Many say that San Francisco is dead or rapidly spiraling toward an irreversible doom loop. But a new initiative by some of the city’s most engaged civic leaders aims to counter that narrative, lift local spirits and give the local economy a jolt.
Aptly named the Civic Joy Fund, the $2 million project will deploy five new arts- and volunteer-focused projects to engage with communities across San Francisco over the next six months. The initiative, conceived by the brains behind the nonprofit foundation Tipping Point Community and civic events space Manny’s, will enliven the streets of San Francisco with live music, decorate commercial corridors with public art and recruit volunteers to clean up and beautify neighborhood blocks.
“It's really about 'How do we try to stop this cycle of negative news stories and inject [...] some hope?' Because this is a great city,” said Daniel Lurie, who founded Tipping Point and is a co-founder of the Civic Joy Fund.
“I hope that it'll be a bit of an antidote to all the bad news that we've been hearing recently,” added Manny Yekutiel, also a co-founder of the Civic Joy Fund (which is separate from his eponymous events space in the Mission).
The Civic Joy Fund drew inspiration from Yekutiel’s Light Up the City project, which literally illuminated commercial corridors throughout San Francisco with strings of fairy lights. After running with that spark, the pair took a page from Lurie’s foundation to raise and mobilize charitable donations quickly.
The fund, kick-started by a gift from Lurie, has received contributions from corporate partners such as Levi Strauss & Co. and individual donors such as Silicon Valley investor Joby Pritzker and Eventbrite power couple Julia and Kevin Hartz. (Editor’s Note: Crankstart, the charitable foundation of Sequoia Capital General Partner Michael Moritz, who financed The Standard, also made a contribution to the Civic Joy Fund, according to Yekutiel.)
“The artists, the musicians, the go-go dancers, the drag performers, the pole dancers—they are what make San Francisco special,” Yekutiel said. “Almost all of this money is going directly to musicians, artists, restaurants, small business owners, commercial corridors. It gets out the door directly into communities.”
The public will see those dollars going to work in a couple of ways. Money from the Civic Joy Fund will support a “Summer of Music” program, curated by Noise Pop, which will feature local musicians playing along nine of the city’s busiest streets on Saturday afternoons all summer.
Pairing up with Paint the Void—an artist-driven initiative that brightened up San Francisco’s boarded-up buildings with colorful murals during the pandemic—the Civic Joy Fund will also pay local artists to paint and maintain 100 utility boxes scattered throughout the city in an effort to beautify neighborhoods with public art and combat graffiti.
But you don’t have to be creatively inclined to get involved. San Franciscans are invited to get their hands dirty by planting trees or participating in trash cleanups.
On the first Saturday of each month, the Civic Joy Fund will deploy 100 San Franciscans as part of a City Civic Corps to execute a neighborhood volunteer project such as planting trees, helping seniors or assisting animals. And in partnership with the grassroots clean-up crews of Refuse Refuse, the fund will also continue to support a tradition started by Manny’s, in which volunteers meet once a week to pick up trash in a neighborhood and then enjoy a communal meal.
Local community groups will also have the chance to choose how $100,000 is spent on the makeover of four neighborhood blocks through the “Adopt-a-Block” program. For instance, Levi Strauss & Co., which is sponsoring a block in the Tenderloin, will work with the Civic Joy Fund, the Tenderloin Community Benefit District and neighborhood groups to come up with a plan to help transform the city plot and reach its full potential.
“These are things like helping small business owners fix their awnings and their broken glass, murals, lighting, music, activations,” Yekutiel said. “The idea of ‘Adopt-a-Block’ is if we can show that this works on four blocks, we can do it all over the city.”
While he believes that the City of San Francisco has a part to play in revitalizing its neighborhoods, Yekutiel thinks that every San Franciscan will have to do their part to aid in the city’s recovery from the pandemic.
“If our small businesses [...] are going to make it, it's going to be because we're all showing up,” he said.
“We've always been a boom-and-bust town,” Lurie added, “and the boom will come again if we all are working together.”
How To Engage With the Civic Joy Fund
For more information and updates, visit civicjoyfund.org. Interested artists and volunteers can sign up at the links below.
Clean up The City sign-up forms:
The Civic Joy Fund isn't the only game in town when it comes to lively activations. There's also the Fillmore Jazz Festival, the Pride Parade, Juneteenth and the North Beach Festival. A list of upcoming street festivals in San Francisco can be found at The Standard's Festival Guide.