New Home, New Website, New Hires
For the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, 2013 has been a year of explosive growth and thrilling progress on all fronts. We launched a number of new programs and initiatives across our giving areas. We designed and built our beautiful new offices in Oakland and remodeled our website to more accurately reflect who we are and what we do. Our staff has grown dramatically as well, with the hires of program officers for both our Health and Education giving areas, a communications officer, a program associate for the arts, and several fantastic support staff. The Kenneth Rainin Foundation is in full swing and gaining momentum daily.
In addition to granting nearly half a million dollars through our Visibility Awards in support of vibrant and impactful theater, dance and multidisciplinary performing arts organizations in San Francisco, we enthusiastically launched the pilot of our Impact Grants this year. The Impact Grants provide multi-year capacity building support to small and mid-size performing arts organizations that have received previous funding through the Visibility Awards program. The Impact Grants seek to create optimal conditions in which artists can work and thrive, to strengthen individual arts organizations, and to fortify the San Francisco performing arts community as a whole. The first cohort of grantees includes Magic Theatre, Crowded Fire Theater, Robert Moses’ Kin and CounterPULSE. We look forward to growing this program in the coming years.
To further support the arts ecosystem in San Francisco, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation initiated the launch of CAST, the Community Arts Stabilization Trust, by providing seed funding to acquire permanent affordable space for arts organizations in Central Market. CAST is an independent entity that provides access to capital and capacity building, and they are beginning to do exciting work in Central Market.
Stage Left, the documentary we commissioned from RAPT Productions to illuminate the rich history of Bay Area theater, was broadcast last November as part of KQED’s Truly California series. As a result, the film was nominated for an Emmy. To support the film, we completed a suite of engagement tools, including a high school curriculum, community discussion guides and an interactive timeline, all of which can be accessed here.
Through our continuing partnership with the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS), we have made great progress toward strengthening and uplifting the Bay Area filmmaking community. I am still reeling from the screening I attended of Fruitvale Station. This film is exactly what I was hoping for when I first approached SFFS to start funding Bay Area narrative films to address critical social justice issues. Written and directed by Bay Area native Ryan Coogler and filmed and finished in the Bay Area using a great deal of local talent, it accomplishes in the best way I can imagine what I consider to be the most vital and important goal for art. It defrosts our hearts and brings feeling back into the spaces of ourselves that we’ve allowed to become numb. It helps us feel connected to one another and to find our compassion and commonality.
In fact, in the last year many of our films have done remarkably well in the world, with Beasts of the Southern Wild winning four Academy Award nominations, Fruitvale Station winning both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Choice Award at Sundance, Short Term 12 winning the same at SXSW, and many other films screening at festivals around the world. Our partnership with SFFS funds a wide range of support for filmmakers at all stages though various programs to connect them with their community, funders, and audiences. This year, SFFS has become the first film support organization to embrace entrepreneurial training for artists as a core program with their A2E program. SFFS has continued to develop their Off the Page script workshop with professional actors who are ideally interested in or being considered for the film, and their Filmhouse Residencies, which offer free office space to filmmakers in various stages of production where they can share talents and resources with their peers.
The Kenneth Rainin Foundation is totally committed to championing the San Francisco performing arts and to making San Francisco a better place to create and see art. We deeply appreciate our grantees and our partners for their rule-breaking and deeply inspiring work.
With the addition of two program officers for education, this has been a very busy year indeed. Program officer Paula Ambrose serves as the communications director for Oakland Reads 2020, a citywide initiative with the ambitious goal of ensuring that at least 85 percent of Oakland’s students are reading at grade level by the end of third grade in 2020 – a critical indicator of future success. Paula is helping to mobilize the community to build a commitment and take action around four key pillars of reading success: Kindergarten Readiness, School Attendance, Summer Learning, and Family Engagement.
To address kindergarten readiness in Oakland, program officer Susan True is focused on developing and implementing our Oakland preschool initiative. We are working toward ensuring that all Oakland children will have access to and attend high-quality preschools that incorporate evidence-based practices that prepare them to read at or above grade level by the end of third grade. To that end, we plan to create new, high-quality preschool seats in high-need Oakland neighborhoods; improve quality in existing Oakland preschools; engage stakeholders in a common definition and goals for preschool quality; increase collaboration among Oakland organizations working on preschool; and support policy changes that improve preschool funding, quality, and access in Oakland.
We also plan to continue the core grants program we have developed to fund best-in-class literacy support organizations working to ensure that Oakland’s children read at or above grade level by the end of third grade.
The Kenneth Rainin Foundation awarded 15 grants totaling $1.5 million to support cutting-edge Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) research this year. People suffering from IBD need a breakthrough and that’s exactly what we’re hoping to elicit with our Innovator and Breakthrough Award Programs. We take risks and invest early in ways that other funders do not, and we look for researchers who take original and inventive approaches to IBD research. Our health grant programs support research from all scientific disciplines worldwide and encourage collaboration to find new and better treatments for IBD. In very exciting news this year, KRF-funded research lead by a collaborative effort from Drs. Neish and Champion has led to the first patent being filed for breakthrough nanoparticle technology that can aid in future drug delivery in the treatment of IBD.
To complement our grant programs, we established our annual Innovations Symposium to bring together scientists from disparate fields to encourage dialogue and spark new avenues of research into IBD. This year’s symposium examined cell stress responses, inflammation and disease, and included a panel of researchers from related fields that endeavored to reveal the complex pathways involved in cell stress response signaling and its relationship to chronic intestinal inflammation. Speaker Dr. Gökhan S. Hotamisligil of Harvard University captured the spirit of the event when he said, “I wouldn’t have connected these areas of research to IBD if I had not been invited to speak at this symposium.”
We’ve listened to the feedback we received from our recent symposium attendees and have decided to modify the structure of next year’s symposium. The 2014 Innovations Symposium, Taming the Microbiome, will be held in San Francisco in early June. We are expanding the Symposium to two days and will include presentations from our current grantees along with our keynote speakers. In addition, there will be even more opportunities for interaction among the participants and the speakers in the hope of sparking new avenues of research for IBD.
Part of what sets the Kenneth Rainin Foundation apart is that we are willing to jump if there is potential to fly. Because we aren’t afraid to invest in the unknown or try new things, we listen to and support change-makers so that they can transform breakthrough ideas into reality. Over and over, we see that our initial investments in organizations and research catalyze further investment from the community. When we come together as a community to focus on solving a particular problem, we truly can change the world.
We have had a monumental year of building our infrastructure and we are poised and ready for the expected significant increase in our funding capacity over the next three years. By 2016, we should reach close to full funding across the board. We will continue to honor the vision of our founder by listening and investing in collaborative and innovative projects that advance the arts, education and health, because with our support, real breakthroughs can make life better for us all.
CEO, Kenneth Rainin Foundation