Through July 15, the collective is accepting applications to the Ara Jo Memorial Fund, named for its 29-year-old member Ara Christina Jo, who was one of 36 victims of the fire at an Oakland warehouse in December 2016.
The collective, in collaboration with Jo's family, started the $25,000-fund this year to support "local, community-based artists and projects that benefit the East Bay." The grants go up to $500, and the collective plans to award them in the summer and winter. This winter, it hopes to collaborate with the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Festival (EBABZ) to target artists working in printed media.
"We hope to keep her collaborative energy and loving spirit alive by supporting projects that align with Ara’s life pursuits," says grant manager Peter Pendergrass.
Jo was an artist and musician who came to Oakland in the mid-aughts from Los Angeles. She joined Rock Paper Scissors in 2009 and held a number of different jobs there, including gallery manager. Described as personifying "pure, unconditional love," Jo had a knack for bringing people together, as seen in her work to help start Oakland First Fridays. She also provided much-needed encouragement to fellow artists trying to get projects off the ground.
"If you shared an idea with Ara, she would ask you all about it, brainstorm it with you, and co-imagine how amazing it would be," Pendergrass told KQED following Jo's death in 2016. "And in any way she could, she would support you in making it come to fruition."
Pendergrass says that as of this week, he's received just two applications, and if he receives 20 this first cycle, he'll be thrilled.
For more information on the fund, visit rpscollective.org. Recipients will be announced July 31.