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Best Ways To Support San Francisco's Local Art Scene

By Randy Yagi

As one of the world's leading destinations for art and culture, San Francisco is renowned for its collection of prestigious museums and nationally recognized art galleries. However, as rents rise in an already expensive city, it's increasingly difficult for local independent artists to make a living, let along live in the city they love. Although the City of San Francisco spends more per capita on arts programs than almost every major American city, many artists and small art businesses are still struggling or worse yet have been displaced from their homes or creative spaces. In an effort to strengthen the local art scene, residents, city leaders and interested parties may wish to do just a little more, not only to improve the quality of life for the uniquely talented artists, but also to inspire creativity and innovation, and provide new jobs and businesses. Here are some of the best ways to support San Francisco's local art scene.

Art Walks

One of the most convenient ways to support the local art scene is to attend one or more of the monthly art walks that are made available throughout the city. Typically held on the first Thursday, Friday or Saturday evening of each month, a complimentary neighborhood art walk allows attendees to visit a number of art galleries, as well as meet some interesting members of San Francisco's diverse art community and perhaps make a purchase while there. Among the suggested art walks to consider are North Beach First Fridays, San Francisco Art Dealers Association's (SFADA) First Thursdays, SF First Thursday Art Walk, in the Lower Polk and Tenderloin neighborhoods and the Castro Art Walk – First Thursday of the Month.

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Visit Local Art Galleries

Art lovers can demonstrate their support of the local arts community by regularly attending special events at art galleries, such as opening night receptions and artist mixers. In a vastly creative city like San Francisco, special events like these occur year round and announcements can be found online through hundreds of independent art galleries and local resources like and San Francisco-based Eventbrite, along with many others. Suggested art galleries and collectives to consider for established or emerging local artists include but not limited to 111 Minna Gallery, Art Attack SF, ArtSpan, SFAC Galleries, San Francisco Women Artists, SFMOMA Artists Gallery, SOMArts Cultural Center  and Spoke Art. Of course, art exhibitions are not just restricted to museums and traditional galleries, as local hotels like Hotel Adagio, The Marker Hotel and The Mosser host works from local artists, as well as several coffee shops like Blue Bottle Coffee and Ritual Coffee Roasters.

Financial Support

The single most important way to support the local arts is financial support, whether it's in the form of charitable contributions, commissioning artwork, community supported art or the purchase of unique artwork from an independent artist. Regardless of a budget, getting financially involved will provide many benefits to the local arts community, such as providing valuable income to local artists, strengthening neighborhoods and the city's overall economy. While not everyone has a budget to purchase expensive artworks in the city, there are many other businesses and that are know to sell more affordable yet exceptional works of art, such as City Art Cooperative Gallery, Creativity Explored and Wonderland SF, as well as the San Francisco Art Market street vendors at Justin Herman Plaza and at the Sunday Farmers Market outside the Ferry Building. Additionally, supporters of the local arts can also consider gifting personal artwork that can be used for public display.

Be An Advocate For The Arts

While financial donations and art purchases are absolutely indispensable in supporting the local arts, not everyone has a budget to do so, not even at affordable prices. Fortunately, there several other ways to contribute to the effort, particularly by acting as an advocate for the local art scene. For example, art lovers can promote local artists, galleries and organizations via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by posting information and/or images of current or upcoming events. Additionally, supporters can post positive customer reviews and photos of artwork from a local artist or business through crowd-sourced sites like TripAdvisor and San Francisco-based Yelp, as well as on Facebook and through Google Maps.

Attend Other Special Events

Throughout the year, San Francisco hosts a variety of festivals and street fairs where local artists can display their unique art pieces. For instance, in mid-April, the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown will featuring several arts and crafts vendors near the famous Ruth Asawa Origami Fountains, and just days later, Art Market San Francisco returns to Fort Mason, drawing an estimated 25,000 visitors. Held almost concurrently is stARTup Art Fair San Francisco, a contemporary art fair for independent artists at Hotel Del Sol in the Cow Hollow/Marina neighborhood. A month later, the San Francisco international Arts Festival will feature a global community of artists, as well as a strong contingent of local talent from the entire Bay Area. Continuing into the year, San Francisco will host several more festivals and streets fairs where local artisans will display their unique arts and crafts. Among the most notable are Carnaval San Francisco in late May, the North Beach Festival, Union Street Music Festival and the Haight Ashbury Street Fair in June and the enormous Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in Golden Gate Park in August. Lastly although it's still several months away, SF Open Studios is one particular event that should be marked on the calendar. Held over five weekends in October and November, SF Open Studios is the oldest and largest open studio program in the country and will feature more than 800 hundred uniquely talented artists who specialize in a spectrum of art forms.

Related: 5 Must-See Museums In San Francisco

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