For the past five decades, Intersection for the Arts has served as an artistic incubator, providing fiscal sponsorship, as well as professional, technical and residency services to up and coming artists – all against an impressive portfolio of multidisciplinary programs and events. This Saturday, September 12 at 6pm, Intersection will celebrate its 50-year anniversary with a free tribute concert, “50 Years of Bay Area History Told Through Music & Story”, at Glide Memorial Church in the Tenderloin where it will showcase the diverse Bay Area art community its helped cultivate.
The concert performances will honor the history of Intersection’s growth in San Francisco (with a nod to its early roots at Glide where its founders first gathered) by focusing its performances and speaker sessions around issues that have fused San Francisco’s cultural history with that of the organization.
Toward the end of 1965, there was a growing cultural shift in San Francisco. Resistance to the times sparked many social movements and some looked to art as a vehicle for change. From its humble beginnings holding meetings at a local church, one pioneering group has since grown to be recognized today as the city’s leading arts organization.
David Möschler, award-winning musical director and conductor of Awesöme Orchestra, along with Lyz Luke, Founder of UnderCover, a project that brings bands together to compose reinterpretations of classical albums, worked together to conceive the lineup for the concert. Both long-standing members of Intersection’s Incubator Program, the duo decided to base the production around common themes of identity, transformation, injustice and empowerment.
“We have a responsibility as artists to tell stories that need to be told and not all of them are inherently political, but a lot of them come with a strong inspiration behind them surrounding some struggle,” said Möschler. “It’s a lot of what Intersection is about – it’s about giving a voice to the people that don’t have one.”
Diana Gameros, originally from Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, will be performing a song loosely inspired by the passing of Arizona’s SB 1070 law, which encouraged racial profiling by state police. While Gameros and the other artists’ work are not always outwardly political, topics like immigration easily find a niche within the rich migrant history that’s shaped both the city and art community.
“I lived in the Mission a long time and I was so happy to see that there’s so much support and promotion of social justice, people actually work for it and give their lives to it,” said Gameros. “In a way it’s also honoring those people that speak out and welcome us.”
However, with an eclectic ensemble of musical acts and an impressive lineup of spoken word and visual arts performances, the event will also commemorate slightly more than just its timed anniversary milestone.
Around the same time last year, Intersection was at an impasse and its lofty goals had caught up with the reality of its struggle to survive financially in a city hardwired for return on investment.
Yet, unlike many arts organizations that have suffered a similar fate and were forced to fold, it underwent a restructuring in its business plan to include tweaks in programming and staffing to make room for a budget suited to recovery.
With the appointment of Randy Rollison as new Executive Director, the organization enters a new chapter that he hopes will continue to leverage innovation with a renewed fiscal tact. “We survived and we’re healthy,” said Rollison. “We went through a rough period and came out alive and we’re eager to embark on the next 50 years.”
Ethiopian-American singer-songwriter Meklit Hadero also sees Intersection’s newfound trajectory as an opportunity for engaging San Francisco residents at large.
“I’d love to see a shift in the dialogue, and not just with the tech institutions, but with the people moving here in droves to really start to support the arts – even just by doing something simple like going to shows,” she said. “Our culture is always evolving but there’s no reason we can’t grow together.”
Saturday’s concert at Glide will kick off “The Circle”, Intersection’s next round of programming, which will include a cycle of projects and exhibitions, such as Precarious Visions, an ongoing Monday night speaker series exploring forward-thinking ideas in art and social issues, and Ain’t Nothin’ Tender, a youth-driven subterranean photo exhibit done in conjunction with the Tenderloin Clubhouse.
For more information on the organization, programming and the full Saturday event lineup visit www.theintersection.org.