In the wake of the tragic Oakland warehouse fire at the live-work artist commune known as the GhostShip, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has announced a $1.7 million fund to “support sustainable, long-term solutions to creating affordable, safe spaces for Oakland’s artists and arts organizations.” According to the press release, the program has been in development “for many months,” but adds that “these funds are especially important and prescient” in light of the recent tragedy.
“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,” said Mayor Schaaf. “This public-private collaboration and investments are aimed at preventing displacement, growing the capacity of the city’s artists and cultural organizations, and enhancing municipal resources for the cultural sector over the long haul.”
At the crux of the project is a nonprofit real estate organization called the Community Arts Stabilization Trust, or CAST. Combined funding from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation will allow the trust to assist at-risk artists and artist organizations by aiding in finding them spaces to work where conditions are up to code and costs are reasonable.
Although the timing of the announcement follows the criminal investigation of the GhostShip fire, SFGate reports a news conference was already scheduled for Tuesday to publicize the grant, but Schaaf and other officials decided to cancel it to focus on the fire relief effort. Schaaf has a reputation as a supporter for the creative class in Oakland, but some artists fear the fire will be used as grounds for cracking down on warehouses and galleries which may not be up to code. Hecklers booed the mayor at a Monday night vigil for the fire victims, later expressing they think Schaaf is “too friendly with developers” and hasn’t done enough for tenant protections.
Perhaps the new grant will help sway their opinion.