Traveling Artist Housing Takes A Big Step Forward In San Francisco

Artist housing is a topic long time readers know we cover every few years and over all this time, the idea has yet to catch on. At the same time, the need for affordable musician housing at summer festivals and regional orchestras is stronger than ever.

Having to rely on the largesse of patrons to provide housing is not a long-term solution and the latest jump in hotel and Airbnb rooms is starting to bring this issue to the forefront (again). The last time we examined this issue was 2016 and at the time, movement on this issue was happening outside the US but the 8/25/2022 edition of the SF Chronicle published an article by Lily Janiak that reports on Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s new Medak Center.

The capital project created a dedicated building for housing artists and staff and is designed to save the organization money over time.

“Berkeley Rep’s outgoing managing director, Susie Medak, the center’s namesake and the driving force behind its construction, remembers when housing out-of-town artists cost the company $300,000 to $400,000 per year. These days it’s more like $2 million. Before the pandemic postponed the most recent season opening, Berkeley Rep had committed to paying for 7,000 nights at a nearby Marriott hotel for this past year.”

The article goes into great detail about the project and projected goals and unlike the UK project from 2016, should go a long way toward serving as a proof of concept to other arts and culture orgs facing similar challenges here in the US.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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