It’s no secret that the city has become prohibitively expensive for emerging artists, largely due to its proximity to Silicon Valley and the tech, now biotech, boom of the past twenty years. Once bohemian neighborhoods like Fillmore, North Beach and Potrero Hill are no longer affordable. In recent years, even established galleries with high-end clients have fled expensive downtown locations, moving to what not long ago was cheaper commercial real estate in the defined area. by Dogpatch and the Mission, a scope that took on the nickname “DoReMi”.
The California College of the Arts opened its Showplace Square campus in 1999, along with the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. The Museum of Craft and Design moved from downtown to Dogpatch in 2012. Letterform Archive, which opened in 2015 in a living/working space on Mariposa Street, moved to a larger commercial location on Third Street in 2021 which offers space for exhibitions.
Several independent galleries dot the landscape, including EUQUINOM, Catharine Clark and Hosfelt. A dozen more are housed inside the Minnesota Street Project at 1275 Minnesota and 1150 25th Street, including the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts. MSP, founded in 2016 by Silicon Valley investors and art collectors Andy and Deborah Rappaport, offers below-market space to galleries as well as artist studios in a third warehouse at 1240 Minnesota Street.
In 2019, MSP and the Rappaports established the Minnesota Street Project Foundation, to “engage sponsorship opportunities, host experiences, encourage community efforts, and help organizations meet funders where they want to be met” , according to its website. The Foundation created the California Black Voices Project, which provides grants to artists in the Black Bay area and funds capacity building for Bay Area nonprofits that serve BIPOC communities.
The latest addition to the DoReMi art scene is the San Francisco Institute of Contemporary Art. The Foundation and Rappaports have underwritten the ICA, which is scheduled to open in September at 901 Minnesota Street. Other prominent supporters include Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and Kaitlyn Krieger, Slack co-founder Cal Henderson and Rebecca Reeve Henderson, and Pamela and David Hornik, who is a partner at August Capital – as is Andy Rappaport from 1996 to 2013 – a Menlo Park-based venture capital firm that focused on information technology.
The ICA was conceived and is led by Alison Gass, former director of ICA San Jose. It will be a non-profit institution that will not collect and will spotlight emerging local artists and bring well-established artists to the West Coast.
“If you look at other ICAs across the country, [ICA] signals more nimble, risk-taking institutions that can really be creative with what an art institution or museum can be,” noted Christine Koppes, ICA Curator and Director of Custodial Affairs.
“There wasn’t that kind of space to give [an artist] their first big push like there are in other cities with ICAs,” said Deborah Rappaport. “We have wonderful artists, galleries, non-profits and museums in the Bay Area, but this emerging artist/non-collector platform is exactly where the ICA fits in. “
The Rappaport first considered launching MSP in 2014, when escalating real estate prices forced art galleries and nonprofits from their homes. The city had zoned a significant number of Dogpatch properties for PDR – production, distribution and repair – which allows for artistic uses.
The opening of ICA coincides with the development of Pier 70 – which will bring more housing and arts space to the area, including studios in a newly constructed Noonan building – as well as the September opening of the Muni’s central metro project, which will extend the T-Cross South-of-Market, Union Square and Chinatown, making the area more accessible.
“Part of the problem in San Francisco was that there was no concentrated place where people could go for a day of art,” Rappaport said. “We founded MSP in response to what was then a crisis and one of the things that was so rewarding was people were so happy to have a place, a hub.”
The ICA is positioning itself as similarly responding to a moment of crisis – this time, cultural – by addressing issues of race, class and the impact of the pandemic on local arts. Ahead of its official launch in the fall, ICA will present “Meantime” in the front section of its unfinished building, inviting artists to submit ideas for performances, workshops and contextual exhibitions. The program coincides with “Old as time, a sculptural installation commissioned by Chris Martin, the Oakland-based artist who created the ICA logo which features cherub shooting arrows over the letters “ICA”.
“Rather than trying to tell our community what we think they want to see, let the community come to us and take over the space and let what happens here define who we are and hopefully , build relationships in the future,” Koppes said.
“My great passion is bringing new audiences to contemporary art,” Rappaport said. “And that’s one of the reasons we’re so happy to be in the southeast part of town. Establishing the arts in Dogpatch is going to have a real and lasting impact.
The ICA will not sell artwork, but could stimulate the San Francisco art market, as nonprofit arts organizations often bolster the for-profit market by nurturing emerging artists and helping to define aesthetic movements.
Photo (top): ICA building at 901 Minnesota Street. Credit: Max Blue