Art in Storefronts: a government-agency approach

The Art in Storefronts Program came about in 2009 when the then-Mayor of San Francisco posed a challenge to artists to find a way to revive some of the communities that had suffered in the economic downturn. 

“This project is very community-minded,” says Lauren. “When it first started they did it in five or six different neighbourhoods and they worked with another city department to place them with landlords who had empty spaces.”

With this project, the focus was more about community narratives than individual artists.

“The artists were asked to create something specifically for that space. It had to be a new project that responded to the space and to the neighbourhood itself,” says Lauren. “The project is focused on creating a sense of neighbourhood pride, ‘cleaning up’ the neighbourhood and giving people a reason to walk around and a chance to get to know each other.”

Lead by a government agency, the San Francisco Arts Commission, Art in Storefront’s process for selecting artists is based around arts excellence and community inclusion. Artists are asked to apply and then art projects are chosen from a committee made up of community members, government officials, artists and heads of art organisations.

Another way that Art in Storefront stands apart from other empty spaces initiatives is that artists receive a stipend for their work.

“This is really important because it costs money to put up an exhibition,” says Lauren. “A lot of artists are willing to do it for free because of the exposure and experience they get, but the stipend covers their expenses, values their commitment and I believe they’re able to achieve greater things.”

More Information:

Read our detailed case study of San Francisco's Art in Storefronts program.