Why Aren't They Equal Opportunity Employers?
Prepared by
Jeff J. Jones
March 25, 1988


The purpose of this study is to call attention to the lack of minority representation at both the board and staff levels of San Francisco's seven major nonprofit arts institutions, all of which are subsidized by City funds. Hopefully this report will foster public discussions which will both accelerate the integration of the City's major arts institutions and encourage their leadership to explore ways to diversify their programming.

Clearly, the virtual absence of minorities in decision-making roles at these institutions will not be corrected overnight. Moreover, to address this issue in a positive and thoughtful manner will require all concerned parties to work together - the manor arts organizations, the city's elected and appointed policy makers responsible for funding decisions, multicultural arts groups, and affirmative action specialists from the City's black, Latino, Asian and Native-American communities.

This report draws heavily upon a recent study entitled The Impact of the Non-Profit Arts on the Economy of San Francisco published by San Francisco State University's Public Research Institute. In addition it contains two charts: the first reveals the board and staff composition of the City's largest Arts organizations in 1987; the second documents the patterns of City funding in the Arts from 1981 to 1987.

The attached statistics suggest that San Francisco needs to closely examine its overall approach to arts funding and to explore how current policies promote of impede the City's long-range economic development objectives. The numbers indicate that each of the major arts organizations needs to develop an integration plan containing timetables, affirmative action hiring and promotion targets and more effective recruitment methods.

Because of the city's reputation as a national and international center for the arts it is appropriate that San Francisco should develop positive and forward-looking approaches to promote the integration of its major arts institutions. Although national statistics are not readily available, it is reasonable to assume that de facto discrimination in major arts institutions is not peculiar to San Francisco but is an endemic problem throughout the nation.


The City of San Francisco awards funds to nonprofit arts organizations through three methods:

(1) About 110 groups are funded by the Grants For the Arts program of the Hotel Tax Fund;

(2) the War Memorial Board is funded through a different Hotel Tax line-item allocation;

(3) the Fine Arts Museums are funded as a line item in the City's annual operating budget.

In 1987 the City allocated $13,831,000 to the arts, of which $11,158,000 went to the War Memorial Board and to seven other large nonprofit organizations: the Fine Arts Museums, the San Francisco Ballet, the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Symphony, the Museum of Modern Art, the American Conservatory Theatre and the Exploratorium. These seven organizations received 80.7% of all the City subsidies to the arts, even though they sold only 51% of the total number of tickets.

In 1987, the City's seven largest arts organizations had a total of 341 Board members, 329 of whom (or 96.5%) were white. These seven institutions employed 2658 people, of whom 2432 or (91.5%) were white. Non-white employees at these institutions are concentrated, for the most part, in security, janitorial, bookkeeping and receptionist positions rather than in artistic, managerial or technical jobs.


San Francisco has a long history of utilizing public monies to promote the economic development of economically disadvantaged sectors of the City's population. The City's Minority Business Enterprises and the Women's Business Enterprise Program, adopted in 1984, are designed to award a greater proportion of City contracts to businesses owed and operated by minorities and women in order to foster capital formation among these groups.

Public concern and lawsuits about the lack of women and minorities in the San Francisco Police and Fire Departments resulted in the recruitment, hiring and promotion of people representative of these demographic groups. And, finally, the racial composition of the City's work force indicates that public sector employment has been used to promote the growth of a sizeable middle class among San Francisco's black, Latino, and Asian residents. In short, during the last twenty years, as the City's population has become more than 50% non-white, San Francisco's elected officials have consistently used public funds to integrate the public sector work force.

It is against the background of this public policy trend that the statistics contained in the two attached charts should be evaluated. Although the City's seven major arts institutions received $11,158,000 of the $13,831,000 the City spent to underwrite the arts in FY 1987-88 (approximately 80.6% of the total), their hiring practices are in conflict with the standards to which all other City subcontractors and service providers must adhere.


