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Arts, Culture, Impact! The Value of Creativity in Systemic Change

SOCAP Global August 22, 2023

A Money + Meaning Podcast with Sara Fenske Bahat of YBCA and Clyde Valentin of One Nation/One Project

In a time of growing global challenges and social divisions, the arts and culture sector presents new opportunities for connection and transformation to drive systemic change. Arts and culture institutions also are making a shift toward community and stewardship — a move reflected in the SOCAP conference’s presence at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) in San Francisco. 

The expanding role of arts and culture in strategies and solutions for positive impact takes center stage in the newest episode of Money + Meaning. Recorded during SOCAP22, the conversation features Sara Fenske Bahat, Chief Executive Officer of YBCA, and Clyde Valentin, Co-Artistic Director of One Nation/One Project. As Valentin said to start the discussion: “Artists and arts institutions have a role to play in economic development strategies and in the kinds of investments that happen here, at a place like SOCAP.”

As CEO of YBCA, Bahat combines her educational and professional background in economics and political science with her personal affinity for the arts, which she unearthed as a member of YBCA’s Fellows 2016-2017 cohort exploring the concept of freedom. “When I found YBCA, I tapped into a part of myself that I hadn’t allowed to exist for a while … my creative side,” she said. “What I found, and what I really learned over several years, was this was a room full of people who wanted to make change and knew that the training they had had a limitation to it. They needed to be in relationships with other types of people looking for new ways of doing things.”

In their current roles, Bahat and Valentin help people uncover new ways of doing things — locally and across the country. With One Nation/One Project, Valentin and others are exploring the role of arts participation in individual and community well-being. Through the program, cities and communities will develop participatory arts projects inspired by the concept “no place like home.”  

“We’re looking to instigate cross-sector collaboration between local governments, artists and arts institutions, and the health sector,” Valentin said. “It’s in part about a desire to realize something at scale that is very intent on a research model and to measure both qualitative and quantitative data.”

Gathering and sharing data can help artists and other culture makers show the impact of their work beyond what’s typically expected or understood, he said. “I want to see more data that is measurable not only with respect to economic development and the role that arts play there … but also its impacts on health, its impacts on education, its impacts on civic engagement and activation,” Valentin said. “We know that things can start small, but with the right resources, and the right timing, things can grow pretty quickly.”

As an institution with a mission to serve its community and make sure its voices are heard, YBCA is willing to experiment and take risks. “Because that is in our founding DNA, this is a place that tries things,” Bahat said. “There’s this really interesting alignment between artist and institution on risk.”

YCBA also fills a role as an early-stage supporter of creative exploration, she said. “In the Bay Area language, maybe we are seed investors, and then we pass people to Series A or Series B investors,” Bahat said. “I think a lot about the relationship between what philanthropy invests in with us and then the usefulness of that as it pertains to scaling things up.”

One recent example: A guaranteed income program that YBCA launched in 2022 to provide eligible artists with a monthly stipend. “To expand beyond the hundreds of people that we can support requires a much bigger investment at scale,” Bahat said. “This (YBCA) team loves to experiment in deeply values-driven ways in those early stages. I think we’re growing into the spaces where we can support how work is carried forward.”

Listen to the full conversation on Arts, Culture, Impact!

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to Money + Meaning on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spotify, or anywhere else you find podcasts. 

Listen to more episodes of Money + Meaning here.

Money + Meaning is the official podcast of SOCAP. The series aims to expand the conversation around impact investing and strategies to finance and support social change while stimulating innovative and valuable new partnerships across sectors.

Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy / Impact Investing / Social Entrepreneurship
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