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 last twenty-some years. Previously bohemian neighborhoods, such as the Fillmore, North Beach, and Potrero Hill, are no longer affordable. In recent years even established galleries with high end clients have fled costly Downtown locations, relocating to what not so long ago was cheaper commercial real estate in the area defined by Dogpatch and the Mission, an expanse that has taken on the moniker “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 live/work space on Mariposa Street, relocated to a larger commercial place on Third Street in 2021 that offers room for exhibitions.
Several independent galleries dot the landscape, including EUQUINOM, Catharine Clark, and Hosfelt. About a dozen more are housed inside Minnesota Street Project, at 1275 Minnesota and 1150 25th streets, 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-rate spaces to galleries as well as artist’s studios in a third warehouse space at 1240 Minnesota Street.
In 2019, MSP and the Rappaports established the Minnesota Street Project Foundation, to “engage sponsorship opportunities, curate 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 awards grants to Black Bay Area artists, and funds capacity building for Bay Area nonprofits that serve BIPOC communities.
The latest addition to DoReMi’s art scene is the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco. The Foundation and Rappaports have underwritten the ICA, slated to open in September at 901 Minnesota Street. Other significant 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 was Andy Rappaport from 1996 to 2013 – a Menlo Park-based venture capital firm that focuses on information technology.
The ICA was conceived of and is headed by Alison Gass, former ICA San Jose director. It will be a non-collecting, nonprofit institution that’ll spotlight emerging local artists, and bring well-established ones to the West Coast.
“If you look at other ICA’s across the country, [ICA] signals more nimble, risk-taking institutions that can really be creative with what an art institution or museum can be,” said Christine Koppes, ICA’s Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs.
“There wasn’t that kind of space to give [an artist] their first big push as there are in other cities with ICAs,” Deborah Rappaport said. “We have artists, galleries, nonprofits, and wonderful museums in the Bay Area, but that emerging artist/non-collecting platform is right where the ICA fits in.”
The Rappaport’s first contemplated launching MSP in 2014, when escalating real estate prices were forcing art galleries and nonprofits from their homes. The City had zoned a significant amount of Dogpatch properties for PDR – production, distribution, and repair – which allows for arts uses.
ICA’s opening coincides with development of Pier 70 – which’ll bring more housing and art spaces to the area, including studios at a newly constructed Noonan Building – as well as the September opening of Muni’s Central Subway Project, which’ll extend the T-Line through 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 spot where people could go to have 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 gratifying was that people were so happy to have a place, a hub.”
ICA is positioning itself as similarly responding to a moment of crisis – this time, a cultural one – by addressing issues of race, class, and the pandemic’s impact on local arts. Before its official fall launch, ICA will present “Meantime” in the front part of its unfinished building, inviting artists to submit ideas for performances, workshops, and popup exhibitions. The program coincides with “Ancient as Time,” a commissioned sculptural installation by Chris Martin, the Oakland-based artist who created the ICA’s logo which features cherub shooting arrows at the letters “ICA.”
“Rather than us 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 going forward,” said Koppes.
“My big passion is bringing new audiences to contemporary art,” Rappaport said. “And that’s one of the reasons we’re so glad to be in the Southeast part of the City. Having the arts established in Dogpatch is going to have a real lasting impact.”
The ICA won’t sell artwork, but could spur San Francisco’s art market, as arts nonprofits 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