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TBA Online: News & Features: June 2014

Intersection Cuts Down to the Bone

Friday, May 23, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Theatre Bay Area Staff
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By Theatre Bay Area Staff    

On Thursday afternoon the board of directors of Intersection for the Arts announced a drastic restructuring for the 49-year-old arts and community development organization. “For nearly 50 years, Intersection has existed as San Francisco's oldest alternative arts space, weathering a myriad of challenges, successes and evolutionary changes,” board chair Yancy Widmer and interim executive director Arthur Combs wrote in an email announcement. “We now find ourselves at another major turning point.  Our financial situation is deeply challenged, and it has become apparent that the current business model is no longer sustainable.” 

Michael Wayne Turner III in Chinaka Hodge’s play Chasing Mehserle, a coproduction of Intersection for the Arts, Campo Santo and Youth Speaks’ Living Word Project, closing May 24. Photo: Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi

Just three years after Intersection’s move to the Chronicle Building, with a much-ballyhooed role in a massive planned urban development project called 5M in that neighborhood that has seemingly been quietly shelved, Intersection is now discontinuing most of its programs and all of its producing projects and laying off most of its staff. As of June 1, the letter details, Intersection’s Visual Arts and Education and Community Engagement Programs will be put on hold and program directors Kevin Chen, Rebeka Rodriguez and Sean San Jose will be laid off along with a number of support staff. “Except for a limited amount of funded projects already in the pipeline, Intersection will no longer produce its own work but will continue to provide a platform to present performances by Incubator Program and Innovation Studio members and resident artists,” the letter reads. “Resident company Campo Santo will transition to a strictly fiscally sponsored project and Sean San Jose, currently Intersection's performing arts program director, will continue to lead the company.” Randy Rollison, artist resources program director, will become interim executive director. 

While apologetic about the impact these sudden cuts will have, Intersection put the painful changes in a positive light. This restructure, though painful, is necessary not only to address Intersection’s current financial situation, but to serve as a catalyst for an entirely new kind of artist and community engagement model that can sustain a healthy organization through an arts-centered entrepreneurial approach that relies on multi-disciplinary and highly collaborative partnerships in the Bay Area.” 

The good news—and there is some—is that Intersection’s Incubator Program, a core project of the organization since the 1970s, will continue uninterrupted, “with more than 100 fiscally sponsored projects working in performance, music, visual art, community engagement, arts education, artist services and advocacy.” Among the organizations that have benefited from the incubator program over the years are Litquake, Cutting Ball Theater, Youth Speaks, Erika Chong Shuch’s ESP Project, Felonious, Mugwumpin and StageWrite. Also retained will be Intersection’s Innovation Studio and its Community Rentals Program.

So Intersection will continue in some form or another. The question, for the organization as well as for the Bay Area arts community, is what form exactly that will be. “We believe that Intersection’s long history, its impact on San Francisco artists and the arts community over the years, and its existing partnerships and programs provide a sound base for us to build a sustainable, impactful model that honors the past and looks toward a healthy and productive future,” the letter says. “Our goal over the next few months is to craft that structure and re-emerge in the fall with a new business plan that creates a solid foundation for sustaining the organization's ability to use an arts-centered approach to building engaged, inclusive, and economically and culturally vigorous communities.”

And, of course, they’re looking for the community’s help. Intersection welcomes “ideas, thoughts, memories, comments, criticism” at, and of course any donations are more than welcome as well. In the meantime, the previously scheduled programs continue through the summer. Visit for more information, as it stands and as it arises. 

In a separate email from Chen, Rodriguez and San Jose to friends and supporters, the outgoing directors write: “For the decade-plus that we have been able to work together, we have collaborated and worked for varied and multiple voices—the marginalized, under-represented, young, immigrant, queer, people of color, disenfranchised voices. We are proud of the work we have accomplished, birthing countless beautiful, resonant, and profound projects. Our work with community based organizations, schools, after-school programs, lockdown facilities, coalitions, and individuals has allowed us to collectively flourish and grow. We look forward to seeing you, experiencing new work, hearing and being part of dialogues, and partaking in both action and reaction to this world we all live in together. If you feel strongly about this kind of work that has happened at, with, and through Intersection over these past 15 years, we ask of you all: