July 3, 2022

In San Francisco, officials have announced a pilot program that gives artists a monthly grant. The mayor’s office recently unveiled the initiative, city payments approved by the Arts Commission that provides 130 eligible artists with a guaranteed monthly income of $ 1,000 over a six month period.

A similar experiment began this week in St. Paul, Minnesota. There, a nonprofit is working with the city to pay 25 local artists monthly checks worth $ 500 for the next 18 months. Springboard for the Arts, the organization running the initiative with funding from two foundations, hoped that a successful program could change the national conversation.

In cities like Oakland, California, and Atlanta, whose leaders are part of a 41-member coalition, mayors for guaranteed income, other programs are emerging that aren’t just limited to art workers. The coalition says providing such income will improve race and gender equality. (New York has no such plan in the works, a Department of Cultural Affairs spokesman said last week.)

Interest in guaranteed income – or universal basic income – has grown over the past year as a possible solution to the one-sided economic impact of the pandemic.

“We knew this health crisis would hit artists, and color artists in particular,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “If we help the arts recover, the arts will help San Francisco recover.”

San Francisco has other such programs – one that pays for paramedic training for San Franciscans and another that is part of a $ 60 million initiative to invest in black children and families.

Since the artist application portal opened on March 25, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which administers the Guaranteed Income program on behalf of San Francisco, has received more than 1,800 responses. (The application deadline is April 15th.)

Deborah Cullinan, the organization’s executive director, said that when people are unstable in the arts, “I think that means we are not stable. An organization is only as stable as its core community. “

Cullinan said she hoped data from the program could be used to inform about the national agenda and that she was already interested in the federal government.

“It’s about finding new and innovative ways to tackle the economic uncertainty in our sector,” added Cullinan.

In St. Paul, the McKnight and Bush Foundations helped get the guaranteed income program off the ground. Laura Zabel, Springboard’s director who oversaw the project, said the monthly payments would help artists afford food and rent. Scholarship recipients will be selected from a pool of past recipients of the organization’s coronavirus emergency grants. The director added that at least 75 percent of the recipients would be people of color.