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10 Chinatown Artists Selected for Unprecedented Funding as part of Guaranteed Income Pilot

Studio visit in Baht Wor Foundation’s studio space in front of the Master Huaguang figure, the Patron deity of Cantonese Opera and the deity of fire


🤝Guaranteed Income Pilot

San Francisco Chinatown ignited the fight for Asian American ethnic studies in the 1970s, sparked national dialogue for housing and worker rights, and most importantly, has set the precedent for Chinese American and Asian American cultures. As such, Chinatown artists are essential agents of social change and that art-making is integral to cultural impact and shifts. However, in traditional funding pathways, there are clear barriers due to ineffective outreach, language & technology access, and understanding of current funding system, among other challenges. Moreover, due to the systemic racism and the model minority myth, Chinatown artists who are low-income, monolingual and facing other barriers are cut off from mainstream opportunities.

In 2021, Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco (CCC) partnered with the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)’s Guaranteed Income(GI) Pilot program as a part of a Creative Communities Coalition. YBCA’s Guaranteed Income cash relief pilot is designed specifically to support artists living and working in the City of San Francisco who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic through providing monthly payments of $1,000 to 60 eligible San Francisco artists over a period of 18 months. CCC is proud to be in community with Black Freighter Press, Compton’s Transgender District, Dance Mission Theater, Galeria de la Raza, and SF Bay Area Theater Company to advocate for more equity and solidarity in the funds distribution process.

Led by CCC's Community Arts Program Director Vida Kuang and Engagement and Evaluation Analyst Jiatian Wu, alongside Community Artist Advisor & longtime Chinatown reporter David Huang, CCC introduced an unprecedented process to inspire a more empathetic and grassroots model for funding distribution. Resulting from a rigorous 10-month process, CCC is proud to celebrate and highlight 10 phenomenal artists from San Francisco’s Chinatown who are recipients to this guaranteed income community pilot. In this blog, we will share our process and how this infrastructural support can impact the artists and their communities.


💖Our Process: Introducing a Grassroots Approach

Reflections by Vida Kuang, CCC Community Arts Program Director

With the way current funding works, artists need to jump through multiple hoops to justify why their livelihood needs to be sustained. We wanted to create a process that is rooted in listening, empathy, and at a grassroots level.

Together, JT (Jiatian) and I met with photographer David Huang to identify gaps where community-based artists are not given the chance to participate in funding application — particularly for non-English speaking, low-income immigrant artists due to either language barriers, tech barriers, and or how inaccessible funding application processes are generally. We didn’t want to re-create these barriers. We wanted to witness artists’ full selves along with their art and give them a chance to hear why we are doing this work.

We visited our artists in in-laws, SROs, culture centers, senior housing, theater associations, at their side hustles, etc. We saw for ourselves the level of mastery our artists had, their dedication, their struggles, their dreams.

Our conversations were bi-lingual in Chinese and English with interpretations from both JT and myself. We got to see how a festival artist stores her performance gear above her bed in her SRO, how a photographer transformed the standards of photography exhibition in Chinatown, how an opera group continues to uplift the art of Cantonese opera yet doesn’t have funding to fix their roof, how a young arts educator encourages her Chinatown youth to experiment with different art medium, and how a young filmmaker documents Chinatown family association history and their funeral practices. All these artists make the fabric of our community’s stories and in turn continue to add to our community’s vibrancy and health.


Artist visits documentation by photographer & collaborator David Huang

"During the selection process, the CCC treated every candidate with respect and honesty. The final cohort was distinguished and diverse, featuring artists from different disciplines, age groups, and cultural backgrounds. I believe this program will enable a wider audience to meet Asian grassroots artists. At the same time, these artists bring positive change and impact to mainstream American culture.

As a longtime reporter for the Chinatown community, I worked closely to document grassroots Chinese artists in the Bay Area, as a photojournalist to document their life and work. Through this experience, I was able to deeply understand each artist’s passion for their creative practice. This is the first time such a program has been implemented in Chinatown. While the number of participants is limited due to finite resources, I hope there will be many more opportunities like this in future for artists to unleash their creativity, enrich our neighborhood's culture, and serve the community.”


