Oakland Mayor Pledges $1.7 Million for Art Spaces After Deadly Fire

New initiative gives technical, financial help to art organizations facing displacement

Oakland's mayor has pledged $1.7 million to help local arts organizations build "safe, affordable" spaces following the Ghost Ship warehouse fire. Credit: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty

Oakland, California Mayor Libby Schaaf pledged $1.7 million to create and sustain "affordable, safe spaces" for local artists and arts organizations following the warehouse fire that killed at least 36 people last Friday. The Ghost Ship art collective warehouse was a home and performance space in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood. 

"The arts are at the center of vibrant and diverse communities, and are critical to neighborhood health and well-being, yet artists and cultural organizations are increasingly vulnerable to instability and displacement," said Mayor Schaaf. 

The city's investment will fund a new initiative called Keeping Space – Oakland to provide technical and financial assistance to organizations facing displacement due to gentrification and increasing real estate costs. Keeping Space will also offer grants up to $75,000 to help at-risk organizations acquire real estate to serve as permanent art spaces. According to the Oakland Planning and Building Department, the warehouse's landlord Derick Almena, did not request any permits for Ghost Ship that may have prevented the deadly fire.

Prior to the announcement, local nonprofit organizations set up massive funds to help victims and families cover costs of memorial services, medical bills and donations for victims' families. Gray Area Foundation for the Arts has raised close to a half a million dollars since Saturday through its YouCaring fund. The Golden State Warriors also contributed a total of $125,000 to the Oakland Fire Relief Fund through the YouCaring website. 

Unity City Council, a Fruitvale-based nonprofit located two blocks away from the Ghost Ship building is using its donations to staff and extend hours for its nearby senior center for first responders, family members, mourners and victims, according to senior development manager, Dana Kleinhesselink. "We want it to be a place to get out of the cold, to eat and rest and get any supplies they may need," she said to Rolling Stone.

The Ghost Ship fire has caused a ripple effect in cities like Los Angeles and Baltimore, where police and city officials have already begun evicting people who live in similar spaces with safety code violations.