The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (SFGMC) has announced that the first-ever National LGBTQ Center for the Arts will open in San Francisco, CA. With a primary focus on performances, public programs and community partnerships, the Center provides a space to bring the arts community and SFGMC together. Purchased for $9.6 million, the new Center will house a cutting-edge media center, provide a creative space for LGBTQ artists, serve as a meeting location for community leaders, host trainings and internship programs and more.
Located at 170 Valencia Street, the Center also marks the first permanent home for SFGMC since its inception over 40 years ago. The four-story building, which will undergo significant renovations to modernize and adapt its use for a performing arts organization, allows SFGMC to embark on never-before-possible programs. SFGMC will now be able to host ongoing master classes and an interview series with notables such as Award-winning composers Stephen Schwartz and Andrew Lippa and actress and singer Laura Benanti, community sing-ins, a new and exciting virtual reality experience and a recording and production studio.
Chris Verdugo, Executive Director of the Chorus, stated, “We are so grateful to Terrence Chan and his life partner Edward Sell who will lead our campaign and our board of directors for their most generous support of this remarkable venture. We look forward to working with and alongside other LGBTQ arts organizations while supporting them in their artistic and advocacy endeavors.”
With its new home near the Castro District, SFGMC will remain deeply committed to the San Francisco area by continuing and creating new meaningful local partnerships and working with students from various San Francisco schools. SFGMC will also maintain and expand its national presence through extensive external programs. The Chorus’ national work includes the expansion of RHYTHM (Reaching Youth Through Music), an immersive workshop series aimed at inspiring students to live their most authentic lives, and the new tour of “It Gets Better,” a community residency and performance program produced by SFGMC in collaboration with the It Gets Better Project and Speak Theater Arts.
“In its forty-year history, the Chorus has performed at the world’s most prestigious venues, but we have never had our own home,” said Board Chair Keith Pepper. “The new space will allow the organization to expand its performing calendar to include master classes, an interview series with leading LGBTQ voices and ‘sing-ins’ that welcome members of the community to perform with the Chorus.”
While a campaign to cover the cost of purchase, renovations and a supporting endowment fund will be announced in the future, one of the founding Chorus members Terrence Chan made a leadership gift of $5 million toward the cost of buying and renovating the space and the SFGMC Board has pledged an additional $1 million.
In making his gift, Chan said, “I am particularly excited about the vision for a National LGBTQ Center for the Arts. At this time in our nation’s history, it is vital that we in the LGBTQ community have a home for our art and artists. I am confident that great work will be created in our new home – work that will inspire, engage and educate.”
Dr. Timothy Seelig, Artistic Director of the Chorus, stated, “In my 30 years conducting LGBTQ choruses, none of us have had the ability to purchase a building that had multiple rehearsal spaces, a recording studio and the ability to provide space for the community. Our new Center will be open to all. It is appropriate that the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, which started the LGBTQ choral movement 40 years ago, once again is leading the field.”