我作為一名在社區工作多年的媒體工作者,與這些藝術家群體保持密切的聯繫,用鏡頭與文字記錄了他們的工作與生活經歷,了解到他們的藝術創作熱情。這是在華埠第一次舉辦資助草根藝術家的計劃,可惜名額有限。期待今後能有類似的機會,鼓勵更多藝術家繼續發揮他們的創作熱情,豐富社區文化,服務社區。 ”

--- Reflections by David 黃偉江, Community Advisor & Longtime Chinatown Reporter

💪Let's Meet the Artists!

Through the Pilot, CCC is proud to have selected ten artists who actively shape narratives about the Chinatown that centers community members who live and work here. They are phenomenal photographers, painters, arts educators, filmmakers, illustrators, and Cantonese opera performers. They represent Chinatown’s excellence–one that is intergenerational, cross-cultural, and multi-ethnic.

Of the artists the CCC has enrolled into the guaranteed income community pilot:

-6 identify as women, 4 identify as men

-8 are currently on a form of city or state-level aid program

-4 are over age 65

-1 is a traditional performance artist

-5 are immigrant monolingual speaking artists

-2 are queer-identifying

Jeanette Lazam, Illustrator / Painter / Writer

Kylie Panday, Arts Educator at Cameron House

Kar Yin Tham, Filmmaker

Zushun Lei 雷祖舜, Cartoonist

Xiaoyun Zhou 周笑雲, Dancer

Minxiong Li 李敏雄, Photographer

Yuchuan Pan 潘育川, Photographer

Joyce Xi 郗雨姗, Photographer

Baht Wor Charity Foundation 美西八和會館, Cantonese Opera Foundation


💡What We Learned: Lessons For Equity

Reflections by Jiatian Wu, CCC Engagement & Evaluations Analyst

I noticed that most of the artists from our community do not have additional resources to fund their arts practice. There are clear barriers due to ineffective outreach, language and technology access, and understanding the current funding system, among others. From our in-person artist visits, Chinatown artists shared that by getting short-term income to ease their current financial burden, they will lose their safety net programs (like: Medi-Cal, Calfresh, Supplemental Security Income, Calworks, etc.). Artists need to choose between losing their eligibility for safety net programs that sustain their livelihood or turning down commissioned work opportunities.

As a result, low-income artists become trapped in a long-term economic struggle.

This is called a “Benefits Cliff”

“Safety net programs are effective in reducing poverty, especially deep poverty, and many benefit recipients rely on these programs to survive. However, the majority of these programs have restrictive, complex, and shifting eligibility requirements around household income and assets. People relying on benefits face a well-documented “benefits cliff” problem, where even small increases in earnings or assets can result in sudden and often unexpected reductions, or even total losses, in public benefits. The benefits cliff penalizes families for making more money or saving, and actively prevents people from achieving economic security.” Protecting Benefits in Guaranteed Income Pilots Abundant Birth Project, November 2021


Artists from our communities need sustainable support that can also be compatible with general safety net programs. We hope from the Guaranteed Income pilot, we can showcase a model that can be supportive for artists that are facing everyday dilemmas. As a sustained and no-strings-attached model, this type of funding has the potential to help artists rebuild their economic security, while recognizing their artistic labor and impact on Chinatown.


📰Press Coverage



With a generous grant from the StartSmall Foundation and Mackenzie Scott, YBCA convened six community arts organizations to design and implement a guaranteed income program that disburses monthly unconditional cash payments of $1,000 to 60 artists, ten artists per organization, over an 18 month period.

YBCA is the administrative partner providing funds and offering assistance to coalition members as they implement the guaranteed income program. YBCA was also responsible for coalition member selection and convening the members on a regular basis to work amplifying the narrative around guaranteed income from both a local and national perspective YBCA also works to amplify the work of each organization and provide a platform for community artists in the San Francisco Bay Area.
For questions about the program, please contact Jiatian Wu, Engagement and Evaluation Analyst,


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