arts Blog

Arts Funding in Tumultuous Times

“In preparing for battle,
I have always found that plans are useless,
but planning is indispensable.”

Dwight Eisenhower’s words echo as the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Arts program embarks on a strategic planning process this year. Preparing for battle is an apt metaphor while we steel ourselves against the chaos of Washington and the yet unknown impacts on our lives, our organization, and the future of arts funding in America.

Arts Funding in Changing Times

The Rainin Foundation has been providing arts funding for a short nine years. During that time, we’ve done our best to keep our ear to the ground and respond to the shifting needs of the sector. We will continue to do so, and in these uncertain times, we reaffirm our commitment to the Bay Area arts community. As such, we do not anticipate any major pivots from our priorities around new and experimental work, capacity support and permanent affordable art space.

“As funders, we have an obligation to think beyond dated assumptions and best practices designed for another time.”

Living and working in the geographic center of accelerating technological and economic change demands a level of vigilance and entrepreneurial engagement that challenges old philanthropic paradigms. As funders, we have an obligation to think beyond dated assumptions and best practices designed for another time. The fluctuations of the boom and bust economy require us to be agile and forward-thinking. We will use this planning process to pause, reflect and consider how best to strategically deploy our resources to confront tomorrow’s challenges.

Funding the Future

Arts Funding Impact Grant Kenneth Rainin Foundation

Impact Program grantee Amy Seiwert Imagery with dancers Katherine Wells and Ben Needham-Wood. Photo: David DeSilva

Since our Impact Program launched in 2013, we have invested more than $3.3 million in 22 arts organizations that have made significant strides in strengthening their infrastructures. We are grateful for the genuine partnerships with our grantees. Their candid feedback has been and will be central to our process.

While we take this moment to plan, we will not accept new applicants to the Impact Program, which typically opens to letters of inquiry in June. Together we will continue to seek answers to the questions we posed in our 2015 strategic plan:

  • What support systems create optimal conditions for art to be made?
  • How can we support experimentation, innovation and collaboration in the arts?
  • How can the arts be successfully integrated into neighborhoods and communities?

There are no other changes to our current grant programs. Stay tuned to January 2018 when we will share a strategy snapshot for our work in 2018-2021.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on our strategic plan.

Shelley Trott

Shelley Trott

Director, Arts Strategy & Ventures

Shelley leads the foundation’s strategic direction for the arts, supporting experimental and multidisciplinary performances, and creating programs to strengthen the capacity of arts organizations, foster a dynamic learning environment, and assist with critical organizational transitions. Read more.  


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