Philanthropists hope to save Bay Area art scene

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Many artists struggle to stay in the Bay Area. Now the people who sell art are also being forced out by high rents. Hoping to hang on to San Francisco's art community, some local philanthropists are actually stepping in.

The walls are finally ready for artwork at the Bay Area's newest art center -- the Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood.

"The impetus for the all project all came because of the potential exodus really of galleries and artists from San Francisco, because the real estate prices were just going too high," said Deborah Rappaport, philanthropist and founder of the Minnesota Street Project.

Commercial and industrial real estate prices have skyrocketed. The San Francisco Arts Commission said, nearly 20 percent of the city's art workspace leases have not been renewed. Those that are, often double and triple in cost.

"We had already been displaced from a downtown union square gallery," said gallery owner Patricia Bransten. She saw the rent on her old gallery more than triple.

Rappaport and her husband are trying to help. They bought and leased three buildings to house art galleries, create space for nonprofits, and provide workspace for 35 artists like Arash Fayez.

"With this mentality, that's starting something for the artists and you are sure that the studio will be here for a while," Fayez said.

Bransten will be taking advantage of the new gallery space.

When we first visited Bransten's art gallery a few weeks ago, she was still looking at a mess. But earlier this week, it started coming together. She plans to join 11 more permanent galleries in the building, including the Eleanor Harwood Gallery.

"I've been by myself in the Mission for 10 years at an absolutely destination oriented space, where people have to come to us, we don't really have foot traffic, and that is going to be absolutely different in this space," said Harwood.

The Minnesota Project is for profit, but hopes to keep costs down by creating flexible spaces for galleries.

"There are lots of shared amenities, be it the common space, shipping and receiving, meeting rooms," said architect Mark Jensen.

"We can't solve all the problems in San Francisco, but this was the one where we had enough knowledge, enough means, and enough passion to pull it off, I think," said Rappaport.

The Minnesota Project will open to the public this Sunday.

Click here to learn more about the Minnesota Street Project.

Written and produced by Ken Miguel
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