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Meeting Information


2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 

January 13, 2009
4:30 p.m.
25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70
San Francisco


The meeting was called to order at 4:04 p.m.

Commissioners Present: Maya Draisin, Sherri Young, Sherene Melania, Ninive Calegari

Staff Present: Community Arts and Education Program Director Judy Nemzoff, Cultural Equity Grants Program Director San San Wong, Cultural Equity Grants Program Associate Ebony McKinney, Cultural Equity Grants Program Associate Lucy K. Lin, Community Arts and Education Program Associate Robynn Takayama


  1. Cultural Equity Grants Program Director's Report
    1. Ms. Wong gave an update of the Cultural Equity Grants ("CEG") Program, and the upcoming grants review panel for Cultural Equity Initiatives Level One ("CEI-L1"), awards grants in amounts up to $25,000 for capacity-building of organizations rooted in historically underserved communities. This grants program received thirty applications in December. Panels will be considering organizations categorized by budget size-organizations under $35,000, between $35,000 and $150,000, and between $150,000 and $1,000,000-and by organizations that are artist-led (dancer or musician/composer) and those that are for service and presenting. In this applicant pool, there are nine artist-led organizations and twenty-one service and/or presenting organizations. A policy discussion after each panel review will consist of topics including: what the different budget sizes indicate and what budget delineations might create better groupings; legacy; Board of Directors; organizational structure; and fundraising.

    Ms. Wong reported that some organizations that were not funded through the Cultural Equity Initiatives Level Two ("CEI-L2") have applied for the CEI-L1. The CEI-L1 grant period timeline was pushed back to facilitate this.

    In imagining a potential evolution of the CEI-L1grant category, Ms. Wong posed two ideas for future years. The first would include increased targeting of newer organizations, bringing in new applicants. The second was to provide technical assistance with grants as incentive funds; this strategy would be beneficial especially in addressing the needs of younger or small-budget organizations. Currently, the program has a cap on the request amount of 50% of the past year's expenses. Commissioner Calegari asked for more details. Ms. Wong referred to development assistance from service organizations, planning, and properly diagnosing an organization's problems.

    Commissioner Young said that small organizations, with a budget size under $35,000 and artist-led, will stay small. She asked if they will be supported by this grant category. Ms. Wong replied affirmatively, and that more immediately, they could apply through the Creative Capacity Fund.

    Commissioner Melania asked how the Cultural Data Project ("CDP") will affect smaller organizations. Ms. Wong replied that CEG is already requiring CDP as part of the application process, and has held several in-person and online information workshops. CEG also developed an initiative with the Pew Charitable Trusts to provide more one-on-one instruction for organizations requiring additional assistance. With feedback from the Pew staff, CEG can now develop workshops to address specific knowledge and skill training areas. For the groups awarded a Native American Arts and Cultural Traditions Grant in the upcoming cycle, CEG will provide technical assistance with the CDP once they receive a grant. She said that applicants should not be intimidated from applying. Ms. Lin added that a community should not be omitted and unrepresented because of a lack of capacity.

    Commissioner Melania inquired what other support exists for applicants to complete the CDP. Ms. Wong replied that some funders are using CDP in a gatekeeping function; specifically, if an organization cannot complete the CDP, it is not eligible for their programs.

    Ms. Wong discussed the next CAEG meeting that will present the CEI-L1 recommended applicants. Ms. Lin will be setting up that presentation.

    Commissioner Calegari asked what the percentage of grantees vs. applicants for CEG is. Ms. Wong replied that CEG funds between 35% and 60% of the applications, which she said is relatively high. Commissioner Calegari asked about quality and excellence in the grantees. Ms. Wong said that, in addition to quality of artistic work, she looks at how closely the program's funding matches the demographics of San Francisco, especially for grantees rooted in historically underserved communities, reflecting the mission of Cultural Equity. She said that when an initiative targets a specific community, new people apply, and outreach to them is culturally sensitive. In the past, only two or three Native American groups had applied to CEG, and with the Native initiative, there were twenty-five applicants.

    Ms. Wong brought up the issue of grantmaking when less funds may be available, and suggested that one strategy is to limit the number of grants each applicant receives. There will need to be research into how much money that could free up. Commissioner Calegari asked why, if an organization is excellent, and aligned with the purpose of CEG, we should tie our hands. Commissioner Melania contested that if another group is doing great work, it should also have an opportunity to get funded. Commissioner Calegari insisted that organizations should always seek excellence. Commissioner Draisin suggested not looking at a cap, but at the data. Ms. Wong asked where the nurturing for new organizations comes from if the funds are constricted. Commissioner Calegari asked which needs should be met and whether every artist needs an organization. Ms. Nemzoff added that economic issues may limit funding and require the elimination of triple-dipping, but she asked how that will impact the communities being served. Commissioner Calegari raised the downside of spreading the program too thin. Ms. Wong said that the focus of CEG is to address what is historically unjust, in particular the historic disparity in funding.

