Mission & Vision

Insurrection, Connection & Community
Through the Arts


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Our mission: SOMArts cultivates access to the arts within the Bay Area by collaborating with community-focused artists and organizations. Together, we engage the power of the arts to provoke just and fair inclusion, cultural respect, and civic participation.

SOMArts plays a vital role in the arts ecosystem by helping activate the arts citywide. We do this by providing space and production support for non-profit events, as well as fairs and festivals throughout the Bay Area, and offering a robust program of art exhibitions, classes, events and performances that are affordable and accessible to all. SOMArts’ exhibition programs receive critical support from the San Francisco Arts Commission and The San Francisco Foundation, and are sponsored in part by a grant from Grants for the Arts.

SOMArts is beloved in San Francisco as a cross-cultural, community-built space where cutting-edge events and counterculture commingle with traditional art forms in a way that is open, engaging and inspiring. It is an incubator for ideas that lie outside the mainstream of contemporary art funding and consumption.

SOMArts is an independent nonprofit that is part of a network of six cultural centers in San Francisco. Forged in the passionate activism of the neighborhood arts movement—a trailblazing initiative closely tied to the civil rights movements empowering cultural communities– the Cultural Centers were created to provide broader access to the arts.

Other Cultural Centers include: Bayview Opera House, the African American Arts & Culture Complex, Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, Queer Cultural Center and Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. SOMArts, named for its South of Market location, serves artists, audiences and organizations throughout the Bay Area.



SOMArts’ annual artistic programs include 3-5 exhibitions curated by SOMArts staff, 3 curatorial residencies in the Main Gallery, 12-18 exhibitions by solo artists and groups in the Ramp Gallery, free youth programming developed in collaboration with SFAI City Studio, an annual Dia de los Muertos exhibition and performance series, a monthly free professional development series for artists co-presented with ArtSpan, the monthly queer performance series The News, and two to three exhibition-related performances and workshops each month.

Within these programs, SOMArts serves an audience of over 33,000 people on-site each year and provides tours and workshops to students from over 20 Bay Area schools, utilizing over 1,400 volunteer hours.

In addition to productions and presentations, SOMArts provides extensive support services to Bay Area arts and culture nonprofits. The Affordable Space Program provides below-market rental space and production assistance to over 100 nonprofits annually, hosting their exhibitions, performances, and events and providing technical production services such as livestreaming video to public-access television. SOMArts fiscally sponsors 10-15 emerging organizations and artist projects annually. Neighborhood Arts Services teaches young adults staging skills while providing stages, wheelchair-accessible lifts and sound systems to cultural fairs and festivals throughout the city.

The South of Market Cultural Center is a 26,190 sq ft cultural center with two large performance/exhibition spaces, a flexible theater, a media lab, photography, ceramics and printmaking studios used on a weekly basis by professional artists, and four administrative offices.

33,000+  visitors attended free or low-cost workshops, performances and exhibitions
700+ public school students from Bay Area schools toured SOMArts’ exhibitions
33 new works were commissioned
32 Bay Area nonprofits used SOMArts stages, wheelchair lifts and PA systems to provide free entertainment at street fairs and festivals
10 exhibitions in the Main Gallery with over 30 free talks, workshops and events
13 exhibitions featured over 30 artists in the Ramp Gallery
10 organizations and artist projects received fiscal sponsorship

BUDGET (Fiscal year ending June 30, 2015)
Total expenses (audited): $1,890,915
Total revenues (audited): $2,028,264

SOMArts Staff: 5 full time, 29 part time & seasonal
Board Leadership: 8-member Board of Trustees
Volunteers & Interns: 160 volunteers and 16 interns contributed over 1,400 hours of support

SOMArts staff August 2015 by Meike Gugel, 2 copy

– Grew operating budget from $885,000 in 2008 to $1.7 million in 2016, grew net assets from $103k to over $400k
– Diversified funding sources. Key funders include San Francisco Arts Commission, The San Francisco Foundation, Zellerbach Family Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
– Since 2008, grew support services revenue by 50% and grew nonprofit clients to more than 100 annually. Key clients include: ArtSpan, Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, La Cocina, Youth Art Exchange, Headlands Center for the Arts, Potrero Hill Neighborhood House and Nihonmachi Merchants Association.
– Secured one of 11 awards nationally from the the American Alliance of Museums/US Department of State to build global communities through partnership, collaboration and cross-cultural exchanges, while also supporting U.S. foreign policy goals such as youth empowerment.


