Mayor London Breed and City Administrator Carmen Chu Appoint Vallie Brown as Director of Grants for the Arts
Brown brings years of experience in community organizing and local government, as well as a commitment to equity and supporting arts and culture organizations, to San Francisco’s Grants for the Arts
San Francisco, CA — Today Mayor London N. Breed and City Administrator Carmen Chu appointed Vallie Brown as the new Director for San Francisco’s Grants for the Arts. Brown most recently served the City and County of San Francisco as Supervisor of District 5.
Grants for the Arts (GFTA), a division of the City and County of San Francisco’s City Administrator’s Office, strives to be a stable, dependable resource for nonprofit arts and culture organizations who successfully meet funding criteria, and is committed to supporting the full spectrum of art and culture in San Francisco. GFTA’s investments enhance the City’s attractiveness to visitors and provide employment and enrichment to residents, which will be especially important for San Francisco’s recovery from COVID-19. GFTA’s total general operating support grant amount for Fiscal Year 2020 was $12.9 million, and increased funding for small- and medium-sized organizations by 28% over the previous year.
“Vallie Brown is a dedicated public servant, with a passion for community and the arts in San Francisco,” said Mayor Breed. “She came to San Francisco as an artist more than 30 years ago, and built a community through the Arts which ultimately led her on a path to community organizing and public service. She and I met when I was still executive director at the African American Arts & Culture Complex. We worked closely together there and later when I became Supervisor, to achieve more equitable funding across large and small arts organizations. Her extensive experience and steady hand will serve San Francisco’s arts community well as we navigate the challenges created by COVID-19 and work to recover as a city.”
Brown served as District 5 Supervisor from July 2018 until December 2019. Prior to her appointment to the Board of Supervisors, she worked for the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development and was a legislative aide to former District 5 supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and London Breed. As an aide during the 2008 economic crisis, she worked closely with community and arts organizations to preserve vital arts programs for diverse communities. Later, in 2013, she worked closely with then Supervisor Breed to promote greater equity at Grants for the Arts, helping restructure the department’s support of small arts organizations, programs and artists.
“I came to San Francisco as an artist and the arts have always been at the center of my love for this city, along with its diverse communities,” said Vallie Brown. “Grants for the Arts blends my love of and experience with communities, culture and the arts, all of which set San Francisco apart from other cities across the country. As we seek to recover, arts and culture are going to be a vital ingredient and I’m eager to do everything I can to support them during these incredibly trying times.”
The mission of GFTA is to promote the City by supporting the arts through six grant programs, with general operating support grants making up the vast majority of its total grantmaking. Today, GFTA’s principal value is equity, entailing a commitment to ensuring GFTA’s grants and resources are accessible to all, understanding that certain communities have been historically overserved due to systemic advantages and access. Recognizing that arts organizations have not received equitable resources due to race, geography, and other marginalizing factors, GFTA endeavors to bolster culturally diverse and geographically dispersed organizations by eliminating obstacles and shortfalls in grantmaking that have prevented the full participation, success, and stability of applicants and grantees.
“I am excited to work with Vallie in this new role. As an artist who came to San Francisco over 30 years ago, Vallie understands firsthand the importance of arts and culture in our City’s vitality and economic recovery,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu and Co-chair of the Economic Recovery Task Force. “She’s also passionate about serving our City and has a clear vision about how we advance and align our City’s vision of equity and diversity with our work.”
As a legislative aide and appointed Supervisor, Brown worked hard to promote culture and equity, including through her steadfast leadership and support for establishment of an American Indian Cultural Center in San Francisco, and her co-authorship of legislation establishing San Francisco’s Office of Racial Equity.
“We trust Vallie, for over a decade she has successfully secured funding for small arts organizations, community events/festivals and individual artists in the black community,” said Melonie and Melorra Green, Co-Directors, African American Arts & Cultural Complex. “This is a huge win for the arts community, those who appreciate the power of creativity, and those who are generally interested in effective change in the arts ecosystem in San Francisco and beyond”
“Several years ago, Grants for the Arts shifted to prioritize equity and to do more to sustain and grow small arts and cultural organizations,” said Rosa De Anda founder of “Day of the Dead Festival of Alters.” “Vallie helped realize that change in City Hall which has been a huge help in keeping the fabric of San Francisco’s arts community strong.”
“Over the years, GFTA support for small arts organizations like mine have been so important,” said Brenda Aoki, co-director of First Voice. “My co-director Mark Izu & I have known Vallie through her years of work in the Japan Town and Fillmore communities. Her work has helped to strengthen the bonds between these communities, and to promote healing. Her style of leadership, informed by her American Indian culture; is exactly what San Francisco needs right now, not just economic recovery, but food for the soul.”
Prior to her work for the City and County of San Francisco, Brown was a working artist for many years, during which time she started a children’s art program in the early 1990s at the Hunters Point Boys & Girls Club. It was through this work that she became an environmental activist fighting to close down the Hunter’s Point power plant and to hold the Hunter’s Point Shipyard accountable for its legacy of toxic pollution in the area.
Brown was raised in Utah by a single mother and grandmother. Her father was Paiute and Shoshone descent; he passed away when she was a child. Brown studied art and communications at the University of Utah, and now lives in Cole Valley.