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from SanFranciscoArtMagazine, November 2001

Craigslist Foundation Nonprofit Venture Forum
By Sheilah Navat

Most on-line Bay Area residents don't need a lesson in "what is Craigslist.org". Programmer Craig Newmark created San Francisco's Craigslist website in 1995, and for many of us, like a $3.00 expresso and $4.00 super burrito, Craigslist has become a part of our daily routine.

We all may have different personal descriptions of Craigslist:

  • The best place to find jobs in and around San Francisco.
  • A way to quickly sell those five pairs of ice skates the kids grew out of or buy some cheap used darkroom equipment.
  • A place to find out where to volunteer with a community organization that interests you.
  • A place to find a group of people who want to work on a similar creative project. (Where do you think we get our staff?)

    The site itself provides this "in a nutshell" description:
    craigslist is a community where people can:
    -give each other a break
    -get the word out when it comes to everyday real-world stuff
    -restore the human voice to the Internet, in a humane, non-corporate, environment

    Craigslist has since branched out to other cities, from Boston to Melbourne. And just when I think I have Craigslist figured out, they have added something new.

    In keeping with their community based spirit, Craigslist has launched Craigslist Foundation with this mission:

    To expand community-based philanthropy by actively connecting community members and small, young nonprofits in ways that build engaged relationships, educate donors and support the work of nonprofits.

    Last month Craigslist Foundation held the Craigslist Foundation Nonprofit Venture Forum at Z Space Studio. At the forum, five local nonprofit arts organizations had 10 minutes each to pitch to an audience of potential funders. This was the first "all arts organizations" venture forum.

    Started in May 2000, the Nonprofit Venture Forum series has involved 35 nonprofit groups, and over 200 members of the philanthropic community.

    Individual grants totaling $160,000 have traded hands, plus pro-bono assistance and new board members have been added to Bay Area community groups.

    Each participating arts organization was required to fill out an application on-line and describe how they are "committed to social change, not social service". Ten semi-finalists were then selected. The semi-finalists went on to participate in try-out presentations and received feedback on their presentations and message from a professional team of advisors. The five finalists were then selected and given a rehearsal with a drama coach a few weeks before the ctual presentation.

    At October 10th's forum, information booths from each presenting group were set up around the room. With food catered by Nico Martin Presents, wine from Mumm Cuvee Napa and Sterling Vineyards provided by Segram's, jazz music provided by the Aaron Novick Quartet, and an art exhibit presented by GenArt, the evening's atmosphere was set to open the hearts and pockets of our local philanthropists.

    When the audience was seated, the five finalists began their presentations:

    The Crucible, www.thecrucible.org, 1035 Murray St., Berkeley, CA 94710, 510-843-5511

    The Crucible is an educational sculpture studio, foundry and metal fabrication shop offering hands-on learning for all ages and experience levels.

    Founded in 1999 "by a small group of artists, trades people and business leaders determined to break down the barriers which separate the arts from the worlds of business, industry, and everyday life", the Crucible offers classes in MIG, TIG and arc welding, iron and bronze casting, mold making, neon sculpture, glass working, ceramics, stonecarving, blacksmithing, machining, jewelry and kinetics. The Crucible provides studio space for 16 artists and also holds events such as gallery openings including the current exhibit Furniture Art (through December 7th). The Crucible manufactures short-run metal fabrication commissions.

    Michael Sturtz (Executive Director) beamed when he pointed out the belt buckle he was wearing, given to him by the Berkeley Fire Department, as he told the audience how the Crucible was commissioned to cast a bronze fire axe to be used by the fire department as a trophy for the best fire house.

    The Crucible's current needs include funding for the Crucible Facade Project. The facade, on Ashby Avenue, includes a mural by M. C. Hove. Currently, this facade plan is a fire-hot, mostly-red mural of the imagery of the arts that are taught at the Crucible. The plan is to include a neon and steel sign of the Crucible logo. The Crucible also needs help with funding for new staff positions and expansion of the foundry so that they can utilize the 500 and 250 pound bronze furnaces donated by U.C. Berkeley's foundry.