Recent accomplishments include producing Making a Scene: 50 Years of Alternative Spaces, a 2015 group exhibition which received critical support from the National Endowment of the Arts to spotlight a rich history of Bay Area artist-run, independent and alternative spaces, as well as the pioneers and contemporary trailblazers of social justice who utilized these spaces as a catalyst and megaphone. Archival material from more than 20 individuals and spaces, and art and installations by more than 30 current and historic Bay Area artists, united the featured spaces’ disparate, yet overlapping and contingent histories of cultural engagement, community development and social justice.

Over the past 5 years, SOMArts has seen exponential growth of the annual performance and media art event Night Light: Multimedia Garden Party. Night Light began in 2010 in response to the growing number of multidisciplinary artists in need of technical support for performances and installations and their desire to reach a larger audience with unconventional work. In 2013 SOMArts’ third annual Night Light opened to a sold out audience and included partnerships with the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia and Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States. The 2010 Night Light had an audience of around 300. In July 2015, Night Light had more than 1,500 attendees, having physically expanded to include 7,000 sq ft of indoor and outdoor space. The event brought together more than 90 artists, including audiovisual performances and performative interventions by 30 artists, and digital and cinematic projections by 27 artists.

In 2014 SOMArts partnered with The San Francisco Foundation for the fourth year in a row to present The Annual Murphy and Cadogan Contemporary Art Awards Exhibition, a showcase of the work of promising visual artists from regional Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) programs working across disciplines. The 2012 exhibition traveled to Delta College, and opened in January 2013.

In 2013 SOMArts, in partnership with the Islamic Art Museum of Malaysia, received $103,854 in grant funding by Museums Connect, an initiative of the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs administered by the American Alliance of Museums, for a year-long youth program Flag Stories: Citizenship Unbound. Youth ages 13 to 17 from Muslim, intercultural, refugee and immigrant communities in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and San Francisco engage in a transnational creative and cultural exchange around shared issues of migration, citizenship and belonging in 2013–14.

In 2011 SOMArts collaborated with the Bay Area Video Coalition to launch the Neighborhood News Network, and began to offer a public ingest station where community video content could be uploaded to Public Access Television. This partnership also provided SOMArts with professional video equipment used to broadcast live and recorded performance in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 to Public Access Television and to provide artists with valuable documentation of their work, and to create SOMArts’ first viral YouTube video, which garnered over 25,000 views organically.

2011 was also a year of unprecedented media attention. Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze received national and international media attention from publications such as Ms. Magazine and Vanity Fair, France. Get Lucky: The Culture of Chance garnered SOMArts’ first review in The San Francisco Chronicle.

In 2010-2011, with support from the Creative Work Fund, SOMArts partnered with artists Peter Foucault and Chris Treggiari to develop the Mobile Arts Platform, a mobile sculpture that serves the community through a series of curated exhibitions by local artists at neighborhood fairs and festivals.

In 2010, funded by the Western States Art Federation, SOMArts produced “It’s All A Blur,” a major touring exhibition featuring the work of San Francisco Masters who blur the lines between identity, politics and sexuality in their reimagining of the American Dream. The exhibition toured to Reno and Las Vegas and was part of the Time-Based Art Festival in Portland in 2011.

In 2010, SOMArts collaborated with the San Francisco Art Institute’s City Studio program to renovate its ceramics studio and began offering free classes to students age 12–19. In 2013 SOMArts acquired the necessary equipment to create a five-computer lab with video and photo editing capabilities, and added to the City Studio class offerings a free audiovisual media class.

SOMArts’ exhibition programs are supported by the San Francisco Arts Commission and The San Francisco Foundation, and are sponsored in part by a grant from Grants for the Arts.

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Photos by Jonathan Fong, Claire Stacy, and Meike Gugel. Used with permission.