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Meeting Information


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July 14, 2009
4:00 p.m.
25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70
San Francisco


The meeting was called to order at 4:05 p.m.

Commissioners Present: Sherene Melania, John Calloway, Nínive Calegari, Sherri Young, Maya Draisin

Staff Present: Director of Cultural Affairs Luis R. Cancel, Cultural Equity Grants Program Director San San Wong, Community Arts and Education Program Associate Robynn Takayama, Cultural Equity Grants Program Associate Lucy K. Lin, Cultural Equity Grants Program Associate Weston Teruya, WritersCorps Program Manager Janet Heller, WritersCorps Program Associate Melissa Hung

  1. Cultural Equity Grants Program Director's Report
    Ms. Wong presented an overview of the Cultural Equity Grants Program ("CEG") and of its accomplishments and plans for the upcoming fiscal year. She distributed the draft 2009-2010 CEG grants schedule. The main points Ms. Wong covered in the presentation included: the history of the program; the question "When is cultural equity achieved?" and the strategies CEG has developed to address equity; a review of CEG's core and newly added grant programs; the creative process used to develop programs and initiatives; a review of the Creative Capacity Fund; the CEG grantsmaking process; CEG panelist demographics; and the potential impact of population shifts in California.

    Ms. Wong noted that as part of the agency's restructuring, the Programs in Communities and Neighborhood Festivals grants would be migrating to CEG, and a debriefing with Judy Nemzoff and Robynn Takayama has been scheduled.

    Commissioner Draisin asked if, with the economic downturn, the Arts Loan Fund has experienced a flood of requests for loans. Ms. Wong stated the Loan Fund has not yet seen a bigger influx, but is anticipating one. She said that foundation endowments are down, and an estimated $30 million will not be available this fiscal year. She explained that to help organizations weather this downturn, CEG is co-developing Strategic Dynamic Adaptability Forums to present speakers and thought leaders to the arts community. Mr. Cancel pointed out a past speaker, Michael Kaiser of the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, as an example. He said that one focus for a future presentation is on new media and the different ways generations are approaching technology in an effort to leverage technology for arts organizations. Ms. Wong said these topics are being newly discussed as strategies to survive the recession.

    Commissioner Calegari expressed concern over the field initiatives, and asked if the organizers would consider charging admission on a sliding scale. She wanted to convey the value of professional training. Ms. Wong explained that she sees organizations unable to afford professional development for staff who are already working overtime because of the financial crunch. She said that people need help to get to those resources and the SFAC can take away the barrier of cost. Ms. Wong pointed out that with the Creative Capacity Fund, participants are required to pay workshop fees up front. Mr. Cancel added that for many forums, the SFAC works with other collaborators who might be opposed to charging a fee.

    Commissioner Draisin asked when the evaluation process takes place. Ms. Wong replied that the upcoming strategic planning process provides an opportunity for evaluation. She explained that evaluation and policy discussions take place as part of the grants review panel process, and that changes for clarity and improvement are incorporated on an ongoing basis, but most concisely when guidelines are revised.

    Commissioner Draisin asked if panel conversations have been influential in modifying the guidelines. Mr. Cancel responded that small changes are being made. Ms. Wong said that any major questions or design changes would require community input.

    Commissioner Draisin asked what changing demographics are going to mean, and how the Commission is planning for it. Ms. Wong replied that some issues associated with changing demographics are: changing aesthetics, increased diversity of cultures, large influxes of immigrants, and subsequently, other organizational models and community support systems. The design of the Arts & Communities: Innovative Partnerships grants program allows CEG to explore some of these issues, beginning with making immigrant service organizations and community centers eligible. Assessments are still being made to evaluate the outcomes of the projects. Ms. Wong added that cultural participation and the definition of the arts are changing, such as the democratization of curation.

    Mr. Cancel pointed out that most of the data showed the demographic changes of California, but not of San Francisco. He feels that in San Francisco, the trends of policy take hold more quickly. He said that CEG is not getting a fair share of the entire City budget and that is a matter for the Board of Supervisors and community to consider. He added that he hoped to discuss this during the agency's strategic planning.

    Commissioner Calloway asked for a breakdown of the applicants in a chart similar to the panelist demographic charts.

    Mr. Cancel firmly stated the need to consider the applications of excellent quality that are not being funded because of insufficient funds.

