The San Francisco Guaranteed Income Pilot for Artists Has Arrived

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Today marks the launch of the Guaranteed Income Pilot for artists in partnership with the City of San Francisco’s Arts Commission. An urgent and necessary experiment for the creative forces in our city, this Pilot will provide monthly payments of $1,000 to 130 eligible San Francisco artists over a period of six months. This cash relief program is designed specifically to support artists living and working in the City of San Francisco who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications are open now through April 15, 2021. We are proud to be the administrator of this program, a key step toward building sustainable economic structures for artists in our communities.

At YBCA, we believe that artists are essential agents of social change. Time and time again, we have seen that when artists have access to adequate resources, they strengthen communities and improve health and well-being outcomes. They are an underutilized leadership asset and have struggled with financial precarity even before the onset of the pandemic. We believe that the Pilot’s experiment as a model that provides regular and unrestricted cash payments will demonstrate what artists are capable of when they can focus on their creative output without the pressure of wondering where their next paycheck will come from.

Administering the Guaranteed Income Pilot is the latest and one of the most important steps to date in our trajectory of building investment structures for artists to do what they do best.

Since 2019, the staff and board at YBCA have worked to pivot our organization to make artists and the creative communities they serve the center of our mission. Throughout this past year, we have searched for opportunities to activate our belief that artists are drivers of economic well-being. Resource-sharing programs like the Guaranteed Income Pilot speak to YBCA’s reimagined relationship to our creative and civic communities. This Pilot, along with past initiatives including the Giving Circle, the Artist Now COVID-19 relief fund, and the San Francisco Creative Corps, are the early manifestations of our organizational pivot to better serve the artists in our community, especially BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, Migrant, and Disabled creatives.

Part of our ongoing transformation is a focus on forging deeper relationships with those in historically marginalized communities. We are proud to have partnered with seven San Francisco BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, Migrant, and Disabled organizations and community leaders to co-design this Pilot and ensure that our program reaches artists who have been hardest hit by the pandemic. If we are to think of YBCA as a center for art, action, and progress, we need to focus not solely on shifting power to artists, but shifting power to the communities that surround and uplift them.

This particular Pilot arrives at a moment when guaranteed income is gaining traction across the country, including in our neighboring cities, like Stockton and Oakland. Ours will be the first in San Francisco, and one of the first in the nation, to focus solely on artists.

Our learnings from the Pilot will be used to advance the wider movement advocating for unrestricted cash payments that provide financial stability to those who need it most, including artists. We believe that these programs are not only viable but necessary, and our hope is that this Pilot will show what artists can do when we step up and support them.