City and County of San FranciscoSan Francisco Arts Commission

Special Meeting

May 28, 2002
4:30 P.M.
African American Art and Culture Complex
762 Fulton Street, San Francisco

Commissioner Roth called the informational meeting to order at 4:39 P.M.

Commissioners Present
Denise Roth
Blanche Brown
Eddie Marshall
Ethel Walker

Commissioners Absent
Janice Mirikitani

  1. WritersCorps Update
    WritersCorps will be celebrating its book party on June 5 with Commissioner Marshall performing from 5:00 - 5:30 p.m. 40-45 youth aged 6-22 will read from Believe Me, I Know, the latest WritersCorps anthology. The youth not only contributed the writing for the book, but also the photography thanks to help from Sixth Street Photography.

    Two WritersCorps youth performed in Washington D.C. They toured monuments, museums, and Howard University, and were treated like professional artists with people asking for their autographs. WritersCorps is opening many doors for San Francisco's youth in terms of travel and visibility to a national audience.

    Ms. Heller distributed an Examiner article that featured poet Tilly Olsen. Ms. Olsen selected WritersCorps youth to read with her on May 21st at Intersection for the Arts. Both Ms. Olsen and the audience were impressed with the youth writers. WritersCorps is thankful to Ms. Olsen for inviting the youth to join her on stage and thankful to Intersection for successfully promoting and presenting the event.

  2. Chinatown Community Arts Update
    On May 14, CCAP had the San Francisco Symphony Community Music Concert, attracting 275 people. Commissioner Kirk Andersen represented the Commission. May 24, Slowly Enter, presented by the Asian American Women Artists Association, closed. On Saturday, June 1 at noon, there is a reception for the next show presented by the Oriental Arts Association.

  3. Arts Education Update
    The Youth Arts Festival ran from May 11-18. Approximately 10,000 school children saw over 1,300 art pieces installed at Zeum. There was an award ceremony on the 18th and the local awardees' work will go to Washington D.C. to be judged and critiqued for national awards.

    The Arts Education Funders Collaborative just published the latest Leadership Profile, which focuses on parent involvement in arts education.

    The Inside/Out Guide, the primary source for arts education activities in the district, will be published in August, before the next school year starts. Commissioner Roth asked how often Inside/Out is published. Ms. Axel said approximately every three years.

    The California Arts Scholars Award is a statewide youth arts award celebration where students have an intensive eight-week arts education experience down in southern California. Approximately 300-400 students throughout the state are selected out of 1,800 applicants. 31 students from San Francisco were selected this year. The award ceremony is at the Performing Arts Library and Museum on Saturday, June 1st from 5-7 p.m.

    Arts education has received some favorable press recently. Two weeks ago on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, there was a three part series on arts education in the Chronicle, starting with a front-page story. The Arts Education Funders Collaborative and many other local and state arts education organizations, initiatives and individuals were covered.

    Commissioner Walker asked how the governor's proposed budget cuts would affect arts education in San Francisco. Ms. Axel believes the arts education program in the California Arts Council (CAC) will be less severely affected than the other CAC programs, although cuts are still imminent. Mr. Newirth spoke with the director of the CAC who said that he hopes to keep some money in every single program. Additional arts education money was recently instated into the CAC budget by the governor, so it probably will be less impacted than other programs within the CAC.

    Commissioner Walker asked if there would be cuts in arts education in the schools. Ms. Axel said that the cuts will affect the arts providers in town most of all (which all work in schools) and not as much the service that the Arts Commissions' Arts Education Program provides because the majority of the money raised for this program is from private funds. But the Arts Education Funders Collaborative, administered by the SFAC may be affected by a loss of funding.

  4. Program Director Update
    Ms. Gomez thanked the Curatorial Committee for the wonderful performing arts and visual arts programming at AAACC. She also thanked Thomas Simpson for managing the collaborative program for community arts projects.

    Commissioner Roth asked how much money we distributed for Neighborhood Festivals last year. Ms. Gomez said it was the same amount as the previous year. Commissioner Roth asked if we expect a cut in funding. Ms. Gonchar said the budget is not showing cuts.

