The vibrancy of the Mission District is due in large part the artists, art galleries, and arts-based non-profits that call it home. But the once-predominantly Latino community is in the midst of several large changes that will completely alter the vibe of the Mission.
The leading -- if not the sole -- cause of the burgeoning gentrification of the area is the rapidly increasing rent, for both businesses and residencies in the area, and the many evictions imposed on Mission tenants due to the Ellis Act. Iconic Latino gay bar/comedy club Esta Noche was recently shut down to become the space for another "trendy" bar to service the ever-expanding Mission hipster population, beloved bookstore Adobe Books was forced to move about a year ago due to rising rent, and now non-profit arts organization Root Division is facing the same dilemma.Started by three San Francisco Art Institute graduates, Root Division provides free studio space to artists and trains them to teach art classes. In exchange, the artists teach art classes at the space to both adults and children with limited or no access to artistic education and material, as well as their space serves as a gallery space for art shows and gathering place for local artists. Since its inception in 2002, Root Division has subsidized studios to over 130 artists, and trained over 240 artists to teach classes. After providing over 4,000 hours worth of free art classes to over 1,000 students at their 17th Street location for over nine years, Root Division's rent has tripled, forcing them to relocate. Their current lease is until June, but they are already paying a 40 percent increase on their previous rent until they find a new location in summer 2014. Despite these changes, the staff of Root Division is remaining positive. "While this is a relatively short timeline to make this transition, we had been considering moving to a larger space," said executive director Michelle Mansour. Although their current location has exhibited the work of over 1,700 artists and seen over 32,000 visitors, Mansour and the rest of the staff are hoping to find a location which more room so that more people can teach, visit exhibits, and participate in classes. Root Division is looking for a multi-use facility with 8,000-to-10,000 square feet that can house 18-22 studios, two big studio classrooms, a 2,000 square foot area for art exhibitions, and an office space area as well. In the meantime, they are looking for a temporary location so that they can continue to provide free arts education to the community. If anyone has a connection to property owners or knows of a large, empty space, let Root Division know. If you don't, but you still want to support the organization, you can make a donation or check out their ninth annual "Taste" eventon April 24, which will feature the food and drink of 20 different local chefs and mixologists, and will directly benefit Root Division during their big move. Watch this video to find out more about Taste and Root Division: