Artist Impact Stories

Reynaldo Timosa Novicio, Jr.

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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.

The tattoo “HimigRANT,” a fusion of “immigrant” and “himig,” a Tagalog word meaning “voice,” “tone,” or “rant,” sweeps across Reynaldo Novicio’s outstretched arm, moving in sync with the lo-fi beats of his keyboard—a symbol of his identity becoming one with his instrument. A genre-bending, bilingual music/sound producer known as Mister Rey, Novicio draws from his Filipino roots, cross-racial solidarity, and youth mentorship to make music and tell stories.

At the age of 12, Novicio moved from his birthplace of the Philippines to San Francisco’s Mission District, bonding with neighborhood teens over sounds and ciphers that transcended language.

“I didn’t know how to speak English… my first ‘community center’ was Guitar Center on 9th and Mission,” said Novicio, recalling the hours spent communicating with peers through a shared soundscape. “I found this space where you’re allowed to create with other people, with Black and Brown city kids who make beats—and like me, couldn’t afford to buy $1,000 sampling equipment.”

At the height of California’s Three Strikes laws, juvenile curfews, and policing disproportionately harming young people of color, Novicio and his friends challenged injustice with music and activism.

“In 2000, I participated in a youth walk-out against Prop 21, where more than three people under 18 couldn’t walk around together, or else they would be considered a ‘gang,’” said Novicio of one racialized law where youth could be sentenced as adults. “They’d say: ‘Don’t stay out late,’ but it was the school-to-prison pipeline.”

From listening to local artists in the Philippines’ barrios to honing his recording talents with the San Francisco neighborhood after-school program Youth Speaks, one thing has remained a rare, safe constant. “Music is like a warm embrace when you’re creating, it takes you away from the pain,” said Novicio, crediting an eclectic fusion of jazz, reggae, and experimental tracks as inspiration. “Immigrating to San Francisco, so many narratives were familiar to me, like the gentrification here [in the U.S.] and in Makati [in the Philippines]. Music was how I told that story.”

“Music is like a warm embrace when you’re creating, it takes you away from the pain.” – Reynaldo Timosa Novicio, Jr.

After years of discouragement when pursuing arts funding due to unfair processes and costs tied to privilege, Novicio applied to the San Francisco Guaranteed Income Pilot for Artists (SF-GIPA) at the urging of colleagues. Now, as a participant, Novicio reflects on SF-GIPA’s holistic benefits as a dad, musician, and mental health coordinator. The unconditional cash payments help Novicio sustain himself and his children, in their SoMa unit filled with mix tapes, a cozy kitchen, and a beloved wall corner to measure the kids’ height.

“As a single parent, SF-GIPA helps in so many ways, in dealing with stress and being able to have a community during the time of COVID-19,” he said. The guaranteed income has aided Novicio in guiding his children during the pandemic, as well as mentoring young immigrants grappling with isolation and culture shock.

“I relate to [young people] because the street is the competition, and without a foundation you fall into the system. You go through inner rebellion, and [you can] direct that rebellion into music.”

Learn more about Reynaldo Timoso Novicio, Jr. and his practice here as well as his storytelling project, the FriscoPinX Chronicles, here. More on the San Francisco Guaranteed Income Pilot for Artists (SF-GIPA), Powered by YBCA at

Lead image: Artist Reynaldo Timosa Novicio, Jr. produces music bridging his journey and life across Makati City, the Philippines, and the Mission District of San Francisco. Photos of Reynaldo Timosa Novicio, Jr. by LexMex Art.