    Commissioner Walker made the following motion:
    Motion to approve Neighborhood Festival grants of $33,000 from 2002-03 Grants for the Arts funds to the following organizations:

    Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, Fiesta on the Hill


    Every Child Can Learn Foundation, San Francisco Youth Arts Festival


    Intersection for the Arts, Arts Providers Alliance


    New Direction, Bayview/Hunters Point 4th of July Picnic


    Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, Inc., Festival 2002


    Precita Eyes Muralists Assoc., Inc., Urban Youth Arts Festival


    Rescue Culture Collective, Dia de los Muertos


    San Francisco SAFE, Sixth Annual Holiday Unity Parade & Rally


    SOMA Youth Festival, SOMA Youth Festival


    Sunset District Community Development, Sunset Community Festival


    Treasure Island Homeles Development Initiative, Treasure Island Community Day




    The motion passed unanimously.

    Commissioner Brown made the following motion:
    Motion to approve Bayview Opera House, Ruth Williams Memorial Center budget modification to reflect inclusion of $33,578 from the 2000-2001 Hotel Tax Fund for a budget total of $335,139 for fiscal year 2001-2002.

    Commissioner Roth asked if this is a carry forward. Ms. Gonchar explained that this is an adjustment up from 2000-01.The motion passed unanimously.

    Commissioner Brown made the following motion:
    Motion to approve the proposed Bayview Opera House, Ruth Williams Memorial Theater, Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, and South of Market Cultural Centers' 2002-2003 Management and Programming Plans and Budgets, from Cultural Center Line Item Hotel Tax Funds, contingent upon receipt of required audited financial reports and Community Support Group Meeting minutes.
    Bayview Opera House, Ruth Williams Memorial Theater$289,307
    Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts $545,894
    South of Market Cultural Center $914,476
    TOTAL ALLOCATION $1,749,677

    The motion passed unanimously.

    Cultural Center Facility Report
    At MCCLA, the elevator is broken and the City Attorney's Office is working with DPW and the elevator contractor to fix the elevator. Half the exit lights have been replaced with energy efficient bulbs.

    At Somarts, Caltrans has trimmed the trees on the property.

    At BVOH, the courtyard drainage problem has been resolved. Scheduling hazmat work on the interior and exterior is in the works.

    At AAACC, the west wall exterior has been repaired, sealed, and painted. The interior side still needs repair. Phase 1 of the gallery renovation is complete and an exhibition by Keba Konte is up until June 30. DPW repaired the sewer stoppage. The drinking fountain is repaired.

    Commissioner Walker asked when the elevator at MCCLA will be completed. Ms. Daniels estimated the work would be completed in three weeks. Commissioner Roth asked how long the elevator had been broken. Ms. Daniels said that by the time she reviewed the elevator contract, sent it to the City Attorney, who then talked with DPW and the contractor, it had been broken for six weeks. Commissioner Roth asked why the City Attorney is involved with fixing an elevator. Ms. Daniels said the City Attorney's Office was concerned that the original contract might have covered these repairs and we didn't want to pay twice for the same service.

    African American Art and Culture Complex
    Mr. Newirth said this is an opportunity for the community members and center constituents to voice any feelings they have, raise issues, and have conceptions clarified. Mostly, it's for the Commissioners to listen to the community. After public comment, the Commission will respond to the questions. Someone from the community asked what the Commission's perspective is on AAACC so that the community could respond more appropriately.

    Mr. Newirth introduced Bob Davis, the current facility director at AAACC. Ms. Gomez said the center is in phase two of a three phase project. Phase one was to improve the physical building at the center and Mr. Edington worked on this over the past year. Phase two is to organize the financial and procedural processes for phase three. Phase three is to find a non-profit through an RFP to run the center. Mr. Davis has joined us at this point because of his expertise in facilities management. The focus has shifted to preparing an administrative structure for a non-profit to come in and do the work.

    Ms. Gomez emphasized that the mission of the center has not changed. The three other centers are run by non-profit organizations. Up until now, the center has been run by several people. Mr. Edington oversaw the facility upgrades. The curatorial committee oversaw the programming. Thomas Simpson oversaw the funds for the community projects. A community member said that he's happy with the organization now and asked if the working staff could become official. Mr. Newirth responded that there isn't a formal structure for an organization with a board of directors doing all of the work a center needs.

    Mr. Newirth introduced Jonnie Robinson from the Mayor's Office.

    Commissioner Roth said the Commission wants to hear the community's concerns, questions, and ideas for the future of this facility and opened the floor to public comment.

    Dorothy Cook, chairperson for the Bay Area Satellite Heritage Music Foundation, spoke on behalf of the Gospel Jewels, a choir group that meets at AAACC to learn to sing gospel music. They've had two successful performances in the center. They would like to participate and have input to the art and culture of the center. They want their children welcome in the center to learn African and African American culture from African American adults. The Gospel Jewels need to hold regularly scheduled rehearsals in the theater (where the piano is) for one hour on the first and second Saturday of the month from 2:00-3:00.