    Flyaway Productions, www.flyawayproductions.com, 1068 Bowdoin Street, San Francisco, CA 94134, (415) 333-8302

    Flyaway Productions performs apparatus-based dances that expose the range and power of female physicality. The organization supports ongoing investigations of women's social and cultural identity, with particular focus on how women's identities are shaped by physical strength.

    Flyaway Productions provides apparatus-based dance performances and training for the public. This type of dance incorporates risk, spectacle and "social potency". Jo Kreiter (Artistic Director) combines her background in political science and her 12 years experience as a principal dancer for Joanna Haigood's ZACCHO Dance Theatre to bring social and political content into the dance arena. As Jo Kreiter gives her presentation, she displays beautiful and powerful images of women dancing on various types of apparatus and architectural structures, displaying artistic and physical strength that parallels what is hoped for and striven for in women in all aspects of life.

    "In our workshops, we teach how to make the body stronger; we teach partnering between bodies that are differently sized; we teach confidence and the value of each individual toward the whole; we encourage physical and artistic expression as a means toward self-knowledge; and we teach women and girls to embrace their bodies as holy and meaningful. Flyaway chooses dance as an arena within which to challenge long held ideas of women's inferiority. This is our innovation."

    Flyaway Productions premieres one to two works per year in its home season. Flyaway Productions also tours nationally, including performances at the Boston Dance Umbrella's International Aerial Festival, Ohio State University, Lane Community College, The Improvisation Festival/NY, SUSHI Performance Space in San Diego, and at the Aerial Dance Festival in Boulder, Colorado. A bit more locally, Flyaway Productions will present "Unmoored #2" (November 10th -11th) in Santa Cruz. The 418 project has commissioned Flyaway Productions to create this quartet for four women which will center around a suspended steel umbrella.

    The current needs of Flyaway Productions include funding for professional salaries for artists, directors, collaborators and staff and funding for the institutionalization of a training program for women/girls.

    Streetside Stories, www.streetside.org, (415) 864-5221

    Streetside uses storytelling to build community and inspire students to write, read and tell their own stories. Their program offers a blend of storytelling, theatre and autobiographical writing that helps kids meet innumerable California State Standards in Language Arts while providing the many benefits of arts education.

    Streetside offers a two-week storytelling program during two-hour sixth-grade language arts classes. With a dynamic blend of storytelling, theatre and autobiographical writing, the program explores a different theme each year. The children each write an autobiographical story. At the end of each year Streetside produces and anthology.

    Christine Young (Project Director) reads a story from the anthology, titled "My First Time Flying on My Bike". As enthralled as I was with the story and the way that a child can pick up on details in life and communicate these details to others - I am also absolutely sure my fifth grade child would read this book cover to cover and then read it again! Christine Young gives a heartfelt presentation and includes a quote from a child who was in the program: " I learned that my story can be useful somehow." I cannot help but get a sense of how exciting it must be to help children get to this point in their writing skills.

    Since the requests for Streetside's services have far outweighed what the organization can currently fulfill, Streetside has begun a Teacher Training Program where facilitators help teachers learn how to incorporate story telling and theatre into their classrooms and use these techniques to teach writing to youth.

    Streetside's current needs include $20,000 to hire two new facilitators and $5,000 towards production expense of the student anthology. Streetside also needs pro bono web design, graphic design, book design, and accounting services.

    Professional Enrichment Program, www.madknight.com/pep, 2951 Derby Street #101, Berkeley, CA 94705, (510) 549-2209

    The Professional Enrichment Program (PEP) is a coalition of leading San Francisco Bay Area arts organizations partnering to sponsor professionally-oriented theatrical activities which enable and support people from non-traditional groups, particularly members of he disabled community.

