In less than a year, San Francisco’s Queer Arts Featured has amassed an enormous following and prestige, but rising operational costs could see the gallery close in the not-so-distant future.
Harvey Milk’s legacy lives on in physical glimmers and flickers across San Francisco — including at the SF Bay Area’s busiest airport. Opened in Milk’s former camera shop at 575 Castro Street, Queer Arts Featured — a.k.a. “Queer A.F.” — moved into the space last June; the Castro storefront also formerly housed the former Human Rights Campaign merchandise store for over a decade.
Since debuting, the open-space gallery has grown into a communal balm; a showcase for various queer artists to display their works; both an event and learning venue where people can indulge in their creative eccentricities.
Queer Arts Featured remains a much-needed addition to the Castro, helping fill a cavernous emptiness as the neighborhood continues to see touchstones shutter at an alarming speed.
Case in point: Harvey’s, the beloved queer bar and eatery named after Milk, suddenly closed after twenty-seven years in business Sunday. Why? It’s a tale as old as time in San Francisco: Financial hardships and increased operational costs proved too grave, forcing the owner’s hand to shutter the small business.
And with the rent for Queer Arts Featured being more than doubled for 2023, the gallery could well suffer a similar fate.
“We are building a team and a comprehensive plan to sustain this increase and withstand the challenges of being a Castro small business, but we need time to get there,” reads an Instagram post from the art space in light of the rent increase. “We need the money it takes to stay open, and after talks with several different [organizations] and the [City], it’s clear we need to raise it with the support of the community.”
As of publishing, Queer A.F. wants to crowdsource $50,000 — an amount that will give them “the runway [they] need for a year” while they expand their business model and, ultimately, become self-sustaining.
Like many of us, Queer A.F. co-founder Devlin Shand is also worried about “all the change and closures” in the Castro and elsewhere in the Bay Area.
“The difficulties we’re all facing in reentering the world from the pandemic are immense,” Shand tells Underscore, waxing that institutions like Queer A.F. are essential to safeguarding community and bolstering LGBTQIA+ visibility in a world oscillating around heteronormativity.
“We are so grateful to be able to hold a truly queer space in a location so vital to our community’s history,” Shand continues. “We are about providing opportunity and building community through local art, and it takes a village to support our growth.”
As a social species, we rely on villages — proverbial and otherwise — to stay afloat amid times of duress. If it’s in your financial means to do so, please consider offering some buoyancy to Queer A.F. by donating to their GoFundMe campaign.
Queer A.F. (575 Castro Street) is open Thursday through Sunday, from noon to 7 p.m.; for more information on the collective, including current galleries, for-sale items, and upcoming events and workshops, visit queerartsfeatured.com.