The attached charts reveal that during 1987, 329 of the 341 Board members of the seven major arts institutions (or 96.5%) were white. Although popular wisdom holds that boards primarily function to assist major arts institutions to raise money, boards are also important in two other ways: they are the legal entities responsible for guaranteeing compliance with all federal, state and City regulations governing the operations of nonprofit organizations, and they establish their institutions' overall programmatic directions.

The presidents of these seven boards sign forms agreeing to comply with federal, state and local statutes prohibiting discriminatory hiring practices each time a grant proposal is submitted to National Endowment for the Arts, to the California Arts Council, and to the City's Grants For the Arts program of the Hotel Tax Fund. The boards are therefore recognized by funding agencies as the entities responsible for providing leadership in the area of affirmative action. In addition, since these boards are legally the applicants for and recipients of public funds, the City's elected officials can hold them accountable for serving the residents of San Francisco, whose monies they annually receive.

The primary reason these boards are virtually all white is the way new members are recruited: there is no application process - you must be invited to join. Since these boards are legally entitled to self-perpetuate, members recruit from a rather narrow circle of personal friends and social associates, who like the current members, tend to be both affluent and white.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which has no minorities on its 43 member board, nevertheless is provided free space in a city-owned facility: the Veterans Building. Although this situation is not exactly the same as the much publicized controversy over the lease of city property to the Olympic Club, it appears integration will only take place when the city uses the threat of withholding public monies, similar to the way the Federal government integrated the South's educational institutions during the 1960's.


As the attached statistics reveal, in 1987, 2,432 (or 91,5%) of the 2658 people employed at the City's seven (7) largest arts organizations were white. It is doubtful the San Francisco Board Supervisors would tolerate such a situation in any City department or nonprofit social service agency which is a City subcontractor. These institutions' virtually all-white Boards are to no small degree responsible for the absence of minorities in their work force because they fail to provide leadership in the affirmative action field, and have not made integration a priority.

Even though these employment statistics are rather unflattering, a closer analysis of the 226 minority employees' specific job titles further substantiates the lack of affirmative action in the artistic, managerial and technical areas. While a complete breakdown for each organization's staff by job title is unavailable at this time, the situation at the Fine Arts Museum is probably typical: although the Museum has 61 minority employees, almost all of them are concentrated in security, custodial, secretarial and bookkeeping jobs; less than 20% of the Museum's minority employees hold positions that are artistic, technical or managerial in nature.

Although the major institutions frequently cite the lack of qualified minorities to fill artistic positions as the rationale for their mostly white work forces, the City's multi-cultural arts institutions employed over 359 full or part-time people in 1985. Since the overwhelming majority of these black, Latino, Asian and Native American employees hold artistic, technical and managerial jobs that are comparable to those in the City's major institutions, there is no professionally acceptable justification for the absence of minorities in the City's most heavily subsidized arts organizations.


The seven major arts institutions' failure to recruit multi-cultural Boards and staff directly impacts the kinds of artistic programs they offer, which at present are apparently designed without taking into account the cultural interests of San Francisco's minority residents; instead the major arts institutions direct their programs towards largely affluent Caucasian audiences.

Since over 50% of San Francisco residents are multi-cultural and approximately 15-20% are lesbians and gays, one might expect that the major arts institutions would attempt to develop new audiences through imaginative programs that would encourage City residents to buy tickets. But such is not the case: in the past ten years, the American Conservatory Theatre has staged only one black play, the San Francisco Symphony has never performed a program of classical music by non-white or women composers, nor has the Opera ever staged classical Chinese opera.

