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Political Notes: SF LGBTQ arts groups share in $12.8M grant award

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The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band was one of many arts organizations that received 2021 funding from Grants for the Arts. Photo: Courtesy Castro Street Fair
The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band was one of many arts organizations that received 2021 funding from Grants for the Arts. Photo: Courtesy Castro Street Fair  

San Francisco officials have awarded 25 LGBTQ-serving arts and cultural organizations a portion of the $12.78 million in Grants for the Arts being dispersed to 227 groups in the 2021 fiscal year. The funding nearly mirrors the $12.9 million in general operating arts grants the city awarded to 220 different groups for this fiscal year.

The LGBTQ-serving cultural producers received a total of $1,169,170 in grant funding for next year. In 2020, 26 such groups received $1,184,250 in arts grants from the city program.

Perennial awardees whose grant amounts for this year were renewed include the Castro Street Fair, re-awarded $18,000; the LGBTQ film festival Frameline, given $109,000; San Francisco Pride, which is again receiving $100,000; the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, re-awarded $152,510; and the organizers of the Folsom Street Fair, listed under their founding name South of Market Merchants' and Individuals' Lifestyle Events, which was again granted $75,000.

The Golden Gate Men's Chorus will again receive a $22,310 arts grant. The New Conservatory Theatre Center had its grant amount of $72,070 renewed, as did Theatre Rhinoceros, which will again receive $39,120. The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the city's official band, was awarded $20,530, a $4,470 cut in its grant funding for this year.

The San Francisco Dyke March saw its grant amount grow by $3,500 to $10,000, and the Lesbian Gay Chorus of San Francisco was also granted $10,000, an increase of $1,300 from what it received this year. Queer Rebels Productions also was awarded $10,000, a boost of $3,000 from its grant this year.

The funding comes as most arts and cultural organizations have had to cancel or postpone their live performances and events due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, though some have been able to produce them on virtual platforms. The health crisis has also upended cultural groups' fundraising efforts, forcing them to move their major galas online and making it more challenging to sell paid memberships or season subscriptions.

In announcing the latest round of funding, Grants for the Arts Director Matthew Goudeau noted that despite having a reduced budget due to a drop in hotel tax revenue, which funds the grant program, his agency "was able to find ways to leverage our funding to equitably support a variety of artistic practices and uplift San Francisco's creative economy."

Goudeau, a gay man, was appointed to oversee the grants program in early 2019.

"The arts are a vitally important economic industry, generating revenue, creating jobs, attracting tourists, and strengthening communities," he stated. "We are thrilled to be able to invest in these organizations' good work during this time when the arts sector is experiencing immense impacts from the pandemic."

The dip in hotel taxes resulted in the Queer Cultural Center being awarded $10,000 less than it was this year to dole out to artists in 2021. Its re-granting award for next year is $25,000.

But the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project was given a re-granting award of $10,000. That was in addition to its own 2021 grant of $47,200.


Review conducted
Over the last year the city conducted an internal review of its grantmaking in order to better support organizations embedded in and serving San Francisco's diverse communities. The Grants for the Arts advisory panel recommended reforms so that the program resulted in more community-based funding.

City officials noted that grantees for the 2021 funding were reviewed "using a strong equity lens" that focused on organizations "deeply rooted and serving diverse populations," such as those aimed at the city's Black and transgender communities. Thus, the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival was awarded $18,750, an increase from the $15,000 grant it received this year.

Another trans-focused arts producer, Fresh Meat Productions, was awarded $60,000 for next year. It marks an increase of $12,380 from its grant this year.

"We continue to deal with the economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and funding for arts organizations is more vital now than ever before," said Mayor London Breed. "As a city that prides itself on its diversity, we must continue to distribute funds equitably and support organizations that serve communities in San Francisco who are most in need."

City leaders are in the process of formally adopting a groundbreaking LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Strategy aimed at protecting San Francisco's queer culture, neighborhoods, and businesses. Its nearly 50 ideas for doing so, many of which are focused on assisting arts and cultural groups, are estimated to cost at least $10.2 to $15.7 million to implement.

One of the action steps focuses on public, as well as private, funding for LGBTQ arts and culture groups.

Among the LGBTQ Grants for the Arts awardees is the GLBT Historical Society, which is receiving $67,520, a drop from the $75,020 it was given in 2020. Executive Director Terry Beswick told the Bay Area Reporter that the agency also received a $50,000 grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission it would use to hire a person to launch a major gifts campaign, including a capital campaign for its planned museum project.

"We will hire someone to put together a campaign," said Beswick.

As the B.A.R. reported in May, the archival group nixed leasing a vacant commercial space on upper Market Street in the city's LGBTQ Castro District to relocate its museum into due to the pandemic. It also announced it was pivoting its efforts in the near term to creating a virtual museum and archival center using its vast holdings collected over the last three-and-a-half decades.

"We don't see a virtual museum as being an adequate substitute for an in-person museum. Yet I have to recognize opening a museum of a larger scale is not within our reach in the short term," Beswick said at the time. "And I am not even sure our current small museum that we have boarded up right now — if we are going to be able to open that up this year."

Its decision could end up benefiting it in the long run, as real estate prices and commercial lease costs could fall in the coming months as more businesses permanently shutter because of the pandemic. The Castro neighborhood had already been suffering from a glut of empty storefronts even prior to the health crisis.

"Just in the Castro we have dozens of businesses that are not going to reopen, so what is the city going to look like after that?" Beswick asked during an interview this week.

The other LGBTQ-serving organizations receiving the same amount in 2021 as their arts grants for this year are Circo Zero ($18,440), CounterPulse ($65,150), OX ($11,400), RADAR Productions ($17,450), and Z Space ($95,570).

Eye Zen Presents, meanwhile, saw its 2021 grant increase to $10,000, as it had been given $7,500 this year. Precita Eyes Muralists Association, Inc. saw its grant slightly boosted to $46,350, having been awarded $45,490 this year.

One group that saw its grant reduced was SAFEhouse Arts for the Performing Arts, as it will receive $37,800 in 2021, a drop of $14,690 from what it received this year. And one group did not receive a 2021 grant, the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony, which was awarded $11,020 this year.

To see the full list of Grants for the Arts 2021 awardees, visit https://sfgfta.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/GFTA-FY21-Grants-Final-1.pdf

UPDATED 8/26/2020 to clarify the funding source the GLBT Historical Society will use to hire a major gifts and capital campaign director.

Due to the Labor Day holiday, the Political Notes column will return Monday, September 14.

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