    Commissioner Calloway commented that what attracts him are the partnerships and festivals. Those types of programs, he said, give the Arts Commission more visibility in areas that don't have access to the arts. He also added that the demographics of San Francisco and its neighborhoods are shifting greatly because of economic changes.

    Ms. Wong reported that Program Associate Ebony McKinney has resigned. The hiring process cannot begin until the agency's budget is approved. Ms. Wong will send the position description to Commissioners at that point. She is looking for the right person to start as soon as possible because CEG has already begun its new grant cycle. The workload has been dispersed to the rest of the CEG staff. Ms. Wong also reminded Commissioners that her position as the Director of Human Resources for the Agency is time-consuming, so the CEG staff is stressed by the workload.

  2. Community Arts & Education Director's Report
    Ms. Takayama reported that Ms. Nemzoff could not attend the meeting because she was serving jury duty.

    Ms. Takayama said that while the grant programs have moved to the Cultural Equity Grants Program, CAE continues serving the community where they live and work through the cultural center program, WritersCorps, arts education program, and the Deep Roots podcast.

    Staff is also launching Art in Storefronts, a pilot program in collaboration with the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development and Triple Base Gallery. Art in Storefronts temporarily places original art installations by San Francisco artists in vacant storefront windows located on Taylor Street in the Tenderloin, Third Street in Bayview, Central Market Street, and Lower 24th Street in the Mission, to engage local artists in reinvigorating neighborhoods and commercial corridors that have been hit hard by the economic downturn. Additionally, it provides artists, who have also been affected by the economy, with a unique opportunity to showcase their creativity in transforming vacant storefronts into free exhibition spaces and to garner public recognition for their work.

    Ms. Takayama reported that a draft press release announcing Art in Storefronts went to the Mayor's office earlier in the day.

  3. WritersCorps Report
    Ms. Heller announced that WritersCorps had been awarded $110,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts for 2009-2010; $50,000 of that amount is stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. She reminded the Commissioners that last year WritersCorps had only four teachers. The NEA funding will help bring the corps back up to seven teachers.

    Ms. Heller introduced the motion, noting that returning teachers would be paid a writing stipend over the summer, so contracts would begin on July 1.

    Commissioner Melania made the following motion:
    Motion for the Director of Cultural Affairs to enter into contract with the following teaching artists to work in the WritersCorps program for 2009-2010:
    Milta Ortiz, $37,000
    Cindy Je, $37,000
    Myron Michael Hardy, $37,000
    Martha Aracely Gonzalez, $37,000
    Judith Tannenbaum, $59,000
    Neelanjana Banerjee, $33,000
    Carrie Leilam Love, $33,000
    Richard D'Elia, $33,000
    The motion passed unanimously.

    Commissioner Calegari noted the tremendous growth of the program and asked where the new teachers would serve. Ms. Heller said she would like to place teachers back at a middle school to reach youth at a pivotal age. She added that with the new relationship with the San Francisco Public Library, it was likely that each teacher would be a writer in residence at a branch library in addition to teaching at a school or after-school site.

    Ms. Heller said that despite the success of the previous year, there are many unknowns for the program for the first time in 15 years. She expressed worry that there were no financial commitments to WritersCorps beyond June 30, 2010. She said she wanted to engage the Commissioners in planning for the future.

    Ms. Heller said that the program is successful because of planning and that the WritersCorps advisory board is ready to do a planning process and to work with funders like the Department of Children, Youth, and their Families ("DCYF"); the Library; and SFAC to build the future for WritersCorps.

    In response to Commissioner Calegari's questions, Ms Heller explained that $341,000 comes from the Library for the program, with no direct funding from the Arts Commission. Director Cancel added that SFAC absorbs some of the program's expenses. Ms. Takayama explained that CAE used to support WritersCorps with Youth Arts funds, but that those funds have been redirected to the arts education program since the Arts Education Funders Collaborative disbanded.

    Ms. Heller explained that WritersCorps was initially a federal pilot program and became a City program after staff worked with DCYF to make WritersCorps a DCYF grantee. Last year, Ms. Heller continued, DCYF withdrew its funding of WritersCorps and the Library picked up the tab. In exchange, the Library has requested more services.

    Ms. Heller explained that DCYF had committed $750,000 over a three-year grant. Now that years-long financial stability has eroded. She suggested that if SFAC wants a WritersCorps program, the department should dedicate funds so that the program is less vulnerable. The majority of funding for WritersCorps was now coming from one source, which was not always the case.

