Oakland to set aside $1.7 million grant for affordable art spaces
December commenced on a somber note for the dance community as news came in of 36 young ravers losing their lives amidst a warehouse fire in Oakland. Almost immediately, a global conversation ensued about safety at events, and ensuring a tragedy of this magnitude would not repeat itself. Many pointed their finger justifiably at the city’s housing crisis as playing a major role in this scenario, as astronomically rising rents have pushed artists and the less privileged further into spaces like these due to them not being able to afford living, or organizing events in the current climate.
Oakland mayor Libby Shaaf has swiftly responded to the situation, announcing on Tuesday morning a brand new grant totaling $1.7 million that would be set aside for nurturing safe and affordable spaces for local artists and art organizations. The grant will receive funds from the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST), the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, and comes in two parts: to provide financial and technical assistance to budding artist, and to allocate a fund that allows CAST to begin a real estate acquisition program that would also allow artists to purchase and lease and sub-market prices.
Additionally, CAST entered into a partnership with Northern California Community Loan Fund to offer further guidance to artists looking to begin their own sustainable real estate projects.
Though it is disappointing that it took a deadly fire to force action in this arena, the grant is a crucial first step toward restoring the artistic community in Oakland, and hopefully the bay at large, whose members have been widely displaced in favor of corporate developers. Mayor Shaaf seems to agree, pointing out that “The arts are at the center of vibrant and diverse communities, and are critical to neighborhood health and well-being, yet artists and cultural organizations are increasingly vulnerable to instability and displacement.” She added that the grant’s implementation “especially important and prescient” given current events.