2020 Census

Coming to Our Census

In late Spring of 2019, long before the coronavirus took hold of our lives, YBCA was approached by curator, activist, and strategist Amy Kisch—who had been commissioned by San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA) to develop an arts-driven campaign to mobilize communities around the 2020 Census—to enter into a partnership to amplify and expand this work by incubating a new, broad-based coalition called Art+Action. The Art+Action coalition spans art, creative, community, business, technology, philanthropy, activist, and government sectors to build knowledge and engagement around civic issues—in particular, the 2020 Census. This unprecedented collaborative effort formed to execute a city-wide, arts-driven multilingual campaign and to inform the public of the fundamental role this once a decade population count plays in our democracy, with a specific focus on reaching and engaging the hardest to count communities in our city.

As a center for art and social change, YBCA eagerly accepted the invitation to work with Amy and the team at OCEIA because, first and foremost, we understand the potential of artist-driven movements to engage and activate entire communities around issues that matter to us all. We also understood that our current political conditions pose serious challenges to ensuring that we get an accurate count of everyone who makes up our country. Without an accurate count, we cannot ensure fair political representation and distribution of billions of dollars for crucial federal programs and resources for our communities. These conditions–predating the virus–include government underinvestment, misinformation campaigns, and (failed) efforts by the Trump administration to include a citizenship question.


“We understand the potential of artist-driven movements to engage and activate entire communities around issues that matter to us all.”


Today, as COVID-19 isolates us and further strains our ability to participate in our democracy, it also starkly exposes the inequities and vulnerabilities of the basic systems built to keep us safe and healthy. More than ever, we can see so clearly who among us is most at risk and where our systems have failed beyond measure. This uncertain new day requires us to quickly mobilize to reach people where they are—which for much of us is online—and guarantee that they are not only safely counted, but that they know that they matter, they have power, and there is possibility.

The 10 minutes spent answering the 9 questions of the 2020 Census puts money into our communities for affordable housing, healthy food, healthcare, public schools, foster care, free meals, job training, essential emergency services, roads, preschools, and more. In San Francisco alone, each person who completes the census directs $20,000 to community programs, potentially putting more than $17 billion into the city over the next ten years. 

We must not lose sight of what is at stake and remain grateful to the artists and members of the Art+Action coalition who are continuing to mobilize digitally to amplify the 2020 Census as an opportunity for agency and belonging. In addition to our focus in San Francisco, we will also share  tools and strategies across the country to do our part to ensure that the people who are living in this country are seen and counted. We invite you to visit YBCA.org, YBCA’s Instagram page, and ComeToYourCensus.us to learn more about the campaign, the artists, and how you can get involved.