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Oakland’s Ghost Ship

Oakland mayor announces $1.7 million grant to help artists

The scheme, which was unveiled days after the tragic Ghost Ship fire, will help create more affordable arts spaces

Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf has announced a $1.7 million grant to help artists following last Friday’s tragic warehouse fire.

The scheme, announced on Tuesday, hopes to build “sustainable, long-term solutions” for artists and cultural organisations in the city – particularly those facing displacement. 

“The arts are at the centre 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,” Schaaf said.

The mayor added that the grant – which has been in development for several months – was “especially important and prescient” given the recent fire at Oakland DIY venue the Ghost Ship. The tragedy saw 36 people lose their lives, and has since been linked to the affordability crisis in the city. 

“Now is our time to solve immediate challenges facing artists and arts organisations, while also developing a work plan and model for how the arts can thrive in our city,” said Oakland’s Cultural Affairs Manager, Roberto Bedoya.

“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” – Libby Schaaf

The grant will provide financial and technical assistance to artists, as well as arts organisations and communities. It will combine funds from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, and the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST). 

Oakland’s close proximity to Silicon Valley and San Francisco (regarded as the most expensive city in the US), has seen rents rocket in the area. Earlier this year, Schaaf called the situation “unacceptable”, and raised concerns that the city is “fast becoming unaffordable” to those who have called it home for generations. 

“There is not enough housing to meet the demand,” she said in an open letter addressing the issue. “As a result, housing prices have risen quickly leading to destabilising changes in neighbourhoods as well as the displacement and insecurity of too many–particularly among our most vulnerable populations.”

“Our challenge is to turn this tide. To make sure that the prosperity coming to Oakland doesn’t push out or price out our long-term residents, but instead lifts them up,” she added.