There's a New Director of Cultural Affairs in San Francisco

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Ralph Remington will head the San Francisco Arts Commission starting in January 2021. (Aminda Villa)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced Friday the appointment of Ralph Remington as the new Director of Cultural Affairs for the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC).

Remington, who will start in January, succeeds previous director Tom DeCaigny, who left the post at the beginning of 2020.

In the interim, the SFAC has hosted a look back at its archives, closed its public gallery during the pandemic and weathered criticism over its handling of a Maya Angelou monument in San Francisco, proposed by artist Lava Thomas. The SFAC had approved the design, then rescinded its approval, apologized to Thomas eight months later and then re-approved it last week. The ordeal raised questions about racial equity within the commission and in the arts citywide.

“We’ve consistently prioritized equity and diversity in our programs and through the arts,” said Mayor Breed in the appointment announcement. “Ralph has a long history of working in the arts, I know he will ensure San Francisco’s diverse community of artists and cultural organizations are supported and valued throughout this pandemic and beyond.”

Remington, who has past experience as a playwright, actor and screenwriter, comes to San Francisco from Arizona, where he serves as the Deputy Director for Arts and Culture for the City of Tempe. Prior to that, he worked for Actors Equity Association in Los Angeles and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in Washington, D.C., and served on the city council in Minneapolis. He graduated from Howard University.


In his new role, Remington will oversee San Francisco's collection of public art, the city’s arts grants, the city's galleries and public programs, and help guide policy and funding for the arts in the city. That includes having a role in the SFAC’s recently announced evaluation of all public monuments in the city to determine which should stay and which should go, and the eventual reopening of the SFAC gallery when COVID levels permit it.

“I believe in Ralph’s ability to harness the City’s resources and lead us into the future,” said Roberto Ordeñana, the president of the SFAC, in a statement. “This pandemic presents incredible challenges to the world and our sector in particular, and Ralph’s fresh perspectives and incredible intersection of skills will help deploy strategies to keep the arts so very central to what San Francisco values.”