arts Blog

What to Know: Our Upcoming Public Art Grants

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation will be accepting Letters of Inquiry (LOIs) for our Open Spaces Program from June 26 to August 4, 2017. Over the past few months, we’ve reflected on our first application cycle and grants. In response, we’ve made adjustments to the program’s criteria to emphasize key priorities—actions that we think will add clarity and improve the public art grants program overall.

When the Rainin Foundation established the Open Spaces Program, we in no way wanted to be prescriptive about what public art can be. Our first Open Spaces grantees, announced in January 2017, illustrate the flexibility of the program to support a diversity of artistic practices, innovative explorations of timely issues, and deep community engagement processes. Supported projects range from community meals, networked sound sculptures and aerial dance performances. And, they touch on important issues such as resilience in communities of color, neighborhood transformation and climate change. We want the Open Spaces Program to be responsive to the many ways in which organizations and artists are working in the field of public art.

Attend an Info Session

Learn about the Rainin Foundation’s grants to support temporary, place-based public art projects in San Francisco and Oakland. Arts Program staff will be on hand to answer questions.

Oakland Workshop
Tuesday, June 13, 5:00 – 6:30 PM
Pro Arts Gallery | Reserve Your Spot

San Francisco Workshop
Wednesday, June 21, 4:30 – 6:00 PM
Root Division | Reserve Your Spot

Collaboration and Community

The core criteria of the Open Spaces Program haven’t shifted dramatically, but we have made some adjustments. We want to emphasize the following recommendations to highlight the importance of collaboration and the relevance of the project’s content to the communities it serves:

1. Partnerships should be mutually beneficial and authentic
A priority of the Open Spaces Program is to support the collaboration between a nonprofit organization and an artist or artist team in the creation of a temporary, place-based public art project in San Francisco or Oakland. This should be a mutually beneficial and authentic partnership in which the collaboration is central to the project’s development.

2. Projects need to be relevant to communities served
The Open Spaces program supports place-based projects that are accessible to the public. It is critical that projects’ content and concerns be rooted in the community it will serve, which can manifest in a myriad of ways. Competitive proposals will clearly express how the site selection and artistic vision speak to timely issues of relevance to the communities it serves.

From Pilot to Public Art Program

Sewing circle programming at “Block by Block.” Photo credit: Darryl Smith, Luggage Store Gallery

Our Open Spaces program evolved from Imagining Central Market, the Foundation’s 2014 pilot program. The goal of the program was to bring diverse communities together through an interactive public art project while celebrating Central Market’s burgeoning identity as an arts and technology district. The Luggage Store Gallery, a long-time Market Street tenant, was awarded the grant to illuminate murals and create an interactive bench installation, “Block by Block.” Located at Sixth and Market streets, it served as a meeting place in an under-resourced part of San Francisco, where public amenities such as seating have been historically lacking.

The project was successful in serving as a place for community members to gather. It also sparked important discussions around class and race, specifically in Central Market where the city’s socio-economic disparities come into sharp focus. Complaints about noise and illegal activity at the site ultimately led to the project’s removal; however, the insights we gained from this experience informed the shape of our Open Spaces Program. More importantly, it solidified desire to continue to support public art.

“Block by Block” was a feat of collaboration. One of the key takeaways was how engaging community members and stakeholders from the conception of a project, through its development and execution is critical to its success. It is essential to involve residents, city agencies, nonprofits and other partners from the project’s conception through its development and execution.

We look forward to learning how you will collaborate with and engage community through public art.

Open Spaces Program Overview

Visit the Open Spaces Program page and FAQ’s for more information on eligibility criteria and guidelines. Or contact Arts Program Staff with any questions.

  • Letters of Inquiry: Accepted Monday, June 26 – Friday, August 4, 2017 by 5 PM (PDT)
    A small group of finalists will be selected and each receive a $5,000 honorarium to further develop their proposals.
  • Full Proposals Deadline: Friday, October 27, 2017 by 5 PM (PDT)
  • Awards Announced: January 2018
  • Location of Projects: Oakland and San Francisco
  • Grant Range: $50,000—$200,000 per project
  • RSVP for a pre-application workshop
Adriana Griñó

Adriana Griñó

Program Associate, Arts

Adriana supports the arts team with grantmaking activities, and developing and implementing new initiatives. Read more.


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