    Jay E. is involved with Wajumbe and the Monday night jazz series. These cultural programs are important as art is removed from the schools. The Fillmore's history is strongly rooted in jazz and the music helps youth learn about their lives. This is a huge asset to San Francisco.

    Geoffrey Nwogu is a sculptor and painter based out of the second floor of AAACC along with J.J. Jackson. The artists in the studio are being threatened with sharing the space. They are professional artists that have been in the building for a long time and would like to be recognized as "resident artists" like the other resident organizations in the building. They can't afford renting a studio elsewhere and he and Mr. Jackson work well together. They need more light and electrical outlets in the studio and would like to move Cultural Odyssey's items in storage closer to the theater so the visual artists can use that space.

    Pastor Edwin Watkins, pastor of the Mount Zion church in San Francisco and a supporter of Dr. Cook, cautioned the Commission that the community would not be happy if the ethnic focus of the center changed. He hopes that the people who have done a considerable amount of work on the center will be considered during phase three at the center.

    Virgil Herndon, Jr. is a member of the African American Historical and Cultural Society, a lifetime member of the NAACP, and on the board for the Western Addition Senior Center. He would like to know the reason for Mr. Edington's replacement. What were Mr. Edington's expectations and what was the process for his dismissal? He worked well with the people and programs at the center. He would also like to know what the mission statement for the center is.

    Sidney Wilson, who lives in San Francisco, is a product of the center. He spoke in defense of Jim Larkin. He summarized a memo from the Commission where Mr. Newirth supposedly attacked Mr. Larkin's integrity. Mr. Larkin created five cultural centers, starting a model program in the United States. It's a problem when you attack the person that started the centers and when you attack the community. Children have been and continue to be involved with the centers. It's important to keep children involved and to keep diverse programming or else it doesn't serve the community.

    Meredith Stout is co-director of the Sisters Project, a non-profit multimedia group. Through photography, poetry, and acting they educate about and support homeless women and children. When the group first formed, Rhodessa Jones welcomed them to the center and provided rehearsal space and the theater. The organization would not have succeeded without the center's support.

    Rhodessa Jones is the co-director for Cultural Odyssey, which has been the model for the curatorial committee in the theater. She said a tenant group met for the first time in the wake of so many changes at the center. She was elected to be the spokesperson of the group to pose two questions about the future of the center and the relationship between the center and SFAC. The tenants want to be proactive in moving forward. One is about Mr. Davis. What does SFAC view Mr. Davis' relationship to the center and what is his timeline to achieve the desired goals? What are SFAC's immediate and long-term goals with the facility? As an artist active in moving the center forward, which carries a strong fiscal record, she is interested in being part of the new executive administrative structure.

    Reverend Ted Frazier is a member of the Ad Hoc Committee. He read a letter addressed to Mr. Newirth that addressed a major concern: the establishment of a board of directors. Both Mission Cultural Center and Somarts had board and staff problems, but they have continued with autonomy. At AAACC, the board of directors stepped down and turned over the lease. A staff person was hired by the SFAC and was not allowed to set up a board of directors, but was told to bring in two new resident organizations. He sees that artists were hand picked to represent the voice of the community and community artists while denying community input until decisions relating to the community were already made, including appointing a curatorial committee. The curatorial committee voted to support its own productions. The third issue is about the notion of SFAC changing the mission of the center, which for 15 years has been to promote African and African American art and culture. He said the Commission staff shouldn't change the mission without input from the community residents. The Ad Hoc Committee has determined that they are serving the role of advisory board and want involvement and input in all areas of hiring and firing, facility development, and programming.

    Evangelist Carmen Johnson is a community worker and member of the Ad Hoc Committee. The Committee meets every Wednesday at 2:00 to bring in community programs and organizations to the center. They are concerned about what's going on in the Western Addition and in the cultural center. They want to continue having programs in the center that address the needs of African American children, youth, young adults, and adults, to serve artists and to train the community in how to be artists. The Ad Hoc Committee recommends that a board of directors be developed made up of community residents, residents in the center, and artists performing in the center. Key community people (artists, actors, professionals, politicians) have agreed to be on the board to raise money, including a BART director, former supervisor Willy Kennedy, and Danny Glover. With SFAC support, they would like to move forward and establish this body.

