Mourning for Intersection for the Arts

I feel like a member of my family died. I found this email–along with a broader announcement from Intersection about its “restructuring”–late last night when I got home from the dreaded day job…and today I am in mourning.

intersection logoFR: Kevin Chen

TO: lapintoramontana

May 22, 2014


We want to personally write you as our work and time at Intersection is suddenly coming to a close. As of June 1, Intersection will be undergoing substantial changes. As part of these changes, the three of us, in addition to other staff, will be laid off at the end of May. With the specific shifts in the economy and culture of San Francisco, it has been increasingly difficult to operate and sustain a community-based nonprofit arts organization like Intersection.

It is truly miraculous that we were able to exist for so long and be able to thrive with programs for as long as we did. Working together with Deborah Cullinan and other amazing colleagues for all the years we did, it worked not just because of the genuine investment and dedication of all at Intersection and us as a staff, but rather, it worked because of YOU — your creative vision, your zeal for social justice, your enthusiasm to collaborate, your desire to communicate and connect. We can not thank you enough for how much you have inspired us, changed us, and taught us.  We are proud, still inspired, and ever changed by being able to support, develop, produce, and premiere new works of the highest order by artists and collaborators of the utmost amazing quality, originality, creativity, and heart – more than 15 years of new works and voices. Thank YOU. We look forward to witnessing more.

For the decade-plus that we have been able to work together, we have collaborated and worked for varied and multiple voices – the marginalized, under-represented, young, immigrant, queer, people of color, disenfranchised voices. We are proud of the work we have accomplished, birthing countless beautiful, resonant, and profound projects. Our work with community based organizations, schools, after-school programs, lock down facilities, coalitions, and individuals has allowed us to collectively flourish and grow.

We look forward to seeing you, experiencing new work, hearing and being part of dialogues, and partaking in both action and reaction to this world we all live in together. If you feel strongly about this kind of work that has happened at, with, and through Intersection over these past 15 years, we ask of you all:







In continued solidarity,

Kevin B. Chen

Rebeka Rodriguez

Sean San Jose

Today I had intended to update my blog with an entry about the Mujeres show at Echoes Under Sunset in Los Angeles. But instead, I need a moment of mourning. So in its place, I post my response to my colleagues. This feels deeply personal. And once again, I am really pissed at this city.

FR: lapintoramontana 

TO: Kevin Chen, Rebeka Rodriguez, Sean San Jose

May 23, 2014


This news simply rocked my world. Garcia Márquez, and now Intersection for the Arts–the planet has changed forever.

It’s been years since I worked at Intersection—before any? most? of you were there, in fact—and it’s been years since I’ve done much collaborative work. But you all—both Intersection as an entity, and you three individually—have continued to occupy an important place in my imagination, in my knowledge of what art can do. Your very existence, doing what you do, has provided me hope that there was some kind of outside-the-lines way that I could continue to get done what I do.

I had just been considering referring a curator to Intersection for support—brilliant at gathering the art and artists and constructing an exceptional experience, disastrous at raising and managing the money; I was hoping you still did fiscal sponsorship and training…I guess not, eh?

My mind keeps circling back to one of those moments in life as an artist that stay with you—when Intersection somehow showed up as the beacon of…integrity in smallness? Noble effort? Something like that. I might as well share it—as my farewell; and tribute.

Several years back I got into a conversation with someone affiliated with a “prestigious” arts institution in SF, but not an actual art-maker herself. She was telling me about working with actresses there, helping them to comply with a director’s vision, and I observed that I could well understand why actresses might not actually want to comply with a director’s vision (imagine! 😉 ).

She opened up a can of contempt on my ass—about “real” artists vs. whatever I and/or those non-compliant actresses might be, those whose names the general public doesn’t know, who haven’t “made it.” And she challenged me to enlighten her as to what other work WAS there outside of LA or New York? That Mattered?

The moment stays with me in part because I was so far outside my comfort zone—even further than Montana to San Francisco—I was a guest among people whose economics, whose familial, educational and career experiences were so dramatically different from my own, that I was in every way—except by my art—an alien being in that room. And yet my art had crossed all those lines to put me there, had provided a pathway to friendships that had become precious, with people whose love and good opinion I cared deeply about…and me and my alien perspective were being challenged.

And all I could think of was to point to Intersection.

Of course this woman knew nothing about it; my response meant nothing to her. But it meant something to me, in that moment of, as I once heard Jessica Hagedorn call it at Intersection, “scavenger pride.”  I couldn’t possibly point to my own work—that was already on the block—but as I was looking for a model that gave some credibility to my own approach, my own values, my own absence of financial but abundance of creative resources, I thought of Intersection.

I spluttered about the breadth of the work there, the long history of ground-breaking, close-to-its-own-community art and music and dance and writing and theater, the power of coming together, the sponsorship of art and artists, even the courageous failures…all the while knowing that, in fact, only a handful of people who knew about this gem and showed up even saw these things. In terms of reach, one Jim Carrey film trumped all of Intersection’s output for decades…  

And so what?

I had the somewhat powerless understanding that places like Intersection—just as work like mine—means nothing to people who define success by Entertainment Tonight standards. There weren’t enough names to drop, or pedigrees to point to [or figure$ to flash]; it was an argument that meant nothing to anyone in that room but myself. But it still gave me comfort—in my class spluttering, in my utterly ineffectual response to a snobbery I couldn’t hope to beat, and shouldn’t’ve even cared about (but I did)—to know you were there, that this whole other way of doing art—small, intimate, participant-driven, impactful, even if only to a few—was there, had a place in the world, supported a few people to bring a handful of thoughtful contributions to our world—it mattered. And it gave me some idea of not being utterly alone.

And now it won’t.

I know, from my own experience, in and out of positions of influence—places where you can make things happen, and places where you are no more than a very small boat on a very big and angry ocean—that all of you will find ways to continue to make your magic. Life will change dramatically, you will change dramatically. But your art-hearts are strong—they’re truly forged by your time at Intersection—and I know with certainty that you will all keep doing what you each do, in new ways.

I send you blessings for the next chapter, and hopes, and faith in you. You’ve done spectacular work. And you have been important to me in my life as an artist. Never lose the satisfaction and warmth of that.

Wishing you all the best,

Susana Montana Murdoch