Since programming decisions are the purview of the majors' mostly white artistic leadership hired by mostly white Boards at whose pleasure they serve, these institutions ignore the fact that at this juncture in history, large San Francisco audiences for multi-cultural art already exist. Proof can be found by examining the audiences attracted to the productions and exhibits mounted by the City's smaller nonprofit arts organizations: the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre is emerging as the nation's outstanding black theater company; the Bay Area Women's Philharmonic regularly receives rave reviews in the major dailies for their performances of classical music written by women composers; San Francisco Taiko Dojo recently sold out two Cal-Zellerbach performances (more then 4400 tickets!) three days before the concerts took place; Galeria de la Raza and the Mexican Museum draw large annual crowds to exhibits of works by Latino visual artists; in 1986 the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival attracted more people to their stern Grove free outdoor concerts than the Opera and Ballet did to their performances at the same site for the past three consecutive years; Theater Rhinoceros has become the nation's leading lesbian/gay theater company and has developed large audiences for works by lesbian and gay playwrights.

Despite the fact that large and diversified local audiences for multi-cultural, lesbian/gay, and women's arts already exist, the city's major institutions for the most part ignore these potential ticket buyers by failing to design innovative programs that address the cultural interests of the majority of San Francisco's residents. However, given the majors' non-integrated boards and staffs, this is not too surprising.

In 1985, according to the Economic Impact study previously referred to, 3,700,000 tickets were sold to City-based arts events: the seven majors sold 51% of these tickets, the community-based groups sold 49%. This statistic points out the clear disparity in the City's current arts funding approach, for if more funds were available to smaller groups they would be able to mount more effective marketing campaigns and would sell a larger overall percentage of the total tickets.


As the attached statistical charts indicate, Grants For the Arts has dramatically altered the ratio of its awards to prominent versus all other nonprofit arts organizations since 1981: seven years ago 66% of its funding was awarded to six organizations; in 1987 these six organizations received 53% of the total Hotel Tax monies awarded. This shift has occurred primarily because of the Hotel Tax Fund's progressive and multicultural staff has established personal contact with community based nonprofit arts organizations and regularly attends their performances and exhibits.


In addition to the funds awarded through Grants For the Arts, the city also awards monies to the Fine Arts Museums through an annual line item allocation from the General Fund. Since 1985 the War Memorial Board has received 10% of the total Hotel Tax revenues "to maintain and care for" the Opera House and the Veteran's Building. This allocation, established by the Board of Supervisors, constitutes a direct subsidy to the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Ballet and the Museum of Modern Art, which are also funded by Grants For the Arts. When we add together the funds the seven prominents received from all three sources, these constitute about 80% of the City's total arts funding in 1987-88. By way of contrast, in 1986 the California Arts Council awarded California's 22 prominent arts organizations $2,825,000 of its total grants of $7,796,696 (or only 36.2%).

City funds awarded to the San Francisco Arts Commission are not calculated into the statistical charts because Arts Commission monies are not awarded to nonprofit arts organizations.


The San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the mayor determine by legislation how the Hotel Tax is to be allocated among its various line item accounts. The mayor and board award 17% of the Hotel Tax total revenues to the Grants For the Arts program. Since this program is administered by the chief administrative officer, the mayor and supervisors have no say in how the 17% is distributed. The board and the mayor allocate 10% of the Hotel Tax to the War Memorial Board and also determine the annual allocation to the Fine Arts Museums, which is included in the City's annual operating budget.

Because the mayor and the Board of Supervisors are ultimately responsible for all public funding decisions, the most obvious way to integrate the seven most heavily subsidized arts organizations is to tie public funding to the prominents' success in reaching affirmative action hiring and career advancement targets which they themselves should be called upon to establish.


Jeff Jones is a free-lance fundraising and long-range planning consultant who has been working in the San Francisco arts and social services communities for nine years. Prior to moving to the Bay Area he taught at the University of Texas and Austin Community College for 14 years.

For more than five years Jeff Jones has been the primary fundraiser for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the Ethnic Dance Festival, the Bay Area Women's Philharmonic, and the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. He also provides ongoing planning and fundraising services to a number of outstanding arts organizations including Kulintang Arts Ensemble, George Coates Performance Works, La Peña Cultural Center, the Oakland Youth Chorus, San Francisco Taiko Dojo, the Asian American Dance Collective, the Jewish Film Festival and other nonprofit arts groups.