The four top-polling candidates in the San Francisco mayoral race provided their thoughts on the arts and arts-related issues in the city they hope to govern in new video interviews released Wednesday.
With a June 5 election just two weeks away, the Arts Coalition of San Francisco (ACSF) published video interviews with mayoral candidates Angela Alioto, Supervisor London Breed, Supervisor Jane Kim and former State Senator Mark Leno. All four answered questions from longtime arts critic Steven Winn on pertinent issues such as housing for artists, arts education, and the city's hotel tax, which provides much of the city's funding for arts.
According to the ACSF's website, the organization arranged the interviews on behalf of 100 arts organizations in San Francisco. (A list of the organizations backing the ACSF, provided by ACSF representatives to KQED, can be found at the end of this article.)
“We view this as the beginning of an important conversation about the future of the arts in our city. Our city's most vital assets and unique character lie in our cultural and artistic diversity," ACSF representative Jonathan Moscone (pictured above) said in a statement. "We need to find a way to ensure that the communities served by artists and organizations thrive for years to come.”
Watch the interviews below and read brief summaries of the candidates and their positions:
Angela Alioto is a former San Francisco supervisor and the daughter of former mayor Joseph Alioto. She's also passionate about art history, mainly Italian art from 1300-1600, which she studied in college. (Transcript of interview.)
- Advocates for increasing funds for the arts, whether it be public or private funding.
- Likes idea of artist housing where rent is based on percentage of income.
- Feels a mayor could use power to push for increases in arts education funding.
Supervisor London Breed
Currently the president of the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor London Breed was born and raised in San Francisco's Western Addition. One of her first jobs after college was serving as executive director for the African American Art & Culture Complex, where she raised over $2.5 million to expand the facility and install an art gallery, a theater space and a recording studio. (Transcript of interview.)
- Pushed to increase funding to the arts from the city's hotel tax.
- Wants the city's larger arts institutions to collaborate with smaller organizations.
- Thinks artist housing should be subsidized by private funding.
- Feels arts education for youth should come from public schools and nonprofits.
Supervisor Jane Kim
Representing San Francisco's District 6, Supervisor Jane Kim moved to San Francisco in the late '90s and has spent most of her professional life in advocacy and grassroots organizing, working with groups such as the Greenlining Institute and the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC). Before becoming a supervisor, she was the first Korean American to be elected to San Francisco's Board of Education. She's also a civil rights attorney, has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and used to play bass guitar. (Transcript of interview.)
- Supports increased funding to the arts from the city's hotel tax.
- Feels arts education isn't simply an elective and deserves more support.
- Wants the city's institutions to become more involved in local arts education, but also feels the city could help fund those collaborations.
- Thinks the city could also find solutions to issues with artist housing.
Mark Leno is a veteran of California politics who began his career in 1998, when he was appointed to the SF Board of Supervisors by then-Mayor Willie Brown. After serving as a supervisor and as a member of the California Assembly, Leno became the first openly gay state senator when he was elected to represent the state's 3rd district in 2008. Before terming out in 2016, Leno authored several bills, including the California Universal Health Care Act and the Fair Education Act. He's also a fan of musicals, and recently opened up to J. Weekly about his relationship, in the 1970s, with San Francisco Symphony musical director Michael Tilson Thomas. The two remain close friends. (Transcript of interview.)
- While a state legislator, worked to replenish funding for the California Arts Council.
- Feels local arts industry is essential to tourism.
- Wants to tax landlords who keep buildings empty and thereby contribute to local housing shortage.
- Supports increase to arts funding from hotel tax.
Below is a list of Arts Coalition members, provided by the ACSF:
African-American Art & Culture Complex
African-American Shakespeare Company
Alonzo King LINES Ballet
American Conservatory Theater
API Cultural Center
Asian Improv Arts
Bayview Opera House
Brava! For Women in the Arts
Center for New Music
Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco
Chinese Historical Society of America
City Arts & Lectures
Compton's Transgender Cultural District
Contemporary Jewish Museum
Crowded Fire Theater Company
Curry Senior Center
Filipino-American Development Foundation
Kearny Street Workshop
Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts
Museum of Craft & Design
Museum of Performance & Design
Museum of the African Diaspora
New Conservatory Theatre Center
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale
Presidio Performing Arts Foundation
Queer Cultural Center
Robert Moses KIN
San Francisco Ballet
San Francisco Cinematheque
San Francisco Film Society
San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music
San Francisco Homeless Emergency Service Providers Association (HESPA)
San Francisco Juneteenth
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
San Francisco Opera
San Francisco Opera Association
San Francisco Performances
San Francisco Symphony
Shipyard Trust for the Arts
Small Press Traffic
Society for Art Publications of the Americas
The Cutting Ball Theater
Theatre Bay Area
Theatre Communications Group
Women's Audio Mission
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival