Project Home: BIPOC Trans Artists At Odds With Non-Profit Over Future Of SFs Red Victorian Hotel – CBS San Francisco

Posted: October 28, 2020 at 3:57 pm

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) Artists on Haight Street have found an unusual way to try to save their housing a weekly drag show. Large crowds are fanning out in front of The Red Victorian every Saturday night, but the real drama is whats taking place off-stage.


Back in March, all hotels across the city were forced to halt operations due to COVID-19. The hotel went from making roughly $80,000 a month, to zero. Thats when the employees of the hotel had the idea to use the front windows to perform drag shows every Saturday night.

I would say its unconventional, I hesitate to even call it drag, I would say its trans or gender nonconforming performance art, drag adjacent, Adam Rice a former employee and organizer for the show said.

From the crowd in the street to the performers on stage, its a lot of people who consider themselves others.

I love that its people you dont typically see in drag transgender non-conforming, Johnny Nguyen said.

Many of the performers worked at this hotel and then started living here during the pandemic, they thought they had an understanding with the nonprofit that leases the space that they could stay, but District Commons says these artists are trespassing and that its time for them to go.

My stomach dropped, you know, I felt like I had been injected with ice water, Rice said when he heard the news.

Ill be homeless. Ill be homeless and a lot of the other people who live here will be homeless, as well, Sam Hogan a performer whose stage name is Bussy Dad said.

Hogan along with the majority of the other performers are BIPOC transgender artists like Gia Regalado.

Im currently going through hormone replacement therapy so Im transitioning from male to female and its just so great having a space that I can share that with like-minded people, Regalado said, If we were to be displaced from this fight, from the house here, I dont know where any of us would go.

The show started as a way to raise money to replace the lost funding from the hotel. The artists say they had an understanding that they could stay here. Their dream is to turn this into a housing collective for black, indigenous, people of color who are transitioning. The show is popular, pack-the-sidewalk-every-Saturday-night popular, but it doesnt appear to be enough.

We cant afford, you know, 40, $50,000 a month, Zarinah Agnew said.

Agnew is the co-director for District Commons, a nonprofit that helps house formerly incarcerated people and supports community events and art shows like whats going on at the Red Vic. It leases this building from The Peaceful World Foundation, another nonprofit, and says the artists were given permission to put together a show, but not to live there.

So they were given permission to run events there for free, with much love and excitement, you know? But they decided to stay and thats when things got difficult, Agnew said.

Agnew says this standoff could put the nonprofit out of business.

Were not the Hilton, were not the Salesforce tower, this is not sticking it to the man. Were a tiny nonprofit, Peaceful World is a nonprofit and I dont think this is, like, how we get to the utopia that were all seeking, Agnew said.

For now, theyre at an impasse. It comes down to money, which has been the motivator for why artists and others have struggled to stay in the city that once masqueraded as their safe haven.

I dont think we should blame individuals for these things, we should blame systems maybe the city of San Francisco can look to support some of its most marginalized people, so they dont hurt each other, Agnew said.

With everything thats going on politically this space and spaces like it that people like us can safely exist are shrinking by the day, Hogan said.

The artists have paid $5,000 toward utilities but they do not have a formal lease. District Commons plans to file a forcible detainer in court, which is like an eviction, but because theyre not violating a lease, its for trespassing.

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Project Home: BIPOC Trans Artists At Odds With Non-Profit Over Future Of SFs Red Victorian Hotel - CBS San Francisco

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