Make Room for Art

How to protect arts spaces during an economic boom (protests won't do it)

These and other solutions have been discussed in detail elsewhere. But Richard Livingston, the Exit Theater's managing director, says the bottom line is that arts organizations need to look outside the speculative real estate market for places to live. The Exit itself has a long-term lease in a building zoned for low-cost housing. The Magic Theater has a deal with the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. The old furniture store where Intersection for the Arts is housed happens to belong to the man who built it, Dominic Mancuso, who's been less of a landlord to Intersection than a steward.

"Everyone's focusing on one model -- renting from for-profit landlords," says Livingston. "And that doesn't work."

Maybe the most intriguing model to come out of this whole debate is the idea of a "community and art land trust," being explored by Jonathan Youtt, one of Cell Space collective's co-founding members. He wants to pool money from the heads of nonprofits and from other donors in the Mission to buy four or five buildings -- like the Cell Space it-self, and the Redstone, which houses Theater Rhino and some other nonprofits -- to hold in a public-private partnership. It would be a direct, grass-roots form of community planning for nonprofits of every kind, and might preserve some 100,000 square feet of office and performance space in the Mission. Donors and city planners shouldn't ig-nore a scheme as wide- ranging as this. Friends of Youtt's from the tech industry have even offered to help.

"I call it "cultural preservation,'" he says. "And culture for me isn't just limited to the arts."

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