A San Francisco arts center announced a test program that will pay a guaranteed income to a number of artists in the city.

The aim is to help those in the creative industries recover from the effects of the pandemic and help rebuild the city’s $1.5 billion income from the arts. The sector previously employed more than 40,000 people.

An automated, randomized selection process will choose 130 recipients (under particular income thresholds) across all disciplines, including music, and they’ll receive $1,000 a month for six months. Similar programs were also announced in Oakland and Marin County, Calif., although neither is aimed specifically at artists.

“The arts are critical to our local economy and are an essential part of our long-term recovery,” city mayor London Breed told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We want everyone in San Francisco to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives, without worrying about how they’ll pay rent or get food on the table. I’m committed to making San Francisco a more equitable, just and thriving city, and we’re exploring this guaranteed income model to see if it can help us advance those goals.”

The program defines an artist as “someone who actively engages with the community through music, dance, creative writing, visual art, performance art, installation, photography, theater or film.” While applications are accepted from any “historically marginalized community,” people who don’t fit the definition will also be considered, as will "teaching artists and arts educators."

The new tests follow a successful year-long experiment in Stockton, Calif., where 125 citizens were given $500 a month. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that “the more predictable income allowed recipients to pay down debt and make future plans,” and they “reported feeling less anxious and depressed compared with a control group.”


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