Sacramento’s Office of Arts and Culture hosts listening session for proposed guaranteed income pilot grant for artists

Paulette Greenhouse, 916Ink’s community project manager, writes her response on a large notepad during the meet-and-greet portion of the Office of Arts and Culture’s Guaranteed Income community listening session on Monday, June 10 at Celebration Arts.

By Helen Harlan 

Curiosity was in the air when the City of Sacramento’s Office of Arts and Culture hosted dozens of local artists at a guaranteed income community listening session on Monday, June 10 at Celebration Arts. 

The event was held to discuss a potential pilot grant program through the OAC that would provide guaranteed income to eligible Sacramento artists. 

The evening began with a meet-and-greet in the courtyard where guests enjoyed refreshments and were welcomed by Richard Falcon, a temporary city employee with OAC and founder and president of Teatro Nagual, a Latino-focused theater arts company. Some added written feedback on a series of oversized notepads, which offered various prompts like “What do you want to know about Guaranteed Basic Income?”

Jewelry designer and multi-disciplinary artist Omonivie Okhade sat at a picnic table in the shade during the meet-and-greet and said she intends to apply for the program. “Having guaranteed basic income will keep artists in Sacramento,” Okhade said, “And will aid us in doing the work that people love to look at, and that adds to the city’s culture, but doesn’t support us regularly enough to give us a sustainable living.”

Around 6 p.m., the crowd filtered into the air-conditioned theater, took their seats and nearly filled the 100-seat black box space. Jason Jong, the city’s cultural and creative economy manager, welcomed guests from the stage with the set of “Topdog/Underdog,” Celebration Arts’s current production, behind him. 

Melissa Cirone, the City of Sacramento’s Office of Arts and Culture program manager, took the stage and stood at a podium with a QR code for a research survey published by the city to gauge public interest and concern about the program. 

For the next half hour, Cirone held a brisk and focused presentation, accompanied by a slide show, which broke down various aspects of the proposed pilot grant program, including the history of guaranteed income, other programs like it nationwide, and the pros and cons of a guaranteed income program. 

“Studies do show that recipients of GI funds are more active in their communities and their physical and emotional health improves,” Cirone said.

ason Jong, the city’s cultural and creative economy manager, welcomes guests from the set of “Topdog/Underdog,” for the OAC’s guaranteed income community listening session on Monday, June 10

Throughout the presentation, Cirone emphasized that the program, which would work with the local United Way California Capital Region to provide $450 in guaranteed monthly income for 18 months to 200 randomly selected Sacramento artists, is still very much in its nascent stage. “Right now we’re in the listening stages,” Cirone said. 

After Cirone finished, Jong walked around with the microphone, taking questions from audience members, which included follow-up on how the application process would work, who would qualify and how the funds would be disbursed and taxed. 

During the Q&A, Megan Van Voorhis, the city’s director of convention and cultural services, repeatedly acknowledged the housing concerns of local artists, among other issues. “We want to make sure we’re preserving the talent base,” Van Voorhis said. “A big part of this is about retention. We have raging housing costs and a lack of stability. This [is] a way to sort of smooth that for people within the community.” 

Justina Martino, the director of Art Tonic, which provides grant writing support, project management and professional development educational opportunities, attended the event. Martino said that even though she thinks she would meet the qualifications, she won’t be applying if the grant program moves forward. 

“I think I am in a more stable position than other artists,” Martino said. “My partner and I own a condo together. I know there are a lot of people who don’t own the place where they live.”

Martino added that she hopes future arts GI programs will include those behind the scenes like administrators and grant writers.

“There isn’t very much support for the literary arts in Sacramento. I will definitely be applying to this program,” said writer Miranda Culp, who is also the owner of Midtown’s Amatoria Fine Art Books. Culp said she felt pretty good about the event and that Cirone, Jong and Van Voorhis asked all the right questions. 

“If I was going to be cynical about it, my concern would be they’d take it to council, council goes ‘I don’t know, but let’s try it,’ and then after 18 months they’re like ‘where are the results?’” Culp said. “If we can prove that it’s successful, we can get more money to do it again.”

This story was funded by the City of Sacramento’s Arts and Creative Economy Journalism Grant to Solving Sacramento. Following our journalism code of ethics and protocols, the city had no editorial influence over this story and no city official reviewed this story before it was published. Our partners include California Groundbreakers, Capital Public Radio, Outword, Russian America Media, Sacramento Business Journal, Sacramento News & Review, Sacramento Observer and Univision 19.

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