Our History

“Because of the amount of time Intersection has been around its history is a complicated story to tell. It’s always going to be seen through the lens of how you experienced it and when, so there is a certain amount of refraction that takes place during each of our reflections. A poet reading in front of a packed audience in an old church in North Beach in the sixties would see it from a much different perspective than a visual artist whose work was installed in one of the spaces in the Mission in the eighties. Given that, and that time bends and sometimes warps memory, a historical record is never going to be precise and something is bound to be left out. What is presented here is drawn from the archives, which although they contain such minutiae as old phone messages and reservation sheets, is by necessity a broad stroke approach to telling the history of this enduring and complicated organization.”


— Randy Rollison, Executive Director of Intersection for the Arts, 2014-2021

1965 - 2022

August 16

“Intersection” was founded in the Tenderloin by an interfaith coalition of three churches in a former bar at 150 Ellis Street.

“Intersection” began as a merger of several faith-based experiments that were using art to reach underserved youth. Three church groups, sponsored by the Glide Foundation, organized artists who were conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War to teach art to youth in the Tenderloin. The organization quickly became an epicenter of new music, theater, comedy and other arts of the Bay Area in the 1960s.
January 14

We moved into our first home: the old church at 756 Union Street in North Beach.

We moved into our first home: the old church at 756 Union Street in North Beach.
May 1

Robert Johnson, Intersection Director (1966-69):

“Intersection had just taken over St. John’s Methodist Church at 756 Union in North Beach. It had been an active church, but the attendance was so bad they closed it. The Methodist Church said Intersection could have it for a dollar a year. I took the pews out and got seats from the old Surf Theater. We turned the lower level social hall into a coffeehouse. We had art exhibits there. We built a light-projection booth for Canyon Cinema. In the sanctuary they showed experimental films—short, personal films by artists like Bruce Conner. There were poetry readings: Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Kenneth Rexroth, Josephine Miles. We had wonderful plays like “Slow Dance on the Killing Ground.” There were so many programs going on simultaneously.”
May 19

Our Poetry Series

Beginning in 1966, Intersection’s poetry series was the longest continual reading series in the state of California, outside of academic institutions. The longevity of the series attracted a number of high-profile writers, but it remained dedicated to regularly showcasing the work of emerging and local writers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The series featured poets like Gregory Corso, William S. Burroughs, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ishmael Reed and Margaret Atwood.
February 9

Ntozake Shange, playwright and poet:

“I read there a lot in the late 70s. We had something called the Bay Area Poets Coalition and we had a symbiotic relationship with Intersection. One weekend, we had 24 hours of poetry all over the city—in Laundromats, grocery stores, on cable cars and street corners. It culminated with a reading at Intersection Sunday night. The weekend was wonderful, an enormous amount of fun and it reflected what we believed in—that poetry should be an active part of people’s lives.”
March 16

Ishmael Reed, poet:

“In the late 70s, a lot of talent emerged at Intersection that later became part of the establishment. Intersection was on the cutting edge. They were open to people from different backgrounds. Merging multicultural alliances were forming. Things were really jumping.”
November 27

Assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk

Intersection became a refuge for a generation of artists grappling with these local tragedies as well as the horrors of the Vietnam War.
May 15

We moved into the old mortuary at 766 Valencia Street in the Mission.

We moved into the old mortuary at 766 Valencia Street in the Mission.
November 15

We moved into the old Mancuso furniture store at 446 Valencia Street in the Mission.

We moved into the old Mancuso furniture store at 446 Valencia Street in the Mission.
May 11

Deborah Cullinan, Executive Director, 1996-2013:

“In 1994, Intersection had had a near-death experience. But funders bailed it out. It was in chaos, so it was lovely to reinvent from scratch. I was so behind the curve, and it was great to get on my feet at the same time as the organization. I didn’t know any better, so I just held out my arms to the artistic community and said, ‘Come! Help me create something that can belong to this group.’ This company belongs to all our artists—and our audience.”
April 16

Campo Santo forms!

Intersection for the Art’s resident theater company.
March 18

Marcus Shelby joins Intersection

Renowned jazz bassist, composer and orchestra leader, becomes our musician-in-residence.
May 5

Jazz at Intersection

Intersection launched “Jazz at Intersection,” a series that exposed audiences to more than 60 concerts with almost 200 musicians from around the world.
November 17

Erika Shuch, choreographer and artistic director of the ESP Project, joined Intersection.

The ESP Project became the resident dance company.
August 9

We move into the San Francisco Chronicle Building

In 2011, we moved to the 5M space in the San Francisco Chronicle Building on Mission Street in SoMa. This space becomes coworking for organizations and projects working in arts and culture.
June 25

We shift our business model to focus on fiscal sponsorship

Intersection was one of the early adopters of fiscal sponsorship for the arts. When Frances Phillips was the Executive Director back in the 1980s, she and a cohort of other folks worked on developing and articulating the models for fiscal sponsorship and establishing best practices. But even before that the organization was working to help artists have sustainable careers. At one point there was a radio show about opportunities in the Bay Area, and there were professional development workshops about things like developing contracts and copywriting your work. Because it wasn’t sexy and outward-facing like the visual and performing arts, artist resources was kind of a back burner thing that we did to build the capacity of individual artists and small to mid-sized organizations. When the financial crisis hit in 2014, we fully pivoted to artist resources and services so that we could rebuild into something that was sustainable. 
July 22

We moved to 1446 Market Street…

…with all of our coworking members in tow.
October 4

Intersection adopts a shared leadership model.

Intersection for the Arts moved to a shared leadership model that distributes vision, responsibility, trust, and decision-making across a diverse staff that is led by Executive Co-Directors Allison Snopek and Scott Nielsen.


Intersection for the Arts respectfully acknowledges that we are based in Yelamu: the traditional, unceded lands of the Ohlone people. We pay our respects to elders both past and present.