    Commissioner Calegari asked if the $341,000 from the Library was just for a year. Director Cancel said that departmental funding is always touch and go, and that he was making sure that the Library was engaged and participating in the planning of the services WritersCorps will provide. Commissioner Calegari stated her hope that Library funding would be ongoing.

    Commissioner Young asked how large WritersCorps' budget was. Ms. Heller said it was approximately $500,000 in 2008-2009; last year it was less.

    Ms. Heller said that WritersCorps has created strong partnerships with the City and is considered a model program that departments want to fund. She suggested that SFAC make a financial commitment to the program if it's a priority.

  4. Arts Education Report
    There was no report.

  5. Cultural Center Report
    Two cultural centers met the early deadline to have their Management and Programming Plan ("MPP") and budget reviewed: Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts ("MCCLA") and Queer Cultural Center ("QCC"). Ms. Takayama invited Jennie Rodriguez, director of MCCLA, to talk about the upcoming year.

    Commissioner Calegari asked if the vacant positions listed in the MPP had been filled. Ms. Rodriguez said that she had just hired a gallery person and would be hiring a fund development person within two months. Commissioner Calegari said that she has strong interns this summer who will be ready for entry-level positions.

    Commissioner Young was impressed by the amount of programming initiated by MCCLA.

    Commissioner Calegari asked for highlights Ms. Rodriguez was most proud of. Ms. Rodriguez said her focus was on financial stability for the center. She said she would be exploring cost-saving measures, grant writing, and solicitation of more in-kind donations. She will also increase staff pay by $1/hour. Ms. Rodriguez continued that she will be transitioning the center's faculty from staff to independent contractors, who will be paid by class attendance. The youth program coordinator will focus on attracting more students. She closed by saying she would continue with professional development for the staff and wanted to increase benefits and wages for the staff because she recognizes that MCCLA is not competitive.

    Based on her own experience with the Employment Development Department, Commissioner Young warned Ms. Rodriguez that she should be careful about hiring the teachers as independent contractors.

    Commissioner Draisin said that she loved the inclusion of outdoor events and suggested Ms. Rodriguez rethink the kind of investment to make in the website. Commissioner Draisin thought using the website for outreach rather than to archive previous work would be more effective.

    Commissioner Calloway made the following motion:
    Motion to approve the proposed 2009-2010 Management and Program Plan and budget for the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, for a grant not to exceed $526,067, contingent upon completion of revisions and submissions.
    The motion passed unanimously.

    Ms. Takayama moved the discussion to the QCC's MPP. A Commissioner expressed concern that a QCC staff person was not present when close to $100,000 was on the line. Ms. Takayama said that the centers had not expected to present on their MPPs. She added that centers have become used to presenting on their organizations when the final reports were reviewed.

    Commissioner Young was concerned about pay proximity between the executive director and the web manager. Ms. Takayama noted that the executive director worked part time. Ms. Wong said the web person performs a huge amount of archiving and documentation. Commissioner Calegari noted the organization is virtual, so their online presence is important.

    Commissioner Calegari asked whether Commissioners should micromanage the budget. Ms. Takayama said that it's good to raise questions, but that Commissioners have only stepped in when the budget has egregious line items. Ms. Wong said budget notes could help explain salaries.

    Commissioner Young made the following motion:
    Motion to approve the proposed 2009-2010 Management and Program Plan and budget for Queer Cultural Center for a total grant to SOMArts for sub-grantee Queer Cultural Center not to exceed $96,974, contingent upon completion of revisions and submissions.
    The motion passed unanimously.

  6. Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Report
    Ms. Takayama said the building and grounds supervisor has moved from the Department of Public Works and into the Department of Real Estate. Ms. Wong, who is also SFAC's human resources director, said this move decreases the overhead expense from 110 percent to 10 percent.

  7. New Business
    Commissioner Young raised her concern with the recent situation at the Bayview Opera House ("BVOH"). Commissioner Draisin said SFAC's response is that it is a personnel matter between the managing director and board president, and a BVOH board issue.

    Commissioner Young expressed concern with board governance. Commissioner Draisin said that accountability remains a huge issue for this committee.

  8. Adjournment
    There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 6:12 p.m.

7/29/09 RT