    Jim Larkin said that cultural centers serve the needs of the time. In the mid-60s, the need was to host art programs and grassroots political organizations like the Black Panthers and the SDS. In 2002, the community needs viable programs for the youth. The arts provide discipline, a sense of accomplishment, and training for the youth. Another concern is that the Arts Commission is dictating what happens in the center. The art should come from the community, not from politics. He submitted a petition with 500 names supporting the idea that the African American community of residents and artists should determine what is African American art and culture as opposed to it being determined by the Arts Commission staff. He also submitted a survey from the community.

    Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe, a new tenant of AAACC as a member of Black Artists Contemporary Cultural Experience, noted that she wasn't invited to the tenants' meeting. The group recently performed in the center and being there has increased their African American audience tremendously. Reviews of their show mentioned of the rebirth of the center. She emphasized the group's workshops and training for community members and youth and talked about their programming.

    Nontsizi Cayou, founder and director of Wajumbe Cultural Institution, has been a tenant at the center through many administrations and questions the way things have been handled, particularly what governs the Arts Commission and their relationship to community arts programs. She would like discussion on what is good public policy and what is the role and mission of the Commission as it relates to the cultural centers. She dispelled a rumor that Wajumbe is an organization that doesn't do anything by listing their programming.

    Carrie Cook, a Wajumbe tutor and Western Addition resident, explained that she came out of retirement to teach the youth with Wajumbe. She asked for space in the center to save the children.

    Imelda Devoine, the president of Devoine Entertainment, worked with Wajumbe in February 2000. The event sold out, but they didn't want to return to the center because the facility was not up to par. They heard rumors that the center would be improved. She said the center is an African American center and feels that their work is unfairly scrutinized. She said Mr. Edington did not receive due process. She wants the center to stay in the Western Addition with an African American audience.

    Angela Wilson works with Cultural Odysseyand BACCE and noted that there is a lot of art happening in the building including work with children. She addressed the issue over artist space in the building and said that the center is large and there is enough room for everyone.

    Al Williams, board president for the San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society (AAHCS), acknowledged Mr. Larkin's contribution and Mr. Edington's contribution. When Mr. Edington came, the building improved. AAHS has a number of concerns including the need for the west wall to stop leaking rainwater. The funding allocation is not adequate. AAHS is willing to work with the new director and hopes that they are not penalized for their association with CAAAC. He heard that the center will remain an African American center and supports this.

    Reverend Arnold Townsend noted that the Arts Commission would not allow the establishment of a board and a non-profit organization at the center. He emphasized that a non-profit must be set up by the community and include artists and audiences with the Arts Commission as a source of support.

    Raja Rahim grew up in the neighborhood and benefited from the center. As a mother and survivor of abuse, it helped cultivate her work as a jazz vocalist. She wants an explanation of why Mr. Edington is no longer on board.

    J.J. Jackson, a resident artist felt that the Arts Commission did a good job. For ten years, everything had been at a halt. No one could get into the space because other people blocked them. Now the center is attractive and busy and people want to visit the space again. He emphasized that artists need space to do their work.

    Jesse J. Byrd, board member of AAHCS was concerned with the loss of Mr. Edington and that work might not continue in his absence. He felt the Arts Commission didn't want to keep the people on who are doing the work. Also, he wanted to know why money went to a curatorial committee and not to AAHCS.

    Charles Gibson-McClinton said that one person is responsible for all the trouble and his dirty work is starving out the old management. He presented a memo about the curatorial committee and identified those artists as "house niggers." He felt Mr. Edington was put out because he stood in the way of plans to give the center to another kind of community and said that since the Commission approved Mr. Edington's work, his mistakes were the Commission's responsibility. Again, he said he would submit, in writing, corrections to the minutes for December and January.

    Carolyn Saulson said there is a schism between the community and downtown. Some people haven't had experience and some have dealing with government officials. The ad hoc committee should be recognized. Mr. Larkin should be thanked for the work he's done.

    Stanley Stevens, president of the Fillmore Marketplace Tenant's Council, spoke about the value of the theatre. He could see there is a lot of politics but is energized by the talent and enthusiasm. He said the kids are in danger of the three strikes law but they can still be salvaged. He thanked Mr. Larkin, Ms. Cayou, Rahmeen and others who support the theatre and he encouraged the Arts Commission to give more power to the people, not less.

    Ricardo Gomes from SF State University and Bay Area Black Designers uses the center for meetings. He said it's a good place to develop mentoring for young people and he hopes to work with more youth there and contribute his skills to the community.

