Finalist: Intersection for the Arts

Intersection's Art Gallery, a collaboration with Hub Bay Area
Intersection’s Art Gallery, a collaboration with Hub Bay Area

Several years ago, Intersection for the Arts embarked on what we thought was a search for a new facility.  We approached this pursuit in a very traditional way; we thought that if we just had a bigger performance space, a gallery that opened to the street, and a building we owned, everything would be OK.

A struggle for a space in changing conditions

Quickly, the failing economy, rapidly changing neighborhoods in San Francisco, and the continued revelation of new forms of technology and collaboration set a much larger context for Intersection’s quest for stability and space.  As we lost buildings to speculators and negotiated with panicked property owners, we were challenged to think about the concept of cultural space in this new century – and about the role of our nearly 50-year-old organization in an ever-evolving landscape.

Doors closed, only to open new ones

Neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, building by building, Intersection met people who breathed their passion, convictions, and concerns into a growing vision that quickly became less about landing in that perfect space and more about the vital role art plays in building and re-building community.

We cultivated partnerships and envisioned a place where artists are central to positive change – where silos are dissolved and new language, metaphors, and ways to work together can emerge.

Intersection's homes from 1965 - now
Intersection’s homes from 1965 – now

A serendipitous meeting

In one instance of serendipity, we met The Hub Bay Area (an affiliate of a global network of co-working spaces and tools for social entrepreneurs) because we were competing for the same building.  Within moments, we began to imagine artists and entrepreneurs coming together to realize thriving creative businesses.  We decided we would all be better off if we lived together – making something larger.

In 2009, yet another building fell away and we met The Hearst Corporation and Forest City Development.  They were working to re-purpose 4 acres of nearly vacant property in a dynamic downtown neighborhood.  Though grander, their vision was not unlike our own effort to assert the central role that creativity and collaboration play in inclusive community building.  This is the 5M Project.

Launching the 5M Project

In 2010, we opened a gallery at 5M with The Hub.  Soon after, we completely let go of our theater and moved fully to 5M in order to explore the creation of a new kind of space that makes sense today.  Our new space defies tradition—office and art hub by day; event and performance space by night.  We are making art all over the place—in the streets, the vacant buildings, and in our office.

Community engagement workshop
Community engagement workshop

A new cross-sector way of working

As a leading collaborator on the 5M Project, we’ve brought together artists, makers, entrepreneurs, and technology innovators to develop a new place that unlocks resources and creativity across silos.  At 5M, artists are central to collaboration, place-making, and experimentation that drive break-through change.  We realized that this process was not about space—it was about exploration and convergence.  It is a gigantic – not incremental – experiment that suggests new models for nonprofit arts and for radical cross-sector community development.

About Intersection for the Arts

Founded in the early 1960’s and incorporated in 1965, Intersection for the Arts consistently initiates groundbreaking multi-disciplinary programming and broad-based collaboration that actively demonstrates how art realized through meaningful, inclusive, and collaborative places fuels community transformation.  Today, Intersection is a pioneering arts and community development organization that brings people together across boundaries to instigate break-through change.

Intersection for the Arts’ programs emphasize relationships, collaboration, and process.  We work annually with hundreds of artists through residencies, commissions, fellowships, fiscal sponsorship and incubation, performances, exhibitions, workshops and public art projects.  Whether nurturing artists through residencies, ensembles through the creation of new performance, or new organizations through fiscal sponsorship, we provide space and time for artists to experiment, take risks, and bring their vision to full fruition.  We emphasize the creative process, provide significant research and development support, build strong partnerships, and offer robust community engagement activities to provide artists with room to collaborate across silos, explore and push boundaries.

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Deborah Cullinan has been the Executive Director of Intersection for the Arts since 1996. Under her direction, Intersection has achieved extraordinary success and a strong national reputation for its inclusive models for the support and development of new contemporary art and performance.