Mayor London Breed and City Administrator Carmen Chu announce Kristen Jacobson as Director of Grants for the Arts

Jacobson, an arts leader and educator, will lead Grants for the Arts’ work to support nonprofit arts and culture organizations through general operating support grants.
May 17, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO, CA---Mayor London Breed and City Administrator Carmen Chu today announced arts leader and educator, Kristen Jacobson, as the new director of Grants for the Arts (GFTA). Jacobson brings nearly 20 years of experience designing and managing equitable arts programs that support community development and make art accessible to diverse populations. As director, she will lead GFTA’s work to support the full spectrum of San Francisco’s arts and culture organizations through equitable grantmaking.

“For over six decades, Grants for the Arts has supported and uplifted the artists and organizations who are contributing to the cultural richness of our City,” said Mayor London Breed. "Kristen’s experience leading arts institutions and empowering diverse communities and youth through art, will help us continue to be a City where art is an avenue to remain vibrant and economically resilient but also a place that offers equal opportunities for all."

"After a robust process, I am excited to announce the appointment of Kristen Jacobson to the role of Director for Grants for the Arts. Kristen understands how critical funding from Grants for the Arts is in supporting and stabilizing base operations for our City's beloved arts organizations and festivals," said City Administrator Carmen Chu. "We welcome her wealth of experience as an art educator, a nonprofit director and her unwavering commitment to making art accessible to historically underserved communities."

Grants for the Arts serves as a critical resource for San Francisco’s nonprofit arts and culture organizations by providing general operating support to organizations that meet its funding criteria. Since its inception in 1961, GFTA has granted over $420 million to local organizations and artists and has played a crucial role in promoting the vitality and sustainability of the arts and culture sector in San Francisco. 

In Fiscal Year 2024, Grants for the Arts awarded $14.5 million to 274 organizations over 288 grants, the largest number of grants awarded in the agency’s history. This year, for the first time ever, GFTA is expanding its General Operating Support grant-term from one to two years to allow organizations to engage in longer-term planning and maximize the capacity and impact of grants.

GFTA is the oldest municipal agency in the US that funds nonprofit arts. Funding is derived from an allocation of Hotel Tax revenue.

“I am so humbled and honored to serve the City of San Francisco to foster a thriving and inclusive arts community,” said Jacobson. “It is my hope to empower and support diverse artists and cultural organizations through strategic funding that bolsters economic revitalization, authentic community development, and bridges access to the arts for all San Francisco residents. I aim to continue GFTA's work of amplifying the City's rich artistic landscape while expanding the impact of artists, organizations, and culture bearers across the region.”

Jacobson currently serves as the Executive Director of Youth in Arts, an organization dedicated to promoting equitable access to arts education for all students. Under her leadership, the organization tripled in operational size and impact while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting school closures. She led her team to establish a multi-year model for the provision of arts education that ensured access to an entire school district’s 3,100 elementary school students. 

Prior to directing Youth in Arts, Jacobson served as the Director of Education of Alonzo King LINES Ballet, where she led programs to promote individuality, creativity, and communication through dance and movement learning. She has served on the Board of Directors of RAWDance and the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area and previously sat on the San Francisco Unified School District’s Arts Education Master Plan Advisory Committee. 

Jacobson holds a BA in Musical Theater from Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts and an MA in Arts in Youth and Community Development from Columbia College Chicago. She takes over as GFTA Director this summer.

“Kristen Jacobson brought tremendous energy and intelligence to LINES,” said Robert Rosenwasser, Executive Director, Creative Director, and co-founder of Alonzo King LINES Ballet, “She grew our education and community programs. She’s a leader and a generous team builder.”

“I'm excited to hear of Kristen's appointment as Director at Grants for the Arts. Kristen will have an incredible impact on the field as a whole as a seasoned practitioner and leader in the field,” said Dominique Enriquez, Executive Director of the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area. “I've worked with Kristen in several capacities over the last decade as a peer and colleague and admire her work and leadership within the arts and education communities. Her on the ground experience as a former teaching artist and longtime experience as an arts administrator are evident in her ongoing drive to connect the broader community with creative practice and process. I look forward to seeing her tenure unfold at Grants for the Arts.”

“Kristen’s commitment, enthusiasm, and vigor towards social justice and the arts permeate among the community, staff, board members, and, most importantly, the students that she has supported through her work,” said Lorenzo Jones, Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging at Eden Housing and former Board Member of Youth in Arts. “Kristen and I worked together to develop a youth program that brought community together to tell a story about social justice. At the time, the country was in the midst of civil and social unrest around the murder of George Floyd. The project provided an important venue for youth to engage with one another and resulted in public art that was responsive to the community’s concerns. This is just one example of Kristen’s dedication to supporting communities through the arts.” 

GFTA’s General Operating Support Grant applications for Fiscal Years 2025 and 2026 are currently open and are due on June 7, 2024. Please visit GFTA’s website to learn more and apply.