    Moreover, Ms. Wong posed the question of where CEG sits amongst the other funders, suggesting that CEG is one of the few to fund historically underserved artists in San Francisco. Cuts to social services and education, she said, are impacting underserved communities and those communities will be disproportionately hit during the recession.

    Ms. Wong said that other arts funders look to CEG for leadership in serving underserved communities. Further, she asked, as the City, as an agent of the public sector, what is our responsibility for insuring equity?

    Ms. Wong went on to report that the Organizational Project Grant deadline is on January 30, with the panel taking place in March. The Native American Arts and Cultural Traditions grants deadline is on March 20, with the panel taking place in April. She expressed her concern that funds should be encumbered before the end of the fiscal year, and therefore reminded the Commissioners that the Native American grant recommendations would most likely not come before this Committee, but go directly to the full Commission for timely approval.

    Ms. Wong invited the commissioners to the CEI-L1 panel to be held on January 15, 16, 22 and 23.

    Ms. Wong reported that the Creative Capacity Fund for technical assistance has found another funding partner.

    Lastly, Ms. Wong reported that the Economic Forum held on January 12 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts ("YBCA") was successful. She described the biography and credentials of the keynote speaker, Jeremy Nowak, and summarized his presentation, including an overview of the economic crisis and arts strategies. At the convening, breakout groups were utilized to talk about the impact of the economic crisis on arts organizations, along with actions and possible solutions. She reported that notes from the meeting will be posted. As a facilitator for one of the groups, Ms. Nemzoff reported on common themes brought up by organizations, including an uncertainty in planning ahead, the need for resources for advocacy and centralized communication. Commissioner Calegari asked about a follow-up with resource sharing. Ms. Nemzoff replied that the Neighborhood Arts Program use to offer technical services to the community. Ms. Takayama added that a listserv by Independent Arts and Media exists, but is not utilized. She suggested that a trusted brand, such as SFAC or Grants for the Arts, would be more successful in disseminating information. Ms. Wong concluded that organizations will have to change to survive, as society will not look the same after this financial crisis. Commissioner Melania liked the idea of resource sharing and bartering. Ms. Wong said that YBCA is talking about creating an artist barter system.

    Ms. Nemzoff raised the issue of the Native American Cultural Center funds. She said that there must be in-depth discussions about what happens after the third year of channeling the money into grants, because the funds are designated for a Cultural Center.

  2. Community Arts & Education Director's Report
    Ms. Nemzoff said that as the Committee has scheduled a monthly review of the Cultural Centers program, she will schedule in-depth conversations and review in the coming CAEG meetings about WritersCorps, Arts Education, and the facilities.

    Ms. Nemzoff said that the CAE budget, while "bare-bones," is sufficient in the current fiscal year. She was worried about 2009-2010, because all CAE programs rely on funding from City sources as well as non-City support such as the California Arts Council. In the two previous fiscal years, CAE received an increase in funding to support community and neighborhood-based programs. She said that that increase allowed for an expansion of WritersCorps sites, increased grants for the Programs in the Community and Neighborhood Festival grants programs and the 40th anniversary celebration of the Neighborhood Arts Program. The gain of the two previous fiscal years did not continue into the current year. As an example, she explained that for 2009-2010, WritersCorps will plan for a "bare-bones" budget focusing on increasing the number of teachers to serve as many youth as possible, since there are currently only four. Until additional funds are secured, there will be no major new projects or exhibitions.

    Ms. Nemzoff said that her biggest concern is the loss of funds for capital projects, specifically Bayview Opera House in the current year.

