SOMArts Cultural Center

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In the 1960s, the Neighborhood Arts Program (NAP) was created by the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) in order to promote community by providing funding for the arts. Under the direction of Martin Snipper, the city purchased the 17,000 square foot Brannan Street building that is now considered the SOMArts Cultural Center.


934 Brannan St. (between 8th and 9th), San Francisco, CA 94103


SOMArts has a colorful history that spans over 40 years and is garnished with many periods of celebration, struggle and transformation. Its mission is to promote and nurture art on the community level, and to foster an appreciation of and respect for all cultures.

Cultural Centers

SOMArts is an independent nonprofit that is part of a network of six cultural centers in San Francisco. Forged in the passionate activism of the neighborhood arts movement—a trailblazing initiative closely tied to the civil rights movements empowering cultural communities– the Cultural Centers were created to provide broader access to the arts.

Other Cultural Centers include: Bayview Opera House, the African American Art and Culture Complex, Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, Queer Cultural Center and Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. SOMArts, named for its South of Market location, serves artists, audiences and organizations throughout the Bay Area.[1]


SOMArts’ annual artistic programs include 3-5 exhibitions curated by SOMArts staff, 3 curatorial residencies in the Main Gallery, 12-18 exhibitions by solo artists and groups in the Ramp Gallery, free youth programming developed in collaboration with SFAI City Studio, an annual Dia de los Muertos exhibition and performance series, a monthly free professional development series for artists co-presented with ArtSpan, the monthly queer performance series The News, and two to three exhibition-related performances and workshops each month.

In addition to productions and presentations, SOMArts provides extensive support services to Bay Area arts and culture nonprofits. SOMArts fiscally sponsors 10-15 emerging organizations and artist projects annually.


The South of Market Cultural Center is a 26,190 sq ft cultural center with two large performance/exhibition spaces, a flexible theater, a media lab, photography, ceramics and printmaking studios used on a weekly basis by professional artists, and four administrative offices.



External Resources


About This Article

As part of Take This Hammer: Art + Media from the Bay Area, curated by Christian L. Frock for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (March 11 – August 14, 2016) the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism developed a timeline for the Bay Area’s history of art and media activism. On display in the YBCA gallery, the timeline is represented as a collection of one hundred and twenty stories arranged like a row of books on a library shelf. Starting with “SHELLMOUNDS,” the earliest evidence of human settlement in Bay Area, each title represents a creative work, event, organization, movement, history or biography that has played a role in shaping the particular qualities of Bay Area art and media activism.

In trying to survey our past, these are just a few of the countless stories we have to draw upon. We cannot tell them all since not all books will fit on one shelf. However, we hope that viewers will enjoy browsing this collection and be reminded of the deep roots of creativity, diversity, love and political liberation that have made the Bay Area so special. We have made our selections in the spirit of James Baldwin and Take This Hammer in order to highlight stories of uncompromising clarity and courageous artistic vision.

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  1. "SOMArts Mission & History"