Artist Impact Stories

Clarissa Dyas

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Launched in May 2021 with the San Francisco Arts Commission and Grants for the Arts, and extended with additional funding from Start Small, the San Francisco Guaranteed Income Pilot for Artists (SF-GIPA) provides monthly unconditional payments of $1,000 to 130 San Francisco artists over a period of 18 months.

YBCA Sr. Manager of Artist Investments, Stephanie Imah, and Director of External Affairs, Aisa Villarosa, sat down with San Francisco artists and SF-GIPA participants to talk about how SF-GIPA impacted them, their loved ones, and their creative communities.

After working nonstop in hourly wage hospitality and administrative roles to make ends meet, San Francisco artist and activist Clarissa Dyas took a leap of faith, committing to a career in dance. “I wanted to devote my life fully, to surrender to being an artist,” said Dyas, describing the clarity to answer their personal and professional calling. The San Francisco State University graduate soared in their performances, including works by Robert Moses’ Kin and Jo Kreiter of Flyaway Productions, as a contemporary and modern dancer and aerial artist.

For Dyas, dance is “the propulsion of the universe” from the stage to the streets, with their surroundings—the wind, music from their mini-speaker, blades of grass, traffic bustle—a dynamic symphony of partners.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered performance venues during the longest mass closure in nearly a century, Dyas found strength and solidarity with Queer and Trans, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (QTBIPOC) artists. But with limited pandemic relief, the economic and emotional burdens facing Dyas and other young artists of color—including paying off student loans and sustaining housing—continued and, in some cases, worsened. Many of Dyas’ peers and mentors were pushed out of San Francisco and the Bay Area due to rising costs, illness, and the absence of opportunities with fair wages and protections. Each departure added to an incalculable loss of community, the loneliness of creating in isolation, and the fear Dyas woke up to daily—wondering if they, an artist born and raised in the Bay Area, would soon have to leave, too.

“I ask myself, ‘What can I do to be of the greatest benefit to community, to society, to myself? What is the greatest thing I can contribute?’ [It is] to be an artist, truly.”

While the decision to remain in San Francisco is rooted in Dyas’ love of dance and family, they credit the San Francisco Guaranteed Income Pilot for Artists (SF-GIPA) as vital to their ability to stay. Instead of losing sleep to multiple part-time jobs and increasing bills, SF-GIPA has afforded Dyas the space to plan out their dreams.

“Becoming part of SF-GIPA made it more of a realistic venture to be an artist, one hundred percent,” said Dyas. “My stress levels then and now? Completely different.” The monthly guaranteed income covers their rent, Dyas’s single largest monthly expense, giving Dyas time and energy back to hone their craft, enroll in a grant-writing course, and ultimately build power and community. Combining their grant-writing knowledge and creative expertise, Dyas successfully co-founded and fundraised for &theruptureisnow, a collective of QTBIPOC artists that nurtures learning and healing amidst historically white, heteronormative, and exploitative systems in dance and the arts.

Without having to scrape by in survival mode, Dyas can fully embrace the beauty and vulnerability of dance. With renewed determination, they acknowledge SF-GIPA and YBCA for strengthening their sense of self and capacity to help others.

Learn more about Clarissa Dyas and their practice here. More on the San Francisco Guaranteed Income Pilot for Artists (SF-GIPA), Powered by YBCA at

Lead image: Drawing from the vibrancy of nature, music, and community, Clarissa Dyas calls dancing “the propulsion of the universe.” Photos of Clarissa Dyas by LexMex Art.