DISTRICT 9 - Melissa San Miguel
How would you describe the specific impact of artists and arts organizations on the life of our City? Please use at least one example of the arts changing lives or communities.
I was born and raised in the Mission district. Despite the challenges of growing up in a violent neighborhood filled with gangs, on my walk back home from school, I would purposely walk down Balmy Alley. I found peace in the beautiful murals that dotted my neighborhood and would bask in the colors, images and beauty of the artwork because it made my day better no matter what was going on. Indeed, art has played a big role in my life as I learned how to play my first instrument – the violin – in our City’s public schools. I know first hand how powerful the arts can be in changing and improving one’s life. I believe in the power of art to positively impact lives and touch the beauty that exists in all of us. This is the power of artists and art organizations – they can shape lives, perspectives and visions of our community.
How will you ensure that San Francisco’s historically underserved communities are able to access the full benefits of the arts and resources for creative and community expression?
As the proud daughter of Peruvian immigrants and daughter of a working-class union family, my parents worked hard to support my creative endeavors. I benefitted from public arts programs in our schools where I studied violin and voice. My parents also enrolled me at the Community Music Center in the Mission, where I played piano for several years. We need to restructure funding and other resources to address barriers to underserved communities so our youth can have these types of opportunities. We need a Cultural Equity Assessment of current investments in arts and cultural resources, and we need a citywide cultural planning process that maps all arts and cultural assets, specifically formal/informal culture producers that serve marginalized communities. People of color make up 57% of the San Francisco population. Our publicly funded arts agencies’ grants to artists and collectives should reflect the diversity of our city so we proactively address funding barriers for underserved communities. Other localities like Nashville’s arts and culture department, Metro Arts, piloted a change to their grant-making process to increase this type of equity.
Over the past year the arts have been utilized to improve safety and protect the environment. For example, artist studios have activated vacant buildings. Murals have highlighted bike corrals and warned residents about the dangers of pollution. Name one or two ways you would leverage the work of artists and arts organizations to cultivate vibrant neighborhoods and achieve civic priorities.
The arts play a key role in improving safety, highlighting environmental issues and providing visually appealing spaces. However, art can do so much more. Art is a vehicle for community visioning and empowerment. It serves as a powerful organizing strategy and can be a central part of advocacy for transportation, economic development, and health, among a few issues. For example, Performing Statistics is a project that connects incarcerated youth, artists and policy advocates to produce media campaigns, police training initiatives, and mobile exhibitions. Their work has been seen by tens of thousands across Virginia and beyond, and is being used to train every police officer in Richmond, VA. This is something San Francisco can learn from and do. We can be on the cutting edge of putting the arts in the role of positively impacting culture and changing how we interact with one another.
Research shows that students with an arts-rich education have better grade point averages, lower drop-out rates, and score better on standardized tests in reading and math. How will you ensure every San Francisco student is provided a robust arts education in school and has access to ample opportunities to engage in art outside of school?
As a student at Flynn Elementary, I first learned how to play the violin. Throughout my time at Horace Mann Middle School and for most of my Lowell High experience, I sang in my school’s choir. While practicing and performing, I felt free and connected with other musicians. The arts were a big part of my childhood and gave me something to look forward to in school each day. I believe the arts contributed to my academic success. I will fully support efforts to provide robust arts education in schools and will support increased partnerships with instructors and art schools outside of school. We can accomplish this by establishing a city coordinated arts education initiative to ensure that every child receives high quality arts and cultural education. We can utilize best practices from the Promise Neighborhoods as well as shared value and collective impact strategies to link artists, local government, businesses, cultural organizations, faith- and community-based groups, schools, parents, and students. Dallas’ Thriving Minds is one example we can learn from.
How will you improve affordable housing and tenant protections, both for low income and middle class San Franciscans? Do you support artist specific affordable housing? Why or why not?
The Mission has borne the brunt of the affordable housing crisis in San Francisco. There are thousands of working and middle-income families being pushed out of the very neighborhoods they built. Yet, still there is no plan for addressing this crisis, let alone solving it. I will work to establish a plan and coherent approach that puts us on a path to a resolution for our crisis. I will fight to develop affordable housing sites and fight for increased affordable housing units in various developments. I will work to maintain and extend rent control. I support artist-specific housing. Artists are oftentimes culture bearers and community leaders. Yet, artists are under extreme pressures of being displaced from our city. Artist-specific housing is a core step of ensuring the culture of a neighborhood is preserved. Affordable housing and facilities will bring increased community collaboration, expanded production of work and events, and better financial performance for artists, cultural producers, and arts and culture organizations.
What can the City do to address skyrocketing rents -- for office, studio, rehearsal and performance spaces -- for artists, arts groups and other nonprofits?
The city can be proactive in preserving PDR space for artists, art groups and others. We can work with nonprofit developers for artists who help us develop affordable space that meets the needs of artists through the adaptive reuse of historic buildings and new construction. We can also partner with SF-based organizations, such as the Community Arts Stabilization Trust, to extend their model to support artists/groups specifically in the Mission district and neighborhoods of District 9. Ultimately, we need a citywide plan to address this issue so that the needs across neighborhoods and communities are met.
Do you support the SF Arts and Families Funding Ordinance, restoring allocations of some Hotel Tax revenues to the City’s arts agencies and resources to prevent family homelessness? Why or why not?
I support the SF Arts and Families Funding Ordinance. This measure restores allocations of hotel tax revenue to arts funding, improves access to arts experiences with a focus on equity for underserved communities and works to end family homelessness – all things I fully support.
Private development in some portions of the City must set aside 1% of their construction budget for art, or support for arts facilities. Would you support extending that 1% for art requirement on new development to the entire city? Why or why not?
Yes. This will allow developers to fully contribute to our community and incentivize building community relationships while increasing public benefit of these projects. The SF Public Utilities Commission is leading the way in exemplifying how a percentage for the arts can be used to directly benefit marginalized communities. In pooling funds generated from capital projects across the city, SFPUC made investments in three communities, including Bayview Hunters Point. These targeted funds have helped to renovate the neighborhood center, supported employment programs for youth and increased arts collaborations and block parties to revitalize the neighborhoods cultural corridor. These funds can go a long way in our neighborhoods.