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The Cultural Mafia

With maybe one exception (OK, New York, you win), no city offers quite the mix of world-class, cutting-edge, and passionately gonzo culture that San Francisco does. We have superstars, inventors of new art forms, indie theater champs, and, naturally, the country’s first transgender dance company. But who, exactly, are the leaders of this tight-knit, crazy-quilt scene? We canvassed dozens of film capos, theater consiglieri, and foot soldiers of literature, dance, art, and music to come up with this list of the 63 most influential impresarios, mentors, fundraisers, and visionaries.

Sean Dorsey

Gregg Perloff

Robert Mailer Anderson and Nicola Miner

Michael Tilson Thomas

Jeffrey Fraenkel

Sylvia Lindsey

Deborah Cullinan

GRASSROOTS ROYALS

Jane Ganahl and Jack Boulware
COFOUNDERS OF LITQUAKE
Hatched by Ganahl and Boulware over drinks at the Edinburgh Castle back in 1999, the raucous San Francisco–based lit festival, now in its 13th year, has gone on to take the country by storm. This year marked a flurry of grassroots expansion, with Lit Cast (Litquake’s new podcast program), Epicenter (a monthly salon in North Beach), and two new Lit Crawls in Brooklyn and Seattle. Lit Camp, the group’s first juried writers’ conference, is planned for the spring of 2013.

Douglas McGray, Derek Fagerstrom, and Lauren Smith
COFOUNDERS OF POP-UP MAGAZINE
About twice a year, in the most tech-centric city in the United States, an audience of 2,500 gives itself over to the old-fashioned power of live storytelling, thanks to this trio of journalistic talents. Those lucky enough to score tickets to the 90-minute Pop-Up Magazine (most events sell out within 45 minutes of being announced) are treated to one-time-only presentations of stories by acclaimed radio producers, journalists, photographers, and filmmakers.

Sean Dorsey
FOUNDER AND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF FRESH MEAT PRODUCTIONS
The world of dance, with its rigid gender roles, isn’t the most logical refuge for a transgender person—but that’s precisely what inspired dancer and choreographer Dorsey to found Fresh Meat Productions in 2002. His San Francisco–based transgender and queer performing arts organization, the first of its kind in the country, reaches 17,000 people a year with local and national touring productions.

Stephen Elliott and Isaac Fitzgerald
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF AND MANAGING EDITOR OF THE RUMPUS
Three years ago, Elliott and Fitzgerald hunkered down in Elliott’s office at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto to beget a fledgling literary publication called The Rumpus. Their little lit blog that could, stocked with the likes of Cheryl Strayed’s sage advice, Steve Almond’s acerbic political commentary, and Antonia Crane’s vivid insights into sex work, now gets 26,000 views a day from folks around the world.

John Trippe
FOUNDER OF FECALFACE.COM
Back when most art aficionados were still scratching their heads over the whole concept of the Internet, a skateboard fanatic named John Trippe moved to San Francisco and taught himself to code. Fecal Face, Trippe’s 12-year-old website, is now an internationally renowned art forum that gets about 13,000 visitors a day.

Sydney Goldstein
FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CITY ARTS & LECTURES
This diminutive dynamo runs the 32-year-old onstage interview series on little more than smarts and sheer charisma. With a staff of three, Goldstein annually brings more than 55 of the greatest living artists and thinkers to speak in San Francisco, broadcasting the events to over 170 public radio stations across the country.