Community Investments Committee - January 12, 2016 - Minutes

Meeting Date: 
January 12, 2016 - 1:00pm
401 Van Ness Ave, Ste 125
San Francisco, CA 94102



Tuesday, January 12, 2016

1:00 p.m.

401 Van Ness Ave, Suite 125





 The meeting was called to order at 1:12 p.m.


1. Roll Call

Commissioners Present:

Sherene Melania, Chair

Abby Sadin Schnair

Marcus Shelby

Janine Shiota


Commissioners Absent:

Charles Collins


Staff Present: Tom DeCaigny, Judy Nemzoff, Cristal Fiel


2. General Public Comment

Commissioner Melania called for public comment. There was none.


3. Community Investments Director Report

Community Investments Program Director Judy Nemzoff said that her report would be dedicated to a WritersCorps presentation by Chrissy Anderson-Zavala, a former WritersCorps teaching artist who has been helping the program administratively and conducting research around the transition plan of WritersCorps (see “Chrissy Anderson-Zavala bio” in explanatory documents).

Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny contextualized the presentation by Ms. Anderson-Zavala, saying that this transition was part of the recommendations in San Francisco Arts Commission’s (“SFAC”) 2014-2019 Strategic Plan. Mr. DeCaigny said that because WritersCorps was a program of the SFAC and received private fundraising support from foundations like Kimball and the San Francisco Foundation, the relationship that SFAC had with other funders was unclear between fellow funder and grantee. Mr. DeCaigny said that he wanted the SFAC to be seen in the appropriate context of a grantmaker and funder. As part of this recommendation, all direct fundraising was shifted from the SFAC to ArtCare, Friends of the San Francisco Arts Commission entity. In addition, Development Director Rachelle Axel’s role was transitioned to the director of public and private partnerships. The SFAC would continue to seek state and federal funding from other sources to redistribute at a local level. WritersCorps’ transition was also a part of an evolved arts education strategy to seek equity among the arts education field and ecosystem by supporting all artistic disciplines.

Mr. DeCaigny said that WritersCorps program garnered a lot of funding support from private foundations, which speaks to the excellence of the program. In addition to private support, the program was largely funded by the San Francisco Public Library (“SFPL”), the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families (“DCYF”), and the National Endowment for the Arts (“NEA”). SFPL and DCYF had committed to supporting the WritersCorps program for the next three years, and would function as thought partnerss as it evolves from direct service to a grant program.

Ms. Nemzoff added that Ms. Anderson-Zavala was the perfect person to research this transition with her prior history as a teaching artist and her work in program management and understanding of educational policy.

Ms. Anderson-Zavala presented her research and recommendation that WritersCorps transition from a direct service program to an artist-in-residency grants program that still maintained the legacy of WritersCorps’ work. In particular, this meant prioritizing the teaching artist grantee with a community-focused approach; providing crucial, livable wage support to teaching artists; providing cohort learning and peer mentoring opportunities; offering ongoing learning institutes; and providing ongoing support and feedback from the SFAC (see “WritersCorps Transition Recommendations” in explanatory documents).

Mr. DeCaigny said that staff wanted to take questions and comments from the Community Arts, Education and Grants Committee (“CAEG”) that they would then bring to the Executive Committee, where the presentation by Ms. Anderson-Zavala would be repeated, since most strategic planning decisions have been held at Executive Committee. The Executive Committee would give staff the directive to move forward with the recommendation and flesh out a plan. The recommendation was that there would be a new grants category that would focus on teaching artists support; and he envisioned it becoming a multiyear grant of up to three years. He added that staff was looking at the transition to multiyear grants for other grant categories as well.

Ms. Nemzoff said that in order to align this transition with the upcoming academic year, staff would design guidelines, prepare to go through a panel process and have grants issued by the start of the 2016-2017 fiscal year (“FY”). She added that the recommendation report referenced the shift in grantmaking strategy that was embarked on last year, which included cohort learning and learning institutes among the grantees. She said that there was alignment between core values of the WritersCorps program and the new grantmaking strategy that Ms. Anderson-Zavala helped underscore.