    The Bayview Opera House ("BVOH") board and staff successfully reached the goals the Commissioners set for staff professionalism, board development and increasing programming. Simultaneously, she said, the Arts Commission committed to the renovation and restoration of the building and coordinated efforts with other City agencies for financial support. Two years ago, SFAC was promised $2,000,000 for the renovation of the Bayview Opera House from the Mayor's Office, in exchange for not applying for Proposition 40 funds. SFAC received $400,000 last fiscal year, used for the historic renovation of the exterior of the building. In the current fiscal year ("FY"), $400, 000 which had been in the budget since the start of the FY was just eliminated. These funds were to pay for a portion of the Building and Grounds Superintendent's salary as well as design and construction documents required to begin interior renovations. In addition to the loss of this $400,000, funds from the Mayor's Office of Disability ("MOD") were also withdrawn. The loss of the MOD funds will not have an impact on either staff positions or accessing other funding sources. The loss of the $400,000 compromises the Arts Commission's ability to receive Save America's Treasures matching dollars as well as Mayor's Office of Community Investment funds for the current FY. Sadly, and ironically, the SFAC asked BVOH staff not to program during the fall because the facility was expected to be in construction; now there will be neither construction nor programming. Commissioner Draisin said there should be a strong argument made for retaining funds that help bring in additional funds from outside the City.

    Discussion followed about ideas to increase funding to support the Building and Grounds position, which the Commissioners stated is a key to SFAC's successful oversight of the Cultural Center program. .

  3. WritersCorps Report
    There was no report.

  4. Arts Education Report
    There was no report.

  5. Cultural Center Report
    Ms. Nemzoff introduced the BVOH 2007-2008 final report by reminding the Commissioners that the two priorities set for the organization were to build infrastructure and to increase programming. During the period in review, the organization had to build the board, staff, and programming. Referring to the report, she noted that programming increased dramatically, which was easily documented, but said that the budget analysis page wasn't accurate, as the reporting in the 2006-2007 year was exaggerated. The 2007-2008 FY should be used as the new financial baseline once the audits are completed.

    Ms. Nemzoff introduced Vernon Grigg, BVOH's board president, who said that the board is proud of where the organization is and of the new managing director, Kristi L. Black.

    Mr. Grigg reiterated Ms. Nemzoff's assessment: last year was a year of transition, and the reduction in revenue from FY2007-2008 to FY2008-2009 was because the accounting was finally truthful. He said that the organization started the year in the red with only 120 days of funding from SFAC. They didn't receive full SFAC funding until February.

    Mr. Grigg summarized the increased programming, which included a summer camp put on by the YMCA Urban Services, attended by 200 kids a day. In the fall, he said, programming was so active they had to have board meetings on the patio because the building was full of activity.

    Mr. Grigg said that the organization met grant deadlines and increased financial oversight. He added that the board formed committees and ran the managing director search. He said that the board added six new members: three have an arts background, one runs a nonprofit organization, and one was at a cultural institution. They now have eleven board members.

    Mr. Grigg said that change is in the air on Third Street and there is a spirit of hope and collaboration. BVOH has improved their credibility with the organizations on Third Street and cleared all debt so that the Opera House's new director, Ms. Black, can move forward with a clean slate.

    Mr. Grigg said the challenges include a lawsuit brought by BVOH's former executive director, which he helped fight with pro bono legal services. He said that this lawsuit distracted him from completing the financial audit, which is needed to work on the Cultural Data Project.

    Commissioner Young testified to the talent Ms. Black brings to BVOH, as Commissioner Young worked with Ms. Black when she was at the African American Art and Culture Complex.

    Ms. Nemzoff said that the transition that happened was extraordinary, given how difficult it is to transform the ecology of an organization. While there is still work to do, she is very confident in Ms. Black's skill and the energized board. Commissioner Young reminded her fellow Commissioners that BVOH submitted phone bills totalling $50,000 in one year while there was barely any programming at the center.

    Ms. Black said she was excited about expanding opportunities for the community to access this underused community resource. She said that the community needs to see that the organization can turn around and flourish and she will diversify the programming and apply her financial skills.

    Commissioner Calegari asked about rentals at the center. Mr. Grigg said that they had been a key source of revenue and that although the Opera House has raised its rental rates, the phone keeps ringing. Ms. Nemzoff said improvements to the building would increase rentals even more.

    Commissioner Young congratulated Mr. Grigg on the work he was able to accomplish during his interim executive directorship. Commissioner Melania said the new board members, increased programming, and the hiring of the new managing director are great indicators for the future. Commissioner Draisin gave Mr. Grigg kudos for sticking with the organization and she noted the shift in dollars spent in programming and operations.

    Commissioner Draisin noted that the SFAC logo was not on the holiday postcard Mr. Grigg distributed.
  6. Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Report
    There was no report.

  7. New Business
    Commissioner Melania liked the idea of resource sharing and bartering as suggested at some of the breakout groups at the economic forum. Ms. Wong said that YBCA is in conversation about a possible follow-up to that recommendation.

  8. Adjournment
    As there was no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 6:00 p.m.

1/28/09 RT