Oakland, CA is one of the most richly diverse arts communities in the country and major destination for the arts, new media and all forms of cultural offerings. The arts fuel Oakland’s economy, build strong, vibrant communities, improve educational outcomes and prepare the next generation to be leaders in the global economy.

Support Oakland Artists (SOA) is a nonprofit organization that works to enhance local artists ability to thrive, increase citizens’ participation in cultural activities, and establish Oakland as a world-class destination for the multi-cultural arts.

Founded in 1994 by a group of Oakland-based artists and designers as an artist collective,  SOA became very involved in arts education and youth development. In 2002, SOA was incorporated as a nonprofit organization and has since played a role in developing a platform for the arts in Oakland and responding to the needs of the community by providing a public forum for arts related issues, developing tools to assess, engage and mobilize the arts community, and deploying cultural resources to showcase the arts in Oakland. 



In 2008, SOA developed and launched a set of online tools built on a social networking platform. The primary component, Art-Census, was a data gathering tool designed to inventory and assess the economic and community impact of the arts in Oakland. Art-Census utilized a concise web-based survey instrument to capture and assess key indicators of economic and community impact related to the arts and cultural activity.

 The survey instrument captured information from a list of respondent categories including individual artists, creative professionals, arts organizations, arts-related businesses, arts venues and arts patrons.  The primary outputs from the survey measured the amount of income and revenue generated from arts activities, and the amount expended on the production of arts related products and services.  Additional survey queries determined the number of hours of volunteerism or donated services; the percentage of revenue and expenses made within the city Oakland; the number of people employed; and several other key indicators.

The methodology of the survey instrument included capturing income and revenue, which contributes to household and business income, and is subsequently recycled into the community, along with expenditures, which are direct contributors to the local economy.  Additional calculations were made to determine the multiplier effects of economic activity within the arts community, such as money spent at ancillary businesses, along with additional indicators that can be tabulated periodically and made available to the public.

The Art-Census yielded over 200 responses, with revenue reported from arts-related activity of $11,370,601; direct expenditures of $9,071,700 and 76,563 hours of community service. SOA is currently seeking funds to re-launch the Art-Census.


ArtistSpeak! was also launched in 2008 by SOA to provide the arts community a public forum to discuss the most important issues impacting the arts’ ability to thrive in Oakland.  In recognition of National Arts & Humanities Month and as part of Americans for the Arts Creative Conversations program, SOA held the first ArtistSpeak! forum at the Oakland Museum of California, James Moore Theater. 

The goal of the event was to start an ongoing discussion on the state of the arts in Oakland and begin to build a comprehensive arts platform to organize around. The event drew approximately 125 attendees and the topics for the evening’s discussion included the arts as a vehicle for economic development; the arts as a tool for community development; and artists and the political process. 


A tool still under development is Art-CAN!, a Community Action Network for the arts community and residents interested in the arts, community service and civic participation.  With the idea that the arts can…fuel economies…build communities…educate…enrich…Art-CAN! will extend the social networking and mapping features of the Art Census to include community arts and urban gardening activities, civic activities impacting the arts community and an enhanced ability to connect community needs with creative resources.

Oakland Arts Strategic Implementation Plan

SOA has drafted a Comprehensive Arts Platform, which includes policy, programmatic and organizational recommendations, along with a Strategic Implementation Plan for the arts, designed to enhance local artists’ ability to thrive, increase citizens’ participation in cultural activities, and establish Oakland as a world-class destination for the multi-cultural arts.

Platform Principles
Equity and inclusion; Non-restrictive and non-resource intensive; Immediately actionable; Shared Municipal/Community Responsibility and Cooperation

Goals and objectives:

  • Elevate and incorporate arts principles into city infrastructure as a primary tool to utilize existing arts capacity to spur economic and workforce development opportunities
    The arts and creative economy provide:

  •  Low-investment/infrastructure economic, community and workforce development opportunities

  • Opportunities aligned with Oakland’s existing workforce

  • Cultural tourism– Promoting the arts as a global, cultural attraction and import/export commodity

  • Marketing and public image support- opportunity to present a more representative, authentic and attractive depiction of Oakland to business and tourists, capitalizing on current national and international press trends

  • Elevate and incorporate arts principles into city infrastructure as a primary tool to enhance and elevate the livability of Oakland for its residents. 
    The arts provide:

  • Community development, neighborhood revitalization and beautification opportunities

  • Educational and youth development opportunities

Support Oakland Artists is a partner of Artists Uniteda nonprofit organization inviting artists of every medium, every genre, every stripe to share and exchange knowledge, access high-powered, collective tools, and embrace new ways of working together as a global force for good. Our mission is to empower individual artists to create excellent art and to unite all artists to create social change. We are based in the United States, headquartered in Oakland, CA, but our network and reach are worldwide. Artists who work alone create art. Artists who work together create change. Visit