Sat December 3rd Open 12—6 PM
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.
Gripping a softened leather chair in the San Francisco Mechanic’s Institute, one of California’s oldest libraries, poet Kevin Dublin writes about ghosts—loved ones, literary figures, and centuries of Black, Brown, and Indigenous culture keepers who have come and gone from The City By The Bay.
“I get inspiration walking downtown, seeing ‘little phantoms,’ and picturing Bob Kaufman performing on the streets in North Beach,” he said of the revered Black poet who sparked the Beatnik movement.
Some of these ghosts are grounded in the present. Amidst “the starkest inequity,” Dublin has tracked two climbs since moving to San Francisco: the rise in unhoused people and families, and the vertical sprawl of luxury condos, often within the same block.
“In San Francisco, this land of money, we pay a mental toll to survive,” he said of the impact on artists of color due to dehumanization and disinvestment. “If there is so much abundance here, why is there so much scarcity?” Grieving the death of his father during the COVID-19 pandemic while taking on overtime gigs to keep afloat, Dublin debated leaving his Bay Area art practice in order to better sustain himself and his family.
Dublin had been on inequity’s edge before, growing up in a Smithfield, North Carolina home rich in love, but in a town with lasting traces of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan. Dublin was nine years old when his mom died, leaving a void that no child should have to explain. And yet, a spark within beckoned him to try—the same intuition Dublin developed as a toddler when he heard his older brothers’ hip hop records and felt the lyrics as not just words, but pulsating, velvety textures. Working with Ms. Dotson, a mentor and third grade teacher, Dublin unlocked new modes of self-expression and exploration. A young writer was born.
Like the act of writing, Dublin views the San Francisco Guaranteed Income Pilot for Artists (SF-GIPA) as essential to “creating what could not have existed before.” While deep inequality persists, Dublin hopes that economic experiments like SF-GIPA will help cement radical change, including abolishing the false narrative that “you have to ‘deserve’ to do art… or feel guilty to ‘steal time’ doing what you love.”
Through the monthly cash relief, Dublin regained precious time with his family and craft. He welcomed his son to live with him in his home, and he reconnected with family in North Carolina, witnessing the power of storytelling anew when his uncle shared intergenerational history. These days, Dublin can be found teaching workshops across San Francisco and Oakland as Litquake’s Elder Project Director—challenging students to “cut lines,” scissors and all, to assemble poems from paper fragments. His writing community is boundless, with kids, teens, seniors, his family, unhoused neighbors, and passersby on the train as collaborators.
“Shakespeare and the blues, Aristotle and Tupac, it’s all on the same continuum,” said Dublin of the universality of poetry, diving into a Method Man verse that does, in fact, mirror the rhythm of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.”
With his art as advocacy, Dublin will keep telling his story while fighting for others to realize theirs. “[Guaranteed income] is one front, but there are so many more actions that need to be taken,” Dublin said, challenging governments to begin with ensuring fair access to “everything that everyone needs to live, and live well.”
Learn more about Kevin Dublin and his practice here and find him on Twitter @PartEverything. More on the San Francisco Guaranteed Income Pilot for Artists (SF-GIPA), Powered by YBCA at guaranteedinc.org.
YBCA would like to thank the San Francisco Mechanics’ Institute for hosting our interview and photo session with Kevin Dublin, a Mechanics’ Institute member and supporter. Founded in 1854, the Mechanics’ Institute is one of the oldest institutions on the West Coast. Its mission is to provide a center for intellectual and cultural advancement.
Lead image: A father, poet, and instructor of “emerging writers and programmers from ages 5 to 105,” Kevin Dublin finds inspiration amongst a global cohort of teachers, mentors, and creatives. Photos of Kevin Dublin by LexMex Art.