Ms. Anderson-Zavala stated that while the current WritersCorps program model would shift, it would shift toward learning institutes that the grants team was undertaking. Thus, professional development would still be a priority of the WritersCorps grants program. In addition, the teaching artists would be responsible for cultivating relationships with sites and performing more administrative work. Ms. Anderson-Zavala stated that staff and training support would be different. Rather than having a training coordinator, the idea was that the teaching artists would be responsible for planning their own professional development. 

Commissioner Schnair commented that it seemed like the grant would require more seasoned teaching artists and higher skillset than an emerging teaching artist might have. She wanted to make sure that the financial return was commensurate with the skills and responsibilities required. Ms. Nemzoff clarified that the WritersCorps teaching artists have always been seasoned and sophisticated, with solid backgrounds as established, published writers and educators. Regarding the financial question, Ms. Nemzoff said that staff was still investigating this aspect of the program, but did recognize that a lot of project management would be involved and the work was a much larger commitment than the Individual Artist Commission grant of up to $15,000.

Mr. DeCaigny said that WritersCorps teaching artists the SFAC was in contract with now had a very strong administrative skillset, in addition to being strong educators and writers. He said that the skillset required would not be that significantly different between contracting and granting. Teaching literacy skills would still be at the core of the program, and many current WritersCorps teaching artists were already doing interdisciplinary work with their students. In the guidelines, literacy would still be a core of the program, but there would be potential to grant funds to multidisciplinary artists. He added that DCYF and SFPL as the primary funders would be invited to participate in the panel process for the WritersCorps grant program, which he saw as an opportunity to deepen partnership among the departments. He also envisioned this to be an opportunity to advance the teaching artists community. In this recommendation, Mr. DeCaigny said that SFAC would continue to seek funding from the NEA and California Arts Council (“CAC”) to support the WritersCorps grants program and still align with the SFAC’s fundraising goals. SFAC would still pursue municipal funding, but would sunset pursuing private philanthropy over time and hoped that Art Care would undertake this endeavor to support arts education.

Commissioner Shelby commented that there were teaching artists of different disciplines who could still reach the goals for literacy. He asked whether an artist could apply for a WritersCorps grant to serve at the Juvenile Justice Center. Ms. Anderson-Zavala said that was possible and was consistent with the current model. WritersCorps has had a longtime residence at the Juvenile Justice Center. Ms. Nemzoff added that the SFAC also had the Artists and Communities in Partnership (“ACIP”) grant category that was a similar model.

Commissioner Melania said she was very pleased with the recommendation and thanked Ms. Anderson-Zavala for her research and presentation.

Mr. DeCaigny said that the grants program would need to maintain the WritersCorps name because the branding of the WritersCorps program was very strong. He said that staff would review and map out a communications strategy with the Communications Director around the integration of the WritersCorps grant with the other grant programs. He said there would be a balance between the WritersCorps brand and integration with SFAC grants. It was also implied in the transition that WritersCorps would sunset their newsletter and social media, but that SFAC would not want to lose any stakeholders along the way.

Ms. Anderson-Zavala concluded that to honor the WritersCorps name would mean to ensure that the SFAC treated its teaching artists with respect to perform high caliber work.

Commissioner Melania called for public comment.


Public Comment:

Minna Dubin, WritersCorps training coordinator

Ms. Dubin said that livable wage was an amorphous term and that the SFAC should really think about what that means for the teaching artists, as there was a correlation between paying teaching artists well and the quality service they could provide. She thought this was an opportunity for the SFAC to show that they could be a leader in the field of supporting teaching artists. As training coordinator, she wanted to highlight the importance of the professional development training that the WritersCorps teaching artists received through the three-year residency. She said in her history as a teaching artist and educator, there was nothing like the sort of support WritersCorps offered. She thought that if the SFAC was to keep the name of WritersCorps on the grant, it should make sure that the quality stays on par.


