Mayor Kevin Faulconer announces the public-private partnership. Image from live stream

Mayor Kevin Faulconer was joined by leaders of San Diego’s arts community on Thursday to announce a $1.25 million public-private effort to aid artists and cultural nonprofits during the pandemic.

The three-pronged program would include grants, purchases for the civic art collection, and inclusion of art in public venues.

“To make some of the very difficult decisions that we’re making in terms of our budget next year, we had to reduce our arts grants by 50%,” he said during his daily press briefing amid the COVID-19 crisis. “But make no mistake, arts and culture are very important in the fabric of who we are.”

“We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help San Diego arts, help San Diego artists, also get through this crisis,” he added.

The San Diego Arts + Culture Challenge will launch with $250,000 from the San Diego Foundation and Clare Rose Foundation, $500,000 from the legacy of contemporary artist Thomas O. Rasmussen, and the remainder from $500,000 in developer fees under the city’s public art program. The goal is to reach a total of $2 million with additional private donations.

The intent of the program is to stabilize the arts and culture sector of the city by easing financial losses that are prompting organizations to close their doors and reduce their workforce.

Lee Ann Kim, founder of the Pacific Arts Movement, said as many as a third of the 36,000 people employed in the creative sector have been laid off.

“Music, film, theater, art, photography — it’s all on the line right now,” she said.

Donations to the fund can be made at

San Diego joins other major cities, including Chicago, Boston, Seattle and Los Angeles, that have created relief programs for artists and arts organizations.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.