    Professionalism, Skilled Performers, and emPowerment, are the thoughts that come to mind after listening to Pamela Walker's impassioned explanation of the mission of PEP. Before you even think, "nonprofit organization for the disabled," Pamela Walker turns that idea inside out and shows you that PEP is about giving their members the skills to compete with mainstream performers and break down the barriers as well as dispel misconceptions regarding professional performers from the disabled community.

    During a frustrating attempt to cast skilled performers with disabilities for a production at The Magic, it was discovered that there was a marked difference in the professionalism of the performers with more disabilities than those who were less disabled. PEP was formalized in 1997 to help integrate disabled performers with those from the mainstream.

    PEP offers affordable classes, programs, and training materials. PEP encourages diversity, facilitating working relationships with theater workers form various experience levels - disabled and non-disabled alike.

    PEP's 2001 goal is workshopping its Alchemy Works Project. PEP has a goal to complete a full production in 2002. The organization feels that their members would be best served by being able to participate in a full performance, since this would raise skills beyond what is learned through workshops and classes. They also believe that this will provide an opportunity for their members to perform with skilled professionals. Since skilled professionals do not need to attend classes and PEP's target population is not beginners but rather those who have had their careers blocked by barriers, the performance would be a way to get the two groups together and enhance each group's skills along with enhancing each group's understanding of the other.

    PEP needs $45,000 to do the future shows and also needs in-kind or financial support to do a six month strategic planning process ($15,000) which will "give (PEP) the blueprints for building bridges beyond the current projects and help (PEP) plan for sustainability".

    CELLspace, www.cellspace.org, 2050 Bryant Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, (415) 648-7562

    CELL (Collectively Explorative Learning Labs) is the artists and educators collective which sustains CELLspace, a multidisciplinary arts center whose mission is to provide a safe and supportive public environment for the exploration of art, education, performance and community building.

    The final organization to present was CELLspace. CELLspace, located on Bryant Street in the Mission, currently houses a dance/theatre/performance space, eight visual artists' studios, classroom spaces, a wood shop, an audio-visual production lab, a digital-video editing lab, a visual arts gallery, a sewing loft, a sound studio for recording/rehearsal, a metal shop and a craft loft. CELLspace conducts a variety of on-site classes and the gallery holds monthly exhibits.

    Jonathan Youtt (President, Board of Directors) proudly tells the audience that CELLspace has always been able to earn its own overhead with it's D.I.Y. (Do-it-Yourself) attitude which incorporates a lot of volunteerism, some entrepreneurship and the necessary amount of passion. Many artists who do not have access to government funded arts facilities use CELLspace because of its low fees. CELLspace also collects membership dues, sells artwork, and charges for tickets to performances. Everything is kept affordable, so people can and do pay.

    CELLspace's lease will continue until 2013, which means most of the fundraising efforts will go towards facility improvements and developing outreach programs. The landlord has also offered to sell the adjacent lot. CELLspace is looking for funds to underwrite a strategic planning process to create a building for Community Workers Affordable Housing, which will house artists, teachers and social service workers. In response to the California energy crisis, CELLspace would like to become a model of sustainability and urban permaculture with an array of solar panels, wind generators, water catchment and rooftop storage tanks that will water rooftop gardens. They would like to work with local youth to install the equipment. This would help make CELLspace sustainable and at the same time provide a training opportunity for youth in a field of work that should see substantial growth in the near future.

    After each presentation, funders were encouraged to ask questions, and at the end of all the presentations there was time to look at all the booths and meet with the organizations. This was a wonderful opportunity for these organizations to find assistance that they may not have otherwise had the opportunity to receive. After the event, Jonathan Youtt (CELLspace) expressed gratitude that the Craigslist Foundation provided the participating organizations with a full copy of the attendees so that they may do follow-up with potential funders. Jo Kreiter (Flyaway Productions) told SFAM, "the Forum offered me an opportunity I have been seeking. I have had a lurking sense of potential support from people in business, marketing, high tech, as well as the foundation network but I had not been able to identify and meet those people. With the Forum event, Craigslist Foundation is fostering community, care, and real support... I am hopeful and enthusiastic as I start to follow up with people I met."