Grants for the Arts helps culture flourish in San Francisco, 50 years on

Posted on: November 10, 2011

In Sunday (11/6) San Francisco Chronicle, Meredith May writes, “Fifty years ago this fall, San Francisco leaders got a novel idea to put a small surcharge on every hotel bill to fund city arts programs. Grants for the Arts was intended to be symbiotic—City Hall would use the hotel tax to fund its Ballet, Opera, Symphony, museums and music festivals, which in turn would promote San Francisco and draw more tourists. As the city’s reputation as an arts center grew, more artists would move here. ‘We were the first city to do this, and now hundreds have copied San Francisco, but still no one gives as much to the arts as we do,’ said Kary Schulman, who has directed Grants for the Arts for 30 years. … In 1961, visitors were first taxed 3 percent of their hotel bills, and a majority of that money helped fund arts groups. Six of the original groups are still funded today: the Opera, Symphony, Ballet, Museum of Modern Art, International Film Festival and the Stern Grove Festival. Over time, the hotel tax has increased to 14 percent, and now more than half of it, almost $1 billion, goes into the city’s general fund. The portion given to Grants for the Arts has varied over the years, depending on the economy and political will. Today it is 5.3 percent.”

Posted November 10, 2011