Santa Rosa Renews Vision of Public Art Program

As clubs and venues mark a year of shutdowns this month, local musicians who rely on performing for their income find themselves in increasingly dire financial straits.

With that in mind, the city of Santa Rosa is offering several Musician Relief Grants, which will award $2,000 to Santa Rosa musicians facing financial hardship due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The grant program is one of the first in a series of efforts that the city will pursue this year through its recently retrofitted Public Art Program.

The City of Santa Rosa was just starting the process of creating the Public Art Programs’ new strategic plan in January 2020 after moving it from the Recs and Parks department into the Planning and Economic Development division in 2018.

“That shift provided us an opportunity to rethink how we define the Public Art Program, how we define public art and what it means for economic development,” Santa Rosa Arts & Culture Manager Tara Thompson says.

After pressing pause on the program’s planning due to Covid, the city worked up a needs assessment of the arts last year to see how the Public Arts Program could support the local creative community during unprecedented times.

Once the assessments were completed, the city of Santa Rosa Art in Public Places Committee adopted the Public Art Program’s finalized strategic plan this past February, and the city is beginning to realize that plan now.

“It’s a really exciting time for the Public Arts Program, given that we’ve put a lot of effort into this planning and we did a lot of outreach to gauge what the community needs from us right now,” Thompson says. “We have a roadmap now to implement some major changes that will better support the arts in Santa Rosa.”

The Musicians Relief Grant program, which aims to support working musicians in Santa Rosa who have lost income due to the inability to perform live, was funded from the city’s budget for last summer’s cancelled “Live at Juilliard” concert series.

“We got approval from the Economic Recovery Task Force to redirect those funds to this grant program,” Thompson says. “That’s exciting to me, that things aligned that way.”

Musicians who want to apply for the relief grant can go online at The relief grant application deadline is end-of-day on Sunday, April 11. Thompson hopes a second round of relief grants will be awarded this summer, given that “Live at Juilliard” will likely be canceled in 2021.

Other projects the Public Art Program plans to launch this summer and fall will support artists working in underserved neighborhoods, and the city will also make an audit of public art in Santa Rosa.

“Mainly to identify where there isn’t any; where are the art deserts in Santa Rosa,” Thompson says. “We want to map out where it all is here in Santa Rosa, identify where there’s gaps, and target our resources into new projects with new funding into those areas.”

The public can find information on the Public Art Program at

Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.
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