Intersection for the Arts, one of the city’s most established alternative arts venues, is the latest casualty in a city slowly strangling its arts and music scene.
The decades-old studio and artists space will lay off most of its staff and program directors by the end of the month, and will no longer produce its own arts programming.
“With the specific shifts in the economy and culture of San Francisco, it has been increasingly difficult to operate and sustain a community-based nonprofit arts organization like Intersection,” ousted program directors Kevin B. Chen, Rebeka Rodriguez and Sean San Jose wrote in a joint statement. “For the decade-plus that we have been able to work together, we have collaborated and worked for varied and multiple voices – the marginalized, under-represented, young, immigrant, queer, people of color, disenfranchised voices.“
The layoffs were confirmed by Intersection for the Arts’ Board of Directors Chair Yancy Widmer in a post on Intersection for the Arts’ website.
“Our financial situation is deeply challenged,” he wrote, “and it has become apparent that the current business model is no longer sustainable.”
He explained the move in the post:
Our financial situation has always been fragile. Like many non-profit, grassroots arts organizations, it has been a perpetual struggle, dependent on “angel donors,” “heroic” leadership and unpredictable trends. The move from our long-time home in the Mission to an improved facility in SOMA was a significant effort to address this issue, but it was increasingly clear that they were not enough to build the financial foundation we need not merely to survive, but to grow and thrive.
Recognizing that the organization needed fundamental change to sustain its contributions to community life, the Board embarked on a deep organizational examination that led to a substantial rethinking of our role in the community and a refining of our mission.
The layoffs follow a sold-out run of Chasing Mesherle, a play tackling white privelige and the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Station, in Oakland.
Intersection’s own programming will end, but they’ll still play host for other art shows. Additionally, Intersection’s Incubator programs will remain unaffected. The incubator spawned Litquake, Youth Speaks, Cutting Ball Theater, and many other arts programs and organizations are still being brewed there even now.
An art show on prison life at Intersection for the Arts.
In his post, Widmer invited the public to weigh in on the changes at Intersection by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ll post the full text of Chen, Rodriguez and San Jose’s email below.
We want to personally write you as our work and time at Intersection is suddenly coming to a close. As of June 1, Intersection will be undergoing substantial changes. As part of these changes, the three of us, in addition to other staff, will be laid off at the end of May. With the specific shifts in the economy and culture of San Francisco, it has been increasingly difficult to operate and sustain a community-based nonprofit arts organization like Intersection.
It is truly miraculous that we were able to exist for so long and be able to thrive with programs for as long as we did. Working together with Deborah Cullinan and other amazing colleagues for all the years we did, it worked not just because of the genuine investment and dedication of all at Intersection and us as a staff, but rather, it worked because of YOU — your creative vision, your zeal for social justice, your enthusiasm to collaborate, your desire to communicate and connect. We can not thank you enough for how much you have inspired us, changed us, and taught us. We are proud, still inspired, and ever changed by being able to support, develop, produce, and premiere new works of the highest order by artists and collaborators of the utmost amazing quality, originality, creativity, and heart – more than 15 years of new works and voices. Thank YOU. We look forward to witnessing more.
For the decade-plus that we have been able to work together, we have collaborated and worked for varied and multiple voices – the marginalized, under-represented, young, immigrant, queer, people of color, disenfranchised voices. We are proud of the work we have accomplished, birthing countless beautiful, resonant, and profound projects. Our work with community based organizations, schools, after-school programs, lock down facilities, coalitions, and individuals has allowed us to collectively flourish and grow.
We look forward to seeing you, experiencing new work, hearing and being part of dialogues, and partaking in both action and reaction to this world we all live in together. If you feel strongly about this kind of work that has happened at, with, and through Intersection over these past 15 years, we ask of you all:
MAKE IT HAPPEN!
TELL OUR STORIES!
In continued solidarity,
Kevin B. Chen
Sean San Jose