Fighting to Give Everyone Access to Arts and Culture

A sign at a rally in San Francisco on Tuesday to save federal arts funding. (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

The fight to save arts and culture funding moved to the steps of San Francisco City Hall Tuesday.

Approximately 200 arts leaders chanted “culture is power,” and rallied on behalf of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as for a bump in city funding.

Abada Capoeira performed at the arts rally at San Francisco City Hall
Abada Capoeira performed at the arts rally at San Francisco City Hall. (Photo: Cy Musike/KQED)

“We face a government that believes that art and culture belongs to the privileged few,” said Jon Moscone, director of civic engagement for the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), as he addressed the crowd.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Director of Civic Engagement Jon Moscone
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Director of Civic Engagement Jon Moscone. (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

“So today, in San Francisco when we advocate for the arts, we stand up against that. Everybody deserves arts, everybody deserves culture.”

Over the past three years, the NEA has given $6.5 million to San Francisco arts organizations.

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Rally organizers worked to show the role that federal and city funds play in supporting organizations both big, like YBCA, and small.

Signs at the rally for arts funding Wednesday at San Francisco City Hall
Signs at the rally for arts funding Tuesday at San Francisco City Hall. (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

“We are here because of federal and city grants,” said Jason Bayani, Artistic Director for the tiny Kearny Street Workshop, a group that’s been supporting Asian-American artists for 43 years. “Part of our mission is to turn artists into community members and community members into artists.”

The rally was also intended to pressure San Francisco supervisors to increase arts support by $2.5 million in a city where artists get credit for boosting the economy, but often can’t afford the rent.

Supervisors Jane Kim and Sandra Lee Fewer both stated their support for the funding hike, but the arts budget remains in peril, with Mayor Ed Lee calling on every city department to cut its budget by three percent in the coming fiscal year.

San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim promised to work to boost city funding for the arts at a San Francisco Arts Advocacy Day rally
San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim promised to work to boost city funding for the arts at a San Francisco Arts Advocacy Day rally. (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

Meanwhile, California arts leaders visited Washington D.C. on Tuesday, lobbying members of Congress on the NEA’s behalf. Theatre Bay Area Executive Director and Californians for the Arts Board Member Brad Erickson led the California delegation.

In a phone interview, Erickson said he expected support for cultural funding from Democrats. “But I think we’re seeing that there is also Republican support for the NEA,” he added, including from Representative Ken Calvert, who chairs the interior subcommittee which oversees arts funding. “Calvert is actually a very strong advocate of the NEA and other cultural endowments,” Erickson said.

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