Where Hope Lives

Posted by Mr. John R. Killacky, Mar 08, 2010 4 comments

Responding to the economic meltdown last year, the San Francisco Foundation downsized and began reconsidering what a community foundation needs to be in the present environment. As a result of this rethinking, in addition to the arts portfolio, I now have multiple tasks including managing programs for LGBT organizations, diversity in philanthropy, and a new initiative supporting mergers, closures, joint ventures, and back office collaborations. During this process of transition, I found myself having to be comfortable with ambiguity, as the importance of the arts was weighed in relation to the enormous safety net issues of food, clothing, shelter, job losses, and mortgage foreclosures. Funding cuts decimated education, health, and human services; the arts should not be exempt. Looking at any community holistically, an argument can be made for how essential arts and culture are to its vitality.  Yet, this can only be argued when a community has affordable housing, jobs, access to heath care, quality schools, parks, and libraries.  As the very tenets of civil society are being rewritten in the current recession, and the social safety net is ruptured, support for the arts is understandably imperiled.

Of course, there are the economic arguments.  Multiculturalism and innovation are key components in Bay Area life and arts are a powerful tool fueling our economy. San Francisco’s nonprofit arts organizations' employ over 10,000 people, and this does not include jobs from hotels, restaurants and parking that serve arts audiences. More than our numbers though, the arts must be held sacred and our intellectual, creative, and social capital contribution not underestimated. There can be no creative economy without the arts. The role artists play in creating metaphor, defining space (real and imaged), commemorating losses and victories, and articulating the unconscious must be valued. Children and marginalized communities find their first voice through cultural expression. Artists and arts organizations often create a safe space for unsafe ideas, a necessary role in our profane world. The arts are where hope lives.

4 responses for Where Hope Lives


John Killacky says
March 10, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Thanks Peter for these wonderful words.

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John Killacky says
March 10, 2010 at 6:58 pm

And it is such a great example, thanks.

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March 09, 2010 at 2:02 pm


Not only pragmatic, but very considerate at well are your observations. May I share with you and your readers my philosophy on the intersection of the arts and community.

"The arts provide society with a sense of well-being and enjoyment, a spirit of community. While art, intangible and elusive, is no panacea for our social problems and economic concerns, it is nonetheless powerful enough to bolster our common humanity and nurture our faith in the ability to achieve a future of spiritual and material fulfillment. Without the creative impulse that art offers, no society – and no business within it – can long flourish and achieve greatness. Good art is good business. Good art is good citizenship. Whatever sequence we employ is immaterial."

It is the foundation of why I have maintained a professional life in the Arts. Additionally, here's a quote from Rachel Maddow's appearance at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival last year. Food for thought as well:

"Sometimes we choose to serve our country in uniform at work, sometimes in elective office;those are the kinds of means of serving our country that I think we are trained to easily call heroic. It's also a service to your country, I think, to teach poetry in the prisons, to be an incredibly dedicated student of dance, to fight for funding music and arts education in the schools."

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Kathryn Reasoner says
March 09, 2010 at 12:21 am

Thanks, John, well said. I learned this lesson during my years working in Richmond when the leaders of the human service organizations turned out to make the case for the community art center to ensure that the children and the people in need of it most had something to sustain them psychically as well as socially....

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