I want to salute a very select group of people in our community — self-selected actually. Those who provide continuity.
There is a standard interview question: “Where do you see yourself in five years, ten years, fifteen years, twenty years.” Now I don't know what the right answer is. But I know what the wrong answer is. The wrong answer is: “If you hire me I promise you I'll be right here — doing this job you're offering me, until the sun falls from the sky and rivers all run dry and the poets run out of rhymes and I join the choir invisible.”
And if I'd said that during my job interview in 1980 my resume would have sailed directly into the recycling bin. But I have walked into City Hall every day for twenty-two years feeling so blessed to work with the people I work with to serve the arts.
I've seen the Ballet go from a rag-tag bunch to the stellar organization it is today. I've seen Yerba Buena Center built and thriving against all odds, LINES Ballet go into a glorious new space on Market Street (go see it!), City Arts & Lectures go from presenting five authors a year to over sixty. And I could give dozens more examples for each one of these. And I've done all this just by staying put!
There are a surprising number, like me, who have been doing the same job for twenty years or more. The same job. With the same organization. With the same commitment. And sometimes at virtually the same salary. These are the LIFERS. And this moment is for them. The twenty-year-plus club.
This is a remarkable accomplishment in a milieu where change is sought after and celebrated. These individuals are the constants in a world of change. They are artists and artistic directors, executive directors, funders, arts supporters, and patrons. And it is my privilege to be one of their number.
These people are the historical memory of our community, the Rocks on which we build our foundation. They are the Old Growth Redwoods. They represent the triumph of constancy. And I want SO much to call out ALL their names. But it's too hazardous, because I may leave someone out. But You know who you are! And for you who have only been in your jobs for a brief dozen or so years? Keep at it! You're more than half-way there.
Kary Schulman (director, Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund) made these remarks as part of accepting the Trustees' Award for “outstanding contributions to cultural life” in the San Francisco Bay Area. While the Business Arts Council gives awards annually, it has given the Trustees' Award only four times in twenty years. At almost the same time, in St. Paul, Minnesota, Cynthia Gehrig was honored for twenty-five years of service. GIA is pleased to count them both as longstanding members.