Oldest San Francisco Arts Nonprofit Suspends Curatorial Programs

Gallery view of Jenny O’Dell’s ‘Infrastructure’ (February—March 2014) at Intersection for the Arts, curated by Kevin B. Chen (photograph by Dorothy Santos)

SAN FRANCISCO — Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco’s oldest alternative arts space, has suspended curatorial programs and halved its staff, KQED reported last week. According to a May 23 letter sent to the community by the organization’s board of directors, all “visual arts, and education and community engagement programs” have been canceled, and programming directors Kevin B. Chen, Rebeka Rodriguez, and Sean San José, as well as communications staffer Rebecca Ahrens, have been let go due to financial strain. The same correspondence named Randy Rollison, previously director of artist resources, as interim executive director. Though the organization will no longer produce its own exhibitions, it will continue to use its non-profit status to operate as a fiscal sponsor for artists and projects, presenting their work through its long-standing Intersection Incubator program.

In a May 22 farewell letter to community members released as a statement to other media, the outgoing programming directors expressed the importance of Intersection for the Arts to the San Francisco’s art community:

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.

While the downsizing may not be a surprise due to the rapidly changing urban and economic landscape in the Bay Area, it marks yet another disheartening turn for the arts scene in San Francisco. Formerly based in the city’s Mission district, the organization relocated to the first floor of the former San Francisco Chronicle building in 2011, a move that saw then-director Deborah Cullinan announcing a new strategy of “cross-sector partnerships in an urban campus for creativity.”

Reached by telephone earlier today, interim director Randy Rollison told Hyperallergic that Intersection’s present fate has “nothing to do with the whole tech tensions, it’s just the organization itself.” Citing a “steady erosion in donations and grants,” Rollison spoke to the structural issues now facing the organization. “We need to rethink the support mechanisms … for smaller organizations, these things are very fragile, it’s a much more difficult [financial] model to sustain,” he said.

With additional reporting by Mostafa Heddaya.

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