Civic Engagement

As a citizen institution, YBCA’s work extends beyond our walls and into the realm of public life.

Through groundbreaking partnerships, we’re activating our mission throughout the civic arena; including schools, neighborhoods, and City Hall. Our programs reflect San Francisco’s diverse geographies, demographics, communities, and sectors. From the Market Street Prototyping Festival and Youth Fellows, to championing Proposition S, YBCA aims to put creative citizens at the center of the conversations, actions, and policies that will shape the future of our city.


TechSoup’s Molly Bacon and Lewis Haidt sits down with YBCA Chief of Civic Engagement, Jon Moscone to talk about working with community members to get creatively engaged in their city.


At YBCA, we believe that advocacy is not only our right but our responsibility. As a citizen institution, YBCA is as committed to fulfilling our mission outside of our walls as we are inside. Building on our work in schools, neighborhoods, and communities, we are dedicated to using our unique power as an arts organization to advocate for culturally healthy and equitable San Francisco. Our diversity is this city’s hallmark and we believe it must be protected in the face of an ever changing landscape.

To that end, we work alongside individuals and organizations that represent a range of sizes, economies, demographics, and disciplines to develop a powerful coalition that organizes around key issues that face the people of San Francisco. One of the most recent efforts in which YBCA played a key role was the 2016 ballot initiative that aimed to restore historic allocations to the arts community from San Francisco’s Hotel Tax Fund. The campaign for Proposition S brought together a groundbreaking coalition of arts leaders and cultural workers throughout the city who, in collaboration with leaders of San Francisco’s homeless family services and advocacy communities, succeeded in securing 64% of the vote. While 3% short of the 2/3rds majority needed to ensure victory at the polls, Prop S brought our community together and the mandate is clear: our city’s people support dedicated arts funding to ensure a better San Francisco.

Today our community is stronger and more galvanized than ever. Today, YBCA — board and staff alike — is more committed than ever to playing a central role in ensuring a culturally vital and equitable San Francisco.

School Partnerships: Excelsior

DREAM at Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Middle School

The Excelsior neighborhood, known for having the highest concentration of immigrants in San Francisco, has a middle school where 85% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Our 2016-17 curriculum for 250 seventh and eighth graders will draw inspiration from artist-activist Ana Teresa Fernandez’s public sculpture entitled DREAM, which is located less than a mile from MLK Middle School. DREAM will be installed in Spring 2017 and is co-sponsored by San Francisco’s Department of Public Works.

To cultivate their hope and dreams for the future, MLK students will reflect on the work of the late local graffiti artist Mike “Dream” Francisco, creating art that they then perform and share in the community in connection to the DREAM installation. The students will hone their design skills by exploring the question “Who are we designing for?,” learning how to act upon community needs with a focus on process, failure and innovation.

More about DREAM »

School Partnerships: Tenderloin

Food Justice and Cultural Memory at Bessie Carmichael Elementary

With an estimated 4,000 children residing in a neighborhood that spans only .5 square miles, the Tenderloin has the densest concentration of children and families in San Francisco. However, children in the Tenderloin also face the highest concentration of open drug dealing, the constant threat of violence, a lack of healthy food options, and green space. Many of these children attend Bessie Carmichael Elementary School, where 40% of its students come from limited English proficiency homes.

The 2016-17 curriculum we have developed with Bessie Carmichael’s 450 students — planned and implemented in partnership with local neighborhood organizations like The Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, Tenderloin People’s Garden and 826 Valencia — will focus on community memory, using art and community gardening as tools for local Filipino youth to hold onto something as fundamental to culture as food in a time of extreme struggle, dislocation and gentrification in San Francisco.

Placemaking: Field Work
YBCA + Neighborland: Field Work

Field Work is a new partnership between YBCA, YBCA Fellows, and Neighborland, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. The goal of Field Work is to empower residents in San Francisco and Oakland to shape the development of their own neighborhoods.

Visit our Field Work page to learn more about the program and projects »

Placemaking: Market Street
Market Street Prototyping Festival

“We cannot make things happen behind closed doors, with only a few people thinking about the problems that affect so many.”

—Yerba Buena Center for the Arts CEO, Deborah Cullinan

The Market Street Prototyping Festival believes that collaboration and rapid experimentation can help solve our biggest challenges. An equal partnership between Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the San Francisco Planning Department, the Prototyping Festival was born out of their shared desire to make Market Street a more vibrant, connected destination; one that brings together different people, communities, and neighborhoods.