I believe that foundations and city leaders can drive solutions to one of the biggest issues facing urban areas—affordability. In cities across the country, affordability is a major threat to arts and cultural organizations. In fact, it’s the primary reason for displacement.
As an arts funder, I hear from leaders in cities that are losing artists and cultural nonprofits due to rising real estate values, planning challenges, natural disasters, and other pressures. They’re looking for answers because they see arts and culture as ingredients of a thriving and vibrant city. This welcome shift to integrate arts and culture into health and well-being strategies is good news.
Five years ago, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation was facing the loss of our key arts nonprofits. I’m proud that our game-changing solution—the Bay Area’s Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST)—is featured as one of twelve case studies in “Making Space for Culture.” This handbook by the World Cities Culture Forum showcases how international cities are responding to the threat that affordability poses to cultural vitality.
Affordability is a complex issue. So, it’s not surprising that the case studies feature collaborative solutions and involve public and private partners. When people with broad perspectives—city leaders, urban planners and funders—come together, we see different dimensions of an issue, and at the same time, have more tools at our disposal. That’s how smart solutions are born.
More importantly, when cities embrace arts as part of economic and community development, then solutions will embrace creative organizations and artists.
One Way Cities Can Respond
Five years ago, the Rainin Foundation needed an effective solution to protect vital organizations from escalating rents in San Francisco. We convened community leaders, including our most progressive thinkers on creative finance and nonprofits. Our work together led to the creation of the Rainin Arts Real Estate Strategy, and with a “big bet” grant, the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) was formed.
We want to share our proven approach. It’s a blueprint that other cities can adopt to help secure affordable arts spaces. This collaborative strategy connects resources in the community to the space needs of arts and cultural nonprofits. At the center of the model is a real estate holding company like CAST that works with partners to buy buildings on behalf of arts organizations. In addition, CAST strengthens their capacity to buy and manage a facility of their own.
Could our Strategy Work in Your City?
Does your city embrace arts and culture as a tool for economic and community development? If it does, then the collaborative Rainin Arts Real Estate Strategy can be adapted to your community’s needs. Explore our website to see:
- An illustrated diagram showing how an arts organization might acquire permanent, affordable space
- How the innovative below-market rate lease with option-to-buy model creates long-term stability
- Who the key players are and how they collaborate
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.