    Linda Hills, former president of the board of the YWCA, has been a participant at the center and is a Western Addition resident. She wants to move on and talk about what to do next. Her grandson who performed with the Wajumbe capoiera group stayed with the center so he could learn about his culture rather than going to ballet class. She called Wajumbe, ACE, and the artists at the center hidden jewels and wants a group to develop something that represents the diversity of the community.

    Sia Amma spoke for starving artists and said the community needs a program where artists volunteer their time in exchange for rehearsal space.

    Kenneth Jobity, an administrator of Project ACE that served over 120 kids this year, said the kids don't just perform, they learn, particularly in San Francisco Youth Arts Festival. He asked the Commission not to take the center from the children.

    Robert Henry Johnson said he's been here at the building since he was four years old, yet he's new to the building as a resident artist. He would love input and help from the ad hoc committee, but when he spoke with members and asked to connect to them no one followed up. He made a request to move forward and to reach out to each other.

    Thomas Simpson said he received help from former Supervisor Willy Kennedy to develop the dream of Afro Solo. Although he has presented 100 people and worked in this building, some people still regard him as an outsider. He said they need to move with haste to the next phase as a team to fill the leadership vacuum so that the center can be internationally recognized.

    Minerva Dunn has been in this community more than 40 years. She said 100 grassroots activists are united and they're here to stay. She will be going to the Human Rights Commission on the 13th to say they're not begging.

    Saundra Mayo, a member of the Glide Ensemble and shareholder at St. Francis Square, was invited to be an ad hoc committee member by Mr. Larkin. Her daughter used to come to the center. She'd like continued activities for community members of all ages not just for the kids.

    Essie Collins, a member of the ad hoc committee, has known many people in the room for 30-40 years. She thanked the Commissioners for staying late and didn't want to comment on the things that had already been said. Mr. Edington did a good job and she has known him since he came to San Francisco. She hopes the Commissioners take all the comments into consideration and asked what Bob Davis' role is so the community knows what's expected of him.

    Jack Davis, director of SomArts, worked with Jim Larkin 30 years ago and with Rhodessa Jones. He feels a loss with the center not being a full participant in the consortium of centers. He advised, based on experience with the fiscal difficulty at his own Center, that the center move ahead with good programs and work with the Arts Commission not against them.

    Doris J. Rowe, a resident in the center, said Mr. Edington made building improvements. She regrets his leaving but welcomes Bob Davis. She hopes the ad hoc committee can come together with all the tenants.

    Mattie Scott, a member of the ad hoc committee, lost her son to violence across the street. She sees the center as a family and one of the few places for the youth in the Western Addition.

    Commissioner Roth closed the floor to public comment and extended her appreciation for the feedback.

    Mr. Newirth responded that the Commission and staff are 100% committed to keeping the center run by African Americans in the Western Addition. He noted that the improvements on the building were made with a large budget that included almost two years worth of funding for programming and facilities. The unfortunate reality for next year (2002-03) is the budget is a single year budget with decreased allocations from the Hotel Tax Fund. The cut in the City's budget will make a difference. Staff will need to keep facility improvements and programs going, but the Commission, staff, and people in the community have to work together to use the funds best.

    Mr. Newirth acknowledged the visible work accomplished by Mr. Edington. He assured the public that Mr. Edington did have due process. There were many meetings which led up to his departure, but the details are confidential as this is a personnel matter.

    Mr. Newirth acknowledged that people spoke glowingly for Mr. Larkin, however, next year, there is no money available for a theater manager. Mr. Newirth said that he hopes Mr. Larkin can be involved with the center and organizations that choose to use his services are able to hire him. The options are open now for organizations to choose their technical support staff.

    He said that he believes the dichotomy between the Curatorial Committee and the community is false. The division was not intended and the names provided to Mr. Edington for the Curatorial Committee were suggestions to which he could have added participants. Mr. Davis is hired as a facility director. The Commission and Mr. Davis will develop a budget with the community to sustain programs. The Commission's goal is to have a non-profit in place in six months to one year.

    Former supervisor Kennedy requested these responses in writing so that community members that could not stay for the entire meeting can hear the Commission's comments. Mr. Newirth agreed to respond to the list of questions in writing and distribute the letter to the community.

    There was no new or old business. Commissioner Roth adjourned the meeting at 8:13 P.M.

    Next Meeting
    June 11, 2002, 4:30 P.M. at 25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70, San Francisco


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