An Urgent Call to Save Gray Area’s Cultural Community From Closing

Dear Gray Area Family,

All public events at Gray Area have been postponed due to COVID-19 public health concerns.

A week ago, Gray Area took proactive steps to prioritize the health of our community by suspending all public events programming through the end of April. Now, the CDC has recommended postponing events of over fifty people for eight weeks. This lapse in programming makes the future uncertain for Gray Area, our artist community, and the cultural organizations sharing our space. Given the trajectory of this public health crisis, fully restoring our revenue could take until the Fall.

We urgently need your support.

Even in the best of times, running an independent cultural space in San Francisco is challenging and precarious. But, powered by you, our community, Gray Area has fought for 11 years to hold space and support our growing network of creators. Our artist-centered, entrepreneurial model is rare among nonprofit arts organizations: 75% of our operating budget is earned by producing events and world-class performances from artists such as Rhizomatiks, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Ryoji Ikeda, Moor Mother, or Refik Anadol, and many more exciting shows from emerging local artists.

However, this pandemic has made it unsafe for us to continue physically gathering together. Without reinvesting in the creative community that makes our city thrive, this public health emergency will also beget a crisis of cultural wellbeing. Gray Area is committed to offering a renewed vision for what an arts organization can do to nurture interdependence, well-being, resilience, creativity, and care.

We cannot survive without you.

Gray Area renovated our beloved Grand Theater 2014, transforming the 1940s theater from retail into a community space providing the infrastructure buttressing our arts and social impact mission. The expense necessary to run a multi-use public events venue such as the Grand is not insignificant. Our projected revenue loss due to the pandemic for Q2 is $350,000. Our quarterly operating costs average $340,000, including rent, salaries, program costs, and other facility operating expenditures. We are rapidly reducing our overhead to meet this new reality, but we need your help to weather this moment, and pivot our strategy to respond to these new economic conditions.

However, our deepest concern is not for our facility, but for the impact this crisis will have on the broad network of artists and organizations which we support, and whose livelihoods in San Francisco were already run on paper thin margins. Gray Area serves a diverse network of interdisciplinary creators who defy categorization with experimental work often overlooked by traditional institutions. In 2019, Gray Area supported over 150 artists, held 95 cultural events, and welcomed 30,000 audience members to our events. Last year we paid $100,000 to artists and instructors for our events and education programs, and an additional $100,000 to local contractors supporting those programs. Our February immersive exhibition The End of You generated $40,000 paid directly to local artists, many of whom had never previously exhibited. Our community support also extends to local nonprofits and schools; in 2019 we donated $250,000 in space to 23 local organizations for their events and fundraisers.

If you have any ability to give during this critical time, and Gray Area has touched your life, we ask that you consider making a gift or upgrading your membership to whatever level you are capable. Once again we must prove that, together, we can keep independent cultural spaces alive against all odds. Please allow us to continue serving you.

Help raise the $300,000 we need to continue supporting artists engaging with the critical issues facing our rapidly changing society.

Gray Area can only exist with you support. Your donation makes our inspirational arts and education program possible.

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We’re launching a renewed vision to serve our community online. Join us on Patch.

We are living through an unprecedented situation that will change the way we connect with each other in fundamental ways. Gray Area is reimagining how artists can cultivate emotional connections through experiential technology. From our unique position as a nexus for interdisciplinary arts, we will expand on our successful Experiential Space Research Lab and Immersive Education programs to explore new ways of connecting, learning, and preserving intimacy through live streaming, online education, and virtual spaces. As always, we need you, our family, to help enact this vision. To help build, partner, or support the tools we need to connect deeply from a distance, get in touch.

As we all navigate this uncertainty, we must continue creating a world that is more caring, equitable, and optimistic to live in. We hope you, your friends, and family are staying safe and healthy. Be kind to each other, and protect the most vulnerable among us.

With warmth and gratitude,

Barry Threw, Executive Director

On Behalf of the Cultural Community of the Grand Theater:

Gray Area Staff
Nadav Hochman
Tiffany Yau
Seabrook Gubbins
Niki Selken
Matt Chacon

Gray Area Board of Directors
Peter Hirshberg
Josette Melchor
Alexander Lloyd
Di-Ann Eisnor
Chris Delbuck
Barry Threw

ZERO1 Staff
Shamsher Virk
Maya Holm

Crowbar Corner
Ryan Smith
Marc Kate

Recombinant Media Labs
Naut Humon
Alaric Burns
Li Alin
Phillip L

Soundwave Festival
Alan So

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[email protected]

Gray Area / Grand Theater
2665 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Gray Area is open during public events.

See: grayarea.org.