Donor Desk: Leslie & Merle Rabine

Donor Desk: Leslie & Merle Rabine

What issues are you passionate about? 

We have been passionately involved with social justice, the arts, immigrant rights, reproductive rights, and poverty reduction. Leslie’s father was a plumber who became a gifted painter and left her a legacy of art and ethical action.

What do you look for in the organizations you support?

We seek art organizations where low-income people, artists of color, unhoused people, and marginalized young people find an artistically rich and welcoming space. Leslie has served on the board of Hospitality House, which houses the unique Community Arts Program (CAP).

How has SFF supported your philanthropy?

The SFF donor advisor model allowed us to increase our donating power far beyond the capacity of our actual income. We could gift appreciated stock to our SFF fund whenever our stock account rose. What a revelation!

How has your giving evolved?

In a second revelation, we decided to make a high-impact donation to one social justice/arts project. About 10 years ago, we began working with Hospitality House to buy the building that houses CAP.

What is the Community Arts Program, where are they, and what do they do?

Since 1969, CAP has been the only free-of charge fine arts studio where low-income and unhoused artists, in fact anyone, can just walk in and create art. Supplies are free for oil painting, watercolor, acrylics, sculpture, ceramics, sewing, and digital arts! Anyone can get free instruction and workshops from staff members trained in fine arts.

Artists sell their work in the CAP gallery, or at monthly exhibitions. Artists receive 100% of the proceeds from a sale.

In the much-used studio at 1009 Market Street @ Sixth Street, the artists form a community. We have seen unhoused people come in, throw their bedroll and bags under a worktable, retrieve their canvas, brushes, and paints, and immediately immerse themselves in their creative process. They seem to shed the weight of their struggles to survive. They are at home.

CAP Manager and practicing artist Jamil Nasim told us: “I’ve never seen any organization like this, being able to provide a free-to-use, open studio space for artists who are dedicated to developing their voice, or who are continuing their already established practice.” The atmosphere is both tranquil and festive. Whether artists directly portray the social issues they confront, or their inner imaginary world, they express the dream of a socially just world, a vision of the inclusive city that San Francisco could be.

If you could solve one problem, what would it be?

The people at Hospitality House now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to buy the building that houses all these artists and their visions. We want to ensure that Hospitality House can make that purchase and thus make this home permanent. Present and future community artists will not face the evictions that so many San Franciscan artists have endured during this period of growing inequality in our city. This purchase will make a meaningful impact toward stabilizing the mid-Market community and realizing the artists’ vision of equality.

We have donated significant matching funds toward a capital campaign. The campaign will be launched on June 5, 2024, at the annual Hospitality House Art Auction, at Saint Joseph’s Art Society.  

What are your short- and long-term goals for your philanthropy?

Our short-term goal is to encourage people to attend the Hospitality House Art Auction and donate to the capital campaign. Our long-term goal is to make the CAP building a permanent hub where community arts and artists flourish in a more equitable city.