National LGBTQ Arts Center coming to San Francisco

National LGBTQ Arts Center

The first-ever National LGBTQ Center for the Arts will be housed in this four-story Art Deco building and start offering programming this fall. It also will be the first permanent home for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, which purchased the building and established the performing arts center. Photo: Jeff Zaruba.

The first-ever National LGBTQ Center for the Arts will start offering programming this fall and be the first permanent home for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, which purchased the building and established the performing arts center.

Down the road, the Chorus has pioneering plans to expand their programming and turn the building into a performance, practice, and meeting space for queer-related artists, scholars, community leaders, and activists, according to a statement released by the Chorus earlier this month.


The chorus also wants to attract artists beyond the Bay Area and use new recording and broadcasting studios, to share choral content worldwide.

Timothy Seelig, Artistic Director of the Chorus, stated,

“In my 30 years conducting LGBTQ choruses, none of us have had the ability to purchase a building that had multiple rehearsal spaces, a recording studio and the ability to provide space for the community,” Timothy Seelig, artistic director of the Chorus, said in the statement. “Our new Center will be open to all. It is appropriate that the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, which started the LGBTQ choral movement 40 years ago, once again is leading the field.”


San Francisco also is home to the 7-year-old GLBT History Museum – often referred to as the city’s  “queer Smithsonian.” It’s the first full-scale, stand-alone museum of its kind in the United States. The 1,600-square-foot museum is part of the GLBT Historical Society, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of LGBTQ historical materials, including a rare look at gay life on Japanese internment camps during World War II.

The world’s largest trove of LGBTQ historical paraphernalia is located at the ONE Archives at the University of Southern California.


The National LGBTQ Center for the Arts will be housed in a $9.6 million, four-story, Art Deco building and former Baha’i Center located in the Mission District and approximately one mile from the Castro.

The chorus’ plans to broaden their mission and purchase the former Baha’i Center began more than a year ago. The chorus had practiced at the center for many years and were asked to leave when the owners put the building up for sale.

After the building failed to sell, the owners approached the chorus about a possible purchase. A $5 million donation from original chorus member Terrence Chan made the deal possible. The chorus will also put down $1 million. A capital campaign to raise money for an endowment and extensive renovations will begin this year.

“I am particularly excited about the vision for a National LGBTQ Center for the Arts,” Chan said in the statement. “At this time in our nation’s history, it is vital that we in the LGBTQ community have a home for our art and artists. I am confident that great work will be created in our new home — work that will inspire, engage and educate.”


The building includes a dance studio, a large practice area for the chorus, and two other smaller practice spaces. With the capital campaign, chorus leaders hope to install state-of-the-art recording and broadcast facilities as well, according to the article.

Those facilities will allow the group to record and broadcast everything from concerts and master classes to interviews and lectures, essentially opening up their programming to anybody with an internet connection.

Phillip Zonkel can be reached at 562-294-5996 or at [email protected].

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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