OAKLAND (BCN) — Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced Tuesday a multi-million dollar investment that would help create sustainable, affordable and safe spaces for the city’s artists and art organizations.
While the investment has been in the pipeline for months, the funds come at an especially crucial time following news of a three-alarm fire that killed 36 people at a warehouse that had allegedly been illegally converted into affordable living spaces for artists.
The Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation will donate $1.7 million to the non-profit real-estate organization the Community Arts Stabilization Trust, which will launch a new financial and technical assistance program to help arts organizations facing displacement, according to the mayor’s office.
The investment will help support a capital fund to allow CAST to initiate a real estate acquisition program, which will create permanently affordable, safe spaces for artists and art organizations in the city.
The investments come at a significant time, as housing and commercial rents are rising, resulting in artists and art organizations being displaced. The investments are a result of recommendations made by a
multi-disciplinary taskforce put together by Schaaf in 2015, Schaaf’s office said.
“The arts are at the center of vibrant and diverse communities, and are critical to neighborhood health and well-being, yet artists and cultural organizations are increasingly vulnerable to instability and displacement,” Schaaf said in a statement. “This public-private collaboration and investments are aimed at preventing displacement, growing the capacity of the city’s artists and cultural organizations, and enhancing municipal resources for the cultural sector over the long haul.”
According to a 2010 study by Americans for the Arts, Oakland is home to hundreds of arts and cultural nonprofit organizations, as well as a significant population of working artists, bringing in an estimated $53
million per year.
As part of the solution, CAST will launch a new two-year pilot initiative, Keeping Space-Oakland, which launches Wednesday.
The initiative will provide technical and financial assistance to arts and cultural organizations that are seeking real estate advice and funding, according to Schaaf’s office.
Through the initiative, CAST will be offering grants of up to $75,000 to arts organizations that have been displaced, or are facing displacement in Oakland. The goal is to help organizations find permanent, affordable spaces.
Additionally, as part of the Keeping Space-Oakland initiative, CAST is partnering with the Northern California Community Loan Fund, a local non-profit, to offer technical real estate assistance.
Also, the investment from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation will help seed a capital fund that will allow CAST to launch a real estate acquisition program in Oakland, creating permanently affordable art spaces.
The fund will be used to purchase real estate and lease at below market rates to Oakland artists and art organizations.
“Keeping Space-Oakland and our new real estate acquisition efforts are dedicated to ensuring that Oakland’s art organization and artists, who are facing immediate space challenges, remain a vital part of our communities through training, funding, and ultimately permanent real estate solutions,” CAST Executive Director Moy Eng said in a statement. “When our local artists and arts organizations are firmly rooted, the entire city benefits.”
Schaaf recently appointed a cultural affairs manager for the city to coordinate city government resources to better support the arts community.
Roberto Bedoya will oversee the city’s’ Cultural Affairs Unit, which provides more than $900,000 in grants to support the arts annually, administer the city’s Public Arts Program, and manage a portfolio of special events, film production permitting and a walking tours program.
Schaaf also announced support from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation to fund a two-year mayoral staff position that would focus on new policies and initiatives to stop the displacement of artists and arts organizations in the city.
Kelley Kahn has been appointed to the position and will work closely with Bedoya and the city’s Cultural Affairs Unit, Schaaf’s office said.
“Tackling the issues of displacement and protecting Oakland’s diverse arts and culture cannot be solved by government alone. Public-private partnerships are essential in addressing these issues faced by so many
growing, changing cities,” Schaaf said.
Applications for Keeping Space-Oakland will be available Wednesday and are due by Feb. 17. For more information about the initiative, interested applicants can go to www.cast-sf.org for more information.