Subscribe to San Francisco Magazine

Mod Lux Feeds

Now Playing

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

EMPIRE BUILDERS

Randall Kline
FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF SFJAZZ
Kline wasn’t content with merely revitalizing San Francisco’s languishing jazz scene—he had to go all the way. When the SFJAZZ Center opens its doors this January, the 35,000-square-foot performance, education, and community center will become the only such undertaking to rival Jazz at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.

Gregg Perloff
FOUNDER OF ANOTHER PLANET ENTERTAINMENT
Since inaugurating his new company with a 2003 Springsteen concert that rocked Pac Bell Park, Bill Graham disciple Perloff has become the impresario of the Bay Area concert market. His personal touch has netted Another Planet either exclusive contracts with or outright ownership of four major local concert venues (the Fox, the Independent, the Greek, and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium), as well as the lion’s share of the area’s two biggest festivals (Outside Lands and Treasure Island).

Brenda Way
FOUNDER AND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF ODC
With the completion of the ODC Dance Commons in 2005 and the ODC Theater in 2010, there’s virtually nothing dance-related that Way’s teeming campus doesn’t provide—from multiple venues for world-class performances to scores of exciting classes for the general public to a free health clinic for dancers.

Andy Pilara
FOUNDER OF PIER 24 PHOTOGRAPHY
It’s simple: If you want to see some of the best 20th- and 21st-century photography, in the biggest space ever devoted to the art form—for free—all you have to do is visit the website at pier24.org and make an appointment. Investment adviser Pilara began collecting the work of artists like Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Garry Winogrand back in 2003, and he now exhibits approximately 3,000 photographs at his 28,000-square-foot warehouse on the Embarcadero.

Dave Eggers
FOUNDER OF MCSWEENEY'S, 826 NATIONAL, AND SCHOLARMATCH
Nationwide tutoring centers. A program that helps Bay Area teens get to college. A stellar lineup of publications and imprints that seems to be expanding even as print media sputter. Plus, 19 or so books he either wrote or coauthored. Hell, what isn’t the man doing for anyone who cares about culture and kids?

Mabel Teng
DIRECTOR OF THE CHINESE CULTURE CENTER
Teng has had a lot of firsts in her day, from officiating the very first same-sex marriage ceremony in 2003 (she was the city assessor) to turning a tiny organization tucked away on the third floor of the Hilton into a showstopping center for Asian art. Even the Asian Art Museum pays attention when one of Teng’s shows opens, and it has been known to commission pieces from some of her artists for its own collection.

The late Graham Leggat
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE SAN FRANCISCO FILM SOCIETY
On September 1, Ted Hope took over as executive director of the San Francisco Film Society, vowing to continue in the footsteps of Leggat, who died in August 2011. (Bingham Ray succeeded Leggat as ED, but died five months later.) Leggat is credited with hugely expanding the society’s local footprint. In addition to stewarding the San Francisco International Film Festival, he introduced new year-round programming and a host of support services for independent film projects. He was also known for creating a strong sense of community among local filmmakers.