Roseli Ilano, WritersCorps teaching artist

Ms. Ilano said that she has had the privilege of working with over 350 students from vulnerable populations such as low-income, immigrant, women of color, etc. WritersCorps has been an amazing opportunity for her as a teaching artist because of its commitment to the literary arts and social justice. She believed that the work of WritersCorps was transformative for the teaching artists and the students that participate. She said what worked about the program was the in-depth residency, a living wage, and autonomy for the teaching artists and the residency sites.


Maddy Clifford, WritersCorps teaching artist

Ms. Clifford said that she was a teaching artist at the Juvenile Justice Center (“JJC”) and WritersCorps was one of the best teaching artists programs, if not in the country, then definitely on the west coast. She had worked with roughly five other literary organizations and none of them gave as much professional development or the opportunity to reach her students in the way that WritersCorps had. At JJC, she said that a student spoke with her about how much WritersCorps has helped him with rage and anger. She also wanted to reiterate the importance of the livable wage aspect of the program, as well as retaining quality professional development for the teaching artists in residency. She said that students had a high level of trauma, which required high level skills for the teaching artists who taught these students. WritersCorps provided quality professional development opportunities and the skills needed in order to be successful at teaching sites like JJC. Professional development and a livable wage allowed her to reach students and partner with other artists who helped in producing year-end publications and other work, which she also thought was an important aspect of WritersCorps.


There was no further public comment.

Commissioner Melania said she would want this transition recommendation to go to the Executive Committee and that it seemed like the right shift for the program. She said that, assuming that Executive Committee and full Commission would approve the recommendation, she wanted to explore if there were areas that it could expand in terms of working with children and providing a livable wage for teaching artists.


Explanatory documents: Chrissy Anderson-Zavala bio (pdf); WritersCorps Transition Recommendation Presentation (pdf)


4. Cultural Centers Report

Mr. DeCaigny said that this action item was part of an historic 2 percent cost of living increase to all City & County of San Francisco grants.


Commissioner Melania gave the following motion:

Motion to provide COLA increases to the FY2015-2016 Cultural Centers grant agreements in amounts not to exceed the following: 

African American Art and Culture Complex (“AAACC”), by $15,583 for a total grant of $638,880: $534,628 to AAACC and $104,252 to sub-grantee Queer Cultural Center.

Bayview Opera House by $8,198 for a total grant of $336,103 

Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts by $13,755 for a total grant of $563,939

SOMArts Cultural Center by $17,913 for a total grant of $734,444: $630,191 to SOMArts and $104,252 to sub-grantee Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center.


Moved: Schnair/Shiota

The motion was unanimously approved.


5. New Business and Announcements

Ms. Nemzoff reminded the committee that next month’s committee meeting was rescheduled to Wednesday, February 24, 2016 at 1 p.m. There would be a presentation of the fiscal year’s grant cycle and funding recommendations for all grant categories. In March, there would be a Cultural Centers presentation on facilities investments.

Mr. DeCaigny and Commissioner Melania also reminded the committee that the SFAC Galleries was celebrating its grand reopening on Friday, January 22, 2016 with a VIP reception from 5 to 6 p.m., followed by the opening for the general public from 6 to 9 p.m.


6. Adjournment

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 2:44 p.m.


Draft minutes posted on 1/26/16 CF

Minutes adopted on 2/1/16 CF


Language Accessibility


Translated written materials and interpretation services are available to you at no cost. For assistance, please notify Program Associate Cristal Fiel, 415-252-2218,


我們將為閣下提供免費的書面翻譯資料和口譯服務。如需協助,Program Associate Cristal Fiel, 415-252-2218,


Materiales traducidos y servicios de interpretación están disponibles para usted de manera gratuita. Para asistencia, notifique a Program Associate Cristal Fiel, 415-252-2218,


Ang mga materyales na nakasalin sa ibang wika at ang mga serbisyong tagapagsalin sa wika ay walang bayad. Para sa tulong, maaring i-contact si Program Associate Cristal Fiel, 415-252-2218,