost reached the million dollar mark an amazing feat for a single Indian choreographer dance company.  She asked why the focus on CEG and not the rest of the programs?  Why was money going to CEG scrutinized but not the monies going to the Symphony Opera Ballet?  She spoke in support of the CEG staff.  CDDC is appreciative of support that they receive; that they can talk to the CEG staff, send applications before hand, get feedback; and that is truly a ‘best practice’.  She knows there’s questions about admin costs but in her opinion the CEG staff is earning their pay.  The transparency of the granting process has been very professional.

Rachna Nivas: Chitresh Das Dance Company: Extremely grateful to SFAC.  It’s because of this program (CEG) that she was doing this part time to propel to do it full time and be able to pass on this incredible jewel to the community.  She thanks the Commission for giving her the opportunity and hopes that can only build upon CEG’s success.

Krissy Keefer (felt the need to transcribe Krissy’s speech completely): Krissy Keefer, Dance Brigade.  Today I am speaking on behalf of Cultural Equity, I am speaking on behalf of the artists and community served by cultural equity, on behalf of San Francisco and the worlds people who benefit from the unique perspective artists and cultural workers bring to politics, human relationships and the world’s problems.  The article that appeared in the Chronicle implicated CEG artists and organizations of being erroneously overfunded.  Shocking that this Audit was sent to the press views Cultural Equity as the piñata for the problems that have plagued the Arts Commission for years leaving those of us funded by CEG under a cloud of suspicion and fear.  I think that you all may have been caught off guard by the level of support for Cultural Equity from those of us out in the field.  We feel real support and camaraderie from the director and staff.  As artist who feels almost as though I may have PTSD from running an organization that deals directly with a lack of resources, underpaid staff,  increasing burden of accounting and processing of grants, with an inordinate amount of fiscal oversight and accountability of which CEG is right up there and demanding; including a contentious peer review panel that often leaves longterm colleagues at odds; for what?  to get a grant that ranges from 15 to 35 thousand dollars… and then make it feel like we don’t deserve it.  so rather than that accept and foster an article that alludes to impropriety of CEG recipients why not glorify us, honor us, revel in our creativity, demand our government that we get the same access to city’s resources as the Ballet, the Opera, the Symphony,  Theater who are all on their own accounts suffering from low ticket sales, diminishing subscribers, lack of donations, and basic lack of audience.  I for one am tired of this conversation but feel that the recent actions of this published audit leave the door wide open to renew the discussions of what art forms and what community gets served by the city’s resources.  Finally whoever you hire for the job needs to live in San Francisco and go see the arts that are out there, visit the theater the artists the communities on a regular basis, to know firsthand of what is going on, on the ground. I will be very disappointed  if you hire someone who lives in another city and clocks out at 5pm.  That is when the actions starts, that is when the day should begin.

Jon Jang: Artist/Composer: Acknowledged Krissy Keefer.  One of 4 artists to sit on the 59 member Cultural Affairs task force which helped pave the way for the establishment of SF CEG.  On that task force there were the big organizations and the small and there was contention over the world ‘multi culturalism’.  In the end of that contention the phrase Cultural Equity was established.  Since 1995 Jon has received many awards and through that has written works that have honored the legacy of San Francisco.  He heard of San San Wong since 1980’s who had strong background in dance and music and was excited that we brought her here.

Thomas Simpson: Afro Solo: His organization did not received a CEG grant last year and will not receive one this year; but those who did receive them he deeply respects and was very glad that they did get them.  Frequently when there is chaos, confusion, rumor there on the street that means that there’s chaos, confusion and rumor in the arts commission.  So when this report bubbles up, often there has to be a fall guy or a program and usually those fall guys are people of color or marginalized peoples or people who have less voice than the more economically well off people.  He’s glad everyone’s there and there’s support for CEG and glad there is a unspoken resistance.  Some people are here to wait and see what happens and he hopes the community will hold the commission’s feet to the fire on to what happens to  the program.  CEG is very important to our community and others.  Community wants to be part of the solution, whatever is decided. Don’t leave the community in the background.  Take that into account when choosing new leadership.

Julie Lazar – She’s new to SF, lived here for 1.5 years, but she’s not new to California.  Moved from LA.  Was founding curator of Museum of Contemporary Art.  Nothing but admiration of the community that has gathered here.  Is disappointed that JD Beltran is not in the running for full time Director.   She has grat respect for JD as an artist an individual.  Doesn’t know many people who could have done this job coming in to a difficult situation and handled herself with dignity.  But she knows a lot of the other people involved such as Guillermo Gomez Pena, San San Wong, and personally know Cora Mirikatani who runs Center for Cultural Innovation, who built that organization from the ground up, serves artists throughout the state.  The grants given to CCI are well deserved because they are redistributed to a diverse community.  She hopes that we don’t fight each other when things go awry and we need to reinforce each others strengths.

Michelle Tea: Thanked all the volunteer work the commissioners did.  Is the E.D. of Radar Production.  Radar Productions has received funding and not received funding from CEG because that’s what happens.  Really shocked to see themselves in the Controllers report because receiving those grants since 2005 was a great source of pride.  To see Radar’s name associated with doing something shady, because of an error was very discouraging and that’s why everyone is here.  Everyone works very hard and Radar is a all women queer people of color run non profits.  If CEG goes away SF would be gone as we know it.  She would move.  People move here because of CEG.

Response from Center for Cultural Innovation from Cora Mirikitani

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.

Beyond, beyond belief… By Maria X Martinez

Beyond, beyond belief. I am all for oversight and accountability, but…

First: do you really need to spend tax money for the Controller’s Office to tell you there is a morale problem in the SF Arts Commission? Isn’t that what the Commissioners should watching out for?

Second: this report points out 2 small grants (we are talking very small) that do not use peer review…really? In my 15 years of civil service, I have only seen one department employ an open peer review: the SF Arts Commission. Hundreds of millions of dollars in grants are awarded by CCSF without one peer at the table, and we put a light on the tiny-by-comparison small grants within the Cultural Equity Endowment Fund? How many peers were at the table when deciding to bail out and guarantee to keep the Asian Museum afloat with a $99 million loan this year? And Arts Commissioners/Director….please stop using the term “illegal” when referring to how dollars have been allocated. It is inflammatory, not true, and only serves to unfairly cast aspersions as to the character of SFADC and your staff. At worst, it is against City policy and easily fixed.

Third: Would not our brain trust at CCSF be better spent by auditing WHY La Galeria, for example, has to spend their extremely limited, precious time and energy to apply for 12 small grants over the course of 5 years (not to mention the overhead for SFAC to award and administer those same small 15 grants)? This study chooses, rather to focus on a very small percent of organizations for a very small amount of money who are awarded by their peers (!) because they are deserving.

Oh dear, we must get our priorities straight.