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$1.25 Million In Funding For San Diego Arts Relief Programs

City of San Diego Art Collection
"Fear No Art," (artist unknown, circa 20th/21st century) was on display at the Central Library Art Gallery as part of an exhibition of civic art in San Diego in February 2020.
San Diego Practice and Park Social will provide $1 million to fund and share public art from San Diego artists, plus $250,000 in nonprofit grants will support arts organizations

Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced on Wednesday the city of San Diego will distribute $1 million in funding for two new arts programs through the Commission for Arts and Culture. The programs will directly support artists in San Diego while also ensuring more public art is available for San Diegans to enjoy, and are part of the city’s $1.25 million plan for emergency arts funding relief.

"Our arts community has been hit particularly hard," Faulconer said.


The two initiatives, SD Practice and Park Social will focus on creating and sharing public art and providing financial opportunities for individual local artists.

Jonathon Glus, the commission's executive director, described each of the new initiatives and the ways they can provide relief directly to artists.

Glus said that the SD Practice will add to the city's extensive civic art collection, which includes more than 800 works of art and began taking shape during the Works Progress Administration era during the Great Depression.

"SD Practice is going to allow us to build on that tradition," Glus said.

These works will be acquired from living San Diego artists. $500,000 in total funding comes from a gift from the estate of San Diego art collector Thomas O. Rasmussen, who was committed to the public display of art, and payments to artists for works will vary. The request for proposals for interested artists is open now through July 13.


The new Park Social initiative also offers $500,000 in funding for park-based public-art works. This funding is from private bequests as well as a portion of fees collected by the city from developers.

"Park Social is going to allow us to contract up to 18 artists to do site-specific projects in parks across the city. Beaches, trails, formal parks, neighborhood parklets; we'll be able to create projects across the city in our park system," Glus said. "This will encourage San Diegans to get out and tour parks, as well as attract tourists."

Julia Dixon Evans
Roman De Salvo's public sculpture in the new field station at Mission Trails Regional Park, "Fountain Mountain," was unveiled by the Commission for Arts and Culture in February. The sculpture — a functioning drinking fountain — echoes the trails, streams and mountains of the park.

Arts organizations have also taken major hits due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a mid-April press conference, Faulconer announced drastic budget cuts to the arts and culture community in San Diego, slashing the Commission for Arts and Culture's grant funding by 50 percent and eliminating hundreds of librarian jobs as well as reducing library hours moving forward.

This month, the Caster Family Center at the University of San Diego published findings from a survey across 381 San Diego nonprofits in March and April on the impact of the pandemic. The majority of arts nonprofits reported service disruptions, loss in income from fees or tickets, decline in donations and needs for services. Smaller nonprofits struggled to secure CARES Act funding. More than half of all nonprofits reported furloughs, layoffs or other staff reductions with more on the horizon — and arts and culture nonprofits had the highest occurrence of furloughs of all nonprofit sectors.

On the heels of the mayor's announcement, the San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition announced the completion of the first phase of the San Diego Arts + Culture Challenge, a call for $250,000 in private donations managed by the San Diego Foundation for arts nonprofits in need. It's the third component to this $1.25 million effort from the city.

The coalition reported that 32 nonprofits received grants ranging from $3,450 to $10,000. Recipients include the Aja Project, San Diego Art Institute, Malashock Dance, Outside the Lens, TranscenDANCE, The Media Arts Center of San Diego, Blindspot Collective and more.

"Here in San Diego, we've had a thriving arts and culture scene and we want to make sure that it continues," Faulconer said.

Corrected: January 26, 2023 at 4:35 PM PST
CORRECTION: The San Diego Arts and Culture Challenge funds are managed by the San Diego Foundation, not the city as previously reported.