arts Blog

From the Ground Up

Construction is set to begin this week on the Community Arts Stabilization Trust’s two pilot projects supported by the Rainin Foundation: the Luggage Store Gallery and CounterPULSE. The Luggage Store Gallery will receive upgrades to all existing mechanical, electrical, plumbing, structural and fire and life safety systems; and equally important, programming space will be maximized by building out the mezzanine and placing the office and gallery on the second floor. The new CounterPULSE home at 80 Turk Street will be transformed into a vibrant performing arts space that includes a state of the art theater, rehearsal studio, office space and a three-story lobby with full ADA access for performers with limited mobility. We are very excited to have reached this important milestone with both organizations and look forward with great anticipation to the doors opening on two vital art spaces in Central Market this summer.

It feels appropriate in early 2015 to muse on the construction process as a metaphor for our work to build the Arts Program at the Rainin Foundation. In 2008, the Foundation’s slate was clean with a broad directive from Ken Rainin to support the arts, education and health. Jen Rainin was charged with building a dynamic structure through which to carry out his wishes. She started by enlisting a trusted design team and embarked on an intensive planning process that included a needs assessment and survey of the Bay Area arts landscape.

CounterPULSE, one of the arts organizations at risk of displacement, was selected as a CAST partner for 80 Turk, pictured above.

The new site for CounterPULSE at 80 Turk Street, San Francisco.

Planning & Design

The team took into consideration existing funding structures and its resources— both financial and human—with a focus on quality of program design and efficiency of delivery. The result was a thoughtful launch timeline that weighed the amount of risk the Foundation was willing to tolerate and a firm decision about where it could have a significant impact. Armed with strategic priorities, the staff and Board engaged in a design process that resulted in the establishment of its first Arts Grant Program.


The ensuing three years were focused on building the shell and putting the finishes on three new grant programs: the San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking grants, Visibility Awards (now the NEW Program) and the Impact Grant program. Since 2009, the Foundation has awarded 210 grants for a total of over $11.9 million in arts funding.

As with any construction project, we encountered surprises along the way and structural issues were revealed that needed urgent attention. Embracing these obstacles led to the Foundation’s partnership with the city of San Francisco to help keep the arts at the center of its economic strategy to revitalize Central Market. This collaborative effort resulted in the creation of the Foundation’s largest investment to date, the Community Arts Stabilization Trust.

Maintenance & Performance Assessment

CounterPulse staff walking through the basement of the new site at 80 Turk. / photo credit: Kegan Marling

CounterPULSE staff walking through the basement of the new site at 80 Turk. / photo credit: Kegan Marling

2014 was a year of reflection in service of planning yet again. The Board and staff reviewed its work, examined lessons learned, and imagined and dreamed about the future. We developed a three-year adaptive plan that affirms our commitment to our early programs while branching out into new and exciting territory. We revised our Theory of Change to match our growth and learning. We reasserted our belief that a vibrant, sustainable arts ecosystem needs both a robust community of artists and cultural workers that can sustain themselves, and an array of healthy cultural institutions at all levels; that the arts need to be integrated into the fabric of civic life and valued as contributing to positive community development; and finally, that the vitality of the arts needs to be visible to the public and attract a growing body of investors.

Four program prongs were developed to support our theory.

1) The Foundation will continue to support the creation and presentation of new and experimental work through our project grants to multidisciplinary performing arts organizations as well as through our partnership with the San Francisco Film Society to support narrative feature films with social justice themes.

2) We will continue to build the capacity of the creative sector through our Impact Grants and seek to pilot inventive ventures that emerge from our work with the cohort of arts organizations engaged in this program.

3) We will lead and support creative placemaking initiatives that positively impact and enliven neighborhoods, and position the arts as a leading component of economic and community development.

4) We aspire to facilitate connections between and among the various stakeholders impacting culture in our region.


In 2016, the Foundation plans to launch two additional programs with an eye on what distinguishes the Bay Area from other arts centers. The first is a civic arts program that supports large-scale installations in the public realm. The second is a platform that enables exploration of pioneering interventions that strengthen the foundation of the arts ecosystem. The Bay Area is uniquely situated in both areas to bring high-impact models to scale.


The design and construction mind-set at the Rainin Foundation is fluid and continuous. We believe firmly in innovation and leveraging partnerships to deliver leading-edge funding programs and system solutions to the Bay Area arts community. Much like the artists we support, we will continue to push boundaries, challenge assumptions and take risks.

If you have thoughts about our plans, email me. I would love to hear from you.

Shelley Trott
Director of Arts Strategy and Ventures

Photo above: CounterPULSE staff walking through the lobby of the new site at 80 Turk Street, San Francisco. Photo credit – Kegan Marling

Sign Up for News & Updates

Receive newsletters and occasional updates about the work of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and our grantees.

* Email Address:
Arts Updates
Education Updates
Health Updates
All Foundation Updates
*  Enter the letters shown above:
* - required

You have Successfully Subscribed!