California may launch its own version of the Depression-era WPA

By Emily Nonko, Next City, March 25, 2021

“[Late last year, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, there were] artists [that] were part of SF Creative Corps, a pilot program that launched in November to provide work to Bay Area artists financially impacted by the pandemic. Each artist was tasked to creatively and positively spread messages of COVID-19 safety in well-trafficked public spaces throughout the city. This work may serve as a blueprint for a massive expansion: California Governor Gavin Newsom recently proposed $15 million for a statewide pilot across the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 budget cycles.

“And indeed, the Jobs and Business Recovery Taskforce’s November report to the governor recommended the state expand public-private partnerships to create programs similar to the SF Creative Corps.

“[While using art to convey a message is not new, this pilot,] however, was creating a government mechanism to support artists in this work with living wages. To do so, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development partnered with four San Francisco arts organizations, Paint the Void, San Francisco Bay Area Theater Company, Dance Mission and SF Carnaval, to employ 60 artists as “Community Health Ambassadors” over the span of seven weeks.

“Of the performers engaged as Community Health Ambassadors, it said, 85.2 percent identify as BIPOC, 55.6 percent identify as women and 18.5 percent identify as LGBTQIA+.

“‘It felt like everyone involved understands that art is something that not only communicates information, but helps human beings synthesize and act on information,’ says Aidaa Peerzada, an actor representing San Francisco Bay Area Theater Company as a Community Health Ambassador. ‘The question wasn’t how to make this message cute. The question was, how can we inspire people to be different, to act on that information?’”

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