SOMArts (South of Market Arts, Resources, Technology, and Services) is an independent nonprofit that operates the South of Market Cultural Center, one of four city-owned cultural facilities in San Francisco. The San Francisco cultural centers were established through the support and advocacy of cultural communities who made a successful case that the city was not providing equitable funding to arts organizations that were multicultural and that primarily served populations that did not historically have equitable access to the arts.
SOMArts’ unique role within this network lies within its mission, “to promote and nurture art on the community level and foster an appreciation of and respect for all cultures.” SOMArts is beloved in San Francisco as a truly multicultural, community-built space where cutting-edge events and counterculture commingle with traditional art forms in a way that is open, engaging and inspiring. It is an incubator for ideas that lie outside the mainstream of contemporary art funding and consumption: the first Burning Man art exhibits were at SOMArts, as were many of the initial D.I.Y. craft fairs and performances.
SOMArts is an essential resource to the residents of San Francisco—more than 40,000 people a year visit the center, and more than 80 nonprofits and arts groups use SOMArts for their annual classes, fundraisers and performances because it is the most versatile and affordable large-capacity arts space in the heart of the city.
SOMArts’ organizational structure includes at least four community support board meetings each year, open to everyone, where attendees talk about fundraising, advocacy and outreach. The organization relies on a growing network of volunteers, many of whom are also working artists.