Oakland Mayor Grants $1.7 Million Toward Affordable Art Spaces

Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
A mural at the Vulcan, an artist enclave in east Oakland, Calif.

Oakland Mayor Libby Shaaf has granted $1.7 million toward the battle against rising rent and the creation and long-term maintenance of affordable art spaces for the Bay Area's creative entrepreneurs. The initiative has been in motion for months, but the announcement hangs heavy just days after the Ghost Ship warehouse fire that left 36 dead Friday, Dec. 2.

“The arts are at the center of vibrant and diverse communities, and are critical to neighborhood health and well-being,” Mayor Shaaf is quoted in a press release, “yet artists and cultural organizations are increasingly vulnerable to instability and displacement. This public-private collaboration and investments are aimed at preventing displacement, growing the capacity of the city’s artists and cultural organizations, and enhancing municipal resources for the cultural sector over the long haul.”

The grant is funded by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the non-profit real estate organization Community Arts Stabilization Trust. The grant coincides with the launch of a new financial and technical assistance program aimed at fighting art organization displacement, as well as a real estate acquisition program which will help place artists and organizations in safe and affordable homes, venues, and workspaces.

The press release notes a 2010 study by Americans for the Arts which clocks Oakland's artistic and cultural nonprofit population in the hundreds with an estimated economic impact of $53 million per year. Rent spikes fueled by proximity to San Francisco, the country's most expensive city to live, have forced many artists and generational Oakland residents out of the city or into unstable, unmonitored spaces like Ghost Ship. The warehouse space had reportedly not been inspected in three decades.