“Experiences and programs that connect us to one another help everyone be better neighbors. We grow more as a community when we understand, listen and show up for one another.” Those words could have been gently admonished by Mr. Rogers, who was referring to neighborhoods everywhere, but no, they’re clear, simple wisdom from Zendesk founder and CEO Mikkel Svane, who has demonstrated a great habit of encouraging volunteerism among his employees. And apparently, he shows up too. The Svane Family Foundation was established in 2019 to support local artists and cultural institutions, who rightly depend on patronage, but were doubly undermined as a result of the pandemic. Along comes Svane, who’s offering a modern day Ark to help navigate the choppy waters.

His foundation has given a $10,000 commission to 100 artists, whose work will be exhibited September 7 through 27, 2021, at the San Francisco Art Institute and auctioned on Artsy with profits benefiting the non-profit ArtSpan, which provides Bay Artists with practical “post-grad” opportunities and skills, such as professional development and artist networking mixers, as well as youth open studios and community events that acquaint and enrich folks of every stripe. As the oldest art school west of the Mississippi, SFAI is a beautiful and symbolic host for the auction. Founded by a group of artists, writers and neighborhood leaders, its roof terrace overlooks the City, celebrating the panoramic openness of the liberal arts. Fully grasping the importance of education,The Svane Family Foundation asks the question, “What do you want to carry into the future?”

Among artists like Barry McGee, Alicia McCarthy, Dana King and HP Mendoza, J. John Priola presents the archival pigment he calls Bouquet, which is such a pure interpretation of this ongoing mission. A graduate of SFAI, Priolo describes, “In manifesting and realizing Bouquet, I asked over 49 organizations, institutions and individuals to make flowers that represented their cultures and communities.” The Bayview Opera House, The Women’s Building, Asian-Pacific Islander Culture Coalition and Irish Cultural Center are among the spectrum, “This bouquet holds so much more than metaphors and symbols; it holds love, hope, the creative zeitgeist of identifying, making, craft and beauty. I was able to collaborate with so many extraordinary, wonderful, lovely human beings. This is my contribution.”

“We need the vibrant joy and raw expression artists bring to our lives”, urges Mikkel Svane, whose efforts demonstrate that art education has no physical, generational or intellectual boundaries.  —Gwynned Vitello

For more information, go to www.svaneff.org