In San Diego’s culturally-diverse yet underserved Diamond neighborhoods, Victoria Hamilton is the Arts and Culture Advocate at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, a nonprofit organization with a mission to revitalize more than 60 acres of San Diego’s Southeastern neighborhoods and develop the community into a vibrant and economically sustainable destination.
Victoria brings nearly 40 years of leadership experience in non-profit and governmental local, state and national arts organizations to this role, including 24 years as the founding Executive Director of the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.
In her early career Victoria worked for a city/county arts council in Tacoma, Washington that placed an emphasis on neighborhood arts programming. This would guide much of her career in arts and culture, as she continues to prioritize awareness of the needs, history, infrastructure and residents of neighborhoods to inform programming and advocate for public policy and funding. In 1988 Victoria moved to San Diego from Santa Barbara, where she was executive director for the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, to lead the newly formed Commission for Arts and Culture.
Under her leadership at the Commission she established a multi-million dollar arts and culture allocations program to fund over 120 organizations under the Organizational Support Program and Creative Communities San Diego - originally conceived as the Neighborhood Arts Program and later combined with the Festivals and Celebrations grant programs to fund nonprofits facilitating creative placemaking in their communities. She developed a City of San Diego Public Art Master Plan unanimously adopted by the Mayor and the San Diego City Council that increased support for public art through dedicated “set aside” funding in capital improvement projects and private development. She also led the “Penny for the Arts” initiative to raise allocated percentages of Transient Occupancy Tax earmarked for arts and culture funding. The five year plan to double arts funding was unanimously adopted by the City Council in 2012.
Beyond her work locally, Victoria is the president of both California Arts Advocates and Californians for the Arts. In the early development of the Cultural District Designation, Californians for the Arts hosted a statewide convening in which Victoria facilitated a discussion around the language and establishment of the legislation along with former California Arts Council Executive Director Craig Watson and cultural planner Jessica Cusick. Victoria also assisted San Diego organizations interested in applying for the Cultural District designation with strategy, technical assistance, and site visits from CAC staff.
While she supports the Cultural District Program’s vision and goals for designated districts, she understands and recognizes the need for adequate funding and resources to ensure success. While policy makers are proud to recognize the arts in their communities, she believes they need to commit to providing forums for exchange and opportunities to build coalitions, and create platforms to strengthen and acknowledge how their work allows artists to flourish and communities to thrive.
From empowering volunteer leadership boards, to forming strategic alliances and innovative arts and culture programs and partnerships, Victoria’s accomplishments reflect her dedication to advancing financial and political support of arts and culture in San Diego, in California and across the country.
Victoria has earned national recognition for her contributions to arts and culture over the years as an arts administrator, including awards like the Ray Hanley Innovation Award by the United States Urban Arts Federation for her “outstanding individual contributions to arts in American cities,” and the Selena Roberts Ottum Award given by Americans for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts “for outstanding contributions in the local arts agency field.”
When asked to share her favorite piece of advice, she offered, “To be an effective arts advocate, we need to speak with one voice.”